Friday, January 29, 2010

Service Provider Views - Why Life is getting harder, not easier

My latest Service Provider Views column is running now on TMCnet. Having just come back from the ITExpo, a few things struck me there that would work well for my next article. This would have been enough material, but on top of that, the last week or so has been full of news that pose new challenges and raise new questions for service providers. Not the least of which is the iPad launch, Jajah's acquisition by Telefonica, and the latest earnings news from AT&T and Verizon.

I could probably squeeze a few more columns out of this morass - and I just might do that - but for now, I've managed to hit the high points in today's column, and you can read that here.

Any way you look at it, January has had more than its share of news that impacts service providers, and could be an ominous way to kick start the new decade. I can't wait to see what February holds in store.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Toronto Blues Society Awards Night - Oscars for Canadian Blues

This post is just for the record, and is part of the backlog from last week I'm trying to clear up. We all have busy lives outside of work, and for me, music is one of those lives - especially blues. I'm not one to post much about my personal life, but in the blues world, this one is worth sharing.

I've been a long-time supporter and board member of the Toronto Blues Society, and one of our marquee events is the Maple Blues Awards. I've posted about this before, and the MBA is Oscar night for Canadian blues. We have a great blues scene up here, and the TBS is right in the middle of what happens here in Toronto. Over the years our MBA program has evolved into a national event, and it's a great barometer of the best blues going from coast to coast.

Last Monday was this year's event, held for the first time in brand-new Koerner Hall in downtown Toronto. The venue was a bit uptown for blues, and is really built for acoustic music, but things worked out just fine. I had to fly out early the next day for the Smart Grid Summit, and combined with a technical glitch, I haven't been able to post this until now.

For all kinds of reasons, I'm happy to do shout-outs like this for the TBS, especially in 2010, as we mark our 25th anniversary (and I've been there since Day 1). The Canadian blues scene is world class, and if you like the blues, there's a lot to like about our artists. The MBA showcases this in spades, and if you're in Toronto next MLK Day - an appropriate date for the awards - you really should attend.

For this year, the full list of winners and nominees is summarized on our website. These won't be household names to most of you, but that shouldn't matter. The music is first rate, and I'll share a couple of photos here. If you poke around the Net, I'm sure you can find some video clips as well. Better yet, come to TO, and I'll take you around to the clubs. And - if it's a Tuesday, you can check out my 13 old son and myself at a local blues jam!

The Maple Blues All Stars - the best blues band in the land - really...

The Twisters - these guys were FUN...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

ITExpo Photo Highlights

Never a dull moment at the ITExpo last week, and as per my earlier post today, here are some highlights of goings-on I caught outside the Smart Grid Summit. I'll preface this by tipping my hat to Rich Tehrani and his 24-7 team for putting on another successful ITExpo. More importantly - and as noted more extensively in a previous post - TMC continues to be open to new ideas for making the Expo a richer experience as well as reaching new audiences.

I'm very appreciative of the support they've shown for our Smart Grid Summit, and no doubt my cohorts feel the same for the other co-located events run under their tent, namely 4GWE, M2M, the Cloud Summit and Startup Camp. From what I can tell, all were successful, and I'm sure all of these will be back bigger and better this October for the LA ITExpo. With that said, here are a few photos to give you a flavor for what I mean.

Rich Tehrani kicking off the ITExpo keynotes

Rich hosting the lunch time panel exploring the implications of the Avaya/Nortel deal

Perhaps the sleeper event of the week - Larry Lisser's Telecom Startup Bootcamp. A bit like American Idol - here are the judges who gave their feedback after each startup pitch. The room was packed, which says a lot considering the event took place Thursday night after a full day of ITExpo activity.

Shai Berger of Fonolo during his pitch. I had mixed feelings about the pitches I saw, but they all had interesting ideas for sure. Shai shares his thoughts on his blog, which in turn takes you to Andy Abramson's blog, both of which are good reads. Like Andy, I have a vested interest in Fonolo, so I'll leave it at that for now.

Next stop - the show floor. Not as big as in the past, but healthy traffic. I didn't get to spend enough time with exhibitors to gauge the quality of attendees, but the energy level was high every time I got out to the floor. First, a couple of shots from the Smart Grid Pavilion - small today, but should be much bigger for the next summit. Below is the Redline booth and then Livecage, who did a series of video segments for us.

Here's the Ontario/Canada pavilion - busy as always

Keeping on the Canadian theme, here's the reception they hosted Wednesday night. An open bar and a motorcycle giveaway will always draw a crowd, but I'd like to think people were at least a little bit interested in what our companies are doing up here...

In what's becoming a tradition, no Expo is complete without an invite to Andy Abramson's wine dinner - good to the last drop. Big thanks to Andy for sharing his wine with us as well as Andrew Hanson and Freetalk for sponsoring. If you haven't seen how Skype is approaching the small business market with a Jazinga-based IP PBX system, then you need to do some homework. Or just call me.

Smart Grid Summit - photo highlights

After the Summit finished up on Friday, I had an extended family visit for a few days, and am just back to everyday stuff now. Had some technical difficulties with my new PC, and wasn't able to post my photos from from the show, so I've got those coming here in two posts. First, this post about the Smart Grid Summit, followed by some photos from the rest of the ITExpo.

Too much time has passed for a thoughtful review of the summit, but we did have a fair bit of media attention, and I'll be posting a roundup article citing all of this for our Smart Grid portal later today. If that doesn't do the job, then drop me a line and I'll be happy to tell you more.

We had four keynotes during the Summit. First up, Dr. Ron Sega, Colorado State University

Kevin Suitor, Redline Communications

John Bryan, Secure Smart Grid Association

Ryusuke Masuoka, Fujitsu Labs of America

Here are a few shots from the panels. Fist, Christine Hertzog moderating the Game Changing Apps session.

Shidan Gouran and the Standards/Interoperability panel

One of my sessions - What Utilities can learn from Telcos

Rose Gabriele moderating the Modern Network Solutions session

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

smart grid summit - day 1

Way, way too busy to give you a recap from our first day, but I can say it went really well. Our room was over-full from the beginning, and stayed that way all day. I'll get a recap article out to our portal ASAP, and have some photos to post here. For now, I'll steer you to the ITExpo Show Daily, which covers all aspects of what's going on here.

Will have more to report tomorrow - so please bear with me and keep visiting the Expo website.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Smart Grid Summit - Lots of Reasons to Come

Tying up loose ends today, and flying to Miami tomorrow for the Smart Grid Summit and ITExpo. I've been posting off and on about this for the past few days, and wanted to do one more post summarizing the highlights of what you can expect to see at our event, running this Wednesday - Friday.

Today, I posted Part 3 of my Smart Grid Summit preview series articles. You can read it here, and to get the full story, you can read Part 2 here, and Part 1 here.

That pretty much tells the story, and I hope to see you in Miami. If not, please check in regularly to the portal, where I'll be posting daily recaps. Also, one of our media partners - Livecage - will be doing live video streaming, and once it's running, I'll let you know where/how to find it. In fact, if you go to their website now, you'll see a couple of placeholder welcome video messages for our event. Trust me, it will look a lot better once we have our speakers up there!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Google and China - What it means for telcos

This is the Google mega-story of the day, and I think it's a big one for all kinds of reasons. Have you ever seen a company get so much global attention over such a short period of time across so many unrelated businesses? That's a story unto itself, and the irony isn't lost on me when I think about their name.

Google's differences with the great firewall of China are all over the news, and I'm here with a bit of a different take. In my latest Service Provider Views column on TMCnet, I'm more concerned with what all this means for privacy and how that impacts service providers.

Up until recently, service providers were in a very different business than Google, but today that line sure is blurry. So, it seems to me that whatever challenges Google is facing - especially with China - is going to matter to service providers. Pretty fertile ground here, and I'm sure I'll be revisiting it soon.

You can read the article here, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

smart grid summit - product of the year awards deadline fast approaching

Many hats to wear to make the Smart Grid Summit happen, but we're almost there. For those of you on the vendor side, this post will be of interest and importance. The Product of the Year Awards were recently launched, and this is a great way to gain recognition in an exploding market space and at an event that's poised to become a leading Smart Grid showcase in 2010.

In that regard, I have a bit of news. The final deadline for submitting applications is Monday - January 18. The Early Bird deadline has passed, so you have to pay the full fare, but if you win, I'm sure you won't think twice about that.

The winners will be announced in March, and TMC will publish this on the Smart Grid portal. Recognition like this is especially important in a newly developing market, and needless to say, TMC has a multitude of ways to help the winners maximize their 15 minutes of fame, which hopefully will soon become fortune. Isn't that how life works?

Wryness aside, it's a great program, and I want to be sure you know about it. You can read more about the details and registration process here, and I'll certainly be doing my bit blog-wise when the winners are announced.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Smart Grid Summit - Fly to Miami, Drive Home in a Honda Element

Well, I wouldn't say this if it wasn't true. Crappy economy be damned, Rich Tehrani and his never-stop-working team at TMC continue with the big prize draw hook to get you to Miami next week. Although it's been insanely cold there lately, the weather is usually reason enough to go in January.

The other day, I posted about 5 reasons to be at the ITExpo next week. Nothing has changed there, so I won't say anything more. Well, the Honda giveaway is a great reason #6, and if you want a 6B, they're also giving away a Honda motorcycle on Thursday. Maybe that's reason enough for you to go - if you're not sure, check it out for yourself here.

Our Smart Grid Summit is much smaller than the ITExpo, and we can't compete with that. I could offer something like one pick from my vinyl record collection, or an online guitar lesson by my shredder wiz son, Dean. He's only 13, but I've been taking him out with me to play to play at a local blues jam, and he's got the goods. I've been playing for decades, but he passed me by a long time ago. Remember his name - someday he'll do something cool....

Back to Smart Grid. With just a few days to go, we're tapping all channels to get the word out and hope you can join us in Miami. I just started writing a series of preview articles about the program, and you'll see those starting today on our portal. I've also been busy with shout-outs on my Linked In and Facebook pages and groups, and gained some good exposure on CircleID with my recent article about Google Energy.

By the way, if you haven't subscribed to our eNewsletter, you should do that now.

Finally, you may already be receiving eblasts from TMC with the latest news about the summit. Here's the latest one, and I think this will give you even more reasons to come. If you'd like to receive these eblasts, let me know and I can get you added to their database.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Metaswitch - Rolling Along Nicely

Metaswitch is a company I've followed for a long time, and as private companies go, they're right up there in terms of being well run. Their offerings are solid, their customer base keeps growing, they're making money, the management team is stable, and they have a strong employee culture.

Doesn't get much better than that, and yesterday they had their quarterly update call. Aside from public companies with their obligatory earnings calls, I can't think of anyone else in this space who does this. As far as I know, they're not required to do this, and I think this kind of transparency is great, at least for those of us invited to the call.

I won't go much beyond the highlights shared in today's press release, other than to assure you this is a company with a plan and the ability to execute on it.

I'd say the most noteworthy news is the announcement of their 500th customer - Misamis Oriental Telephone System, based in the Phillipines. Not only is this a big milestone, but a good example of the global reach Metaswitch is starting to achieve. The company actually has two operating divisions - this is their Carriers Systems Division - CSD. They also have NPD - Network Protocols Division - which ended 2009 at the 250 customer mark, with Celtro, a Delaware-based wireless backhaul operator.

Another bright spot was the trickle-down effect of the Broadband Stimulus funding to their bottom line. They highlighted Slic Network Solutions as a recent recipient, and that money will enable them to buy a Metaswitch solution, from which they'll be able to provide lower cost VoIP services to their base of rural customers. That may not sound like much to most of you, but there are a lot of operators like Slic out there, and the combination of this funding and IOC-friendly vendors like Metaswitch is very good news, especially after such a difficult 2009.

Something else caught my eye that was briefly mentioned - their expanding relationship with Huawei. This is a company you can't ignore, and either admire or fear. They represent a lower cost alternative to all the U.S./E.U. telco vendors, and it's just a matter of time until they become a major player in their home markets. I don't have anything to add beyond the public news, but it's a partnership that I will follow with interest.

Finally, it was great to hear John Lazar talk about smart phones and the impact they're having everywhere, especially for new applications. As is the case with all platform vendors, Metaswitch has its own developer ecosystem - Innovators Community - and it's become a key element of their overall value proposition. This isn't the MetaSwitch we knew from earlier days, and now that it's Metaswitch, I see a company poised for a great run this decade. I can't think of too many companies of this size who had a stronger 2009, and the critical mass is there today to make them a top tier player in the not-too-distant future.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Five Reasons to be in Miami for the ITExpo

As it gets colder in Canada by the day, Miami is looking better by the minute. Weather, beach and Latin music aside, it's time to start thinking about why TMC's ITExpo is the place to be later this month for all things related to communications. Here are my fave five...

1. The ITExpo. Having cracked the 10 year barrier, TMC's flagship event has become a cornerstone of our market, especially for anyone focused on enterprise and SMB communications. Many shows have come and gone in this space, and ITExpo keeps getting bigger and better. There are lots reasons to be there, and you don't have to spend much time at the show's website to see why. Digium/Asterisk World is a reason all by itself, but there's much, much more to see and do. If you can only look at one quick link, try this one - it's a great summary from Rich Tehrani about who's coming and the sessions you can see there.

2. Smart Grid Summit. Self-promotion aside, this is our second summit with TMC, and it didn't take long to expand this into a three-day program. We know we're on to something good here, and I really believe this is one of the ways that the ITExpo experience is truly different from most any other communications conference. We have keynotes from Redline Communications, Fujitsu, the Secure Smart Grid Association, and Ron Sega, a former NASA astronaut. Our agenda and roster have pretty much filled out now, sponsorship and industry support has been strong, and we've added a BOF session with the SIP Forum to talk about their new Smart Grid working group.

3. 4GWE. We have followed in the footsteps of Carl Ford and Scott Kargman to partner with TMC for a vertical event. Their wireless event has been a success from the start, and provides a lot of depth into all things LTE and 4G. Whatever stolen moments I can take from my Smart Grid duties, I'll be checking out their sessions. A sidebar to this is the M2M event, which they also put together, and is another important vertical for emerging communications technologies.

4. Cloud Communications Summit. Just as we've followed 4GWE, our good buddy Thomas Howe has followed us. He's teamed up with TMC to put this one day event together during the Expo. Tom will always be Mr. Mashup to me, but this venture will be a great showcase for something much bigger. It's one of the big trends I'm following this year, and am hoping to contribute some content that will be included with material Tom is preparing for the attendees.

5. Telephony Startup Camp. I feel like I'm building a pyramid here. One step behind Tom is Larry Lisser - another colleague I've worked with on several occasions. Larry is one of the best guys out there for working with startups and getting them to market. He also had brought a new concept to TMC, and hats off to them for running with this is as well. The economy can't suck forever, and in time, startups will get their mojo back. There are lots of reasons to believe that we'll see momentum build in 2010, and Larry has put together a mini-event to showcase a series of startups. The lineup hasn't been announced yet, but it will be series of 15 minute pitches. I don't think ITExpo has done this before, and I think it's a great way to expand their reach and give startups a new platform to show their stuff. Larry's event runs Thursday evening, and I hope to catch it after we finish up our Smart Grid sessions.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Meet the Canadians at IT Expo in Miami

Over the next few days, I'll be posting about the upcoming TMC ITExpo in Miami, running from January 20-22. It's coming up quickly now, and my hands have been very full with the Smart Grid Summit, which is co-located there. More about that on another post.

Right now I want to update you on the networking breakfast that's happening Friday morning. For those of you attending the ITExpo, I'm hosting this get-together sponsored by the governments of Ontario and Canada. I've been part of these breakfasts before, and it's a great way to network with up and coming Canadian tech startups in a relaxed environment.

I've posted about this before, and as of today, about half the available spots are taken for guests. If you'd like to attend, or review the agenda, drop me a line, and I'll send you the invite, which includes how to RSVP.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Interactive Intelligence - Using CaaS for Contact Center Automation

I'm a contributor to the UC Strategies portal, and my most recent piece was an article about contact center automation, and what Interactive Intelligence is doing with CaaS - Communications as a Service.

It's yet another twist on the cloud and hosted services that I think we're going to see a lot more of in 2010. My article is based on an interview I did with their CEO, Dr. Don Brown, and he shares his thought on what CaaS brings to this burgeoning area of contact center automation. Pretty interesting stuff, and you can read the article here. Comments, as always, are welcome.

Monday, January 4, 2010

December Media Roundup

Had lots on the go last month, and just wanted to provide my usual roundup of media activity. You never know when the press will call, and last month I had to decline almost as many requests as I could make time for. It was particularly busy in Canada with the launch of Globalive's Wind Mobile service, the first real challenge to our wireless oligopoly. I expect we'll see more of the same when the other new wireless players launch in 2010.

First, some articles I was cited in:

- ITWorld Canada - Globalive adds Calgary to cellular service area

- IT in Canada - Globalive is go – New wireless entrant gets gov approval

- Tech Media Reports - Novatel Wireless' MiFi service helps Bell drive data revenue and backhaul – for now

CBC Radio interviewed me for a couple of stories that ran nation-wide (MP3 files avalable upon request):

- BlackBerry Service Outages, December 23

- CRTC Update - Broadcasters vs. Cable Battle, December 9

Switching media modes, I participated in the 2009 year-in-review podcast with UC Strategies:

- UC Experts Review 2009 in Unified Communications, and Look Ahead

For my Service Provider Views column on TMCnet, last month was a double shot. Both my November articles got held up, so they ran in December along with my regular articles for that month.

- Will the Next Decade be Good for Service Providers and Bad for Privacy?

- How Can Service Providers Add Value?

- The Importance of QoS for IP Communications: Interview with Packet Island, Part 2

- The Importance of QoS for IP Communications - Interview with Packet Island, Part 1

Aside from this, I had my regular contributions to the Smart Grid portal, which will continue to be busy this month as the Smart Grid Summit fast approaches.