Voice over IP (VOIP) will not necessarily bring the cost reductions companies expect and video deployment will more than likely outpace voice over networks, says Gartner analyst Neil Rickard.

Speaking at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo Africa in Cape Town last week Rickard said the motivation will be that while VOIP involves a lot of risk for companies with minimal reward, video will bring greater benefits for the same kind of risk. "While the focus is often on voice in the converged network, we forecast that through 2006, 70% of Global 2000 enterprises will deploy video over IP before deploying VOIP," he said in his presentation on network convergence.Rickard said video, like voice, is a family of applications that includes e-learning, conferencing and security surveillance.

But the integration of more and more devices and applications onto an organisation's network also means that the networks will have to be re-engineered in order to meet bandwidth requirements. VOIP involves a lot of risk with minimal reward, says Gartner analyst Neil Rickard. Rickard said that through 2006, reactive network planning will result in networks that need to be re-engineered at least two years earlier than well-architected networks based on best practices.

He also warned that companies considering putting in VOIP applications over their networks could run into bandwidth constraints even though they presently feel they have the capacity. "There is no such thing as free bandwidth. One simply has unused capacity. The problem is that if VOIP is deployed into that extra bandwidth space and then another application is also deployed, the bandwidth costs increase incrementally and the original reason for cost savings disappears."

According to Rickard, the security issue with regard to VOIP and video has been overplayed. "Most VOIP applications are internal to the company and sit behind the corporate firewall. Also, intercepting VOIP messages and listening to the conversations is a lot less efficient that intercepting e-mails where a search can be done," he said.

Rickard's recommendations include that organisations proactively plan for convergence and that VOIP be a part of that convergence. He said convergence will require significant re-engineering of the underlying networks and companies will have to focus on the business value convergence will bring.

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