Four Key Steps to Selecting a Voice Communications Management Platform

By Paul Wiggins | Oct 1, 2010 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/unified_communications/Four-Key-Steps-to-Selecting-a-Voice-Communications-Management-Platform-3906406.htm

Voice communications are the lifeblood of any organization, and in today’s world of VoIP and unified communications (UC), businesses are relying more than ever on converged voice technologies. 

Convergence technologies provide significant business benefits that fuel work group collaboration, support mobile workforces, and enable the business to instantly engage and serve global markets. 

 

But the success of these high profile technologies is closely tied to the IP network they traverse, which was most likely engineered to carry data – not the real-time voice packets and UC application traffic now riding on that infrastructure. Without the proper tools to manage both voice quality and the network service levels of this converged voice and data network, the promised business benefits and ROI of convergence will likely never materialize.

 

So what are the steps to choosing the right management technology? What criteria should enterprises use to identify the ideal platform that supports their environment today, and in the future? Following are four of the primary essentials to consider when selecting a voice communications management platform.

 

 

1. Deploy non-proprietary management that supports a wide range of technologies

Most converged environments are comprised of a mix of technologies from a variety of manufacturers, and whatever that mix is today, it is likely to change going forward. Management tools limited to a specific vendor’s devices and metrics cannot provide the necessary end-to-end visibility and control of the entire communications environment. When problems occur, administrators are unable to quickly spot and resolve the root cause of problems, since they must gather, analyze, and compare data from multiple proprietary tools deployed across their assortment of routers, gateways, VoIP call servers, and network elements. The lack of a single, unified view across this variety of devices complicates support efforts and increases operating costs while diminishing responsiveness and the ability to quickly resolve communication problems.

 

Choose a non-proprietary, vendor-agnostic solution that comprehensively manages your entire diverse voice and data infrastructure – regardless of your technology mix now, or in the future.  Be sure the solution provides true convergence management across the full gamut of TDM, VoIP, IP network, and converged communications technologies from all the major manufacturers. As your environment evolves, you may want to deploy and manage other best of breed convergence technologies, and your management platform must be capable of supporting these future technologies going forward.

 

 

2. Select a management solution that bridges the voice and data domains

A converged communications environment blurs the traditional lines of voice and data, which historically were managed as silos, often by separate groups within the organization.  Those traditional approaches no longer work when voice and data converge.  Typical SNMP-based network monitoring tools won’t provide visibility into VoIP call quality issues – the most common and prevalent problem in converged environments. 

 

Likewise, tools that analyze only VoIP quality metrics won’t provide visibility into the underlying network infrastructure issues that often cause quality degradation.  A unified solution that provides real-time VoIP Quality of Service (QoS) diagnostics, along with rich network device and performance monitoring is necessary to deliver the required holistic view of both the voice and data domains that comprise the converged environment.  

 

 

3. Include real-time VoIP QoS analytics and management

The basic characteristics of VoIP call traffic are hugely different than typical SNMP data traffic. Data packets are largely forgiving of minor network anomalies, such as latency, delay, and packet loss.  On the other hand, voice packets subjected to the same network conditions often produce catastrophic results, including impaired conversations and dismal voice quality that frustrate users and impede productivity. 

 

When convergence results in poor voice quality, greater network latency, or diminished service levels, businesses seriously jeopardize the probability of achieving their desired RoI and benefits.

 

To deal with VoIP call-quality problems, you need granular VoIP call-detail analysis (including calls in progress) across your entire converged voice environment.  Both active and passive monitoring and analytic capabilities will prove useful.   At a minimum, you need access to a set of 50 core quality-of-service statistics including MOS-LQ, MOS-CQ, listening quality, and jitter buffer overrun estimates. A sampling of some key quality analytics to look for follows:

 

MOS-CQ

MOS-LQ

R-CQ

R-LQ

Packet Discard %

Burst Count

Network Loss %

Average Burst Length

Total Loss %

Burst R

One-way Delay

Burst Density

Jitter (PDV, PPDV, MAPDV)

Gap Count

Codec

Average Gap Length

Call Status

Gap Loss %

Duration

Gap R

Origination End Point

Origination Port

Destination End Point

Destination Port

 

The solution should not only provide deep VoIP QoS analytics, but provide a means to relate those analytics to the other relevant network performance events, faults, and issues occurring and contributing to the voice quality problems.  Without this holistic management approach, your voice support team will be forever challenged to find and resolve the correct quality-affecting issues throughout the converged voice environment.

 

 

4. To find the right solution, add criteria specific to your environment and business

The right management platform for you will include a variety of additional criteria specific to your environment and your business, but the solution should also include these additional capabilities that will benefit your organization throughout the convergence life cycle: 

 

Include network assessment capabilities that measure your network’s capacity to support your expected VoIP call volume, and report the likely call quality users will experience.  The benefits are significant both prior to deploying VoIP on your network, and as your VoIP call traffic grows after deployment.  Through assessments, you can anticipate converged communications quality and network throughput problems, and address them long before users and business stakeholders are impacted.

 

Include reporting capabilities for performance, capacity, and quality statistics and trends.  These types of reports deliver invaluable insight into the cause of recurring problems that need attention, capacity barriers that are looming and warrant network upgrades, as well as call patterns that show your support team where they need to focus to get ahead of stubborn quality and performance issues.

 

Choose a flexible platform that can also integrate with your other existing tools and business processes – like trouble ticketing systems – that will increase your effectiveness, and boost the value of your overall management efforts. 

 

 

Paul Wiggins is the ReliaTel Convergence Technology Manager at Tone Software Corporation.