Friday, October 30, 2009

Media Gateway 2.0 - TelcoBridges Webinar, November 4

Just a heads-up about a webinar I'm presenting on next week.

I just finished a White Paper for TelcoBridges, an up-and-coming Canadian media gateway vendor. They've actually been at this for a long time, and are finally gaining some nice traction and industry recognition.

The focus of the webinar is on the evolution of media gateways from 1.0 to 2.0, as well what TelcoBridges brings to the market in terms of their intelligent media gateway product portfolio.

We're doing the webinar at two times next Wednesday - November 4 - at noon for the North American market, and again at 9pm for Asia. The press release is out now with more detail, and if just want to register now, here's the link. Hope you'll join us!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

BroadSoft Connections - More Day 2

Am not quite done yet posting about Connections. I wanted to share a few more highlights from the Solutions Showcase. Aside from having 60 exhibitors, BroadSoft had pavilions of their own, and this year they had dedicated showcases for their various UC solutions as well as their home-based solutions. Aside from that, they had some nice demo setups for specific aspects of the BroadWorks platform and the Xtended Marketplace, which just launched.

For me, Marketplace is the coolest step forward from what was on display. It's exactly like the Apple apps store, but for BroadSoft customers. Most of the apps are for business use, like SpinVox or Salesforce, and it's pretty easy to see how this can be a great value-add for carriers to generate new revenues that make their customers more productive. There are a few consumer-type apps there as well, but I suspect this area will take a bit longer to develop. Anyhow, BroadSoft claims to have 2,000 developers in their Xtended ecosystem, and I have no doubt we're going to see some great apps coming in 2010 that will really help re-define what communications services can be in the world of 2.0. It's great way for BroadSoft to differentiate themselves as a solutions partner, and it's equally true for what this brings to service providers who are ready to get beyond TDM and even basic VoIP.

Finally, I'd be remiss to say nothing about the after party Tuesday night. It was every bit as fun as the House of Blues parties at Supercomm two weeks back, and I'm lucky enough to have been at both. BroadSoft has an in-house jam band of their own, and I had no idea Alex Doyle loves to rock. They sure were fun, and if the stars line up right, you just might see me up on stage with them at the next Connections. I'd better keep practising.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

BroadSoft Connections - Day 2 - The Appys

Well, it didn't take long for the buzz around apps to reach iconic status, but BroadSoft has taken things to a whole... otha... lay-vel. Yes, yesterday we saw the Appys - their Academy Awards of sorts for the best apps from their ever-expanding community of Xtended developers.

I'll have more on this later, but wanted to post some photos before boarding my flight home...

Yes, they even had the red carpet out...

Shirish and the two Alexes kicking things off

Polycom's Mike Seto - their phones were quite prominent for the demos - gee, it looks like product placement is finding its way into our space now...

BlackBerry mobile integration with BroadWorks

All the way from New Zealand - Zazu - a neat way to integrate all your social media/messaging into one app

IBM's mashup portal with Broadworks. Between IBM and Microsoft, BroadSoft has the market nicely covered.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Service Providers - Be Careful What You Wish For

I was at Supercomm last week, and came away with some distinct impressions about the challenges facing carriers, especially mobile operators. I've summarized those thoughts in my latest Service Provider Views column on TMCnet.

I've titled the article "Be Careful What You Wish For", and it was posted today on TMCnet. I hope you read it, and would love to hear your thoughts.

BroadSoft - Day 1, Part 2 - Video Everywhere

The show goes on, and it's all good. Got a lot to talk about, but I only have the brainpower right now to post photos. This post has a single focus - video. Yesterday afternoon I walked through the Solutions Showcase, which had 60 exhibitors. That's a pretty nice group and shows the depth and diversity of BroadSoft's partner base.

The prevalance of video is what really jumped out for me - either as an interface for deskphones, or variations on HD video monitors. It's all very high quality and sure gives the handset a very 2.0 look and feel. My only question, though is utility. I don't know about you, but I have a PC screen next to my phones. These phones certainly do a lot, but I think it will take some getting used to when a much bigger PC screen is right nearby. Obviously, these vendors don't agree, and they all add some spice to support the BroadWorks platform, which is the reason we're all here.

More posts coming, but here's a sample of what I'm talking about...


Telio's phones, made by LG/Nortel...





BroadSoft Connections - Day 1

Finally getting a chance to post about BroadSoft Connections here in Scottsdale. Broadband service has been a bit problematic, let's just say. I'm convinced that the fancier the hotel, the worse the broadband experience is. And this is a pretty fancy hotel.

Enough whining. I'm now WAY behind on everything, so this is my first post from Day 1. I just have time to get some quick photos up, and will add commentary later. Got more photos coming too. Overall, I'll just say this event keeps getting both bigger and better, and the buzz here is as strong as you'll see at any industry event.

Voice and Vision - that's the theme for this year, and BroadSoft is breaking new ground in both spaces.

CEO Mike Tessler kicking things off. He cited some stats to illustrate their growth from last year, and it's pretty impressive given the tough economy.

Author Nicolas Carr - pretty interesting talk about why cloud services is gaining traction and what this means for the future of IT - and by extension communications services in a Web 2.0 world

Lunch - it's not like this back in Toronto...

Peter Radizeski's afternoon panel on SIP Trunking

Friday, October 23, 2009

Next Stop - BroadSoft Connections

Busy travel time for me right now. Am home tonight, then flying out early Sunday for BroadSoft Connections. It's in Scottsdale this year, and they always put on a great event. I'll be pretty busy out there, and will be posting regularly. It's cool, rainy and gray here in Chicago, so I'm looking forward to the change in scenery....

Supercomm Wrapup

Just a quick post to say that my walk-about day at Supercomm was pretty good. Lots of good meetings and briefings, although I can't say I saw anything really ground-breaking. Lots of big name exhibitors, but unless I missed something, I didn't see Cisco or Microsoft. I know the audience is service provider focused, and the legacy vendors were certainly there, even Nortel - although am not sure if I saw Alcatel Lucent.

Anyhow, if there was one takeaway of note for me, it was the strong presence of Asian companies, especially Huawei, Fujitsu, Samsung and Hitachi. Am sure there were others, and I did pass by a Korean pavilion a few times as well. A lot of talk here about how Huawei is making strides, and it's hard to ignore them given all the resources at their disposal. Enough for now - time to get to the airport.

Ibrahim Gedeon - Telus CTO, at a press/analyst reception they hosted at the end of the day

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Supercomm - Night 1 - House of Blues

Following my Forrest Gump happenstance wrong turn into Gazastan, Chicago-style, I ended up at the House of Blues for a couple of Supercomm parties. Downstairs was sponsored by my Metaswitch (note the new spelling!), one of the companies I've been close to for a long time; and upstairs was sponsored by Adtran. I enjoyed both for different reasons, and it was great to see so many people out in one spot having such a good time. Haven't really enjoyed live music this much at an industry event since the VON days, and I'm sure many of you will would feel the same way. So, a big thanks to both Metaswitch and Adtran for hosting great parties and picking a great venue.

Downstairs - local blues band, who were pretty good, but I didn't catch their name. Here's what made this really fun for me. When I walked in, they were playing Five Long Years, a Chicago blues classic. Guess what - that was the same song we played at the Interactive Intelligence Battle of the Bands event a couple of weeks ago! How's that for good timing? I was part of an ad hoc band I dubbed the Dead Circuits, and with a tiny bit more rehearsal, we would have sounded just as good! What also made this moment fun was seeing the vocals on Five Long Years being done by Neil Holcomb of Metaswitch - second on the left.

The hostess with the mostess - Metaswitch's Elaine Perez...

Upstairs at Adtran's party - much bigger room and a much bigger band. This band was really great too, and they knew how get people on the dance floor. For those of you who can remember back to VON's heyday, you'll enjoy this post from one of Jeff's great House of Blues parties (when the show was called Globalcomm), featuring the-greatest-cover-band-on-the-planet, the Herding Cats.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Supercomm - Day 1/Life's Twists and Turns

I arrived earlier today for Supercomm and moderated a session on telepresence this afternoon. It was quite well attended, and our panel was in good hands with Lee Himbeault from Telus, Mark Weidick from Cisco and Phillipe Millet from Orange (and the i3 Forum). We were pleasantly surprised to find that only a handful of people in the audience had experienced telepresence, so we had lots to talk about.

Aside from that, I kept running into people all afternoon and didn't get a chance to see any sessions or walk the exhibit hall, but I'll do that tomorrow. Most of the impressions so far though, have been that the show is much smaller than the past. I'll just have to see for myself tomorrow, and will let you know.

Thought I'd share a quick slice of life from my trip back to the hotel. Sometimes things happen without rhyme or reason, but something interesting always seems to come from it. Inexplicably, I got on the wrong shuttle bus, but got dropped not that far from my hotel. As soon as I stepped off the bus at the front of the Hyatt Hotel, there was a pretty vocal anti-Israel demonstration with both sides separated by barricades and lots of police watching closely. The pro-Palestinians were far greater in number, and there were a handful of Israel supporters on the other side, which is where I quickly gravitated.

The ignorance, hostility, racism was really hard to watch, especially since most of the pro Palestinians looked American - and even more sinister seeing them wrapped in the Palestinian flag, wearing the black and white headscarfs, and carrying some pretty nasty placards. To give you a taste, this was typical of what they were chanting in unison, camp sing-along style: "Hey there Israel, what do you say? How many children did you kill today?" Ugh.

Y'know, I saw Inglorious Basterds with my 13 year old son recently, and came away feeling a bit uncomfortable, but still pretty good about the film. It's a perverse form of Jewish pride (but everything Tarrantino does is a bit perverse - that's another topic altogether), but after seeing this ugly display of brainwashed hate masquerading as some form of legitimate protest, I don't feel the least bit queasy.

I just felt bad that the pro-Israel side was so outnumbered, and I hope it ended peacefully. When I heard a white woman from their side scream "go back to Europe", I wasn't so sure, but the police presence was pretty strong. Wow.

Freedom of speech is what makes democracy special, and these people obviously have no idea how good they have it here. Just try to open your mouth in Gaza and see what happens. I'd better stop - I know protests like this happen all the time, but to see it up close like this kinda sticks with you and makes you wonder what makes people think like this. Anyhow, I've posted a few photos and you can draw your own conclusions.

I'll be back tomorrow with Day 2 of Supercomm.

I know I got on the wrong bus, but am I really still in Chicago???

"Olmert's A Whore" - nice t-shirt, buddy...

Not sure why there were so few supporting Israel, but I was glad to stand with them. Makes you wonder, though, when these Israel-bashers organize protests like this and basically nobody is listening, you'd think they'd wonder if maybe their message needs a re-think. I highly doubt it - hate trumps reason every time.

Let's end on a positive note. As big cities go, it doesn't get much better than Chicago, and the Wrigley Building is just so cool, especially lit up like this.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Why Skype For Business is Good for Carriers

In my last Service Provider Views column on TMCnet, I wrote about why I think Skype has a lot to offer carriers, and explored the idea of them trying to be a channel play to develop these partnerships. That column focused mainly on the mobility market, which plays well for both consumer and business subscribers.

I've followed that up with Part 2, this time focusing on the business market opportunity for Skype. This scenario is broader and offers more opportunities, and as Skype followers know, they've made some strong moves recently to make themselves more of a solution partner than a telephony adjunct. I think they have a lot to offer service providers, and if I've done my job, hopefully you'll reach the same conclusion. Have a read for yourself, and let me know what you think!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Next Stop - Chicago and Supercomm

October is a busy month for me, and next week I'll be in Chicago for part of Supercomm. I haven't been to this event recently, and it's gone through a few iterations, but I'm looking forward to being there.

My main involvement will be moderating a panel on telepresence, and I'll be joined by Telus, Cisco and Orange/i3 Forum. With this mix, the focus will be more carrier-centric, which is a nice change from TP sessions that are typically built around the end users.

I can't seem to find a direct link to the session on their website, so if you want to learn more, the easiest way is via this link on my website, where I explain how to find it. In short, the session is on Wednesday at 4:05, Room W183C. Hope to see you there.

Otherwise, I'll be there through Thursday, and plan to spend that day in meetings, walking the floor, catching up with people, and if I'm lucky actually seeing some sessions or speakers!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

BroadSoft Moving Into Hosted UC - Busy, Busy

October has been a busy month for BroadSoft, perhaps their busiest to date. I've had a couple of recent items on hold pending yesterday's announcement with Microsoft around hosted Unified Communications, and now I can tie them all together.

Working backwards, the most recent news shows a deepening relationship between BroadSoft and Microsoft, especially in terms of serving the business market. It also builds nicely on momentum stemming from another joint announcement this summer about their approach to offering hosted services to SMBs, which I wrote about in my Service Provider Views column on TMCnet.

They have had an integrated offering since last year, and now the push is towards hosted UC, positioned under the broader guise of SaaS, or even CaaS - communications as a service - as others are calling it. Whatever you call it, this is an important evolution away from hardware-based IP telephony, and as the concept of a legacy PBX becomes less relevant, the story shifts from voice/VoIP/telephony to an integrated multimedia services platform, or UC for short.

For BroadSoft, this is a great way to widen their exposure to new customers - i.e. pretty much anyone using OCS, and for Microsoft, this gets them the best of both worlds. Their joint offering keeps the focus on this being a software-based solution, which plays well into Microsoft's comfort zone, and makes it easier for their customers to entrust their communications regime to a Microsoft-based solution.

Moving beyond this comfort zone, by positioning this as SaaS, Microsoft now has a stronger footing to counter Google Wave, and the rising tide of cloud-based communications solutions that are threatening to displace software much like the way software displaced hardware. In effect, Microsoft is covering both flanks here, and the news gives Microsoft another angle for reaching the SMB market, where their enthusiasm was recently curbed following a round of job cuts that brought Response Point to a near halt. Given all this close activity, along with BroadSoft's newfound dominance (post Sylantro) of their served market, you have to wonder if these two companies are more than just friends - makes you wonder, right?

In terms of the news elements from yesterday's announcement, a few items are worth noting to show there is some substance to what these two companies are doing together:

- their hosted UC offer is in "testing with 12 of the top 25 carriers in the world". That can mean many things, but if this is BroadSoft's ticket to the top tier of carriers, so be it.

- two service providers currently using this were cited - Alteva and Outsourcery - so they do have some proof points to share with the market

- to strengthen the hosted UC value proposition, they announced an expanded partner ecosystem - which is a pretty key piece of the puzzle. It's not clear to me if this is simply BroadSoft's Xtended community getting a boost, nor if it serves as a replacement of sorts for Microsoft's CSF Sandbox, which was quietly and quickly shelved last year - but that's another story.

- two integration items were highlighted - BroadWorks and Dynamics CRM 4.0, and BroadWorks SIP Trunking with OCS. Both will add weight to this offering, especially when you think about how Microsoft was an early supporter of SIP, and now they can truly bring an end-to-end SIP solution to market.

I think this tells a pretty strong story, but there's more to talk about. Before getting to that, I should add that the announcement also talked up how Microsoft will be a major sponsor of BroadSoft's upcoming Connections event, and you can be sure this will be a major showcase opportunity for customers and prospects alike. Connections is going into its 7th iteration, and runs later this month in Phoenix. I've been attending the last few of these, and will be there this year as well, so look for my blog posts about it for updates on how this joint initiative is being received.

To round out this post, I need to now tie in some other important items. We've got a long way to go before SaaS takes over the world - if ever - and there's still hardware for any form of UC beyond the handset. In particular, I'm talking about the media gateway, and last week's news with AudioCodes.

This may not be as exciting or headline-grabbing as Microsoft, but you can't have hosted UC without a gateway. I've written about AudioCodes's MSBG previously - Multi-Service Business Gateway - and they've done a great job of building a complete portfolio of gateways that can address any stage of a carrier's IP migration plan.

The main idea here is the integration of their MSBGs - and IP phones - with BroadWorks. Both companies have strong brands, and many carriers no doubt would want to deploy them together. With this integration, that process now becomes much easier, not just for the carrier, but their enterprise and SMB customers. Ease of use is still king, and it's been a particular issue for SMBs, who generally lack the IT expertise to make all these things work together. Everybody gets that, and it's good to see vendors focus on this very basic message. SMBs do not want to be system integrators, and carriers will have a much easier time selling them on hosted services with this type of an offering.

Finally - there's one more thing to add here - QoS. The press release makes a passing reference to BroadSoft's PacketSmart VoIP QoS solution. QoS is another obstacle to deploy hosted services, especially for businesses relying on the public Internet - can you blame them? Well, when you have SIP Trunking and SIP aware gateways - and a QoS solution - you can pretty well be assured of carrier-grade, end-to-end IP service. That's a pretty strong selling point, and takes away the standard defence of hiding behind the rock-solid quality of TDM. Fair enough, but when you can now assure equal-or-better QoS with IP, the legacy fallback gets a bit shaky.

I'm mentioning this, not because it's an important part of a truly integrated hosted offering, but because it rounds out the busy month I referred to at the top of this post. The QoS piece comes courtesy of a small acquisition BroadSoft made at the beginning of October; a company called Packet Island. I don't know them, but you can read more about that if you like, in the press release. You can also get the corporate view from Mike Tessler's blog post about the acquisition.

I wanted to mention this primarily for the benefit of anyone wanting to follow BroadSoft more closely. They recently re-launched their website, which now includes a separate site called BroadSoft Ignite. That's where their top executives all blog, and the content is pretty good. However, it's not easy to find Ignite on BroadSoft's main website, and I'm not sure if that's by design. Whether it is or not, I'm telling you about it here, and it's worth keeping tabs on, especially if hosted UC is important to you.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

eComm 2009 - Euro Edition - October 28-30

If you follow my blog, you know I was pretty involved with eComm earlier this year, which was held in San Francisco. Building on the momentum from that show, Lee has developed a European-focused edition, and is coming up later this month in Amsterdam.

I've been meaning to do a shout-out for Lee for a while, and it's fortuitous that I'm doing this now. They've just finalized the speaking program, so you should rush over to the eComm site now to see what's on tap.

As you'll see, it's the same format as before - rapid fire, short presentations/talks by an absurdly long list of very connected people who will give you 100 perspectives on how telecom is evolving. Lee favors eclectic and disruptive over tried and true, so most of the speakers will not be household names. However, you won't find a better mix of leading edge ideas and people anywhere, and that's really the value proposition Lee has carved out for eComm.

It's impossible to absorb everything at eComm, so in a way, it's just like the Internet. However, eComm isn't free, but the quality of experience is infinitely better, and you will absolutely come away with at least a few inspirational big ideas as well as meet some really interesting people from both inside and outside telecom. The show has healthy presence in terms of event and media sponsors, and it's great to see eComm getting continued support in these critical areas. The other critical area, of course, is attendance, and I sure hope it draws well. It's a very Euro-centric lineup, and I'm quite certain it will.

Unfortunately, I won't be attending, but as an eComm alumnus, I will follow the daily updates and share them here. I'd love to be there, but my travels never take me overseas, and hope that the stars line up better for me when eComm returns to the U.S. next year. Until then, here's the next best thing I can do: if you follow this link, you can get a 10% discount on the registration. Am not sure how long the discount is in effect for, but don't wait too long!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Fonolo - More Good News From Canada

I've been following Fonolo for some time, and have been posting recently about a few good news stories coming out of Canada's tech/telecom sector. You may recall a recent post where I highlighted the news that Fonolo made Time Magazine's list of Top 50 Websites for 2009.

That's a hard act to follow, but I wanted to continue the thread regarding subsequent accolades and developments for Fonolo. It seems that one thing leads to another, and I finally had the time to pull these all together.

First, if you haven't tried Fonolo, it's now easier than ever before. They've posted a widget now to their website where you can get a hands-on sample of the deep dialing concept. If you don't know what deep dialing is, you'll get it pretty quickly after trying any of the demos there. Have a look at the Fonolo Airlines widget and see for yourself.

From there, Fonolo has been getting some good media attention lately, and all of these are worth checking out.

- interview with Fonolo CEO Shai Berger on BNN TV. Shai does a great job outlining the problem set that Fonolo addresses and explains how it works in plain English. Here's the link.

- Fonolo goes viral, with this clip from KXLY TV in Spokane, Washington, that made its way to YouTube. We're not sure how this happened, but they picked up on Fonolo's buzz and did their own feature about the company and how deep dialing works. Gotta love that.

- Finally, our main national daily - the Globe & Mail - included Fonolo in a small business feature last week about some promising local Web 2.0 startups.

The media sometimes works in strange ways, and it's great to see Fonolo getting this breadth of attention and helping Canadian companies shine a little brighter. If more of our tech companies got coverage like this, I'll bet some of them just might get funding, and then we can really show the world what Canada can do in this space. Flag waving aside, I'd love to hear your thoughts on Fonolo and where else you think deep dialing would make your life easier.

Monday, October 12, 2009

MetaSwitch and XConnect - Good News Items

MetaSwitch and XConnect are very different companies, and normally have no reason to be featured in the same place. However, I've followed both for a long time, and both have recently had some good news to report. Occasionally I'll do a post like this, where this is the only common thread. In this case, I wouldn't say it's a big trend, but the economy is still weak, and signs of life are noteworthy. The big deals - like Cisco/Tandberg or Avaya/Nortel - get all the headlines, and smaller companies like MetaSwtich and XC fly low on most people's radar - but that's my bread and butter - and I'm here to tell you these companies are doing alright.

Let's start with MetaSwitch. There's a lot going on here, and it's all good - and these things always seem to happen when I'm away and too busy to blog about! Well, better late than never. Aside from being one of the most stable, straight-up companies out there, I can't think of any other private company in our space that reports its financial results. Talk about transparency. Of course, it helps when you're growing and making money. As reported in their update, revenues have now broken the $100 million mark ($113.7), and operating margins remain north of 20%.

The closest thing to this would be Mitel, who just reported results, including a hefty loss. Although private, Mitel's base of shareholders exceeds the threshold required by U.S. securities regulations for reporting purposes. To be fair, the loss is mostly a one-time event reflecting the Inter-Tel acquisition, and revenues were slightly up. Hopefully, they'll be in the black soon.

The main difference between these two private companies is that Mitel has to report these results (which I'm sure they would have preferred not to do), whereas MetaSwitch does so by choice. Both are reasonably large companies, and I see MetaSwitch as a yardstick for smaller vendors to follow to show that you can be profitbale as you get larger, and that's worth waiting for, especially to make your investors happy. I can't really say whether smaller companies prefer to remain private or to go public once they get big, but my gut says private ownership is the way to go.

Aside from the good financials, the company has done some rebranding, incorporating the Data Connection name under the MetaSwitch Networks brand. This is part of a bigger process announced at last year's Forum, whereby the carrier systems and network equipment operations have now been consolidated into a single entity.

In terms of broadening their reach, I'd like to add they've done some interesting things this year, showing a willingness to try new things. Most recently, they were the lead sponsor of the Latin America Summit at the re-launched VON event in Miami; and earlier this year they were a sponsor of eComm in San Jose. They've also re-tooled their website, which includes blogs from some top executives, which is always good to see. And if you're going to Supercomm - John Lazar will be speaking, they'll have a new booth to showcase the new branding, and you can find me hanging out with them at their House of Blues party Wednesday night!

Onward to XConnect - another company with strong U.K. roots, by the way. Their most recent good news came in the form of a $10 million funding raise, which will enable them to fulfill their 2.0 roadmap, branded "Interconnect 2.0". Basically, it's a two-pronged plan, whereby 1.) they seek to build a global ENUM-based peering federation - the Global Alliance", and 2.) their service reach will go beyond voice to encompass multimedia communcations.

The latter is really the ultimate goal for peering, where all forms of IP traffic - voice/data/video - can connect directly between any two networks, and essentially dispense with the need to traverse legacy networks. It's an ambitious agenda, and XC is not alone in recognizing that peering has been slow to catch fire in the core market of wireline VoIP services.

The economic rationale has simply not been strong enough yet for mass adoption, but XC is trying hard to change that. As such, peering needs to move up the value chain, particularly to handle video, and as the mobile world moves to 4G, LTE, etc., to address wireless traffic. These are the real growth areas for communications, and as these types of traffic begin to seek end-to-end IP routes, the value proposition for peering becomes stronger.

XConnect has been moving towards wireless for some time, and last month announced a partnership with GSMA that positions them well in this market. It's basically an interop arrangement between XC's ENUM registry and GSMA's PathFinder ENUM registry, a centralized database for mobile operators to translate phone numbers into IP addresses. PathFinder is managed by NeuStar and extends to fixed networks too, but the main idea here is to broaden XC's reach to mobile operators.

To conclude, both companies are showing signs of growth in the IP comms market; with MetaSwitch posting profits and strong revenues, and XConnect raising new money. Both can be done by having the right vision and ability to execute to plan. These are easier said than done, and you don't have to look far to find good startups struggling to raise money or good companies getting acquired for all kinds of reasons. While Cisco, Google, Avaya et al will continue to get bigger at the top end, there are still good stories to be told at the mid or lower levels of the market, and I'll continue talking about them as they pass my way.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Intelepeer's Entry to CaaS

IntelePeer is the latest entry to cross my path that's bringing their CaaS story to market. As the cloud and hosted services continues to blur the line between connectivity and applications, Communications as a Service is gaining momentum. Having just returned from Interactive Intelligence's partner conference, and hearing a lot about their CaaS vision, it's pretty fresh in my mind.

The news from IntelePeer was announced last week, but my focus on ININ has kept me from posting about it until now. Under the banner of the AppworX Open Communications Platform, IntelePeer has come to market with a hosted platform for developers to create the latest and greatest Web + voice applications. As cited in their release, AppworX is all about mashups and the pursuit of CEBP - Communications Enabled Business Processes - which many are touting as the savior for enterprises and especially legacy telecom vendors.

Of course, with the exit bar being set so high by Ribbit last year, there is no shortage of innovators/disruptors like Voxeo, Jajah, Ifbyphone, Jaduka, etc., entering this space with hopes of doing the same. Enough about that - back the storyline and IntelePeer.

Not being a developer, I can't comment on how friendly AppworX is compared to other platforms such as ININ or BroadSoft's Xtended, or even the mobile app stores for that matter. For those of you who are developers - or just curious - you can get a closer look for yourself at the AppworX website. The key here is attracting a critical mass of developers who in turn will make IntelePeer's platform attractive for service providers. And with the platform being hosted in the cloud, it appeals not just to established operators, but virtual operators who may only be focusing on a specific demographic or industry vertical.

The possibilities sure are interesting, and IntelePeer brings a unique twist to the market that makes this more than a me-too apps platform. Aside from just being an open platform - as the name implies - Intelepeer operates their Voice Peering Network, which provides full integration across TDM and IP networks, including all the main variants of SIP. By taking interop issues out of the equation, IntelePeer essentially offers a turnkey solution which is especially attractive to virtual operators, or any provider who wants to build a business offering around rich services and productivity-focused applications. No doubt this offers an attractive way forward for operators looking get off the commodity treadmill of telephony, and as my path increasingly crosses with theirs, I'll be revisiting IntelePeer's progress soon enough.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

ININ Wrapup/Dead Circuits Debut!

Following Monday, the remainder of ININ's Partner Conference was mostly breakouts, a few of which catered to analysts/consultants, but the majority were more hands-on technical or sales sessions for partners. Quite a few were about selling ININ against specific competitors, and I like how they're addressing the reality of a quiet up-and-comer competing against - often successfully - the majors.

I took in a handful of these, and was impressed with how friendly and accessible everyone was, and it was a great way to get to know each other. They're trying hard to get more on our radar, and we need to understand their business better, and I'd say everyone will go home happy. They spent a lot of time on IPA - covered in my earlier post - and while it's too early to know how the market will take to it, they were upfront, addressing both the potential upside, as well as the realities of offering a new type of expertise to help customers become more efficient by working with ININ.

Those are my key takeaways for now, and if ININ isn't on your map for 2010, you need a better map. I'll leave you with a few photos...

One of yesterday's breakouts - Allan Sulkin giving his state of the union update on enterprise telephony.

This morning's analyst breakfast with Don Brown - a bit on the early side, but very engaging.

And now the fun stuff - the Partner Awards Dinner followed by the Battle of the Bands

A few Rock Band stations to get people into the mood. Go Blair!

Making our debut, sans rehearsal, The Dead Circuits - our singer, Pierre Deguire, myself on guitar, and not pictured, ININ's Chris Majer on drums, and ringer Chris Santillo on bass. We didn't win, but we sure had fun, despite no warning about our instruments being tuned down a half step and not being able to hear ourselves. The 5 minutes of rock star fame was worth it, and we'll do it again for sure - but I'll keep my day job. Photo courtesy of Alice Deer - thanks!

The night was young for some of us, and we made our way to the Slippery Noodle, a local blues bar. The band was very friendly, and a few of us joined them at various times on some tunes. Here's Pierre workin' his harp...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

September Media Roundup

September was light for regular media coverage, as my focus was on the Smart Grid Summit at the beginning of the month. As such, most of my citings were grid-related, but I managed a few other items of note. The first two months of our portal have generated very strong traffic, and to support that trend, my media activities in that space will become more prominent.

First, my regular mix of media coverage:

Macleans Magazine - Google Voice: "Too Hot for iPhone"

InfoExecutive Magazine - Nortel: "Latest Nortel sale could give customers ‘the jitters’ if not handled right: analysts"

Service Provider Views column - Skype: "Why Skype Is Good News for Service Providers (Part 1)"

VON Expo Blog - "The Blogosphere Responds to the VON Expo "

UC Strategies podcast - "UC Experts Discuss Avaya's Acquisition of Nortel"

Now for the Smart Grid-related citings:

Smart Grid portal article - "Verizon: Bridging the Telco-Utility Divide"

Smarter Technology: "Smart Grids: The Battleground of Tomorrow's Internet"

Smart Grid portal article - "Reflections on the Smart Grid Summit"

Service Provider Views column: "What Service Providers Can Learn from Utilities"

Monday, October 5, 2009

Interactive Intelligence Conference - Day 1

So far so good here at Interactive Intelligence's Partner conference. CEO Don Brown set the tone with a bright picture about the company's strong financial performance. I wouldn't underestimate the importance of this, especially with so many major vendors being on shaky ground. They also have a healthy cash balance, and having made their first acquisition with AcroSoft, ININ is in a nice spot to become a consolidator. Don made a good point about ININ being the tortoise, growing slow and steady - while the competitors around them and struggle for a variety of reasons.

The main focus for Don, though, was the launch of IPA - Interaction Process Automation. This is their new focus to enable the mapping of business processes to ININ's underlying contact center technologies. Pretty ambitious idea, since vendors like this generally don't have business process expertise. However, during the demo, Don pointed out that they listen to their customers and learn how to understand their problems. They've applied this to their solutions, and a demo was presented using the process of filing an insurance claim to show how IPA works.

It was an effective way to show how various steps in this process can be automated, but what I really liked was how Web 2.0-style tools were integrated into what otherwise would be a normal phone call between a customer and an agent. In particular they used chat, as well as Google Maps so the agent could visualize where the vehicle was. Lots of interesting possibilities here, although it remains to be seen how much faith customers put in ININ to automate these processes for them.

Basically, I see IPA as a nice value-add and differentiator for existing customers, but it's probably too early to use it as a lead application to attract new customers. On that note, I agree with Don's comment that IPA allows them to gain a deeper understanding of their customers, making it a bit of a Trojan Horse that may open the door for additional ININ offerings.

Later in the morning, Jim Burton of UC Strategies gave a nice overview of the state of the market for telephony vendors. He provided good insights on Avaya/Nortel and the competitive landscape for all the other majors. The main message for me is that telephony is becoming reduced to being a feature server, and call control is no longer the domain of legacy vendors. He pointed out that it only took Cisco 5 years to master this, and Microsoft will get there too.

Bottom line - telephony as a standalone offering is no longer viable or valuable. There are too many ways to get voice - including the cloud - and he sees the best strategy for the telecom vendors being to go vertical and focus on a niche they can dominate. Software vendors, on the other hand, are horizontal solutions, and can't compete as well this way.

Furthermore, the PBX is quickly losing its primacy as an endpoint device, with most of the momentum and new adoption shifting to mobility and softphones. Early on, Jim noted that we communicate more via email than telephony, and this trend will just continue. This makes it pretty hard to keep end users tethered to a desk phone, especially when we travel so much and work increasingly from home.

It's not a great scenario for telecom vendors, and not surprisingly, Jim's message was that if they're to survive this transition they have to integrate voice into business processes - i.e. CEBP. It's a welcome message for this audience, and I guess that was the point. ININ totally gets this idea, and this conference is very much about using business processes to create new forms of value for end users, and of course the channels, who do most of the selling for ININ.

More to come for tomorrow, including the Battle of the Bands in the evening. Our group is The Dead Circuits, and we hope to have our mojo working...

Joe Staples

Don Brown

Jim Burton

Friday, October 2, 2009

Deloitte Technology Fast 50 - Canadian Tech Leaders

I've been following Deloitte Canada's Fast 50 listings for a few years, and it's a great barometer of success for our tech sector. The 2009 list was just published as the cover story in Backbone Magazine - you can read the full feature here - and you won't have to look far across Canada's PR landscape today for announcements from the companies that made the list.

Actually, there are a few lists, but the Fast 50 is the big one. It's my duty to wave the Canadian tech flag where I can, and I'd like to highlight companies from the list that I'm familiar with. Some are clients, and I'd love for the others to be clients, but let's keep the focus on them!

So, here they are in rank order from the Fast 50 list: Impact Mobile (5), BelAir Networks (10), Immersive Media (12), Sandvine (17), RIM (19), TelcoBridges (21), March Networks (24), BlueCat Networks (27), MyThum Interactive (39), and Sangoma (40). Congrats to all!

Also, wearing my Smart Grid hat, Toronto-based Ecobee made the Green 15 list. That's great news, and we've already posted a writeup about it to our portal.

You can review the lists via a separate link, which includes basic details about the companies as well as their percentage growth rates over the past 5 years. Many of the growth rates are astronomical - 4 figures and 2 with 5 figures - but that's to be expected from startups and smaller companies. However, you really have to tip your hat RIM, for continuing to rank so high, with a 910% 5 year growth rate. They're probably bigger than all the Fast 50 combined, and it says a lot about how a company of this size can sustain such fantastic growth year over year.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Next Stop - Indianapolis and ININ

October is the busiest travel month I've had in a long time, and my first stop is Indianapolis for Interactive Intelligence's Global 2009 Partner Conference. I've been learning more about them recently, and they're doing some interesting things, especially in terms of integrating their contact center applications with business processes. There's lots of room for improvement here, and ININ has done a lot of reverse engineering to figure out how communications technologies can be tied to these processes to make them more efficient.

It's my first ININ partner event, and I'm looking forward to meeting their whole team and learning more about where they're adding value in a space that needs a lot of help.

On the fun side, they're having a Battle of the Bands event, and I'm going to be in one of the groups. I don't play music as much as I used to, but still love it, and couldn't resist throwing my hat into the ring. It looks like one of the names I came up with is going to stick - The Dead Circuits - and as the email threads get longer, this thing is somehow coming together. Time to tune up the guitar...

Cellwand's #TAXI Now U.S.-Wide

I've been posting about Toronto-based Cellwand Communications for ages, and they had some great news yesterday that's worth sharing. True, I may be a shareholder, but I'm doing this because it's another flag-waving moment whereby a Canadian company has gained market-wide coverage in the U.S.

Cellwand has been producing LBS - location based services - applications for mobile devices for many years, and #TAXI is their flagship product. It's a better way to get a cab than calling 411 and then phoning up a local taxi company. You'd be surprised how often people can't flag down a cab when they need one, and for that, #TAXI is the answer. Of course, this presumes you have a mobile phone, which wasn't always true when this service was first launched - but it's a pretty safe bet today.

What I really like about #TAXI is that it's a simple application - works on any mobile device, and you just dial the number to use - don't need to download anything. Smartphones weren't even invented when the service came out, so this isn't some trendy app you get off an apps store. #TAXI actually has a business model behind it - it's pay per use, and users get a tangible benefit - pretty simple.

Yesterday's news marks the first time that #TAXI has become an effectively ubiquitous service across the U.S. The main item in the press release is that Sprint is finally on board, and are now offering the service to their mobile subscribers. Cellwand already has AT&T and Verizon in the mix, so now pretty much all U.S. mobile subscribers can access #TAXI - 215 million people as the press release proclaims.

Wearing the red and white, I'd say that's a notable accomplishment, and I can't think of too many Canadian mobile services - paid apps - not free - that are this widely-available. Cellwand has had the Canadian mobile market covered for a long time, as our 3 wireless operators - Bell, Rogers, Telus - all offer #TAXI. I can tell you that getting mobile operators to adopt a service like on their network takes a lot of work, and Cellwand has been at this a long time.

Their hard work is paying off now, and as we head into the holiday season, #TAXI is ready when you are, pretty much wherever you are, whatever handset you have, and whatever carrier you're using. Sounds like a pretty good spot to be in, so kudos to Cellwand, and if you ever need a cab in Canada or the U.S., there's nothing stopping you now from using the service.