In spite of Nortel Networks rearranging its business in readiness for the take off of converged networks, it has admitted that it will be a long time before businesses embrace the idea.
Speaking exclusively to Network News, Nortel Networks' chief technology officer for business development and strategic planning, Al Delorenzi, said: "It's difficult to move immediately to the ideal network because there is a lot of investment and legacy systems already in most networks.
"About one fifth of our customers want unified networks now. Four fifths aren’t interested yet. They want to be prepared but they are biding their time and preparing their networks for IP in the meantime."
DeLorenzi also discounted cost savings as an important driver for corporates to turn to unified networks.
He explained: "Most of the industry is talking about cost savings of convergence, but in reality users may not get savings because they've already implemented successful ATM and Frame Relay networks.
"The real advantage will be in ease of support because IP is already a standard and this will lead to lower cost of ownership."
Delorenzi mentioned the integration of voice and data network directories as one of the first steps which corporates could take towards integration without ripping out their whole network and starting again.
Nortel expects to ship support for integrated voice and data directories by the end of this year.
He also announced Nortel's plans to introduce an NT-based PBX server by the middle of next year. In the meantime it will release a software for adding telephony to the data network by the end of this year.
Delorenzi believes that users will begin to look towards integration in the campus and the WAN when carriers begin to offer high-speed integrated services right to the campus, but says that Nortel will release enterprise layer 2 and layer 3 IP switches for the campus this year and for the WAN next year.
Delorenzi also outlined the importance of wireless networking technologies for Nortel's strategy. Although he has seen very small take-up of wireless campus networks, he explained: "When orgnisations can use the carrier’s wireless network, then wireless becomes attractive for the campus because users can work outside the building. Wireless is still about mobility.”
Nortel put an inside/outside wireless solution with links to the PBX on the US market two years ago but it was discontinued after little demand. While DeLorenzi said that it could have been ahead of its time, he suggested that Nortel will try to sell the same service in Europe in the second half of next year.
He added: "The handsets were too expensive at the time but that will be less of a problem now. It will just depend on how many carriers want to offer the service."
He insisted: "For a lot of companies the network is now the whole business, so there are serious implications as to how it is built.They don't see the LAN as being reliable enough to carry voice.
Delorenzi added:"Management has always been the biggest challenge and it's not becoming easier."
While Delorenzi claimed that Nortel has management systems which monitor application performance, he admitted that full management of the seven network layers is a long way off.
He added:"It's not one hundred per cent complete, but it will be more sophisticated by the end of this year. There has to be an increase in the links between infrastructure, applications and management."
Nortel's carrier market represents 70 per cent of its business, while its enterprise sales make up the rest of its business. It does not expect that ratio to change.
Rick Moran, Nortel’s president of global enterprise marketing said: "When the industry started talking about convergence, a lot of people didn't understand the complexities of voice. Voice packets could not be scrambled like data packets and data experts didn't know things like how much delay users would accept.
"We see the future in convergence of voice and data, and the convergence of wireline and wireless networks.In the future it could be possible that voice goes completely wireless."
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