Fred Spulecki, director of global voice and call center infrastructure at IBM, noted another driver for VOIP, now in practice at IBM: centralizing the voice switching function of 900 currently managed PBXes in 1400 facilities into IP switching platforms at 11 to 20 data centers. "And I dont want to replace those PBXes with 900 gateways" to give each site local PSTN access, he added. "I want to hook up to a carrier who has those gateways in place." He could name only Level 3 Communications Inc. as a company that could easily provision all those POPs immediately.A recent study found that VOIP phones in the enterprise wont overtake the installed PBX base until 2009. Click here to read the full story.Voice centralization would also "transfer voice from a separate technology tower to another horizontal, interdependent application with the same Tivoli monitoring," Spulecki said. His presentation included a screen shot of a presence-enabled IBM employee workplace communications portal, through which IBM workers can reach each other through text or voice. It featured enterprise IM and click-to-phone buddy lists, and a well-designed graphical representation of an audio conference in progress. It solved a real business problem: distinguishing between speakers in a multisite, audio-only conference. "Audio conferencing is the first killer app for VOIP," Spulecki said. In the audio conferencing part of IBMs enterprise communication portal, all parties were represented by what looked somewhat like marbles in a circle; the central marble represented the speaker, while the marble in a separate wedge of the circle represented someone asking a question. "We can do this today with CTI [computer-telephony integration] programming," said Spulecki, "but if we take the underlying infrastructure and virtualize it using IP, and use common interfaces and open standards such as WSDL [Web Services Description Language], XML, SIP, SIMPLE [SIP for Instant Messaging and Presence Leveraging Extensions] and SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol], we can deploy these apps far more efficiently and easily." Naturally, he said that IBMs WebSphere Web application server is his platform of choice for the integration of collaboration, workflow and voice applications. Steven Toteda, senior manager of product marketing at Cisco Systems Inc., suggested that the "first chasm" of VOIP had essentially been crossed, with more than 20 percent of enterprises deploying the technology in some form. He suggested such driver applications going forward as video, conferencing and contact center, as well as such specialty apps as Amber Alerts, on-phone paging, and time-and-attendance tracking. Like others, Toteda outlined a range of possible adoption strategies for enterprises, from a purely outsourced, Centrex-style environment, with only handsets on premise; to an off-premise, dedicated server managed by a host; to an on-premise, host-managed IP PBX and gateway; to an on-premise, self-managed switch. He stressed the need for security to overlap all deployments. Neal Shact, CEO of CommuniTech Inc. and panel moderator, had the last word. He showed a slide that illustrated the VOIP landscape as a triangle, with IP endpoints such as SIP phones and softphones on one corner; broadband, WiMax, and cellular network providers on a second corner, and server/PBX platform vendors on the third. "Each guy on the triangle wants to commoditize the other two," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms VOIP & Telephony Center at http://voip.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on voice over IP and telephony.