Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Cisco C-Scape - Highlights

It's been an intense day and a half at Cisco C-Scape, and am finally catching a moment to share some highlights. I'm going to be brief here - not just because I'm exhausted, but with all the Twitter activity taking place in near real-time, all the really good stuff has been out there for a while now.

The sessions here have been pretty much continuous, and we've had our share of updates on unified communications, collaboration, video and social media. No surprises there, but where it got more interesting was when they framed these things around the bigger picture themes, such as innovation, time to market, architectures to support the cloud, and "networked economies". Their mantra is best summed up by the VSE acronym - vision, strategy, execution.

There were a lot of forward-thinking ideas here, and while they may take time to become realized, Cisco is reaching way beyond making businesses more productive. The networked economy idea is far grander, where the intent is to leverage Cisco's network and cloud capabilities to help economies grow - by creating jobs, improving health care, making government more efficient, enablihg a rich classroom learning experience, etc.

Undoubtedly, the world needs these things, and Cisco believes the stars have lined up now for them to take on this mantle. Let's set aside the reality about how cash-strapped and nearly bankrupt most public institutions are these days - this is more a matter of will and vision than investing in cutting edge technology. If you don't dream big, these things will never happen, right?

When you hear John Chambers talk about Cisco's accomplishments in the past year, it's hard to argue against where they're making their big bets. He was very enthusiastic in sharing some metrics about Cisco's growth in a very difficult global economy - over 400 new products introduced, 707 patents applied for in the last quarter, over 5,000 CSR-1's sold, 3 major acquisitions (Tandberg, Starent, Flip), etc.

And then - just like that - they announced their new tablet, the Cius. That was news to most of news, and it sure looks good. Most people talk about it only as an enterprise device, but along the lines of Flip, I can see lots of consumer potential as well. Coming back to the big themes noted above, John Chambers had a much bigger message beyond the features and apps that Cius supports (and it's Android based - how's that for being open?). For him, Cius reflects their vision about architecture, and planning ahead for making many disparate tools and technologies work together on a common network framework.

For example, Cius is mobile - you can walk about with it, and using the dual cameras (on the front and the back), you can walk about to show things nearby to people at the other end who may be thousands of miles away. For video, Cius supports telepresence, so you can use it to join TP sessions remotely. It also will interface to a TV set, so you can share content with a larger group, such as a classroom. Of course, it supports all the social media tools for virtual sharing (including Quad, their enterprise social software platform), and can just as easily be used simply as a text reader. These are just a few examples to show how it brings together so much of what Cisco is doing in a single device and in a singular experience.

There was lots more on tap here, but one can only absorb so much in such a concentrated program. Aside from Cius, there would be two big takeaways for me. First is the new mantra about how "video is the new voice". That's a nice way of saying what Cisco has been focusing on lately. We've been hearing about video and collaboration a lot the past two years, and not surprisingly - sort of - there was hardly any mention of voice at C-Scape. Virtually no discussion about IP phones, VoIP, SIP, etc. It's all about collaboration, with video being the big driver. Sure, this serves Cisco well by driving more bandwidth intensive activity over the network, but the bigger picture really is about making businesses - and economies - more competitive by working with Cisco. As John Chambers said, Cisco wants to be your preferred business partner - and not just a technology supplier.

The second big idea is the cloud. Padmasree Warrior gave a strong keynote this afternoon about this, citing it as a $30 billion opportunity. I quite agree with her view that the key is becoming a "trusted cloud" for enterprises - and service providers (they talked quite a bit about that). This is one of the Geoffrey Moore-inspired "chasms" that John Chambers talked about, and when enterprises cross over, they are ready to place their trust in the cloud, and with that, all these good things are poised to happen.

Of course, we've survived this long without the cloud, but Cisco kept reminding us how complex our world is becoming, and that we need these capabilities to manage. They make a strong case for that, and if you buy in, then Cisco just may be your ticket to survival in the information economy.

My world certainly isn't this complex, but when you're talking about governments, global enterprises and the like, this line of thinking makes a lot more sense. Cisco is making big bets on big things, and it's fair to say there aren't any other companies out there who are willing and able to go down this path - or at least in this manner. Of course, measuring success on this scale will be tricky, but going in, the vision here is pretty strong. 2010 will be a hard act for Cisco to follow, so next time around for C-Scape, it sure will be interesting to hear about how it's all unfolding.

This is no ordinary keynote presentation or audience. There were only 100 analysts invited globally to attend, but they had over 12,000 partners and customers on hand -so they needed a pretty big space for this!

You'd think this was a Cirque du Soleil show. Pretty impressive opening fanfare. What else would you expect? Cisco - in Las Vegas....

John Chambers - larger than life, on screen and in person

The Cius (see-us)- just launched that very moment

This was neat. John Chambers and Marthin De Beer in a relaxed mode, presenting the winner of their I-Prize competition for innovation. They got 824 ideas from 156 countries, with a $250,000 prize. The winner - Team Rhinnovation - was based in Mexico, and are seen here via a live Telepresence session being congratulated by Cisco.

Hold On - My Fridge is Calling!

If the title of this post got your attention, and if you know that I keep busy in the worlds of both telephony and smart grid, then you'll want to read my latest Focus Brief. I'm really writing about the USNAP Alliance - who will be participating at our upcoming Smart Grid Summit - and I thought their latest news marked a good time to talk about their work and how the smart home environment will in time become relevant for businesses.

When you think about how many people work from home, and how intertwined our work and personal communications have become, the title of this post will start to make more sense. See for yourself by reading the brief, and by all means, add your thoughts and keep the dialog going.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Internet Television - Busy Times in Canada

June has been a busy month in Canada for VOD, with both Shaw Communications and Videotron recently launching online portals for viewing television programs. This is the local version of TV Everywhere, and it's clear that the cablecos feel the time is right now. Consumer viewing habits are changing, and if they don't offer an online complement to cable TV, they risk losing revenues and even subscribers. I'm sure the telcos are smiling, as the cablecos finally have something to worry about that's comparable to all the threats they've been living with these days.

I've written my take on this for my latest Service Provider Views column, which is running now on TMCnet. Give it a read, and let me know what you think.

Cisco C-Scape - Day 1

Well,there's not much to post about yet, but I've been here for a couple of short receptions. The full Cisco C-Scape event really starts later today. I realize it's now Tuesday for most of you, but it's still late Monday night here in Las Vegas.

I got here early afternoon, and have been catching up on deliverables and email most all afternoon. Things have been fairly quiet on the analyst front, but that's going to change very quickly. Until then, thought I'd pass along a few photos from this afternoon. The real work starts bright and early at 7am, PST!

What do they do with this thing, once the conference is over?

Nice lounge here. I keep thinking about Dire Straights looking at this...."that ain't woikin', that's the way you do it, your money for nuthin...."

Had an interesting visit at the Flip kiosks. This represents Cisco's first true consumer offering, which is a bit of a departure for them. The Flip is a pretty neat product, and I got a taste of all the various flavors they have on tap. I especially liked the underwater model, which was on dispaly here with a waterproof case. It may seem trivial, but with summer here, I can definititely see the appeal. Cisco may have a way to go catch up to Apple in the cool cachet department, but I think they're doing a pretty good job here.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Next Stop - Cisco C-Scape, Las Vegas

Next week is Part 2 of my back-to-back western trips, and I'll be in ridiculously hot and excessive Las Vegas for Cisco's annual C-Scape analyst event. The event is paired with Cisco Live, which is a great showcase for all the collaboration technologies and solutions they've been so aggressively marketing.

Cutting down on travel saves time and money for everyone, and from what I've seen so far, Cisco Live is a pretty good virtual experience. It's really come a long way from their earlier virtual environments, which reminded me a lot of Lego Island (anyone with kids will know what I mean). There's a much stronger social media component now, and in some ways, it's a better way to collaborate, since it's much easier to know more about others in your midst, as well as being able to engage with them.

Collaboration is always better in person, but that assumes you know everyone around you, and are able to bring them together at the same time. C-Scape is a pretty big event, and for everyone in your orbit that you know, there will always be many others that you don't.

Enough said, and I'll just add that I'm glad to be part of the in-person contingent going to C-Scape, and I'll do my best to keep you updated here and on Twitter.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Electric Vehicle Summit, Day 2

The second day of the electric vehicle summit was just as good as the first, and all told, this was time well spent. My recap of Day 2 is running now on our smart grid portal, so you can read all about it there. For more commentary, you can read my post about Day 1 here.

Below are a few photos from the presentations.

Bill Moore, EV World

Sam Smith, EV World

Broc TenHouten, Coda Automotive

Tom Gage, AC Propulsion

Prof. Andrew Frank, U Cal - Davis

Ted Miller, Ford

Mike DiNucci, Coulomb Technologies

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Electric Vehicle Summit - Day 1

Yesterday was Day 1 of IQPC's Consumer Electric Vehicle Adoption Summit in San Francisco. So far so good, and I posted a review of the highlights on the Smart Grid portal earlier. Am not going to rehash things here, so I'll steer you to my writeup for the narrative.

I'm just going to add to that here with a few photos from the sessions. Hope you enjoy this, and I'll have the Day 2 highlights in my next post.

Marc Tarpenning, Co-founder, Tesla Motors

John Bryan, Burt Fleet Services

Simon Saba, SABA Motors

Sven Thesen, Better Place

Policy and regs session

Sven gave us a chance to test drive this fully electric Rav 4, which I did. Very smooth and totally silent - takes some getting used to. Love the license plate!

Finally, just little bit of fun. Simon was nice enough to let me hop in - literally, since there are no doors - to his SABA which was conspicuously on display outside.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Next Stop, San Francisco - Electric Vehicle Summit

I've been traveling much less this year, and I'm not complaining. That said, I'm coming up on back-to-back trips out west over the next two weeks. Next week I'll be in San Francisco for the Electric Vehicle Consumer Adoption Summit. It runs through Wednesday, and if this is your world, you really should be there.

The conference is run by IQPC - they're a major global event producer - and they've invited me to be the event Chair. So, if you plan to attend, I won't be hard to find. I'll certainly be writing about the event while I'm there, and I expect to meet and hear from the best and brightest in that space. I'm a big advocate of electric vehicles, and am looking forward to being in the middle of all this innovation and market leadership.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Thoughts on Innovation

Innovation comes in many forms, and that's what makes the communications market so interesting. I come across all types of this, both within and from outside the space, and am always interested in finding better ways to communicate.

In my latest Service Provider Views column, I touch on a few of these, namely Vonage partnering with Amdocs, and a company I just wrote about, Ringio, who have a pretty attractive cloud-based CRM solution for SMBs. The article is running now on TMCnet, and you can read it here. As always, comments are welcome!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

BroadSoft Goes IPO

Well, the big day has finally come for BroadSoft, a company I've been close to for about as long as I've been following telecom. It's a long road to IPO, and a lot of things have to go right, not just on opening, but after all the hoopla dies down.

I've been too heads-down today to jump on this, and a hat tip to Larry Lisser who IM'd me earlier to say the stock opened today at $9. That's at the low end of the expected range of $9-$11, and last I checked it has traded today as low as $7.83, and is now around $8.40. I'm not a financial analyst and don't really follow stocks on an intraday basis, so I'll leave it at that.

The bigger picture is the news that they've gone public, so congrats to Mike Tessler and his loyal team for getting this done. If you follow my blog, you'll know that BroadSoft has been doing a lot of things right for a while now, and they earned their stripes. Of course, being a public company brings a whole new set of pressures, and it remains to be seen if the profits are there to keep the markets happy.

For lack of a better word, VoIP IPOs have not fared well, so BroadSoft has its work cut out. In recent times, the likes of Vonage, Veraz and even Mitel do not bode well. However, when you look at Acme Packet, things are a bit brighter. Like Acme, BroadSoft is very strong in their space - not quite as dominant, but strong enough that their market position can sustain long term success and profitability. Acme's stock price did languish for some time, but it's very hot right now, so when the market catches up to how well you're doing, good things can happen. There's no reason why BroadSoft can't turn out the same way, and at the very least, it's a good day to be in VoIP - or whatever you choose to call the business BroadSoft is in!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Unified Communications Market Update

Yesterday, the UC Strategies group had their weekly podcast. I try to make these when I can, and while I was able to listen in, some unexpected disruptions kept me from adding my take.

The basic theme was market deployment successes, and there were some good accounts of how UC is being used. Most of the UCS consultants have first-hand experience with how businesses are using UC, and it was interesting to hear the various scenarios. The common thread to me is that businesses don't generally come to these consultants asking for Unified Communications. They talk about specific business problems, which the consultants are then able to frame in the context of UC. So, in many cases, they're getting UC but may not really know it. That works for me. I think trying to sell UC as UC is more of a solution looking for a market rather than the other way around.

Also of note is the fact that most UC deployments have a vertical focus. Health care came up quite a bit, and again, I think this is a big part of the UC value proposition. By understanding the processes and bottlenecks that drive a business, it's much easier to show where, how and why UC solutions can really add value.

Even though I didn't add to the conversation, I wanted to share this with my readers here. UC is still a work in progress, but when it's thought through correctly, there's a lot of value for businesses. An MP3 file of the call has been posted to the UCS portal, along with a full transcript if you just want to read the commentary.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Electric Vehicles - Now That's Progress

Switching hats, I want to quickly post about smart grid. Our next Smart Grid Summit is in October, but next week, I'll be attending a conference focused solely on electric vehicles. This is a really exciting space, and I'm really looking forward to it.

In short, this is the Electric Vehicle Consumer Adoption Summit, and it's hosted by IQPC. Initially I was invited to speak, then moderate, and now I've topped out and have become the event Chair. I must be doing something right, and if you're in San Francisco next week, let me know. It would be great to see you there, and to find out more, I've written a backgrounder on the summit that's running today on our Smart Grid portal.

Alteva - Hosted VoIP and Microsoft is a Strong Combination

Continuing on today's back-to-blogging theme, I have another new writeup running, this time on UC Strategies. Alteva is a hosted provider I've known for a while, and they've done a good job staying ahead of the pack with advanced applications. Their most recent focus has been integrating VoIP more deeply with Microsoft to give it a stronger unified communications foundation. This is good news for SMBs, as most hosted providers don't take VoIP this far, preferring instead to offer it as a standalone service.

Alteva understands where the clould is going - not just for their business, but what it means for their customers. SMBs constantly need to reduce costs and get the most out of IT, despite having little or no in-house technical expertise. That's where I think Alteva has a good read on what the market needs, and if you want know why, you can read my take here - it's running now on the UC Strategies portal.

Back to Blogging - Ringio and the Cloud

Where does the time go? Sometimes you get heads-down busy with business development, fulfilling projects and a bit of travel. Then you realize things like blogging have gone quiet - well, that's the cycle I've been caught in lately. Have just come through an intense two week stretch like that, and am heads-up now to blog a bit.

First up will be a review I just wrote about Ringio, a pretty interesting company I briefed with the other day. I've been coming across a lot of cloud-based communications services recently, and this one is a great example of bringing a valuable application to SMBs that they really cannot get otherwise. Ringio's application is best thought of as intelligent Caller ID and CRM with some desktop collaboration.

These things are always best understood with a demo, but at least my writeup will serve as a starting point for you to learn more. It's running now on, and you can read it here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Is Skype for Business Enterprise-Ready?

Now, there's an intriguing question for Skype followers. I'm one of them, and have been following them closely since the beginning. The most recent iteration of Skype for Business is targeting the enterprise market, and I think there's a good story here.

That's the focus of my latest Service Provider Views column on TMCnet, and it's running now. You can read it here, and I'd love to hear your thoughts!