• United States

FDA turns to Verizon for VoIP rollout

Jan 16, 20062 mins

* Cost savings, collaboration determine setup for new FDA campus

If you’re planning a move to a new office building and wondering what type of network infrastructure to build, consider the experience of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The FDA is building a campus in Montgomery County, Md., which will house 8,000 employees in 18 new buildings. For its White Oak Campus, the FDA chose a converged IP network, with VoIP in all offices and conference rooms.

The FDA selected VoIP because it will cost less money to move employees from one location to another as they complete projects. The agency also hopes its new network will foster collaboration, with features such as unified messaging and desktop videoconferencing.

“We saw that VoIP was cost-effective if you’re building a new building,” says Glenn Rogers, deputy CIO. “With a legacy infrastructure, you have to pull the cables out of the building and redo the network.”

The FDA will spend $25 million in eight years to build out the VoIP infrastructure. This cost includes all equipment from the VoIP phones back to the wire closets.

“The FDA project is one of the larger VoIP projects in the federal government,” says Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president of Federal Sources, a market research firm. “Many agencies have pilot projects. But I haven’t heard a lot in the government about people embracing VoIP yet for full agencies because of the security risks and the operational risks.”

The FDA began planning its White Oak Campus in 1998, with a goal of encouraging collaboration on a consolidated campus. Previously, the FDA had buildings scattered around the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

The FDA’s CIO office is responsible for the data, voice and video services for the new campus. Rogers says he and his staff had several goals.

“It had to be state of the art, but not cutting edge or bleeding edge. It had to be something that would carry us for 20 to 25 years,” Rogers says. “We wanted it to be adaptive, so we wouldn’t have to rip it out when new technologies like IPv6 come down the pike. We wanted it to support agency standards and conform to our architecture. But the big thing was to remove IT boundaries within the different organizations within the FDA.”

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