Interview with Telephony Expert David Lovell
You wrote "Cisco IP Telephony." What motivated you to write a book focusing specifically on IP telephony? Who is the intended audience, and what are you hoping to share with them?
With the IP Telephony market emerging, it made sense to build a training product and book to educate the early adopters of IP Telephony. The target audience is for anyone that is being asked to install, configure and maintain a Cisco IP Telephony which focuses on the Cisco CallManager application.
What are the typical hurdles to setting up, learning, and administering an IP phone service?
The typical hurdle for IP Telephony is remembering that the application, gateways and endpoints can be distributed on a data-network and that the data-network needs to be fine-tuned to support a critical application like voice.
How can the effective management of an IP telephony network lead to increased efficiency and become a competitive advantage to a company?
By effectively managing an IP Telephony network, the business is able to streamline the support staff and have the data-network support staff focus on how to maximize the many open applications that employees can use. The IP phone, along with providing phone calls and voice traffic, is a 'thin' client device that has the capability of displaying and accepting information critical to an employees tasks.
How can a phone do this? Can you give me some examples of an IP phone displaying and accepting information critical to an employee's tasks?
There are many possibilities to help companies streamline their business process to increase revenue and cut costs. For example, in the hospitality industry hotels will hang breakfast room service menus on your hotel room door so that you can check off what you want the next morning. This is a cost for the hotel, and because those orders need to be picked up by a certain time, it loses revenue. With the Cisco IP Phone a single application that presents the breakfast menu can be delivered to the Cisco IP Phone, thus cutting cost for the expensive door hanging menu and increasing revenue for those guest who check in late after the usual menu pickup time. Because the application is delivered to the phone, it can be directed to the cook's station and be captured in a hotel database. The guest's most commonly ordered breakfast items can be associated with their profile and delivered to the phone when that guest checks in again, maybe at the same hotel or at another hotel within the same chain.
Cisco CallManager is the heart of a system managing voice, video, multimedia, and data over a single network. How difficult is it to configure Cisco CallManager to balance this network traffic to achieve acceptable data performance and voice quality?
Although the Cisco CallManager is the heart of the system, the Cisco CallManager is critical to allow endpoints that support different protocols (skinny, mgcp, H.323) to communicate. As for balancing network to achieve acceptable data performance and voice quality, that really focuses on the distributed data-network. Creating a 'voice-friendly' network is going to be the most challenging and critical piece of deploying IP Telephony.
Is there anything that's not happening in the world of IP telephony that you think should be?
No. There are a few things that have started to happen that I would like to see happen faster. There is movement in looking at the phone as a 'thin-client' device and as a productivity enhancer for employees. Business really need to evaluate how processes used in their company today can be changed with IP Telephony.
What are your predictions for the future of IP telephony? Will we eventually see this type of system totally replace existing legacy phone service, or is it strictly a business solution?
I think IP Telephony will be the primary way that voice is used in business environments. I don't think it will totally replace existing legacy phone service, however with high-speed access being brought to the home, there is a possibility of having your ISP also provide your voice service in a bundled solution.
Since IP phones are essentially dedicated PCs, is there even a need for traditional phone hardware anymore? Why wouldn't everyone want to save the money spent on phone equipment and turn their existing PC into a phone using something like Cisco IP SoftPhone?
This is not really a question about the technology; this is more about what the population is used to. People like picking up a handset and pushing buttons to call someone. The Cisco IP SoftPhone is a extremely frugal approach to IP Telephony and some companies are moving this direction. There are a large number of workers at Cisco who only use their IP SoftPhone, however others, like myself, like to use the Cisco IP Phone 7960 which is at my desk. Again, this is a questions of personal preference and the working environment.
Where would you like to see future development in IP telephony focus?
I would like to see development in employee productivity enhancement applications that can be delivered and accessed from the IP Phone.
What is the biggest challenge in IP telephony right now? A technological hurdle? Customer knowledge and acceptance?
Customer knowledge and acceptance is the biggest challenge in IP Telephony. Once a customer can equate IP Telephony with enhancing employee productivity, the challenge of installing IP Telephony will be overcome.