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10 Top Pitfalls Of Implementing Converged IP Networks

Hossein Eslambolchi, CIO and chief technology officer at AT&T, outlines steps businesses can take to avoid problems as they move to converged networks of voice, video, and data.

Hossein Eslambolchi, AT&T's CIO, chief technology officer, and president of global networking technology services, knows his way around Internet Protocol networks. Eslambolchi joined AT&T Bell Laboratories in 1986 and has more than 17 years of expertise in designing and developing packet networks. Eslambolchi's mantra is "IP will eat everything," meaning all systems and networks will eventually use Internet-based protocols, but he says businesses are in danger of making lots of mistakes in moving to converged voice, video, and data over IP.

In an interview with InformationWeek this week, Eslambolchi gave his Letterman-esque list of the 10 most common pitfalls for businesses on the road to the converged IP universe.

1. Making the mistake of putting all the security at the edge of the network. Businesses should build a security infrastructure that combines an intelligent network and smart devices. "A balance between the edge and the core of the network is very important," Eslambolchi says.

2. Failure to ensure that the IP network supports the types of traffic required. Businesses have to design their IP network with all the quality-of-service specifications in mind, including latency, jitter, loss, and availability. Businesses tend to focus only on VoIP, but they should be thinking about the more broadly defined SoIP, or services over IP, because the network will eventually need to handle all types of traffic.

3. Failure to develop and design new services on top of the IP network. Businesses won't end up with true end-to-end device communication if they rely on services that are not IP-based. "The rate of innovation that I have seen in the past 10 years is at least 100% better than the rate of innovation in the previous 10 years. That's because of innovation IP technology has brought in," Eslambolchi says.

4. Insufficient peak capacity. IP doesn't have infinite capacity, contrary to what many believe. If businesses don't design with sufficient capacity, they'll have to deal with degradation of quality, latency, and overall performance problems.

5. Unwillingness to move legacy services from existing networks to IP. Many businesses continue to operate in two to three types of environments, but convergence will require that networks all talk to each other. Interoperability problems between legacy networks and newer IP networks will lead to increased costs, higher cycle times, higher defects, and lower quality.

6. Coding errors due to complexity. IP is complex because of the different types of applications that run on top of an IP network. The right codes have to be written for IP to avoid significant problems, including security issues like viruses, worms, and denial-of-service attacks. "We don't teach engineers how to write codes with security in mind. But a lot of the security issues we are having are attributed to the software code, and if we write better code, these errors will potentially help us become more efficient in implementation of IP," Eslambolchi says.

7. Failure to evolve to open standards and protocols. Getting away from older, proprietary protocols will help businesses drive innovation in IP. If businesses don't evolve, they won't be able to "put all [their] applications on that platform and get the economies of scale and efficiencies that packet technology drives and delivers," Eslambolchi says.

8. Network managers that become removed from application definition and deployment. Network managers should have tight control over defining and deploying applications. Although it's becoming easier for application groups and even end users to add new applications, not involving network managers can lead to performance problems, such as poor quality, latency, and packet loss.

9. Errors or misconfigurations with routing. Programming of the router is a complex task that is currently done in low-level software language, so there is large chance of errors. Errors or misconfigurations of routing can cause problems and reduce efficiency of the network.

10. Not leveraging carrier network-based services and benefits. Ignoring scale is one of the most common mistakes that businesses make when deploying IP networks. "Most companies think that the job is done after deploying routers, but that's only the start," Eslambolchi says. Getting a handle on operations is critical.

Finally, he offers one last piece of advice, and probably the most important one: Companies implementing converged IP should focus on scale, which includes reliability, performance, quality, and cycle times. Says Eslambolchi: "When you're designing, you need to have the monitoring capabilities to be able to measure and monitor the network on a day-by-day basis"

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