The Definitive Guide to Successful Deployment of VoIP and IP Telephony

by Jim Cavanagh


The Definitive Guide to Successful Deployment of VoIP and IP Telephony, by IP Telephony expert Jim Cavanagh, provides practical insights into the specific steps organizations need to take to be successful with the implementation of VoIP and Internet Protocol Telephony. This book goes beyond the theoretical and provides insights and guidance gleaned from work with some of the largest enterprises, institutions, and agencies around the world. It puts that knowledge into a form that can be put right to work. Written in a clear, concise format for both technical and non-technical professionals alike, this book provides checklists and electronic "Report Cards" that implementers can use to select and deploy the right telephony solutions, applications, services, and testing and monitoring tools for their own specific situations.


Chapter 1: Forward...Into the Past!

Let’s forget for a moment why and how people communicate over a distance, and simply accept that communication is a basic human need. Let’s focus on the what of human communication: the ability to hear another person speak, for business or pleasure, from near or far. It is one of the most basic human needs and one shared by virtually all humans. It is noteworthy that one of the first devices to make distance voice communication possible, the telephone, was originally viewed as an object of curiosity, but its practical applications were not immediately grasped.

However, that has changed. There has been an inclination in the past two decades—more than a century after the invention and commercial introduction of the telephone—for the marketplace to quickly take hold of new technologies for voice communication that are inferior to, yet more convenient or more cost effective than, their predecessors. As evidence, consider the cellular telephone and Voice over IP (VoIP). The cellular telephone is an example of the market valuing convenience over call quality and VoIP is an example of a lower-cost solution that lacks the connectivity and voice quality of its predecessor but is available at a much lower price—free, assuming you already own a PC and have an Internet connection. (Initially, both VoIP parties had to be talking via their PC; however, VoIP is becoming available to the masses: the regular residential and business phone users.) These two disruptive technologies changed everything, and we now have dual-mode wireless phones that provide VoIP over WiFi or cellular service, depending upon which service is available.

Let’s now return to the why and how of distance voice communication. The why can be as diverse as getting a good stock trade in before the final bell or warning of a looming crisis from a swarm of locusts or a visit from an undesirable relative. The how can be analog or digital, circuit or packet, copper, fiber, or wireless. Even considering the diversity of why and how, we can agree that people see the inherent value and are able to justify the cost of the service.

In this brief glimpse of voice communication, we have actually outlined the major topics that are the reason for the existence of this guide. Voice communication is important to humans, there are a variety of business and personal reasons that justify the cost, and users value simplicity and convenience over traditional “toll quality,” so we must now sort out needs, technologies, implementation methodologies, applications, monitoring and management tools, and the business aspects of the next generation of telephony.

We have forever left traditional telephony in the rearview mirror, a shrinking image as we speed forward down the information superhighway where every vehicle represents a different flavor of packet, collectively transporting voice, data, video, and image information to their destinations. But have we truly left traditional telephony behind, and, if so, should we have? This question adds one more item to the list of reasons this guide exists that has not been explicitly addressed: to capture what we have learned in the analog and digital circuit past that can be applied to assure the success of our packet voice future. So much of what lies ahead is already known; it is not virgin territory. There is a massive body of knowledge that must be applied to the “new world” of voice communications from the “old world” of voice communications.

We will begin by taking the long view of electronic human voice communications, then dive into what is needed to make the future better than the past. We will do so with a special emphasis on midsized to large, national to global enterprises, but smaller users, carriers, and service providers will find their share of readily accessible knowledge in these words, as well.

Chapter 2: The IP Telephony Life Cycle

Every system has a rhythm, a natural life cycle. If you can understand a system’s rhythm and “go with the flow,” your job of managing that system will be made much easier. The traditional telephony systems that we are now replacing have a natural rhythm, as do the IP Telephony (IPT) systems with which they are being replaced. This chapter is about understanding the life cycle of your enterprise IPT system and harnessing that understanding to increase the success of your implementation as well as your financial rewards—be those rewards direct tactical benefits such as cost savings or indirect, and often elusive, strategic benefits. This chapter is also about squeezing as much use as you possibly can from your existing telephony systems, a move that can make a lot of business sense regardless of your natural desire to discard the old and to start using the shiny new thing.

The Bigger Business Picture

From the 1960s to the early to mid 1990s, a technology project often took 12 to 18 months or more with little variation in schedule from large to small organizations. Any technology project was a major undertaking and included an exhaustive process of a Request for Proposals, presentations, site visits, and analysis, often by an internal staff and a cadre of outside experts. In many cases today, however, it is only the “Fortunate 500” who still have sufficient resources to be able to take a careful, project-oriented approach and to think and rethink the various outcomes of possible choices or approaches—and often even those organizations will not apply sufficient resources to assure success. These days, smaller organizations are often forced to react rather than plan and to put out fires rather than building a fire-proof system in the first place.

The following section explores the facts surrounding a project that was carefully thought through, argued out, and managed in a thorough and professional manner as an example. The project described was the development of a global Voice over Packet (VoP) blueprint and subsequent implementation for a Fortune 100 client. Although the client company is a global energy giant operating in 162 countries, there are lessons in this story that can benefit organizations of any size, industry, or geographic reach.

Chapter 3: Planning and Assessment

At a professional car race, the cars are powerful, fast, and full of muscle, zipping around the track at amazing speeds; the drivers defy death and beat physics at every turn. What only the true racing fanatic realizes, though, is that there is more to this feat than the power of the car and skill of the driver. Considerations such as the preparation of the track, the track surface, the inflation of the tires, the bank of the turns, the surface temperature of the track, minor variations in the fuel mix, and other seemingly arcane considerations contribute in a very real way to the outcome of the race.

This chapter talks as much about the track—the high-speed broadband surface over which telephony and other multimedia content races—as it does about the vehicles—traditional and multimedia phone calls. This chapter will also delve into some of the seemingly arcane aspects of both, making good on the promise in the first chapter to educate phone people about IP networks and IP people about telephony systems.

The first two chapters introduced some of the principles driving the change to VoIP and IPT and noted that this guide will challenge the market “buzz” that has been generated by emerging and evolving packet telephony technologies. This chapter will continue exploring both the pros and cons of this technological shift, which should be more of an evolution than a revolution.

Planning and assessment must begin with a careful identification of the business drivers for change, which will, in turn, provide objectives that will guide the project and allow the measurement of the outcome. This evaluation must include thoughtful analysis of the current methods of voice communications and both the voluntary and involuntary drivers. Voluntary drivers include the desire to reduce cost and increase productivity as well as advances in business applications that require the integration of new technologies. Involuntary drivers can be factors such as manufacturer discontinuation of existing systems and an enterprise’s lack of desire to continue investing in hardware that is rapidly becoming obsolete.

Planning and assessment also includes setting proper expectations with both users and management. Expectation setting includes defining proper design and ongoing operational criteria, such as technical requirements and acceptable operational thresholds. Important metrics for all telephony applications are identified, whether for simple two-party telephone calls, voice and/or multimedia conferencing, voicemail and presence applications. Methods for translating those metrics into a measurable and actionable Service Level Agreement (SLA) for internal or external service providers are also provided—whether those providers are carriers and service providers who supply the track or service providers, systems integrators, and inside entities who provide the vehicles that run on the track.

This chapter will also include a unique, comprehensive capabilities inventory that is designed to ensure that every capability used in the current/old system is at least considered for inclusion in the new system.

Chapter 4: Design and Pre-Deployment Testing

Chapter 3 described the first phase in the life cycle of any successful IPT project—planning and assessment. The information that you gathered and the steps that you took in that phase set the stage for the next step: design & pre-deployment testing. As Figure 4.1 shows, planning and assessment, design and pre-deployment testing and implementation are all initial phases. After these initial phases, you enter the actual cyclical part of the life cycle of your IPT project.

The major areas within Design and Pre-deployment Testing are:

  • Network Design Considerations
  • Translating Needs to Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
  • Validation of Design
  • Testing > Feedback > Network Modification > Testing Loop

We will discuss each in great depth in this chapter.

Chapter 5: Implementation and Migration

You have reached the phase in the IP Telephony project in which you will learn for the first time whether your combination of expectation setting, design, and project management is going to be a success. And, because you are working toward a successful deployment, this chapter will point out ways that your project could potentially go astray so that you can avoid those possible pitfalls. To ensure success during the implementation and migration, this chapter will revisit the global enterprise case study mentioned in Chapter 3 and take a closer look at how those involved actually implemented their global IP Telephony project, giving you a blueprint for your own implementation.

External Issues

External issues are those factors over which your project team is unlikely to exert much influence, as opposed to internal issues, which will be explored later. It remains to be seen in any given situation which issues will have a more profound positive or negative impact on the overall project, but both will play a role in the project’s success.

Reducing Negative Impact of Implementation/Migration

There is a recurring theme that must remain in the foreground of your thinking throughout the project—your project, like any other successful endeavor, is being performed for reasons that are acceptable to management with the aim of getting results that somehow improve the business of the organization. This must be true of any project: there are business benefits and goals to be achieved and when you can compare the list of accomplishments to the list of goals and the accomplishments meet or exceed your goals, then, and only then, have you completed a successful project.

Chapter 6: Ongoing Operations

Most, if not all, successful start-up companies are founded by creative, energetic, entrepreneurial individuals whose 16-hour days, eating at the desk or on the run, decisions on-the-fly and out-of-the-box thinking that could not possibly be sustained over the long run, are replaced by a new team. After the “start up” phase, top management positions are occupied by less creative, more down-to-earth, and more operations-focused personnel whose job it is to standardize operations and run the company going forward. Companies with foresight often move the founders into key roles of business development or product improvement. Those companies that do not do so often stagnate without the enthusiasm and commitment of the original team.

This transition happens as often in Voice over IP (VoIP) projects as it does in entrepreneurial start-ups and for many of the same reasons. The job of creating a project, selling it to management and users, and making it happen—in any size organization—is different to the job of running the system day-to-day. It is the rare individual who can fill both roles. If your job is to take the reins, create harmony from chaos, and run the new system day-to-day, this chapter is for you.

Chapter 7: Optimization

This chapter discusses the process of reviewing the performance of your IPT system and setting new standards and benchmarks. In other words, taking what is already a world-class system and making it even better. This chapter will make the distinction between operations, the objective of which is to keep things as they are, and optimization, the objective of which is to modify the telephony solution in a manner as to improve its operational characteristics.

The chapter will also make a distinction between optimization and troubleshooting and repair, the objective of which is to make something that is not operating or not operating within guidelines to work once again according to the guidelines. In fact, the underlying assumption of troubleshooting and repair is that some capability, system, or feature operated properly at one time and that something has caused it to no longer work as desired. This differs from optimization in that operation in an optimized state is desirable but the system, feature, or capability never operated within that state before but will after the optimization. In fact, the optimized condition will become the new baseline for proper operation and the next review cycle may improve further on prior work in a never-ending loop of improvement.

Chapter 8: Sweating the Details and Assuring Success

In 1926 self-help author Robert Collier wrote "The great successful people of the world have used their imaginations, they think ahead and create their mental picture, and then go to work materializing that picture in all its details, filling in here, adding a little there, altering this a bit and that bit, but steadily building, steadily building." We will likely find no better theme as we enter the final chapter of this guide. We started by imagining what could be:

• A new world of telephony where dial tone was only the beginning
• A new world of telephony that provides a cornerstone for the carrier triple play, Unified Communications, and Multimedia, Internet, Communications, and Entertainment (MICE) systems.
• A new world of productivity and communications enabled by the Internet Protocol, SIP, and related protocols and technologies.

We then filled in the details, planned our approach, vetted our designs, and developed a strategy for continually refreshing our system and improving, enhancing, and optimizing it throughout its, hopefully long, life cycle. All along the way we strove to keep the best parts of the system we are replacing and to add new capabilities as yet undreamed of when that early system was architected and built.

In this chapter, we will discuss many of the details required to ensure success in this new system. Some of the points have been covered elsewhere; others have not. We will also provide a comprehensive checklist for the implementation of a modern, packet-based telephony system that can be used to assure that all the critical details, large and small, are covered.