Stay clear of the rabbit hole

FRAMINGHAM (10/29/2003) - The LAN is becoming crowded. Voice over IP, wireless LANs and video over IP all are maturing rapidly, forcing LAN managers to make room for them in their networks.

Tight budgets, staffing cutbacks and lack of product maturity all have been excuses to put these technologies at bay. But that veil is lifting slowly, and it's time to develop a plan that integrates everything into a sophisticated architecture. That's the purpose behind Network World's LAN Technology Tour, which kicks off this week in Boston and the Washington, D.C., area.

LAN managers might argue that it's easier to deploy one technology at a time. But doing that will send you chasing down a rabbit hole. A better strategy is to consider upfront the common needs for all the technologies on your plate.

For instance, VoIP requires creating a prioritization method for packet delivery. Video over IP - if you're looking for real-time streaming - has similar requirements. If these two technologies will share your network, it's best to think now about how to handle the needs of both. You don't want to roll out VoIP, then try to tackle video and realize that you haven't installed the proper network support. It would be a waste of time and money.

Wireless networks offer many obvious advantages, but not planning for what's going to ride over that network would be a terrible misstep. Chances are once you've got wireless delivery of data traffic down, you're going to want to put other types of traffic - including voice and video - over those connections. Planning for this now will save you headaches later. From choosing appropriate hardware that supports converged traffic to configuring your access points, there is a lot of preparation that can be done upfront to avoid retracing your steps later.

On our Technology Tours, we've been beating this drum loudly. It's easy to get so caught up in a VoIP discussion that you forget you have other technologies in the blueprint. And when you're hearing all the great things that WLANs can do, it's challenging to focus on the bigger picture.

That's why our LANs Technology Tour fans out to show you the whole local area and all that has to fit into it. Adtran Inc., Cisco Systems Inc. and Foundry Networks Inc., along with Avocent Corp., Allot Communications Ltd. and Canon Inc., will join Kevin Tolly, president of The Tolly Group, and me to show you how to solve the problem of preparing for more than one technology at a time. Tolly's keynote address will show you how to stitch the needs of VoIP, wireless, video and more into a well thought out architecture - one that will keep you out of the rabbit hole.

Gittlen is events editor for Network World's Seminars and Events Group. She can be reached at sgittlen@nww.com.

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