Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Last call for SIP Today's SIP Trunking Webinar - 1pm EST

One last reminder for today's SIP Trunking webinar that I'm doing with Mitel. It's not too late to register, and if you can't make it, there will be an archive available a day or so from now, and will remain on their site for 90 days. The archive link is the same as the one you'd use to register, so it's real easy to do. Either way, the link is here, and I hope you can join us - 1pm EST.

Q&A with Telanetix - a Different Kind of Service Provider

My latest Service Provider Views column is running now on TMCnet. This time my focus is on Telanetix, a pretty interesting hybrid that's doing just fine servicing SMBs with IP telephony and beyond.

The article is based on a Q&A I did with their CEO/Chairman, Doug Johnson, and has two main themes. First is the overall trend toward hosted services, and second is what makes Telanetix's approach different as well as effective.

In the spirit of my column, I'm focusing on Telanetix as an example of a new/different kind of service provider, and with today's technology, showing how they can compete very nicely against the incumbents. This is just one of many ways the status quo is changing in the service provider space, and to learn more, please give my article a read.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Updated Affiliation with Unified Communications Strategies

I've been an occasional contributor to the Unified Communications Strategies portal for quite some time, and there's definitely a great group of people behind it. This is mainly the product of Jim Burton, but it's grown well beyond that, and invariably my path crosses with at least one UCS consultant at industry events. My last event was Mitel, and I got to spend time there with Blair Pleasant, who works closely with Jim expanding UCS into a true destination portal for all things UC.

Since so much of my work these days touches on UC, it's a good time to get close to their group, and that has now taken the form of me being classed as a UC Expert. As the link will show you, this puts me in pretty good company, among people I see regularly and whose views I definitely trust.
As this relationship takes shape, expect to see some exclusive contributions from me on the portal, and I hope to participate in upcoming events such as webinars or podcasts, so stay tuned. And most important of all, if you follow UC, you should bookmark UCS now and make sure to visit often! Hopefully I've given you another reason to do so.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Reminder - SIP Trunking Webinar w/Mitel on June 30

Just a reminder that my SIP Trunking webinar with Mitel is next Tuesday at 1pm, EST. This is part of Mitel's Discovery Series, and registrations so far have been very, very strong. There's obviously a lot of interest in SIP Trunking, and we're looking forward to a very engaging session.

You can read more about the topic here, as well as register for the webinar. Hope you can join us.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Ecomm Updates/Lee speaks on Skype and telecom

Phil Wolff of Skype Journal posted a thought-provoking interview with Lee Dryburgh, and this as good a time as any to report a few updates around Lee's event, eComm.

First, the interview. It starts from SJ's perspective - Skype - and what its future may hold if it breaks away from eBay. This is a good jumping-off point for Phil to engage Lee about Skype's impact on telecom and where the world goes from here. Lee has some very particular ideas about the future of telcos, and the main takeaway for me was the distinction between attention and intention. Before Skype, telephony was all about attention - getting people's attention - and in Lee's mind, telcos do a very bad job of this. In other words, the phone is not very efficient at getting people's attention when you want it - most calls end up in voice mail, on hold, getting transferred, endless IVR options, etc.

Why? Because the PSTN lacks any form of intelligence - the kind that comes with software-based communications tools like Skype or Google. That's where intention comes along. 2.0-style applications can gather intelligence about end users and make crude deductions about behaviors and preferences. We're still very early stage here, but this is what long tail economics is about, and it's pretty easy to see how even simple Presence features make communications more efficient than conventional telephony.

Lee is basically saying we're at the cusp of "phase two" of telecom's evolution, and it builds on what Skype has started. Android will be a pretty good barometer of Lee's vision, and he foresees a world where some legacy telcos will survive, but many will not. I'm not so sure about that, but there's no doubt we'll be seeing some big time disruption in the next few years, and that of course, is what eComm is all about.

How's that for a clever segue into the rest of this post? Speaking of eComm... there are a couple of timely updates that follow nicely on Lee's ideas. First, as an Advisor to eComm 2009, I've been part of some back and forth about the best URL to use for eComm. Based on what's out there, it was very recently decided to use a new URL going forward: www.ecomm.ec. Yes, I know it looks a bit odd, but eComm is a pretty unique type of conference, so why not have an unusual Internet handle? Now you know. So, update your bookmarks - here's the new address for eComm.

As you can see, the logo and event name have been updated, and you can also catch up on how the fall event is coming along. It will be in Amsterdam this Fall, and marks eComm's debut in Europe.

Finally, turning the page back the March eComm in San Jose - believe it or not, but Lee is still posting videos and presentations to the eComm blog. This is definitely worth making noise about, since there were so many good presentations. As recently as this Tuesday, Lee has added content, so if eComm 2009 fell off your radar the day after the event, spend some time on the blog. Whether you missed the event or wanted to revisit some sessions, there's lots there to explore. So, kudos to Lee for investing all this after-the-fact time to keep the content, ideas and spirit of eComm fresh.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Numbers That Spell Traction - 1 billion, 750,000 and 30

I get a lot of press releases, but don't post about them very often, as I'm not a journalist looking for news stories. As an analyst, what I do look for, though, are trends - and sometimes I come across a few unrelated items that collectively tell me something. I may see these individually, scan them and make a mental note - but there's nothing that really jumps out for blogging.

Yesterday, three such items crossed my path. All were interesting, but nothing that I felt compelled to blog about. After seeing the third item, though, I noticed a few patterns that told me a broader story, so here we are. That's what analysts do, and that's why I blog. So - three announcements, three companies (four actually), three storylines, and one nice trend. Here are the storylines...

Jajah - I'll start with them, since their number is the biggest, and we all know how much people - esp the media - love numbers. At 5am today, they announced the completion of their 1 billionth call (is that a word?). I don't know about you, but a billion is still a big number for me. We're not talking minutes here - we're talking calls connected over the various Jajah platforms around the world.

Voxbone/Nimbuzz - this is a twofer announcement between companies that now have a good reason to be working together. I got word of this from Voxbone yesterday, who announced that Nimbuzz has selected to provide local inbound numbers for mobile callers. Both companies are leading the way for mobile VoIP, and together they have some pretty attractive disruption for the incumbents. Each has their own story to tell, but basically Nimbuzz is growing real fast - 750,000 new signups per month - as claimed in the press release, so this is not a small thing. I've been closer to Voxbone, who has made their own mark with iNum and local inbound numbers world-wide.

Together, they now have a mobile VoIP solution that's not built around WiFi - or 3G for that matter. Users of Nimbuzz would now be contacted when outside of these networks and given the option for Nimbuzz to make a call over their IP network for much less than the cost of a conventional cellular call. Sooner or later you just knew something like this would come along, and has the right combination of saving money, being very accessible and easy to use. What's not to like - unless you're an incumbent mobile operator?

Calliflower - last but not least, here's where the number 30 comes in. I've written about Iotum's Calliflower conferencing platform before, and clearly they're on to a good thing. Yesterday they announced Calliflower is now available in 30 countries (and 100 cities). Aside from having more of a 2.0 look and feel than other conferencing platforms, Calliflower's main point of disruption is their flat rate pricing model. Taking advantage of low cost IP-based transport, they've made conferencing affordable for a broader range of the market, which plays especially well in countries where telecom rates and tariffs are still quite high. Again, what's not to like, especially from a home-grown Canadian company. And just to make sure you truly understand what makes their model so attractive - esp compared against "free" conferencing services, Alec Saunders - their CEO - does a great job explaining this in a recent blog post.

There you go - 1 billion, 750,000 and 30. Huge orders of magnitude between any of these, but they're all big in their own way. Each story is different, but they all support the same conclusions - voice is alive and well, VoIP is alive and well (anybody want to pick that thread up again?), innovation is alive and well, and small companies with funny names can still be very disruptive in the name of progress. That's worth posting about, don't you think?

Monday, June 22, 2009

Connecting and Leveraging VoIP Islands - New Content on TechTarget

I've been a regular contributor to TechTarget's Ask The Expert series on their Unified Communications portal for some time. These are usually short responses to questions that require much greater explanation, but since it's basically free advice, that's what you get.

TechTarget recently approached me about doing a more in-depth analysis on a topic that's getting a lot if interest from their readers - VoIP islands. This term has been around for a while, and with the recent advent of SIP Trunking, it's become more topical. We did this in two pieces - a three-part written narrative and a companion podcast.

It's taken some time, but everything is finally published now and I have the green light to post. So, if you're interested in how VoIP islands and SIP Trunking are connected, I welcome you to read the eGuide and listen to the podcast. You may need to register with TechTarget first, but that just takes a moment. And if you have a chance, please let me know what you think.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Mitel Analyst Conference - Day 2

Day 2 for Mitel's analyst conference has been more about demos along with some panels featuring customers and channel partners. It's a nice mix of seeing their products up close and hearing first hand from customers. Overall, today's highlights leave a positive impression about how they've managed the Inter-Tel integration, and what their roadmap is for growth, especially in the newer spaces like virtualization and collaboration.

TeleCollaboration demo

Simon Gwatkin's overview of Wesley Clover

Reseller panel - nice reality check on what business customers are actually buying in this economy

Customer panel - great to hear first hand how businesses are deploying Mitel solutions

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mitel Analyst Conference - Day 1

I'm at Mitel's analyst event right now, and things got underway this morning. Overall, the messaging has been quite positive, with the executive team providing various updates on Mitel's strategy, product roadmap, integration with Inter-Tel and views on the competitive landscape. Their CFO, Steve Spooner also provided a financial update, but that's not for broadcast. What I can say is that Mitel is pretty sound financially, and is performing on par or better than its peers, so in this market, I'd say they're doing just fine.

CEO Don Smith started things off, focusing on three key market themes for Mitel. First is Unified Communications, built around the trend that end users are using all kinds of convergence tools and technologies, and will use them more effectively when they're all integrated under one solution. Second is SaaS - software as a service - and Don touched on the idea that they can support a wide variety of subscription based services for businesses. Instead of offering one package for everyone, he sees more opportunity in a flexible model where various subscription packages can be offered that suit the customer's specific needs, whether it be a subset of features, or scaling up for seasonal needs. His third area of focus was disaster recovery and business continuity - definitely strong selling points for any hosted service these days.

We saw a variety of demos and product roadmap updates - including the just-announced VMware partnership, but for my money, Paul Butcher's segment was the most engaging. Instead asking all the analysts what we thought the market trends were, he gave us his take on the competitive landscape, and where Mitel fits. He covered most of the usual suspects, with his thoughts on which ones keep him up the most at night. We also had a lively discussion about Nortel's likely fate, but I think it's best to leave the details off the table for now.

If there's one key theme to leave you with is how much Mitel sees itself - and is positioning itself - as a software company. There was just as much talk - if not more - about virtualization, SaaS, data centers, hosted services, FMC, software licensing, etc. - than IP PBXs. It's pretty clear to me they have a strong vision about this, and I'd say the long term payoff will depend largely on cultivating the right channel partners who can sell this into the business market. And keep an eye on what Mitel is doing with virtualization, especially in tandem with VMware and Sun Microsystems. This looks pretty promising.

Later on we'll be visiting the Partner Forum, where their technology partners will be exhibiting. I'll have another post on that tomorrow, hopefully before we fly out.

Don Smith

Paul Butcher

I could get used to this...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Next Stop - Las Vegas and Mitel

I'm not traveling much these days, but tomorrow I'm off to Las Vegas for Mitel's analyst conference.

I always enjoy their event, and am looking forward to getting updated across the board. For me this means hearing from and meeting with their executive team, getting some first hand product demos, learning more about their strategic partners, and getting updated on how their integration with Inter-Tel is going.

I'll be posting as time allows, along with preparing my presentation for the SIP Trunking webinar I'm doing for them on June 30. If you haven't done so, sign up today!

Monday, June 15, 2009

What Service Providers and Auto Makers Can Learn From Each Other

My latest Service Provider Views column is running now on TMCnet, and if you see parallels between telecom and the auto sector, you should find this a good read.

The article builds on an auto industry event I recently attended and subsequently wrote about for The Mark, a Web-based news/opinion portal. I've expanded my thinking in the TMCnet column, and you can read it here.

These two sectors have more in common than you might think, and both are at a crossroads for their respective futures. I think they have a lot to learn from each other, and hope you read the article to see why I feel that way. As always, your comments are welcome!

Cellwand Wins Big at Silicon Valley Launch Showcase

I've got a nice shout-out here for a Canadian company that just got some great recognition down in Silicon Valley. The company is Ottawa-based Cellwand, and I've been following them for ages. For sake of transparency I am a shareholder, but they really do have a proven business model and I write about them when there's a good news story to tell.

As I often say, Canada has some really strong tech/telecom companies, but they typically struggle to raise money and get attention from the right kind of people in the U.S., which is the market they are ultimately targeting.

Last week, Cellwand participated in Launch, a showcase event for VCs run by SVASE - Silicon Valley Association of Startup Entrepreneurs. Overall, 30 companies made the final cut across 6 categories, and a winner was picked for each one. Cellwand was in the Nextgen Internet/Mobile category, and they came out on top as the "company most likely to succeed" in that space. It's always nice to win, but especially so for a Canadian company pitching Silicon Valley VC's. How can you not want to wave the flag about that?

You can read more about Cellwand's news here, and while you're at it, check out their flagship offering #TAXI. It's been quite successful here in Canada, and they're making inroads for the U.S., and hopefully this award will help move things along.

Regarding the Launch awards, I'd also like to extend an honorable mention to Toronto-based Fonolo. They made the grade for the 30 finalists, but did not top out in their category. It's still good news for them, and continues a nice run they've been having in terms of industry recognition.

Friday, June 12, 2009

SIP Trunking Webinar with Mitel - June 30

Just a shout-out to let you know I'll be doing a webinar on SIP Trunking that's sponsored by Mitel on June 30. I've done a few things around this space recently, and there's a lot of opportunity for both enterprises/SMBs and carriers. I'll be exploring these facets and others on the webinar and I hope you can join the call.

The webinar is part of Mitel's Discovery Series and they sent their first email notice about it this morning. You can get all the details here, including a link for registration (and yes, it's free).

You can also get the details in the Discovery Series section of their website. Either way you're just a couple of clicks away, and by all means, spread the word to anyone who wants an update on SIP Trunking - thanks, if you can.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Slim Pickings for Acquisitions These Days

Not sure if it's just me, but inspiration for blogging has been light lately, and not much seems to happening. A couple of acquisitions from the past few days seems to support this, for what it's worth.

First, a couple of Canadian companies made a move. On Monday, Ottawa-based Natural Convergence announced its acquisition of Toronto-based NewStep Networks. Both are pretty small players, but I can see the fit. NewStep's FMC capabilities help extend NC's silhouette platform to mobile devices, which should be a good value-add for cost-conscious SMBs.

On the same day, SabSe Technologies announced their acquisition of Jaxtr. I've never heard of SabSe, and while Jaxtr is popular with the mobile crowd, it's never been something I've had much need for.

Blockbuster deals are hard to come by these days, and this is about as exciting as things get right now. Small deals, small companies, relatively unknown companies - not much to talk about, right?

While these are just two data points, a couple of things come to mind that bear watching for future deals in this space.

First, small companies really struggle in tough markets (particularly in Canada). They usually make a move when they run out of cash or fail to get enough traction - and sometimes these happen in tandem. NewStep had a lot of Bell DNA, but always struggled to be understood, and demand for FMC has been slow to materialize. Natural Convergence, on the other hand, has the resources of Wesley Clover behind them, and likely figured the time was right to make a strategic move like this and bulk up to become a stronger player in what's becoming a crowded, but fragmented market.

I never followed Jaxtr that much, but I do know they are one of many players chasing the market for lower cost calls and messaging on mobile phones. It's a huge opportunity, but needs big time volume to turn a profit. The news talks about their user base of 10 million, which no doubt is the carrot for SabSe. Looks like Jaxtr will complement their own offerings, and they'll try to leverage that community for value-added services.

So, what's interesting about these deals is that no valuations were disclosed. That's not so unusual, but you just know the buyouts couldn't have been that much. The last deals of note in this space - Acme buying Covergence and BroadSoft acquiring Sylantro - were smaller than one might have expected, and it just shows how hard it is to get a good buck these days out of a deal.

Aside from the fact that small companies are often happy to sell in a down market - or even have to sell to remain viable, there's something else that strikes me about these deals, especially Jaxtr. In essence, Jaxtr is an application, and one that beyond saving some money for subscribers, doesn't have that much inherent value. I've always been skeptical about building a company around an application, unless the end game is to sell it to a large platform provider.

What worries me is this - if this is Jaxtr's fate, how many other applications plays will follow as the screws tighten in this market? I know it's just software at the end of the day, and it just reinforces a basic reality of the IP communications space - barriers to entry are low, and so too for exits. Unless you can have Skype-like communities, it's really hard to make these type of businesses valuable long-term. I don't really know what the answer is, but I do know there are lots of startups out there like Jaxtr, and I'm sure we'll hear more stories like this in the second half of the year.

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Mark - Canada's Newspaper 2.0?

The Mark is a Toronto-based news portal that just launched a couple of weeks ago. It offers a mix of current events news/analysis along with independent insights/perspectives about all kinds of topics, including tech. I'd say it's Canada's version of the Huffington Post, but so far, it's not quite as cheeky or satirical. I very much like what I see so far, and perhaps this is a sign of what the future holds for the press.

Unlike most portals that aren't an extension of a newspaper, The Mark has the look and feel of a newspaper - which to me is a good thing. What I mean is that it has a healthy mix of straight up news reporting/analysis plus a strong contingent of opinion drawn from an extensive roster of thought leaders.

That works for me, since the opinion pieces must pass through editorial review - just like they would at a newspaper. Sorry if I seem to harp on this in my posts, but I think it matters. For the most part, I'm ok with blog posts from people I know and trust, but if you don't know the source, I'd say you'll put more stock their post if it runs on a site like this than if you just saw it on their personal blog. In my books, this goes a long way to producing and distributing the kind of content that people will pay money for, and I believe that's going to be the basis of Newspaper or Publishing 2.0.

With that said, here's my news. I've been added as a Contributor to The Mark, and my first piece is running now. The article is dated May 29, but wasn't actually posted to The Mark until Friday afternoon - I guess that's the price you pay for waiting to go through editorial reveiew! Anyhow, it's an updated version of a post that ran on my blog recently, and I'm happy to say that it required very little editorial tweaking. In the future I'll submit original content as topics come up, but will also adapt existing posts where it makes sense to publish them in The Mark.

So after you read my article, feel free to comment, and by all means explore the portal. It's still in Beta, so all feedback is welcome. I for one am glad to see The Mark come about, and hope it gets the traction they're expecting. It's too early to tell if this really is a 2.0-style template, but the pieces are there, and time will tell.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

MeDe8 - Thought Leadership Portal/Advisors Announced

We're all trying to find new and creative ways to grow in this economy, especially us indies. I've been looking at a number of new ideas - some have come to me, and I've found some others. Over the next week or two, I expect to have a few new things to share about these opportunities, and am starting with one right here.

I've been in touch recently with a U.K.-based outfit called Mediate Group. They launched their thought leadership portal a few weeks back, and I've been invited to join their Advisory Board. Their website doesn't have much public content yet, but that's coming. A core concept they use is R2M - route to market - and with the help participating analysts, their goal is to demonstrate thought leadership along these lines for tech companies.

You can read more about MeDe8 and today's Advisory Board announcement here. MeDe8 is aiming for a global reach, which certainly helps my R2M plans, and I look forward to contributing there soon.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

May Media Roundup

Was pretty busy this month media-wise and producing content for print as well as podcasts. For now, I'll summarize things that were posted in May, and add the rest as they go live. First, a few media citings...

- ITWorld Canada - Your Next IP PBX

- Business Week - Hello, an Avatar is Calling You

- FierceVoIP - What's Skype Really Worth?

- Voxilla - Mobivox Helps Providers Leave the Race to Zero Behind

On Tech Target's Unified Communications Portal, I had 3 Ask The Expert writeups (registration required, but can provide text if needed)...

- What will change for our employees when they start using VoIP?

- How will VoIP impact the quality of phone calls on our network?

- What is the biggest hurdle in an efficient IP telephony migration?

Finally, on TMCnet, my regular bi-monthly Service Provider Views column ran...

- What Service Providers Can Learn From CSI and Television

- What Service Providers Can Learn From MetaSwitch

Monday, June 1, 2009

What Service Providers Can Learn From MetaSwitch

My current Service Provider Views column on TMCnet is running now. It's the third in my series of takeaways from last month's MetaSwitch Forum in terms of service provider implications. This time it's the company itself - MetaSwitch - who I think offers a pretty good template for doing the kind of things that service providers need to do to be competitive.

To understand why I say that, please read the article, which you can access here, and as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.