Monday, November 13, 2006

Claims and counterclaims in VoIP space

The tendency for some software and hardware providers to claim that they are first with something, always sets alarm bells ringing in my head.

Recently we published an article in financial-i magazine on the use of Voice over IP in financial institution's business continuity strategies. Obviously miffed that they were not mentioned in the piece, IPC Systems, a leading provider of VoIP turrets to trading floors, got in contact saying they were first in this area and were disappointed they were not mentioned.

Financial-i has covered the VoIP market since 2000. However, sometimes the way vendors evangelise about the very technologies they are promoting, can be somewhat misleading. VoIP on the trading floor is gaining wider acceptance amongst financial institutions, and there is no doubt that for those firms wanting to set up a robust communications infrastructure incorporating remote and mobile trading facilities, VoIP ticks a lot of the boxes.

My understanding of IPC Systems is that they offer an IP only solution, having installed IP at 40,000 desktops. The flip side of that however, is that not all companies want just an IP solution. Some want to maintain their legacy TDM (Time Division Multiplexing) applications and migrate gradually to IP. There are also concerns about voice quality of IP networks over longer distances, particularly when you start talking about cross-border installations. Taking all of this into consideration, is an IP only approach to VoIP on the trading floor the best approach?

Some competing vendors of IPC Systems have told me that whilst its IP only approach may work in the US, it does not necessarily fly on this side of the Atlantic. Despite the merits of VoIP technology it does not guarantee overnight adoption. Although I have heard of some companies moving totally to IP, a hybrid approach combining TDM and IP appears to works best for other companies.

Also there seems to be some confusion around who was first to offer a combined TDM and IP solution. Last year Etrali (now called Orange Business Services Trading Solutions) announced that it would offer traders a choice of both TDM and IP. BT Trading Systems also made a similar announcement. What is the difference between the two?

Well according to Orange Business Services, what sets them apart from BT Radianz is that they offer both TDM and IP as standard within the turret, meaning that nothing has to be changed when companies decide to migrate from TDM to IP.

As the hype around VoIP reaches fever pitch, it is all to easy to prescribe it as an antidote for all of a company's network's connectivity and communication needs. But maybe we need to take a step back, read the fine print as to what the technology can and cannot do and what vendors in this space are offering, before we all clamber aboard the bandwagon.

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