VoIP Shoots, But Does It Score?

eLABorations: Companies won't kick in for converged voice and data nets until IT presents a viable business case

I dont know about you, but Im having trouble keeping pace with all the action at the 2002 FIFA World Cup. Sure, abusing the corporate Internet usage policy by watching streaming replays (www.fifaworldcup.com) helps, but too many questions remain unanswered.

Will Zinedine Zidane recover in time to save France from first-round elimination? Will David Beckham redeem himself after getting kicked out of the 1998 World Cup? Werent Portugals golden boys supposed to crush the United States? Is VoIP ready for wide-scale enterprise deployment?

Sure, the beautiful game remains front and center in the minds of most, but there are--if you can believe it--people more interested in the technology behind the 2002 World Cup than in how Korea overcame Poland (2-0). (fifaworldcup.yahoo.com).

For FIFA, Avaya Inc. designed, installed, and is managing a converged voice and data network with 120,000 data and voice-over-IP telephone connections in 22 locations throughout South Korea and Japan. According to experts, its one of the largest converged installations to date and provides a significant testbed for IP telephony and voice/data convergence.

But whether VoIP is ready for enterprisewide deployment remains to be seen. Over the past two years, eWeek has reported on a number of companies doing small-scale VoIP deployments, but very few, if any, corporations have converged voice and data networks connecting offices throughout the entire organization. Why? Theyre waiting for flexible, affordable, broadband access before investing in VoIP applications and gear.

Most IT managers also need a viable business case to justify enterprisewide deployments. After making major investments in PBX systems in preparation for Y2K, what CFO is going to approve VoIP installations just for gee-whiz sake?

FIFA, you see, got Avaya to foot the bill for this converged network. Try getting a deal like that into your next service-level agreement.

But as we reported earlier this week, VoIP may soon be in a position to score with enterprises. Vendors are rolling out new networking and services offerings and making IP telephony enhancements to provide interoperability with legacy systems.

Were getting there. Its just going to take some time before enterprises have World Cup-like setups. In the meantime, heres something soccer fans can use to suck up even more company bandwidth: The 2002 FIFA World Cup video game by Electronic Arts, which simulates this years tournament. The simulation has Italy avenging its 1994 defeat by Brazil 2-0 to take home the title.

Then again, it also shows my team, defending champion France, dominating first round matches--something that hasnt happened without Zidane on the field. Ive got my fingers crossed for their next match though. France over Denmark, 1-0. Anyone?

Is VoIP ready for large-scale deployments? Who should I bet on during the World Cup? Write to me at anne_chen@ziffdavis.com