Many readers have requested that Tom Lancaster update his tip, first published at SearchNetworking February 7, 2002, on The essential VoIP bookshelf. Ask and ye shall receive, so here, almost one year later, which seems appropriate, is Tom's update.
By request, I'm updating this collection of resources, which first appeared on February 7, 2002.
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. But you do need 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 may 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 about signaling, two parts concerning 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.
- Steve McQuerry (editor), et al: Cisco Voice Over Frame Relay, ATM, and IP; April, 2001, Indianapolis, IN. Used for the Cisco ILT class with the same name, this book covers the Cisco take on voice hardware, voice-over routers, and so forth. For those working in the Cisco trenches, it's a necessary supplement to the preceding book.
- Igor Faynburg, et al: Converged Networks and Services: Internetworking IP and the PSTN; July, 2000; John Wiley & Sons, New York. A strong 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. It now shows as out-of-print or hard to get on Amazon, but Digital Guru can apparently still get copies.
- 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!
- Henry Sinnreich and Alan B. Johnston: Internet Communications Using SIP; October, 2001, John Wiley & Sons, New York. Although WorldCom may be in trouble financially, nobody argues its engineers' technical know-how and experience; this book's authors worked there as they wrote this book. The Session Implementation Protocol (SIP) is what makes the Internet better able to handle voice, video, interactive games, and streaming media. This book deals with vendor offerings and services, and explains how to integrate SIP into existing and emerging networks.
- Luan Dang, et al: Practical VoIP Using VOCAL; July, 2002, O'Reilly & Associates, Sebastopol, CA. This is the first book to take a detailed under-the-hood look at what's involved in building a working VoIP implementation, including source code, installation information, nuts-and-bolts phone hookups, and call management. Based on Vovida's Open Communication Application Library (VOCAL; Vovida is now part of Cisco), VOCAL is available free to the public at www.vovida.org. Written by its developers, the book explains how to install, configure, customize, provision, and operate a VOCAL-based VoIP system.
- 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. See also Black's IP Telephony Resource Kit, if you like his coverage and approach.
- 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. Anything related to IP is generally covered in various 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. Those with Cisco needs or tendencies should pick up the Cisco Press titles (those working outside the Cisco umbrella probably won't need them). Happy reading!
Thomas Alexander Lancaster IV is a consultant and author with over ten years experience in the networking industry, focused on Internet infrastructure.