Global VoIP keeps Eaton connected

2008 InfoWorld 100 finalist: Diversified manufacturing firm cuts down cost of communication with voice-enabled global area network

Acquire 35 companies in five years, and you will quickly see the need to reduce the cost of communication across your entire organization.

That is what diversified manufacturing firm Eaton came to realize in 2007, when it decided to leverage its AT&T MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) data network for VoIP -- a shift likely to be duplicated more frequently by enterprise-level companies in the years ahead.

[ See the full list of this year's InfoWorld 100 winners, as well as the other Top 10 finalists ]

Deployed at 220 of Eaton's 450 locations across the globe, the company's VoGAN (voice over global area network) has saved Eaton nearly $3 million to date, allowing employees to make calls "on-net to on-net" anywhere in the world without charge, says William Blausey, senior vice president and CIO of Eaton.

"On-net to off-net" calls are billable, but the cost per minute goes way down, Blausey adds.

As anyone in IT might guess, integration proved to be the biggest challenge; Blausey and his team not only had to merge voice and data on the same AT&T network foundation but also integrate with myriad PBX and telephony infrastructures that the company elected to continue using.

The result: a centralized infrastructure, with all voice and data streaming through two datacenters in Cleveland. In other words, a setup for which data network reliability is critical -- a chief factor in Eaton's decision to go with AT&T, Blausey says.

"AT&T has Class of Service on the managed network," allowing Eaton to segment voice and data traffic on its network, Blausey says. VoGAN is designated Class of Service 1, followed by data, which Eaton designates Class of Service 2 through 4. Internet browsing is treated as a lower class of traffic.

By not completely recapitalizing Eaton's telephony environment, Blausey saved considerably on the project, which involved 12 IT staff for engineering and deploying voice technologies. Eaton added two engineers with strong Avaya and network experience to help integrate its VoGAN with legacy Avaya, Siemens, and Nortel systems, which took considerable work.

"We needed to figure out what the right cards were to put in the switches so they could talk to the AT&T network," Blausey says.

The project, which began in January 2007, prioritized sites that used long-distance calling the most in order to provide the quickest and largest return on investment. With nearly 230 offices yet to be transitioned, Blausey estimates the company has already achieved about 75 percent of its anticipated cost savings.

Eaton is also now leveraging the VoGAN system as part of its move to unified communications -- a shift that includes voice-to-e-mail, e-mail-to-voice, and the ability to talk to e-mail while on a cell phone.

Overall, Eaton's capital investment in communications capabilities has been reduced by 15 percent as a result of the project -- not bad, given the increased functionality its employees now enjoy.

Thanks to VoGAN, employees worldwide enjoy the same user experience wherever they travel, increasing productivity by reducing learning curves. Moreover, mobile workers now have a single phone number that can be used to contact them anywhere in the world.

2008 InfoWorld 100 Award winners

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