Monday, May 16, 2011

The Golden Rules of Data Cabling

Listing here the golden rules of data cabling. If your cabling is not designed and installed properly, you will have problems that you can’t even imagine.

  1. Networks never get smaller or less complicated.
  2. Build one cabling system that will accommodate voice and data.
  3. Always install more cabling than you currently require. Those extra outlets will come in handy someday.
  4. Use structured-cabling standards when building a new cabling system. Avoid anything proprietary!
  5. Quality counts! Use high-quality cabling and cabling components. Cabling is the foundation of your network; if the cabling fails, nothing else will matter. For a given grade or category of cabling, you’ll see a range of pricing, but the highest prices don’t necessarily mean the highest quality. Buy based on the manufacturer’s reputation and proven performance, not the price.
  6. Don’t scrimp on installation costs. Even quality components and cable must be installed correctly; poor workmanship has trashed more than one cabling installation.
  7. Plan for higher speed technologies than are commonly available today. Just because 1000Base-T Ethernet seems unnecessary today does not mean it won’t be a requirement in five years.
  8. Documentation, although dull, is a necessary evil that should be taken care of while you’re setting up the cabling system. If you wait, more pressing concerns may cause you to ignore it.

Five “Gotchas” When Negotiating an Outsourcing Agreement

by David Mitchell, Senior Consultan

While reducing cost is typically the primary benefit of outsourcing, you also want an outsourcing agreement that allows you to realize your immediate and long-term delivery needs, provides contract flexibility and ensures that you receive maximum value for the money you will be spending. To meet those objectives, pay careful attention to the five “gotchas” noted below.

Negotiating a good outsourcing agreement involves much more than just achieving the pricing you desire. As you go through the process, you will go through the normal “give and take” discussions as you work with your potential provider(s). However, it is important that you do not focus solely on pricing. While reducing cost is typically the primary value proposition for outsourcing, you also want an outsourcing agreement that allows you to realize your immediate and long-term delivery needs, provides contract flexibility and ensures that you receive maximum value for the money you will be spending. To meet those objectives, pay careful attention to the five “gotchas” noted below. These areas of the agreement, if not carefully structured, can drain value from your business case and decrease the probability of having a successful and sustainable outsourcing agreement.

1. Statement of Work

A Statement of Work (SOW), when created correctly, describes in great detail (typically 100+ pages for a full information technology outsourcing agreement) the services to be performed by the provider and also clarifies certain client responsibilities. The SOW describes WHAT will be done for the price. A few checkmarks in the wrong responsibility column or a handful of missing tasks can significantly change the amount of service the provider is to deliver and will result in misaligned expectations from the start of the contract. Because the SOW is the “meat” of what the provider will do for you, you need to ensure it fully describes the services you expect from the provider.

2. Service Levels

Service levels work in conjunction with the SOW to scope the services that the provider will deliver. They describe HOW MUCH and TO WHAT EXTENT the services described in the SOW are delivered. Service levels and assumed labor costs are two primary drivers in a provider’s cost model. It is important that the service levels reflect what you need even as you are negotiating price. Importantly, you should realize that the costs go up exponentially as you get closer to a 100% performance target. Outside consultants with market information can help you determine a fair price for the service levels you require. Additionally, there are important service level terms that should be included to allow you the freedom to add and change service levels and to re-allocate service level credits as your business needs change.

3. Termination Language

It can be hard to focus on termination language and termination charges at the beginning of an outsourcing relationship. Termination language is analogous to a prenuptial agreement – it is there “just in case” things do not work out as originally intended. As the final negotiations occur, you may be tempted to give a bit on the termination language in order to get to the price point you want. Depending on your starting point, some “give” might be acceptable but you first need to understand the ramifications if you need or want to get out of the agreement (or pieces of the agreement) in the future. Once the contract is signed, it can be especially difficult and costly to get out of it if the termination language is favorable to the provider.

4. Future Pricing

There are a number of factors to consider regarding future pricing. On the whole, you should expect your IT costs to go down over time due to improvements in hardware and software functionality and pricing, labor arbitrage, automation, and so forth. Because each situation is different, there are no easy “rules of thumb” to apply, but pay close attention to these specific areas:

  • Year-over-Year Pricing – You should expect the unit pricing for most towers (possibly excluding applications due to its labor-centric nature) to go down each year, with the provider accepting the risk of continuously improving and streamlining its operations to achieve lower price points each year.
  • Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) – From your perspective, it would be ideal to not have a COLA, but the reality is that many providers will require it to give some risk protection in the out years. Any sort of cost of living increases should be tied to a well-known government index. Each tower should have a “COLA index” that indicates the portion of the unit pricing that can be affected by a COLA index. They should be country-specific if you will be receiving labor from an offshore location, and they should be capped to reduce your risk.
  • Variance Pricing – Many outsourcing contracts contain variance pricing based on resource usage. An assumed number of resources are built into the annual price, and then adjustments are made up or down based on actual monthly usage. The concept is simple, but you need to watch for how that will work for you based on your future growth assumptions. For example, if a provider expects that your business will grow over time, they may propose a lower base price to meet your initial price point, but then have a relatively high additional resource charge, or ARC rate, for additional volume.

5. Delivery Locations

In return for hitting your price point, a provider may want to include the freedom to deliver from whatever location they see fit. There are many risks associated with movement of work from one team to another, much less from one country to another. Because of the potential impact to your business, you want to make certain that you have some sort of approval authority prior to the movement of support functions. The provider may counter that they are accepting the risk because they are signing up for service levels. However, the potential business impact to you is much greater than their risk of incurring service level credits for missing a couple of metrics.

In summary, these five potential “gotchas” need to be managed closely through the negotiation process. Due to the variations and complexity inherent in each deal you should strongly consider the use of an outside outsourcing advisor to help. Because they understand your perspective as well as the providers’ point of view, they are ideally positioned to help manage through these items (as well as the many other items that will arise) and develop an outsourcing agreement that works well for both you and the provider.

(Sources -

Top 5 trends in enterprise IP telephony

by Irwin Lazar

So you’ve completed your enterprise IP telephony implementation, your systems are running without incident, and every person you meet in the hall stops you to shake your hand for all that you have done to improve their lives. It’s time to kick back and relax, right? Not quite. New options and services present challenges and opportunities to improve collaboration and reduce costs. So what comes next after full-scale enterprise IP telephony deployment?

In our research and consulting interviews with IT architects, we see the rise of five distinct trends in enterprise IP telephony shaping communications going forward:

1. Unified communications: While often a confusing term, we define UC as the joining of various real-time communications applications into a suite of integrated collaboration services. For most, this means tying telephony together with instant messaging, conferencing, unified messaging and video—enabling users to see each other’s presence status and initiate any form of communications via a single application. Over 60% of companies have some UC implementation under way, often starting with IM-telephony-presence integration before moving on to additional applications.

3. Video: Is video the next voice? Perhaps. As quality improves, prices fall, and workers are increasingly distributed, we are seeing an increase in video conferencing adoption. Desktop video is now an inherent feature in most UC platforms, while vendors including Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft and Polycom enable integration of UC desktop apps with room and immersive telepresence systems. Video hasn’t quite emerged as a replacement for voice, but we do see desktop video conferencing growing, primarily to enable distributed workers to join room-based meetings.

4. Virtualization: In the last few years, VoIP vendors including Avaya, Cisco, Microsoft, Mitel and Siemens have ported their IP PBX software to virtual appliances or general purpose hypervisors, enabling their customers to take advantage of lower infrastructure and operating costs. Now some of those same vendors are working to support voice and video via virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). VDI raises some particular thorny challenges thanks to the need to localize voice/video encapsulation, but it also offers the potential to reduce capital and operational expenses at the desktop.

5. Mobility: One of the most frequent questions I get is, “can I get rid of my desktop phones?” Companies are actively looking at extending telephony and UC capabilities to mobile users across a range of smartphone and tablet devices. While the ab ility to eliminate the expensive desktop phone (and the required Ethernet infrastructure) is attractive, be aware that mobile voice services require careful attention to wireless LAN (WLAN) architecture. For those on public wireless services, voice quality still lags behind that of a hard phone. Still, we see growing use cases, especially for field workers, where simply provisioning an integrated mobile phone makes a great deal of sense.

Now is not the time to rest on your laurels. While the enterprise IP telephony market is indeed maturing, there are still significant opportunities to reduce costs, improve services and drive innovation in your organization.

(Source :

About the author:

Irwin Lazar is the vice president for communications and collaboration research at Nemertes Research, where he develops and manages research projects, develops cost models, conducts strategic seminars and advises clients. Irwin is responsible for benchmarking the adoption and use of emerging technologies in the enterprise in areas including VoIP, unified communications, video conferencing, social computing, collaboration and advanced network services.