Tuesday Evening Keynotes: AT&T, Pingtel, General Motors

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Greg Galitzine

Tuesday Evening Keynotes: AT&T, Pingtel, General Motors

Tuesday evening’s keynoters represent a vast cross section of the industry. AT&T, arguably the most recognizable carrier in the world, Pingtel, a provider of open source SIP-based PBX technology, and General Motors, a behemoth enterprise consumer of telephony services.


As I sit here waiting for them to begin their discussions I am struck by the variety of keynoters and the variety of conference attendees. I guess it remains as true today as it was when we began publishing Internet Telephony magazine and putting on the Internet Telephony Conference & EXPO events: Magazine readership helps drive the attendance to the conferences. And so long as we serve a cross section of the industry with the industry’s number 1 magazine, we will continue to attract a cross-section of attendees to the events as well.


On to the keynotes…


Eric Shepcaro, AT&T


Eric Shepcaro led off the afternoon session. Shepcaro is Vice President of Business Strategy and Development at AT&T, serving as AT&T’s chief strategist.


Shepcaro led off with a very lighthearted — and well done — three-minute video where the protagonist asked a number of New York City denizens the following two questions: ‘Do you know what the term IP is?’ and ‘Do you know what the term VoIP is?’


Apparently in NYC, nobody knows what VoIP is, save for one elderly woman. Obviously the video was a lighthearted stab at the need for further education.


As for a more realistic look at adoption of VoIP, Shepcaro asked, “Why now? The pieces are clearly coming together, he said. “Over the last five years, we’ve seen lots of hype, but now we’re seeing deployments, driven in part by broadband penetration.”


He presented some statistics to support his position. One slide showed 63% broadband penetration in the U.S. Of course it could and should be more, but it’s certainly helping drive VoIP and convergence. Another stat showed that 53% of U.S. households subscribing to VoIP services have completely replaced their landline phones.


And, cost savings remains the key driver. The ability to simplify and improve voice communications are a close second. In third, come the applications: Collaboration, Unified Communications, IP Video, Audio Conferencing… these are all applications driving customers towards VoIP.


“Web services and service oriented architecture WILL define collaboration,” said Shepcaro. “It’s unacceptable today to offer standalone voice services. It is unacceptable to have my voice mail stored separately from my e-mail, forcing me to check it in several different places.”


Some of the salient points of Shepcaro’s speech all dealt with the same concept: Services over IP, or as he referred to it: XoIP, for all things over IP.


Here are some “soundbites” from Shepcaro’s speech:


“AT&T is delivering the “dynamic IT environment.”


“AT&T is trialing WiMAX, we think it has explosive opportunity.”


“Security has to be built in at every layer of convergence.”


“Convergence is starting to deliver the benefits that customers are starting to expect.”



Bill Rich, Pingtel


Next up onto the stage was Bill Rich of Pingtel.


The first words from the president and chief executive officer of Pingtel, were this: “VoIP is here. And for that, everyone in the audience should give themselves a round of applause.”


But what’s next?


Open source PBX… IM + VoIP + Presence… Fixed-Mobile Convergence…


“And so,” Rich asked, “With all that on our plates, why do we need a next anyway?”


He expanded on the theme. Communications is no longer about the phone: It’s about integration, collaboration, mobility, and an expanding plethora of means and modes of communications. But it also creates a plethora of headaches, and further Balkanization of communications.


Well, if as Rich began, “VoIP is here,” then we must recognize that at the heart of enterprise communications today is the IP PBX.


Of course, the advent of the IP PBX has its merits and its drawbacks. IP PBXs cut transportation costs and reduce MAC costs. Yes, that’s true, and that’s good. But the IP PBX has yet to show truly meaningful gains in productivity and improved usability as of yet. While that may be the goal, we have not achieved it quite yet.


So again, what’s next? Rich believes that, “What’s next is Internet Telephony, where VoIP and real-time communications start to look like e-mail.


“We move from islands of proprietary hardware as expensive and inflexible as TDM,” he continued, “towards ubiquitous and global reach, where plug and play is the norm, not the exception, and of course, integrated into the Internet.”


According to Rich, “A SIP-centric architecture provides the mechanism that enables communications to evolve from islands to an integrated community, i.e., the Internet. Presence must also play a role in the next generation of communications.”


“If you think about where VoIP wanted to go 5 or 7 years ago, we had one vision, and what we got instead was a rehash of the PBX to some degree. Open source can drive Internet Telephony to grow free from vendor constraints and the traditional PBX mindset that pervades how we think about enterprise communications.”


Rich concluded, “The market is coalescing around session-based services and SIP and that’s what we at Pingtel believe is ‘what’s next.’”



Elliott Zeltzer, General Motors


Elliott Zeltzer is the Global Manager of Global Converged Telecommunications Services for General Motors. In that role, he is responsible for Telecommunications Architecture Infrastructure, as well as for the design, build, and operation of the converged Global Network.


Zeltzer took to the stage in order to share with the audience how converged services and technology plays out at GM ina presentation entitled Transformation Of It Services And Converged Telecom. For certain, the company is huge. A truly global player, GM has resources in nearly every country in the world. And this of course presents a series of challenges regarding telecommunications


On the road to standardization, GM went from 7,000 legacy systems to 3,000 systems, which included everything from CAD systems, a common employee portal, and a common desktop environment.


GM is constantly looking to improve business processes and there is a need to stick to the mandate of “No IT dollars wasted. No technology for technology’s sake.” Zeltzer mentioned that GM has been able to improve productivity and drive quality up, all part of the company’s overall business transformation. This comprises lots of different areas of concern such as outsourcing all IT needs to third parties, yet helping them to break down barriers between disparate islands within the company. In order to test the effectiveness of the technology that Zeltzer and his team bring to GM, they need to measure their performance through a variety of metrics.


So what then is the value of convergence? Given his responsibility to GM, Zeltzer has to ask, “How do we create value to the business?” And those answers absolutely need to include Innovation; Driving the cost out of the business; and Improving productivity.


GM is slowly moving to VoIP, waiting to see how others take their lumps first. Among other things, they feel that the demands of their customer base for predictable levels of quality are precluding the company from diving into VoIP with both feet. Still, video conferencing, distance learning, and other such applications are driving GM to try and wring the cost out of the business by switching to a converged network.


Zeltzer told the crowd that unified messaging, directories, desktop collaboration, and multiple media(s) of communications are the primary applications that GM is looking at as they continue their move towards convergence. But of course QoS is critical to making sure the applications are reliable and predictable. And certainly, security is one area where service providers absolutely have to deliver. The move to convergence simply cannot expose the network to threats of any kind.


All companies have concerns when moving to convergence. Maybe GM’s concerns are larger simply because they are a larger animal. Nonetheless, as great as the challenges are, GM and enterprises of al sizes are looking to VoIP and to convergence as they consider their future telecommunications plans.

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