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Cisco VoIP management guide: Enterprise VoIP management solutions

Enterprise VoIP management solutions require two considerations: the scale of production environment and the need to extend support resources with a systems integrator or service provider.

Two considerations need to be made by IT and telecom managers before evaluating a solution: the scale of production environment and the need to extend support resources with a systems integrator or service provider.

500 or fewer IP phones
For environments of fewer than 500 phones, network managers should opt for management provided by their equipment vendor, Cisco. Network assessments and pre-deployment testing should still be done but most equipment vendors and/or systems integrators offer this as a service. Cisco has historically been provided very little of its own management support; however Cisco is getting better in this area and customers should expect a much more full solution in 2007.

500-2500 IP phones
For these midsize environments, network managers should expand their review of management tools beyond those of their equipment vendors and evaluate specialty vendors. Management tasks that become more important during this stage include pre-deployment testing and proactive quality measurement to provide service assurance. In this arena, the choice of management vendors depends on the vendor selected for VoIP. In a widely distributed organization, that is using Cisco's Call Manager Express and Unity Express, Cisco and Prognosis have specific monitoring and management offerings. For companies using a centralized Cisco call manager solution, Cisco has a superior solution, but Prognosis does provide a viable option.

2,500-10,000 IP phones
For these environments, the real-time nature of voice demands that netwok managers get real-time visibility into performance issues. The vendors who excel in this space include Cisco, Prognosis and Infovista. To determine which is best for you, evaluate the intuitiveness of the GUI and put a priority on the management tasks are performed most often, but also be open to new features that can make life easier in a production environment.

10,000 or more IP phones
In this environment, IT managers need a comprehensive, scalable management framework. The real-time nature of the traffic requires a real-time view into the environment and integration with existing management tools. The vendors for deployments this large are Prognosis and Infovista. These vendors offer comprehensive suites and can scale to very large environments. Prognosis has the most history in the high end of the market, but Infovista has been able to leverage its existing base of customers that use its IP performance management tools.

Support requirements
VoIP presents organizations with ability to increase user productivity and lower cost, but presents a significant challenge for network. VoIP also allows network managers the control of the voice platform and deployment flexibility. However, management requirements are much more demanding. There are channels that can be leveraged to provide the required resources. Network managers should identify which phases of the lifecycle they can manage and then look to a third party resource to help complete the lifecycle.

When evaluating management solutions, the support that the VoIP vendors provide its channel partners should be considered. The goal should be a flexible VoIP management solution that can support the environment, regardless of which tasks are in-house managed and which ones are managed by a partner. For example, if the enterprise and its system integrator use the same management tools, then the SI becomes an extension of the support organization.

Enterprises typically leverage partners for the first two phases of the VoIP deployment. Many SIs specialize in network audits, planning and pre-deployment testing. IT managers should eventually take over the production environment but bring in a partner to optimize and scale the environment.

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