The good thing is the market for IP telephony management has matured and network managers now have a number of...
choices. You can choose from either from a number of independent tools or a solution suite of integrated products. If you decide to choose independent tools, you should identify which phases of the lifecycle each vendor supports. If the vendor focuses on only one area, make sure it integrates with other tools or has partnerships to complete the solution.
The market is clearly moving towards a more solution-focused offering and enterprises should evaluate vendors based on their ability to deliver a "whole of life" solution, whether it is their own solution or formed through partnerships.
The following will give you an assessment of which vendors excel in the different phases of the IP telephony management lifecycle:
- Planning and assessment: Nearly every vendor offers some infrastructure assessment solution or positions professional services. However, these tasks are usually the responsibility of the network equipment vendor or systems integrator. They offer network audits, bandwidth capacity recommendations and equipment upgrade/purchase recommendations. Management vendors offer some assessment services, but generally sell to tools to systems integrators (SIs), service providers and enterprises to perform assessments. These vendors include Spirent Communications, Empirix, Ixia and Agilent -- which provide testing solutions -- and management vendors such as Brix, Prognosis and Infovista step further into VoIP lifecycle management. Enterprises that use the same tools for both pre-assessment and production will have consistency and will be an easier transition between lifecycle phases.
- Pre-deployment testing: Leading pre-deployment testing vendors include Spirent Communications, Empirix, Agilent, and most recently, Ixia. Although these testing platforms focus on providing lab-testing services for network equipment vendors and testing carrier networks before services rollout and for service assurance, they can also provide value to large enterprises that have networks rivaling the size of service providers. They are also a key tool used by SIs and network service providers to perform the initial planning and assessment stage. All the other management vendors include pre-deployment testing as part of their management solutions. Agents can generate synthetic voice and data traffic to model how the network will perform.
- Ongoing operations: Once in production, IT managers need both active testing and monitoring for fault and performance management, troubleshooting, configuration management, call quality measurement and call accounting. Specifically, real-time troubleshooting, call quality and fault and performance management are essential to ensure quality of service. Leading vendors in this space include Infovista, Prognosis, Cisco Systems and IBM/Micromuse.
- Optimization: Every vendor delivers reports from its monitoring and testing tools to help IP telephony managers tune the environment, measure success of the implementation and build reports for trend analysis and capacity planning. The ability to model changes to the infrastructure to prepare and scale are also important. Each vendor offers capabilities in this area either through its own reporting tools or a partnership with a systems integrator or service provider. This is a critical function for obtaining the best possible cost/performance ratio.