SHARE



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Andrew Prokop
Andrew Prokop has been heavily involved in the world of communications since the early 1980s. He holds five United States...
Read Full Bio >>
SHARE



Andrew Prokop | October 01, 2014 |

 
   

The Reinvention of the Telecom Professional

The Reinvention of the Telecom Professional Erstwhile "telecom" professionals must be as well-versed in SANs and DHCP as they are in PRI and DTMF.

Erstwhile "telecom" professionals must be as well-versed in SANs and DHCP as they are in PRI and DTMF.

I can be pretty blunt at times. Case in point: A few years ago I was invited to meet with the telephone administrator for a medium-sized business. I didn't know that much about the communications system she managed, so I did what I always do in those situations. I asked for a tour of the facilities and peppered her with questions about what I saw.

"What version of call processing software are you running? When was the last time you upgraded the processors? Is your firmware up to date. How may IP stations have you rolled out? What's your mobility strategy? Do your users have access to video and instant message?"

Over the years, I have learned to not be terribly surprised when I run across vintage software and hardware, but this particular company was practically in the dark ages. There were far too many analog lines than I cared to count, and they had yet to implement a single IP endpoint.

When I asked her why, her response was this: "My people don't need anything beyond dial tone."

As disappointing as the comment was, the look of pride on her face was even more disturbing. She clearly found great satisfaction in denying her users access to new forms of communication.

As I am apt to do when I encounter people like this, I threw out all decorum, looked her in the eye, and said, "Do you want to have a job in five years? Because at this rate, you haven't much of a future in this industry."

Thankfully, most people have moved beyond analog and digital endpoints, but I continue to run into telecom managers and support personal that have yet to realize that their jobs are not what they used to be back in the day. While PRI, DTMF, and ringtone generators still have their place, the craftsperson that isn't familiar with virtualization, SAN, DNS, and DHCP will soon find his or her bag of tricks deficient in what a modern communications system demands.

Reinventing the Telecom Professional
For a number of years my mantra has been, "Voice is just another form of data that runs on your network." However, I am now finding this to be an inadequate description. More accurately, voice is an integral part of an enterprise's data infrastructure that is delivered through the same sets of servers, management tools, policies, and security guidelines as any other enterprise service.

Okay, that's a mouthful, but communications platforms have evolved to the point where they are not that different from an enterprise's non-voice applications. They share the same requirements in terms of processing, storage, and resiliency. This is true for both premise and cloud-based solutions.

Let's start with my original notion that voice is simply another form of data. Show me a telecom professional who doesn't understand DHCP options, FQDNs, and the difference between Layer-2 and Layer-3 networking, and I will show you a dinosaur. These traditional data networking concepts have become an integral part of the modern communications platform, and not understanding their use and impact will result in poor performance or, even worse, unworkable configurations.

Of course, it doesn't stop there. Telecom professionals need to be well-versed in storage area network (SAN), virtualization, and other technologies which have been traditionally the purview of the server guys and gals. In fact, I want PBX people to stop referring to server people as a separate group of folks. The differences between PBX and server support staff have completely evaporated. As any Zen master worthy of the title will tell you, we are all one.

In many ways, SIP is the great equalizer. Unlike H.323, which lives and breathes voice and video communications, SIP is media-agnostic. A SIP session can certainly be used to set-up a voice conversation, but it can also convey presence, user policy, whiteboarding, text messaging, screen sharing, and something as farfetched as chess moves. Yes, I have seen SIP used to play chess across the Internet.

As SIP and SIP-related technologies are fully adopted, old school gateways and PBX specific hardware will be replaced with virtual services that can live anywhere within an enterprise's private and extended networks. This technology shift requires a set of skills that cannot be labeled as strictly voice or strictly data.

Changes Everywhere
I don't want to sound like I am only picking on the telecom people. This transformation of communications affects many job titles.

I was recently on a call to discuss centralizing SIP trunks for a fairly large enterprise. One of the participants managed the company's data network, and after a fairly lengthy conversation about gateways and TDM telephony, he spoke up and asked, "What is this POTS thing you keep referring to?" So, although he was an expert in spanning tree and shortest path bridging, he wasn't aware that POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) was simply an analog line.

Like the telecom professional, the data guru who doesn't understand quality of service (QoS) requirements for real-time communications or the bandwidth implications of different audio and video codecs will find him- or herself less and less relevant to the modern enterprise.

Challenges/Opportunities Abound
Knowing the difference between a DS0 and DS1 will remain important for some time to come, but even the smartest dial tone jockey in the world cannot rest on his or her laurels. In my 31 years in this industry, I have witnessed enormous upheavals and I expect that by the time I hang up my headphones, a lot of what I know today will seem quaint and outdated.

This constant change is both daunting and invigorating. It's why I am still here and why I still feel completely engaged in my career. It's also why telecom professionals who embrace these changes will not become dinosaurs. The writing is on the wall and it's in a language that everyone must learn to speak.

┬┐Comprende?





COMMENTS



August 16, 2017

Contact centers have long been at the leading edge of innovation in communications technology, given their promise of measurable ROI and the continual need to optimize customer interactions and sta

July 12, 2017

Enterprises have been migrating Unified Communications & Collaboration applications to datacenters - private clouds - for the past few years. With this move comes the opportunity to leverage da

May 31, 2017

In the days of old, people in suits used to meet at a boardroom table to update each other on their work. Including a remote colleague meant setting a conference phone on the table for in-person pa

August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular BlogGeek.me blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.