Panel says huge IP information nets face hurdles

Panel says huge IP information nets face hurdles

Internet Protocol (IP) networks providing voice, data, and newer applications are braced for continued enormous growth worldwide, but issues such as improved communications software and changing of business habits still need to be worked out, said telecommunications executives at the SuperComm '99 conference here on Sunday.

Officials from companies such as BT Networks, Compaq, and AT&T stressed IP technology will become even more pervasive as networking hardware and links are upgraded to increase bandwidth of network backbones. The officials served on a panel discussing global network directions at the conference.

IP has extended the reach of data, and eventually even consumer devices such as television sets will be networked, according to panellist William Gerwitz, vice president of Global Business IP Solutions at AT&T, in New Jersey.

"IP has democratised data," Gerwitz said.

But more needs to be done, such as development of open APIs for communications applications, along with continued evolution of technologies such as cable modems, DSL, broadband and satellite, said Chris Earnshaw, managing director at BT Networks & Systems in Chicago.

"We've still not yet succeeded in bringing those technologies to users," Earnshaw said.

The Internet will be the new interface for customers to access information, said Hugh Bradlow, director of technical strategy and research at Telstra, an ISP in Melbourne. "In tomorrow's world, a customer will be able to come online and access their information," but links to legacy systems must still be maintained, Bradlow said.

Microsoft at SuperComm this week will highlight its own technology, Active OSS (Operations Support Systems), for putting Web interfaces on telecommunications services management applications.

Bradlow stressed standardised software is needed to foster broad-based communications applications on the Internet, as opposed to each vendor having its own proprietary offering.

"As service providers, we do need to coerce the industry to provide standard, commercial solutions, Bradlow said.

Compaq vice [resident Rose Ann Giordano, based in Massachusetts, said business models based on commercial software are needed for service providers to more quickly deploy applications.

"They have to be on commercial platforms to reduce cost and time to market," Giordano said.

Most panellists agreed that changes in business habits represent the real hurdle in growth of global information networks, as opposed to any technological shortcomings.

"It's again the human nature of not wanting to change as quickly as we could with the technology," Giordano said.

But Telstra's Bradlow countered that the state of software is not yet where it should be to deliver adequate network services.

"I think if you look at the software technologies, they're a complete mess, and we wouldn't have a year 2000 problem if they weren't," Bradlow said.

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