IP (Internet protocol) convergence refers to an enterprise building or campus in which data networking, building management, audio/video (A/V) and security systems are effectively merged over a common infrastructure using open IP-based protocols rather than separate, closed proprietary systems.
In most networks today, total convergence is more vision than reality. However, many enterprise IT leaders, as well as building owners and building management system designers and consultants, are beginning to realize how IP convergence can deliver benefits related to efficiency, productivity and costs–and some are already taking steps to implement a more converged IT platform.
This article takes a closer look at some of the issues and challenges involved in implementing IP convergence, and discusses the real value convergence can deliver in terms of network performance, security, maintenance and IT costs.
What’s driving IP convergence?
Enterprises are seeking new and innovative ways to handle faster networking transmission speeds, design more energy efficient data centers, enhance the quality of their building management systems and provide better security for their people, premises and assets. So the main market forces driving the shift to IP convergence include:
• An increasing volume of data and bandwidth capabilities to support day-to-day operations;
• The need for enhanced access and mobility to boost user productivity, even from remote locations;
• The growing worldwide trend toward increased safety and security of both brick-and-mortar facilities and cyber network integrity;
• Increasing concerns related to energy conservation and environmental responsibility; and,
• A greater demand for operational efficiency and lower total cost of ownership (TCO).
For many organizations, IP convergence is already providing significant benefits. For them, merging transmission of various types of communications–voice, data, video, wireless access and multi-media–over a single integrated Ethernet network has resulted in faster and more efficient network performance, simplified maintenance and reduced IT costs, as well as reduced overall TCO.
A robust and well-tuned signal transmission infrastructure solution should be capable of supporting all of an enterprise’s mission-critical communications systems, A/V networks, premises and cyber security systems and building safety, automation and control systems. Such a complete system might be comprised of:
• High-bandwidth copper, optical fiber and wireless cabling and connectivity systems;
• Cost-effective data center solutions;
• Reliable HVAC and environmental control cables;
• Best-in-class security and alarm cables;
• Professional-level video, sound and broadcast systems; and,
• Reliable, end-to-end cable management systems.
For example, consider how convergence could be implemented to improve life safety and security. With properly designed IP convergence:
• A network login could more easily interface with the security access control system to make sure the user did in fact enter the building;
• Security personnel could check surveillance cameras from anywhere on the network, or even wirelessly from a remote location;
• Critical alarm and notifications from life-safety systems could interface with the corporate LAN and phone system to send alerts to PCs, pagers and even cell phones of those responsible for facility management and security; and
• Lights could be programmed to automatically go on in an evacuation situation, and air handling systems could be automatically shut down when smoke is detected on the premises.
Partial or total: the right path
The path to convergence can begin on many levels, from trial convergence in small, localized systems to complete enterprise-wide deployment involving all building operating systems. Every facility and campus is unique. It has its individual needs, priorities and constraints, which is why every enterprise’s management team and IT professionals must decide what level of convergence would best suit its situation.