December 14, 2000, 9:02 AM —
The nice thing about computer network standards is that there are so
many to choose from.
-- Anonymous, early 1980s
Everybody agrees that interoperability is a Good Thing, up there with apple pie and
sliced bread. Likewise, voice over IP -- in which voice traffic is carried over the
data network -- is seeing a groundswell of popularity because it could cost a company
less than using a public service telephone network.
Enterprise networkers are eyeing VoIP equipment -- IP PBXs, VoIP gateways, and the
like -- as next-generation alternatives to classic PBXs and href="http://aol.pcwebopedia.com/TERM/T/TDM.html">time-division multiplexing
channel banks. Carriers and ISPs are also eyeing VoIP gateways for their next major
hardware purchase. Everything is in place, it seems, for VoIP to change the world as we
know it ... except for interoperability.
Will a lack of interoperability stop the VoIP revolution in its tracks? Probably
not. But it will unquestionably slow it down.
It's generally easier for an enterprise to commit to a single-source solution for VoIP
gear than a carrier or service provider to do so. But nobody likes the fact that VoIP
equipment from vendor C and vendor L just won't work together. (You can pick your own
letters. I just picked C and L because, well, their equipment really doesn't work
1. To the ITU,
href="http://www.imtc.org">IMTC, and the
href="http://www.softswitch.org">Softswitch Consortium: Open up your discussion
lists to the public, even if on a read-only basis, and offer your latest draft
documents to anyone for download. The "membership" fees you charge observers to monitor
what's happening with VoIP interoperability in your associations are prohibitive and
2. The H.323 standard
doesn't cut it. Let's all admit it. So let's give href="http://www.softswitch.org/Events/mgcp-flows.txt">Media Gateway Control
Protocol and Session Initiation
Protocol a whack at the problem. Any vendor that's hanging on to H.323 for VoIP
interoperability is doing so because its representatives to the standards groups are
looking for job security.