Friday, February 13, 2009

Innovate back to 1988 - The tale of the old and new digital and VoIP PBX

I got off the phone a little while ago with my cousin who works in the telecomm industry. As you can imagine, if you're so inclined, this is an industry that has scene tremendous growth given it's nature.

I was lucky enough to be part of it for a few years at the tale end of the 90s during the "PC Revolution." Sure, there weren't any "real" switches left by that time, it was mostly digital and the switching was done by way of circuit boards.

I some how struck gold working in telecomm (geek gold that is), Yup, I bet you guessed it. The IP phone. Years before Vonage or your local cable provider was advertising VoIP yours truly had it in his hands. And it was cool! They literally flew off the shelf like hot cakes at an IHOP free pancake day. The flexibility it provided satellite offices or work from people was huge. It was a great innovation and it saved a lot of companies a lot of money on toll charges. The coolest thing was probably setting up an IP handset as a test back to our office in Deer Park, NY. Why was this cool? Because the handset was in Transylvania and it got it's internet connection by way of a dial up connection being proxied through a computer. The voice quality left a lot to be desired, but it connected and just like I dialed an extension to talk to the person in the next office, I could do the same with that phone. Groovy, Innovative, VoIP was and is still a game changer.

These days a lot of PBX's are based solely on IP. Phone techs now get to fight QoS battles and less than perfect firewall installations.

So why am I puckering up to VoIP? I'm not, I wanted to set the mood. Like I wrote above, I was talking to my cousin earlier and he told me about a call he had. He happened to be on the phone with a sales engineer at a prominent PBX manufacturer. For whatever the reason he was calling, he came across a funny little discovery. This particular company stuck to their guns throughout their transition to IP telephony. Sure, you can install their enterprise level VoIP solutions and hand out IP handsets to all your work at homers or satelite offices, but the new systems are entirely based on IP. Every handset gets an IP address, yum!

Think of all the possibilities, and while engineers are hard at work bringing the next greatest innovation to fruition I found my cousin's discovery not something I could just overlook.

It seems while designing this total IP based PBX, they chose to emulate their "CPU" from their digital PBXs in to software to run the new IP based phone system. Of course I don't expect any company looking to make a profit to entirely recode something that's proven and that works. In my opinion they took it a little too far, all the VoIP data is broken back down in to time slots for the "CPU" to handle. (Think Token Ring)

What puzzles my mind, is a company that spent millions of dollars on innovation for the VoIP transport, most likely spent a good portion of that marrying the new tech to the old tech.

I think this serves as an analogy for far too many things to list here, and I am guilty as well.

Of course, I've gone to great distances on some projects to figure things out, and in the process of figuring something out I discovered my original goal could be updated by the success I've had developing something new to complete part of the project.

I think at some level this is a natural part of IT's evolution. Especially when a not so data-centric industry is forced in to adopting a standard like VoIP, and using it with a developed tried and true technology. I just hope the innovaters are insightful enough to see that in the mist of all their hard work and development, they're leaving technology chips on the table so to speak. I'm sure by now someone has said something and future implementations will be able to leverage the great technology they already put in place.

Working on something? Take a minute to see the overall benefit of your work, you may have discovered something worthwhile.

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