Designing and implementing infrastructure for start-up businesses has never been simpler. With technology moving at a blistering pace and convergence happening on every front, start-up companies and new buyers are truly reaping the biggest rewards.
Convergence by definition implies the 'coming together' of disparate technologies. In a nutshell, this means that buyers of convergence-influenced technologies are paying less for more functionality.
Proof of this is evident most notably in the networking market, where convergence is not only a 'hot trend' but also a phenomenon that's driving every vendor's future designs and areas of innovation.
"While converged voice and data networks are relatively passé and no longer considered new or cutting edge, they're still delivering massive value to existing and new companies," says Marius Vermeulen, Cisco technical specialist at Tarsus Technologies.
"Just like a new company wouldn't have become operational without a telephone system twenty years ago; and ten years ago it wouldn't have contemplated opening its doors without a computer system and network, today, it's suicide on the bottom line to implement two separate networks, one for voice and another for data," Vermeulen says.
"Furthermore, the design-intensive processes of the past are no longer part and parcel of a new network implementation. With networking hardware capable of handling so much more than it could in the past, and multi-disciplinary devices such as Cisco's ISR router delivering voice, data and wireless functionality from the word go, new cost efficiencies have been discovered."
Vermeulen says, however, that besides the time savings (and therefore cost savings) encountered through administrators managing fewer devices, it also means that the business will manage fewer supplier relationships, thereby reducing costs.
"It's both safer and more cost-effective for businesses to manage a relationship with one party, as opposed to dealing with numerous different parties i.e. one for voice, one for data and a third for wireless.
"Also, when the partner gains access to so much more of the customer's business, they are able to build stronger economies of scale. This in turn allows them to offer more cost-effective pricing to the customer," he says.
According to Vermeulen, another area in which companies see massive benefits through converged voice and data technology is in improved productivity.
"Mobility is big news in the market," he says, "and although a fair amount of technology needs to be implemented in order for an employee to remain productive while out of the office, the growing ubiquity of broadband connectivity is making the mobile worker more economical to enable and support.
"For a tangible example, we simply need to compare the traditional PABX environment to the new way of doing things," he says.
Where a traditional PABX, callers would leave a voicemail if the person they were trying to reach was unavailable (or call them on their cell phone), a converged network that incorporates voice, the mobile worker would be able to plug their phone handset, or soft-phone into their home or mobile broadband connection and answer calls as if they were seated at their office desk.
"The caller would literally not know the difference," Vermeulen says.
Vermeulen adds that in the years to come, more and more functionality is due to arrive at customers' doors. "With visual media becoming increasingly popular in the worldwide market, it's only a matter of time before video calling replaces conventional voice calling completely.
"If we then also throw into the mix the fact that additional intelligence is being built into networks, before long mobile phones will be able to recognise the user's desk phone status and offer full follow me technology.
"The future indeed looks bright, at least for those who stay at the leading edge of what's on offer," he adds.