The 400 users attending Networks3, 3Com's European user group conference in Monte Carlo last week, weren't in the mood for gambling on technology.
In spite of the dazzling sunshine those attending - which included at least 30 UK users - kept their eyes wide open to the realities of 3Com's hard sell on voice/data convergence. They reacted with a noisy buzz of questions to each other and 3Com on their concerns for reliability, security, actual benefits and manageability.
From an audience poll, which presumed that everyone voted, more than three-quarters of the delegates said they were curious enough to make a voice over IP phone call, but only a handful were considering going further fast.
Only one third of the voters were considering beginning a convergence project in the next year.
A similar amount will consider deployment in two years and just over 27 per cent are waiting at least five years. More than three per cent said they would never converge and almost 10 per cent were still unsure about what convergence actually means.
Peter Mills, head of networking operations and systems at the University of Manchester, had a typical concern.
"Ideally we don't want to buy another PBX that will cost enough for 12 years but become obsolete in three. But there are no scalable alternatives available yet," he said.
Dealing his cards for convergence, 3Com's chief technology officer, John Hart, predicted that the next five years would achieve as much advancement in voice/data integration as the last 100 years achieved in telephone technology.
But, his arguments for convergence were peppered with more promises than concrete products. He believes that the key is to first prepare the Lan, which he loosely refers to as the "first and last mile" and let the telcos take care of the Wan.
"The benefits for users will be getting rid of the costs and the time needed looking after two separate networks," he said. "Bandwidth and prioritisation is the key. Ethernet isn't really enough to carry voice and data but you can do a lot with Fast Ethernet if you set up two levels of prioritisation on the network."
But the products are currently lacking. 3Com's recently acquired IP PBX - the NBX 100 - can only support a small number of users.
For more stories see 21 April issue of Network News UK
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