Incompatible Routers Could Hold VoIP Back - InformationWeek

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Incompatible Routers Could Hold VoIP Back

A research firm says telecom equipment makers aren't adhering to industry standards.

The growth of voice over IP will be hobbled by service outages and network-deployment delays, because telecom equipment makers are not adhering to industry standards for delivering the Web-phoning service, according to a new report.

Dennis Mendyk, managing director of market researcher Heavy Reading, said in an interview Thursday that problems loom because "you can't mix and match" telecom gear without setting standards. Heavy Reading's report is titled "Next Generation Routers: A Comprehensive Product Analysis."

Mendyk noted that most telecom equipment makers tend to first develop their own proprietary technologies while waiting for universal standards to be set. "Vendors do this for a couple of reasons," he said. "They want to make their own advances and they want to lock in customers who get the bells and whistles they are asking for. But this limits telecom-equipment choices."

The report addresses the problem posed by brief network outages caused by microbursts, which are typically a few seconds but less than a minute in duration. Mendyk observed that today's broadband data users aren't much inconvenienced by a delay of a few seconds, but it is a different story with voice transmissions, which move in real time and are streaming.

"You get these little glitches in a voice system and they basically crash your entire system," he said. "With VoIP it's a huge issue. At some point there's likely to be a massive outage." Mendyk added the potential for widespread failure is not so threatening when VoIP has thousands of users, but the potential for an outage grows when VoIP systems scale up to the point when millions of users will be on line at the same time.

Indeed, that point may be arriving faster than many believe. VoIP service firm Skype Technologies, for instance, typically has 500,000 users online at any given time. And traditional telecommunications suppliers like AT&T and the former regional operating companies are rushing to sell VoIP. Independent VoIP firm Vonage Holdings boasts more than 200,000 users.

The report examines another problem presented by the proliferation of routers from scores of manufacturers: The differences and idiosyncrasies of so much gear are confusing to prospective buyers. "Even though most routers function in very similar ways--using similar protocols and interface cards--router makers often use different metrics to describe product performance," the report states.

The report examines 119 different routers from 26 manufacturers. Mendyk said the report, prepared by a team of analysts from Heavy Reading, takes an in-depth look at Cisco Systems' new high-end, high-speed CRS-1 router. He calls the CRS-1 a "proprietary lock-in" that encourages purchasers to deploy other Cisco gear throughout networks.

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