As software suites that unite e-mail, messaging, video and voice communications evolve, enterprise IT
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"The most important thing that's happening is that communications, in terms of being able to initiate voice or IM, is increasingly being able to be embedded in applications," said Burton Group analyst Irwin Lazar, author of a recent report on the convergence trend.
"[IT managers] have to be very aware that voice and video are going to creep into their networks whether they plan for it or not," he said. "They're going to find that other people have [already] deployed applications that are using voice and video sessions."
Multiple formats, one infrastructure
One of the advantages to integrating voice and video is that businesses can run them over a single infrastructure, said David Rutberg, vice president of operations and project management for Xpert Universe Inc. The New York-based company, an IBM partner, is developing real-time collaboration software that allows an expert in a particular field to be located on a network by those needing their expertise.
"Infrastructure needs to be upgraded or managed differently to support both uses," Rutberg said. "Right now, for most organizations, the phone isn't going away, so you're giving people an additional channel that they need to manage. It might be better in some ways but it's an addition.
"You become more and more dependent on your network or data infrastructure if you're also managing voice with it."
Enterprises will also have to decide whether voice applications are the right step in the evolution of their messaging systems.
"Individuals are increasingly being brought [into an organization] to think about traditional IT products as well as telephony products," said Microsoft's Ed Simnett, product
Administrators will also need to be aware of the security and performance management issues that will arise as enterprises use technology that is less secure. Communications managers will find that client convergence presents a dilemma that requires them to rethink how they support real-time applications. Organizational and privacy issues will also need to be addressed, and managers need to assess their enterprise's specific needs before jumping onto the convergence bandwagon.
"End users will still require some education," Simnett said. "This is very much an evolution, and in that evolution it's important that people make choices, not just for tomorrow but make choices based on a road map. … If you don't think about this from a platform point of view, but from a broad where-are-we-going point of view, it's easy to implement one solution and then find out next year's requirements are different."