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The essential VoIP bookshelf
While there may be some who argue that making Voice over IP services work requires equal parts technology, know-how, and black magic, it's really not quite that bad. What's required instead is an excellent understanding of how digital signal processing between PCM voice streams and their packetized equivalents works (and vice-versa, of course), along with a keen sense of how much latency, jitter, and packet loss any single stream of voice information is likely to encounter between sender and receiver. While this does require mastering some interesting concepts and technologies, and a deep awareness and understanding of the conditions that prevail on the LAN and WAN links over which packetized voice will travel, those requirements do stop short of outright thaumaturgy.
A bookshelf of VoIP essentials includes one part signaling, two parts digital and IP telephony, and two parts on integrating voice and data for WAN transmission and reception. This mix explains the titles that appear in a collection of outstanding titles to help professionals get started into VoIP, and with maintaining and troubleshooting VoIP environments:
- Scott Keagy: Integrating Voice and Data Networks; October, 2000; Cisco Press, Indianapolis, IN. One of the best books around on the mechanics, software, and hardware involved in integrating voice and data networks. Although it focuses primarily on Cisco technologies available to implement such integration, the overall general coverage is worthwhile even for those who may work with other kinds of equipment and software.
- Igor Faynburg, et al: Converged Networks and Services: Internetworking IP and the PSTN; July, 2000; John Wiley & Sons, New York. A more general title on how to interconnect conventional telephones with IP networks that does more to explain how IP networks behave for people who already understand the PSTN infrastructure than vice-versa. If you're coming at VoIP from a telephony background, this is a great book to help you understand what VoIP is, how it works, and how to integrate it with PBX and switch-based telephone systems.
- Daniel Collins: Carrier Grade Voice Over IP; September, 2000; McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing, New York. Handles most technical topics relevant to VoIP from IP protocol basics, to QoS protocols and services including RSVP, DiffServ, and MPLS, to switching and signaling technologies. If you want to buy only one book on the topic, this is it!
- Uyless Black: Internet Telephony: Call Processing Protocols; November, 2000; Prentice Hall PTR, Upper Saddle River, NJ. For anybody who's been buying protocol books for any length of time, seeing the "Dean of Protocols'" name pop up (Uyless Black) in a relevant, cogent, well-written title should come as no surprise. This will be an excellent reference for those who need to understand how VoIP works, behaves and looks at the packet level on the wire.
- Vineet Kumar, et al: IP Telephony with H.323: Architectures for Unified Networks and Integrated Services; March, 2001; John Wiley & Sons, New York. Those interested in streaming multimedia technologies (tele- and videoconferencing, in other words) based on H.323 will really, really want to read this book. Widely acknowledged as the best coverage on the topics, tools, technologies, and deployment issues anywhere in print.
- Pete Loshin: Big Book of IP Telephony RFCs; January, 2001; Morgan Kaufmann Publishers, San Francisco, CA; ISBN: 0124558550. Anything related to IP is generally covered in a collection of specification and informational documents called Requests for Comments, or RFCs. For those who'd rather read the RFCs relevant to IP telephony in nicely printed form, rather than online (or printing them themselves) this book covers most of the relevant documentation fairly well.
This collection of titles includes enough information to help network professionals understand, deploy, and use VoIP technology in their networks and telephone systems. None will waste your time or your hard-earned cash, either. Happy reading.
Thomas Alexander Lancaster IV is a consultant and author with over ten years experience in the networking industry, focused on Internet infrastructure.