Tuesday, December 30, 2008

2008 Year in Photos - Part 2

This post rounds out my photo review for 2008. I posted about the first half of the year yesterday, and here's the rest.

That's it for me in 2008. Enjoy New Year's and I'll be back blogging in a few days.

Toronto Tech Week, Toronto, September

TMC IT Expo, Fall Show, Los Angeles, September

The Three Tenors... Amigos... whatever. How's that for an unlikely group shot? This would have been completely unimaginable a year ago, and it says a lot about how much the industy has changed in 2008.

Andy Abramson's wine dinner - always a highlight at conferences he attends.

BroadSoft Connections, Phoenix, October

Above: Walt Mossberg - what a treat! - and colleague Thomas Howe, winner of BroadSoft's mashup competition

Avaya Global Analyst Conference, Boston, October

Another interesting image you would have never imagined a year or so ago - Charlie Giancarlo leading the team at Avaya.

Ericsson Experience Center Roadshow, Toronto, October

CDN Channel Elite Awards Gala, Toronto, October

KOTRA Showcase - Korean Trade Association, Dallas, November

Just a few of the really interesting products on display - a Kindle-style reader, 3D television, and a mobile video cam that you can strap on pretty much anywhere...

My Dealey Plaza Pilgrimage, Dallas, November

Being in Dallas the day after Barack Obama's election win, how could I NOT do this? I thought it was a great alignment of history, with so many parallels and inspirations to be drawn from JFK. Here are a few highlights from my expedition, and to see/read more, please check out my more extensive photo essay.

Here's my favorite shot - not just for this trip, but for all of 2008. To me, it sums up the spirit of what I experienced that morning. It's bit hard to discern in this format, but the shot was taken in front of the JFK Memorial, with the inscription of his name showing in the cenotaph in the background. Of all the people who happened to be in Dallas on that historic day, I didn't see anybody making connections like this...

Here are a couple more - the infamous Grassy Knoll, and the view of JFK's motorcade route, including the "X" mark where he was shot, and the Book Depository building at the left...

Tekelec Analyst Day, Morrisville, NC, November

CEO Frank Plastina

Cisco C-Scape 2008, San Jose, December

Above: John Chambers holding court, Rick Moran's SMB breakout, Art Hair's presentation about how Disney is using Cisco's solutions - very interesting stuff!

Avaya Canada Analyst Day, Toronto, December

New Canadian GM, Gerard Baglieri

2008 Year in Photos - Part 1

One way I like to recap the year is a photo review of the events and cool places I got to see in 2008. I'm no globetrotter, but I do my best to participate in a wide variety of industry events. This goes a long way to keep me current and connected to a whole lot of interesting companies that are leading the way in IP communications. I also love photography, and try to live in the moment with whatever camera I've got.

This summarizes my travels in the first half of the year, and tomorrow I'll do the second half.

CBC's Test the Nation, Toronto, January

What a fun way to start the year. Test the Nation is a national quiz show on CBC TV, and is based on teams from various walks of life. I was invited to be on the Blogger team, and we were up against ths likes of Chefs, Pilots, Taxi drivers, and... Celebrity Look Alikes! Definitely the best perk I've had as a blogger.

The celeb look-alikes were better looking than the bloggers, but were the top team in the end. Got more pix like this in my original post.

Not only did we win as a team, but fellow blogger Rick Spence came away with the top personal score among all the contestants. Whoo hoo.

TMC's IT Expo, Miami Beach, January

Can't think of a better place to be in the dead of winter. The big giveaway prize was this red Mustang, and it sure helped bring traffic on to the show floor.

Jeff Pulver's Social Media Breakfast, Toronto, March

Jeff's never-ending world tour of social media breakfasts made a well-received visit to my town at our local deli. Definitely the shortest commute I've had outside of my home office.

eComm 2008, San Jose, March

Probably the most important event I attended all year, and it should be even better in 2009.

Above: Lee Dryburgh, me - moderating the wireless panel, Truphone's James Body helping my son Max unlock his iPhone, just bought that morning from the local Apple store

Dimension Data Analyst Day, Boston, April

Dialogic Analyst Day, New York

Really enjoyed this event, but the camera in my Nokia phone had a major meltdown, and I have no photos from the sessions. The personal highlight for me, though, was the Yankee Stadium tour they gave us. What a fantastic experience, especially for Red Sox fan like me. I was able to salvage a few shots from the tour, and here's one. You can view a bunch more on my original post.

IT360 Conference, Toronto, April

Canadian telecom conferences are few and far between, and generally smaller than U.S. events. This was one of the bigger ones, and I had my hands full chairing the tracks on Unified Communications.

MetaSwitch Forum, New Orleans, April

April was my busiest month in 2008, and the MetaSwitch Forum was the most fun. They always put on a great event, and the setting made it so enjoyable. Got plenty more photos of N'awlins if you're into virtual tourism on my original posts - view them here and here.

Above: Andy Randall, the amazing Mardi Gras World, a taste of the French Quarter

Nortel Analyst Day, Ottawa, May

I was one of only 3 analysts/media attending this event, and we got a very sneak preview at some things that Nortel had not previously shared with the public. It was quite the day, and you can read/see more about it on my original post. Things haven't gone too well for Nortel since, but they do have some cool technology that is going to find its way to your desktop sooner or later.

Above: Project Chainsaw demo, Telepresence demo

Cisco Channel Showcase, Toronto, May

Monday, December 29, 2008

BroadSoft Acquires Sylantro

After just posting that I'm not a news guy, you might be surprised to see this one!

Well, it's a hot story and has been talked about in the blogs few a while now. I've followed this space and these companies since 2001, so it's familiar territory. I'm not here with the breaking news, but the story is simple - today, BroadSoft finally announced its acquisition of arch-rival Sylantro Systems.

For sake of expediency, I'll steer you to Andy Abramson's post from this morning, which sums things up nicely. Since then, Telephony has come out with a more detailed summation, and they were nice enough cite me a few times.

Way back when, this used to be a 4 horse race, with NetCentrex and VocalData being the other two players of note. VocalData was always the smallest, and after some setbacks and twists, they ended up in BroadSoft's stable in August. NetCentrex became part of Comverse in 2006, and while never much of a player in North America, some metrics show them to be the overall global market leader, largely on the strength of their residential VoIP deployments in Europe.

For North America, that just leaves two standing, and now they're one. I was fortunate enough to attend this year's BroadSoft Connections event, so I can tell you first hand that BroadSoft has a good thing going. It was also clear at that time that Sylantro was becoming a weak #2, and the signs were there that something had to give.

I really could never see the logic of acquiring Sylantro, but it's a classic consolidation move, and I suspect it didn't cost them a cent. On that basis, I guess, it's hard not to do this, especially since the last thing you want is to see their assets turn up elsewhere. Early on, Sylantro had the edge on BroadSoft for Tier 1 relationships - AT&T, IBM, Microsoft, etc., but that's not so much the case any more.

Taking them out of the market under these conditions ensures market dominance for BroadSoft, so kudos to Mike Tessler and his team for getting this done. We're going into a tough market, but BroadSoft's Web 2.0 focus is going to help service providers get through these times, and their story becomes that much stronger when you hold almost all the cards.

Just like Mitel and Inter-Tel last year, the next step is integration, and I'm sure they've got this pretty well thought out, especially after a modest staff layoff recently. As with Avaya going private, these things are much easier to do than being a public company, and eventually, markets will improve, and the long-awaited BroadSoft IPO should be the payoff many loyal employees have been working towards.

Looking ahead, I see this setting the stage for healthy competition with another strong company I'm a big fan of - MetaSwitch. It's too early to tell how that will play out, but that's going to be a good story to watch in 2009.

My Take on 2008 - VoIP's Not Dead Yet

Everyone's doing their year-end review thing now, and in true fashion, I'm late to the party. All the mainstream pubs did their thing last week - year in review, top 10 stories, 2009 predictions, etc. I'm not a news guy, so I don't have much to add there, so I don't bother. Besides, I have to make a living doing these things, so I'm not going to spend all day blogging about where I think things are going.

However, I do have a few things coming this week. I have a year-in-photos review in the works so you'll know where I've been in 2008, and this has a lot to do with what I'm seeing in the IP communications space for 2009.

I've also just published my latest Service Provider Views article, and that will serve as a pretty good proxy for my contribution to the year that was. If you're a Monty Python fan, I think you'll like it. More importantly, if VoIP is in your lexicon, you should find this of interest.

Basically, I think VoIP is going to be huge in 2009, but not for reasons you may think. I'm trying to draw attention to smart companies doing cool things, like Voxbone, Fonolo, Jazinga, Vayyoo, Phone.com, Calliflower, Mobivox, Jajah, Vidtel and Truphone. They're taking VoIP to the next level, and if you're not watching them now, you better be in 2009.

The article went live on TMCnet this morning, and fellow blogger Andy Abramson has posted a nice piece about it already. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Season's Greetings!

Just a quick post to wish all my readers the best for the holidays. Hannukah and Christmas line up pretty nicely this year, so for people like me, it's the best of both worlds right now. The menorah is getting brighter by the day, and our little tree is doing just fine.

Lots to reflect on for the season, and it's a good time to appreciate what you have. 2009 will be challenging for most of us, so it's best to go into the year as positive as possible.

Blogging is going to be light this week and next, but I do plan to get a couple of year-end posts written at some point.

Monday, December 22, 2008

CBC TV Interview on Wireless Substitution in Canada

I was recently interviewed for a story on wireless substitution in Canada that aired nationally on CBC TV. It's quite short, but an interesting segment overall, and features a Calgary-based company that's come up with a device that allows you to route mobile calls on to your wired phones inside the home. Not a bad idea, and it can be pretty practical, especially for people who get poor - or no cellular reception inside their home.

I don't normally post about things like this, but as I'm learning more about the new blogging platform, it looks like this is the only way I can share the interview so you can see it for yourself. You can view the segment here - it runs about 2.5 minutes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blog Transition Coming Along

Just a quick note to say thanks to everyone who has picked up on my new blog home so quickly, and for those who have posted about it, Twittered about it, and updated their blog rolls. I've had a nice spike in traffic since Monday, so I know the word is getting out.

I have LOTS more outreach to do, and with so many lists and touchpoints, you may hear from me more than once - so apologies in advance. All I ask is that if you come across any citings or links to my blog that still have the old link, please let me know. I'm doing my best to update the ones I know about, but am sure I won't get them all. Thanks.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

VON's Reincarnation

Well, it was just a matter of time, but VON is coming around again. I got wind of the news that Virgo had acquired the remnants of VON during the IT Expo last September, and they've just announced their new show. The name has been updated to keep up with the times and to position the VON brand as part of Virgo, and that's not a simple matter. So, VON no longer means Voice on the Net - the new VON means "the Voice of Network Convergence". Also, Jeff's beloved purple color scheme is gone, replaced with a more staid Navy blue. Nothing really distinctive about the look, but it's definitely not like the VON we've known for so long.

The new VON event takes place Sept. 21-23 in Miami, and is co-located with the Channel Partners conference. Interesting combination there, as this date is close to when the IT Expo is usually held, although next fall, TMC's dates are late October, so there's no clash there. September is hurricane season in Florida - not the ideal time to go there, but I'm sure synching up with the Channels show was the real driver here! To learn more, the VON conference website is now running.

To keep the VON vibe humming, they've also just launched a VON e-newsletter, along with portal-type website, which uses the old VON URL. This just came out yesterday, so it's pretty newsworthy.

No doubt, Virgo has a challenge ahead of itself in making a go of VON again, especially in such a tough economy. Of course it's always good to see a new show on the horizon, and September is a long time away, so lots can happen along the way. I'm not alone is saying the original VON community was pretty special, and any effort to re-capture that will be welcome.

I don't have any direct connection to the new VON, so I can't offer any special insight as to how successful they'll be. However, while I do have your attention, you'll probably enjoy Carl Ford's take on the new VON. If Jeff was the soul of VON, Carl was the heart, and his post is a good read.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Service Provider Views - Microsoft and the Telcos, Part 2

My latest Service Provider Views column on TMCnet is now running. This article continues the theme from my previous article which explores why I believe Microsoft and service providers need each other.

Things got a bit complicated while writing Part 2, given Microsoft's recent announcement they are abandoning their Connected Services Framework initiative. That certainly changes the equation, but I still contend there's an important symbiotic relationship for both parties.

You'll just have to read it for yourself and let me know if I'm on or off target!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Bloggus Interruptus - I've Moved - Welcome!

For those of you who know me, I've been blogging steadily since March 2005 from the same location. It's been a good home, but since launching the IP Communications Insights portal with Marc Robins earlier this year, I've felt it necessary to have my blog hosted here, in a 100% neutral location. After all, the vision behind our portal has been to give a voice to the indie analyst community, so this is really the natural home for my blog.

It has been my intention to gradually migrate over to this location for some time, but projects and travel seems to keep getting in the way. That was the plan, but my hand was forced on Friday when I learned that my blog had gone 404. It appears to have been abruptly shut down without notice by my host.

As such, I have not had the chance to let my readers know in advance, so things are going to be out of sorts for a while. I'll be sending out a variety of email notifications over the next few days to fellow bloggers and my industry contacts, and hope to rebuild my readership as quickly as possible. I was hoping my host would provide an automatic re-direct, so people wouldn't lose me out of the blue, but that's not in the cards. Apologies for that, but I have no control over the administration of my traffic. Until now.

For now, all I can say is thanks for finding me, and please update your files and links for my blog, and pass this along to anyone else you know who is wondering what happened.

I'll be blogging here full time now, so this is the only address you'll need.

As you can see, it's a different platform, and I've done my best to replicate the look and feel of what I had before. I'd love to hear your thoughts, as well as any suggestions for other things you'd like to see here.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

IP Convergence TV Update

Wanted to share with you the latest updates to the IP Convergence TV portal, for which I serve as Editor. This will be the last update for 2008, and there's a good mix of new content you won't find anywhere else.

We've got 4 new video interviews. They're all fairly short - under 5 minutes - and each has a distinct view on various opportunities that convergence technologies are presenting to service providers.

- Mitual Mehta of tekplus

- Andrew Haworth of FMCA

- Frederic Morris of Connect World

- Carine Ziol of Comverse

For Guest Opinions, we've got a new contributor from a company many of you are familiar with - Jajah. He's got an interesting take on why voice-based applications are so important for carriers.

- Frederik Hermann, Director of Marketing

Finally, my latest Convergence Blog post focus on strategies service providers are pursuing to manage in today's difficult economic climate.

I hope you come visit the portal soon, as there's lots of other good content from a wide variety of contributors, many of whom you'll know. And if you like what's there, I'd love to hear about it!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cisco C-Scape 2008 - Day 2

Well, Day 2 is done, and so is C-Scape 2008. I really enjoyed attending, and feel lucky to be part of the scaled down group that was there in person. The overall content was quite good, and Cisco really seems to be trying hard to stay close to the analysts and listen to our thoughts on their direction.

As mentioned yesterday, a lot of the focus was on how Cisco is transforming itself into a "next generation" company (am still not sure what that term means any more) rather than how they're going to change the world around them. That said, their new tag line makes it pretty clear that's the end game - "Cisco - Best in the world. Best for the world." Got that? A bit of a throwback to GM in the 1950's, but you get the idea. If all this technology carries the day, it will be Cisco's world, and we'll just be living in it. Hey, they've got $27 billion in the bank and a lot of desperate companies at their feet, so anything is possible, right?

Am being a bit facetious here, and Cisco is being every bit as careful and pragamatic as the rest of us. I found many of the sessions down to earth, and Cisco seems very conscious of getting their house in order and focused on helping their customers leverage IT to get themselves through both good times and bad. Day 2 continued the mix of sunny keynotes and hands-on breakouts about their various business lines.

What strikes me overall is the breadth of their market coverage. Having recently been at Avaya's analyst event, it was interesting to see them talk about scaling down their business focus from some 27 lines of business to 3. Cisco was talking about managing 26 priorities - i.e. growth opportunities - so they're certainly not putting all their eggs in one basket. I highly doubt many analysts in the room - if any - can possibly be up to speed on all 26 priorities, which makes Cisco a difficult company to fully understand. Maybe it's that way by design, but listening to their top execs, you come away thinking there really is a grand plan here, and it's all under control. Sure hope so.

I'll leave you with a few photos from today...

Rob Lloyd talking about Cisco 3.0 and what this means for how they will transform the relationships they have with their customers. Pretty forward-thinking ideas here, and if executed well, will serve as best practices for others to follow.


Art Hair, CTO of Disney - very interesting presentation about the realities of making movies in the digital age and how important networks are to the process. Never thought about film-making this way, and Disney really is a great showcase for Cisco in the sense that film is the most collaborative of all art forms, and collaboration is Cisco's driving mantra now.


Charles Stucki updating us during the Telepresence breakout. Did you know that Cisco is doing over 4,000 meetings a week using Telepresence? That's got to be adding up to some serious savings in travel costs.


The best for last - final session was an open-ended Q&A/fireside chat with John Chambers. I think he enjoyed this as much as we did.


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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Cisco C-Scape 2008 - Day 1

It's Day 1 at Cisco's C-Scape analyst conference in San Jose. Keeping in step with the overall economy, C-Scape is scaled down this year, but still a pretty big event.

Most of the morning was taken up with keynotes from John Chambers and new CTO, Padmasree Warrior. On the CTO front, it's quite a change from Charlie Giancarlo, who I just saw at Avaya's conference a few weeks back. I want to keep the focus on today, but feel free to search my blog for earlier entries about these changes.

Over the course of the day, there have been two types of sessions. The keynotes have generally focused on Cisco itself and how the company is evolving to be more productive in a weak economy, as well as to be driven by the Web 2.0 mantra of collaboration. On the other hand, the breakouts had more to do with their various lines of business and how they're serving customers and entering new markets.

Compared to last year, the messaging was more nuanced and less grand. The vision is not as ambitious in terms of leading the world to the promised land of seamless communications experiences, and there was not much hype about new technologies. Last year, we heard and saw a lot about Second Life, video, Telepresence, digital media and Cisco Field. There were bits and pieces about some of these, but more toned down. To me, that was a good thing.

It's a tough market for everyone, and 2008's theme for analysts seems more about how Cisco is striving to become a model company for how these technologies can be adopted. There were lots of examples of Web 2.0 applications being used internally for collaborating and knowledge management, which I thought was great. Even John Chambers is doing video blogging now.

He talked a lot about finding a balance between innovation and operational excellence. For Cisco, the latter is the priority, and when you have a well-run organization, innovation will follow. Getting this balance right is at the core of his vision for Cisco 3.0. He sees this vision not just as a strategy for Cisco itself, but also to create an environment that lets Cisco get closer to its customers. And by extension, if it works for Cisco, it will work for Cisco's customers. Good strategy.

Another big theme for Cisco's roadmap was related to "Phase II of the Internet". Sounds like Web 2.0 to me - personalization, collaboration, multimedia, social networking, etc. John Chambers talked about this being their next iteration from the "network as the platform" mantra they have been following most recently. This is a big shift for a company that still makes most of its money from routers and switches, and speaks to the transition that he and the other execs talked about to stay ahead of the market. Virtualization and cloud computing are now big topics, and Padmasree in particular connected these themes to Cisco's vision for helping customers better leverage IT for growth and productivity gains in a global marketplace.

That's it for today - will post tomorrow about Day 2. Here are a few photos of the day.

Well, this is one way to creatively trim costs. A simple bit of branding to let you know you're in the right place. This is the Cisco event - uh, Adobe's conference is down the hall. Nothing fancy, but it works. And with some clever rearranging, it could make a nice menorah. Blinded by the light...


John Chambers leads off with his keynote


Not much new being presented so far - at least compared to last year. Here's a cool twist, though. John Chambers talked a lot about the globalization of communications, and this Telepresence demo with Jim Grubb was done with a Cisco employee in Madrid. He was asked to reply in Spanish, and as you can see in the second photo, his comment was translated on the fly into English in the caption at the bottom of the screen. It's bit like watching closed captioning on TV - same idea, but more profound. Reminds me of Jajah's Babel service, and speaks to the huge opportunity that IP-based technologies has to break down the natural barrier of language for communicating.


New CTO Padmasree Warrior


Cisco customer Q&A session - HSBC, Verizon, Disney


SMB session, moderated by Rick Moran


Randy Pond - Cisco 3.0 and creating transformation through leadership


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