Siemon seminar on convergence for higher education

With an audience of those responsible for providing network and telephony services for the major UK universities, higher education colleges and other educational institutions, the session explained what it takes to design and build a converged network for voice and other IP based applications for the education sector.

This seminar was organised in response to the current fast paced growth of voice over IP (VoIP) implementations in the education sector and industry estimates suggesting that more than 75 per cent of worldwide voice traffic would be delivered over VoIP by now. According to UCISA (Universities and Colleges Information Systems Association), a converged voice and data network provides the building block for delivering an enriched user experience, facilitating deployment of applications and features such as presence awareness, video conferencing, instant messaging and single number reach. The event provided a useful forum for participants to assess all the opportunities presented by convergence and also to consider and share the specific challenges involved for educational institutions in the transition towards it.

Lee Funnell, EMEA technical manager for Siemon, is an advocate of converged networks and support’s UCISA’s belief that they improve productivity and collaboration, whilst achieving cost reduction. In his talk ‘Convergence Beyond Voice: Integrating Technologies and Gaining Facilities’ Support’, he covered the key cabling design considerations, including Power over Ethernet and cable sharing, plus demystified the relevant standards that affect this area. He also discussed the various design options available when planning a converged network and provided guidance on how to select the appropriate cabling to future proof an installation.

In review of his seminar session, Lee Funnell explained, ‘Converged IP Ethernet networks provide many compelling benefits and facilitate intelligent, automated building systems with a centralised point of control.  However, legacy systems make some decision makers reticent to change and perhaps the greatest challenge in achieving convergence is the human factor; encouraging two functional domains – facilities management and IT – to work together and to become joint owners of one system: A level of collaboration without precedence that requires understanding on both sides. In the session I therefore sought to illuminate the real world issues and offered pragmatic guidance on the technical choices faced by the various parties involved.’

UCISA exists to promote excellence in the application of information systems and services in support of teaching, learning, research and administration in higher and further education. It is an open, impartial and representative association that provides a national and international presence for the people who make information systems and services work. It helps them to share best practice, maximise cost effectiveness, develop ideas and inform and support policy making within their institution, nationally and internationally. The convergence event was part of the Association’s programme of conferences, seminars and workshops.

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