Monday, January 31, 2011

Avaya's Web Collaboration Platform Used by Ethernet Inventor

Avaya, a global provider of business collaboration systems, software and services, announced that Robert M. Metcalfe, inventor of Ethernet, used Avaya web.alive to enable remote attendees to participate in his first lecture as professor of innovation at the University of Texas at Austin Cockrell School of Engineering.


In a press release, Robert M. Metcalfe, the inventor of Ethernet, said, “The Internet has given us the ability to collaborate across an 'innovation infrastructure' through which we can brainstorm and mine for solutions to providing cheap, sustainable energy.Avaya web.alive is a perfect example of the kind of innovative technology that can support these efforts and reduce our energy consumption at the same time. I anticipate using Avaya (News - Alert) web.alive for additional lectures, forums and as a virtual office for meeting students and others.”

The lecture, titled "Enernet: Internet Lessons for Solving Energy” was simultaneously delivered in-person to listeners on the university's campus and in real-time to attendees using the Avaya web.alive collaboration environment on Jan. 20. Avaya web.alive is an immersive Web collaboration platform that uses avatars, high-quality graphics, audio and analytics to bring a new dimension to real-time business collaboration among remote participants. Web.alive expands on traditional methods of collaboration, i.e. audio, video and Web conferencing, to provide an engaging, interactive and intuitive environment that meets the requirements of users in any size business.

Mohamad Ali, senior vice president, Corporate Development and Strategy, Avaya, said, “By revolutionizing both the audio and visual experience with 3-D spatial audio and video game graphics technology, Avaya web.alive makes business collaboration across broad geographies and organizations entertaining, productive and highly economical. Whether it’s providing interactive distance learning, immersive on-line customer service, or just a virtual ‘water cooler,’ this secure, enterprise-class virtual environment makes it easy, safe and fun to enable ad-hoc or scheduled collaboration.”

Recently, Avaya was in news when the company announced that its next generation customer service solution, Avaya Aura Contact Center, was chosen as the top contact center product in an independent comparative lab review conducted by MierConsulting.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications & technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO East 2011, taking place Feb 2-4, 2011, in Miami. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.

Talk Is Cheap, VoIP Talk Cheaper

By Carolyn J Dawson

The Bria iPhone (News - Alert) edition gives iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad users the option to utilize VoIP calling in tandem with MSI's calling network to make pure VoIP calls from these devices at next-to-nothing prices, without having them to sacrifice on mobile plan minutes. By making use of the iPhone or iPod's existing contact list, Bria iPhone Edition facilitates easy and effective communication management with an intuitive interface that accommodates multiple calls.

In a press release, MSI CEO, John A. Roberts, said, "We are continually testing available products to maximize the MSI user experience, and highly recommend this solution to our clients as what we feel to be the very best SIP application for Apple (News - Alert) i-products. Combining the Bria App (available through the Apple App Store, for $7.99 USD) with MSI's global network provides what we feel to be the best combinations of calling technologies today."

The Bria app allows the user to have up to 8 SIP accounts on their phone and call functionality includes gives them the ability to swap between two calls, merge and split calls and perform attended and unattended transfers. The Bria iPhone Edition is a superior iPhone VoIP application for enterprises since it can also be used as an extension to enterprise client's PBX (News -Alert), thus allowing business users free mobile calls to and from their company's PBX, and instant access to everyone in their offices.

Roberts went on to say, "iPhone is of course, a phone, and therefore you would expect to be able to make calls from it. What is different in using the Bria iPhone Edition is that it is a SIP-based phone that uses a WiFi (News - Alert) or 3G connection to make and receive calls. Therefore customers can make and receive calls without using their cellular airtime. iPod Touch and iPad users can make and receive calls from their devices by using the Bria iPhone Edition, and either a wired earpiece headset, or a Bluetooth wireless headset."

Telepresence - Video is the Communication Channel of the Future

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Technology advancements are an interesting element to watch as so much of what we do is now based in technology. In anticipation of the upcoming ITEXPO East event, TMCnet recently interviewed Gary Anderson, president and CEO ofNetbriefings (News - Alert).


Anderson was asked his opinion on the most significant technology advancements in 2010 and he pointed to the continued adoption of video. When asked his opinion on the video format wars, Anderson shared that all customers should not have to worry about video format wars as vendors will likely address the issue. Anderson also believes that tablet adoption will definitely advance video in the market.

When asked what forms of video were most important, Anderson noted that while live is what everyone thinks about; you need easy on-demand creation particularly on the global market. He also shared that in his view of the future, everything will have video, from collaboration to consumer access. As for when telepresence will become mainstream in the corporate environment, Anderson stressed that he believes it will NOT become mainstream. When asked what factors will play a driving role in desktop video publishing, Anderson said that YouTube (News - Alert) presents a security disadvantage for the enterprise. As for long term growth in video, on-premise tools are on their way out and hosted solutions offer so many more benefits.

Anderson was also asked about social media, and he is s definite believer and has several tools that he uses to interact with customers and for internal collaboration. In the future, he believes it will be easier to connect with people through social media than e-mail. Internally, all employees in his company have Facebook (News - Alert), and LinkedIn, and they blog regularly and use blogs for internal corporate communications. In 2011, Netbriefings will offer tracking functions of the Proclaim family of tools to send out video messages, track in real-time when they are watching it. As for his surprising prediction – possibly people will finally get it that too many face-to-face meetings are a waste of time.

The Ten Challenges of Mobile Video

By Jonathan Rosenberg, Chief Technology Strategist at Skype

On June 7, 2010, Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone (News - Alert) 4 to the world. High-definition video recording, a new high-resolution display, a new form factor, and a front-facing camera were some of the new features. However, the feature that gained the most attention was the announcement of Facetime, a video calling feature integrated into iPhone 4. Facetime enables one-to-one video calling between iPhone users with just the single touch of a button. It renders in full screen, and enables the user to send video using either the front or rear-facing cameras (for a see-what-I-see experience).

Reactions to Facetime were mixed. Some heralded it as the arrival of video telephony to mobile. Others saw it as a gimmick. One thing is certain however – Facetime is not the first time a company has attempted to market mobile video telephony. The feature has been around for a while, in fact. European mobile phones with video calling have been available for years. Mobile video telephony was one of the original motivations for 3G investments among mobile operators. However, the feature never took off.

Building a successful mobile video solution requires tackling ten technology challenges:

Limited Front-Facing Cameras

Mobile video requires a front-facing camera to accomplish two-way video chat. This feature is more common outside of the U.S., and is only recently arriving on mobile phones in the U.S. It is possible to provide a “see what I see” feature using the rear-facing camera; this represents a substantially different use case.

Low-Quality Screens

To see the other participant, a large, high-resolution screen is required. Up until the arrival of iPhone and phones with similar form factors, screens have been too small to have a quality video experience.

Limited Networks

Video consumes much more bandwidth than audio. Depending on the size of the screen, continuous bandwidth of between 100knps and 250kbps are typically needed, and even more than that is better. This kind of bandwidth is hard to sustain on wireless networks, and not always available.

Compatibility Challenges

For a video call to work, the other participant needs compatible equipment and software. It can be very difficult for an average user to figure out whether a video call will work, or what to do to make it work. Typically only a small subset of a user’s contacts are reachable on video. This has been especially problematic in solutions that are carrier specific, since users often do not know the mobile operators of their contacts.

Poor Lighting

Good video requires good lighting. This is already problematic in desktop video. In mobile video, where users are under a highly variable set of conditions, and with conditions that change even during the call, the challenges of good lighting are even larger.

Uncentered Video

Users must hold their phones in such a way that the cameras are centered on their faces, and remain centered throughout the calls. This is difficult to do. Since users cannot hold their hands perfectly still there will always be shaking. This reduces the overall quality of the experience.

Discomfort

For calls of any duration, users must hold the cameras at a set distance from their faces, and not change it. This can become uncomfortable after a while. Many users are often uncomfortable with video in general, and don’t want to be seen all of the time.

Limited Use Cases

Mobile phones are often used in cases in which users are wearing Bluetooth headsets and doing something else with their hands. Driving and eating are two examples. Since mobile video requires users to hold the phone, video calls are not possible in these cases.

Insufficient CPU

Decoding and encoding of video are CPU-intensive operations. Many phones do not have sufficient horsepower to run two-way video, especially with the level of quality required. This problem is getting addressed through the natural evolution of mobile CPUs, and is also getting addressed by the presence of dedicated DSPs, which can do the encoding and decoding in hardware.

Poor UI

Video must be easy to use. Many video solutions in the past have had complex UIs that were difficult for the average user to navigate.

These challenges fit into several categories. Some of them are hardware-oriented (limited front-facing cameras, insufficient CPU, low-quality screens), and can be addressed by changes in hardware. Some of them are software-related (compatibility challenges, poor UI), and can be addressed by improvements in software. Others are more fundamental (poor lighting, discomfort), and solutions may be possible through innovation.

Unfortunately, there is no public data available on the usage of Facetime. Whether it has adequately addressed all of these technical challenges to gain market traction, only the future will tell.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Some People Just Don’t Like Headsets…

by Jennifer Adams on 1/26/2011

Ok, I just broke into a sweat writing that headline. What am I talking about? Plantronics is a headset company…isn’t it?

I think the Calisto 800 Series speakerphone system that was announced today helps tell the story that Plantronics is a lot more than a headset company.

According to Frost & Sullivan, the number one UC market driver is the increase and growth of virtual workers, which includes remote workers who operate from their homes all or some portion of the time (Frost & Sullivan 10/08). This product, in development for the past two years, was the result of a small innovation engine within Plantronics that was tasked with finding a solution to the pain points of today’s worker, especially those working from home.

We started with ethnographic research in countries with a high population of remote workers. We purposely didn’t choose Plantronics customers or even headset users. Through observation and interviews we tried to really understand how remote workers spent an average day working from home. And the pain points we uncovered were pretty consistent across the globe.

    1. Workers are overwhelmed! They are juggling devices (landlines, mobile phones, PC, speakers and headsets) and collaboration tools (conference calls, webinars, IM, e-mail)
    2. Workers are frustrated! Transitions between devices were difficult and it was hard to maintain professional audio quality
    3. Workers want options! Some people, when given the choice, would prefer to use a speakerphone to be hands-free if it wasn’t for the inherent limitations (thus my provocative headline)



What are the “inherent limitations” of a speakerphone? One research participant called it the “squawk-box syndrome”. We’ve all been there right? You are on a speakerphone call and you are leaning into is as if the person you are talking to is physically crouching inside the device, and they are still complaining “can you please take me off speaker!?”

Three key tenets evolved for this product:

    1. Help workers easily, quickly and with confidence manage communications across devices
    2. Focus on a Killer User Experience (oh and make it look cool too!)
    3. Provide hands-free options and superior audio performance according to personal workflow and preferences



The group slowly realized that the product that was beginning to take shape in the design sketches was not really taking the shape of a headset. It was starting to look a lot more like a killer hands-free audio solution aimed at empowering today’s remote worker. The Calisto 800 Series multi-device speakerphone system was born.

Calisto 825

LifeSize to Demo Its 'LifeSize Room' HD Videoconferencing System

By David Sims, TMCnet Contributing Editor

LifeSize (News - Alert), a division of Logitech, will show how its HD video conferencing systems work for a range of mission-critical agency applications at AFCEA West 2011, currently taking place in San Diego.

LifeSize will showcase LifeSize Room, a product company officials characterize as "a feature-rich HD video communications product for large conference rooms that facilitates continuity of operations, command and control, and emergency preparedness and response," in addition to distance learning, telemedicine and collaboration.

Basically, LifeSize Room "enables video calls with up to eight participants through an embedded HD multipoint control unit, or bridge, offering the quality and user simplicity to make remote communications a more productive, true-to-life experience."

In a unit which company officials claim is "half the size of competitors’" products, LifeSize Room features sharing of presentations, documents and multimedia material among all participants for "improved collaboration with geographically dispersed team members."

LifeSize’s scalability and open source interoperability are being touted by company officials as an alternative to the "centralized, capital-intensive" infrastructure investments currently being made in federal video conferencing applications: "The company’s future-proof video conferencing products enable customers to realize as much as a 40 percent reduction in total cost of ownership by using LifeSize for HD telepresence."

In October TMC's (News - Alert) Paula Bernier wrote that LifeSize unveiled a 16-port videoconferencing bridge that it said will enable organizations to bring HD video to as many parties as they want for multiparty calling.

Mary Miller, director of product marketing at LifeSize, told TMCnet that the company believes the LifeSize Bridge, which offers cinema-quality video at $4,062 per port, will move companies, which until now were hesitant to buy a video bridge, to take the plunge. That’s because LifeSize Bridge is affordable, scalable and offers a high-quality (720p30, 720p60 and 1080p) video experience even at full capacity, Miller said.

It's Simple: Today's Fast Just Isn't Fast Enough

It goes without saying that today just about every aspect of life is moving faster, and business communications is no exception. Customers expect instantaneous responses to their inquiries, faster turnaround from their suppliers, and improved versions of products more frequently.

The truth is, compared with tomorrow today's fast just isn't fast enough.

That's good news for small businesses, because it's an area in which they can really shine. Because of their size, small businesses have the ability to be more nimble, quick to respond, and simple and easy to do business with. Many large enterprises can't make that claim. As a business gets larger, complexity often follows, and complexity can greatly hinder speed and ease of doing business.

But while small businesses are less complex compared with their larger counterparts, they also lack the wide-ranging resources of a large enterprise. With that in mind, how can a small business deliver the kind of fast, personalized service that lets them better compete against their larger competitors?

One way is to break down the barriers that come with the abundance of communications options available to just about everyone - email accounts, instant messaging/chat, office phone, home phone, mobile phone. It's true we have more ways than ever to communicate with each other, but that can bring its own set of challenges - especially to a small business that has to do more with less. The answer to that dilemma, of course, is Unified Communications, a technology that simplifies communications by enabling employees to seamlessly use the most appropriate communications device at the most appropriate time.

That's the point - simplicity. Simplifying anything usually results in the process getting faster. Communications is no exception. (The good news is that while there was a time when only larger companies could take advantage of what unified communications has to offer - faster decision-making, greater customer responsiveness, reduced costs - today that's no longer the case. UC is readily available - and affordable - for just about any size business.)

All of which brings me to Avaya IP Office ... Over the past several years, we've taken a good look at our flagship product for small and medium enterprises with an eye toward simplicity, and in turn, speed. As we've made things simpler - with the product itself, how we bring it to market, and how our customers learn to use it - we've also increased how quickly we're able to do all of those things and more. Today, IP Office is simpler, easier and faster to sell and install, and easier for customers to understand, buy, learn and use.

For example, we've identified the key users in small businesses and built applications specifically for them: Mobile Workers, Teleworkers, Receptionists, Customer Service Agents. It makes it much simpler for customers to know what applications they need. These apps have turned what many customers thought was just a "phone system" into something else - a communications tool that can deliver measurable improvements to just about every area of their business, saving time and money and enhancing their ability to serve customers far better than they could ever have hoped to without them.

With our focus on simplicity, installations of IP Office are faster now, too - up to 75 percent faster. Our partners appreciate it - a shorter installation process means more time to serve and sell - and our customers are equally pleased. There are other benefits, too. For those adding a new IP Office system the Linux option enables them to save money and widen the gap from the already low total cost of ownership benefits of IP Office.

Simplicity and speed. Both of these will continue to be imperatives for IP Office. The implications are just too important across the board - for Avaya, our partners and our customers.

How are you addressing simplicity in your business? What have been the results of your efforts? I'd love to hear some great stories about how simplifying communications has helped lift your small business to greater heights.

SIP Trunking Chosen for Non-Cost Reasons

By David Sims
TMCnet Contributing Editor

Recently TMC’s Patrick Barnard had the chance to interview Broadvox’s Vice President of Marketing and Sales, David Byrd (News - Alert), at ITEXPO West 2010 in Los Angeles, who noted that the growth of the company “is still coming from the retail space.” What’s really taking them into the future is their retail SIP trunking, he said. Wholesale is doing well, but their retail SIP trunking products are still the bread and butter.

Today, he said, businesses are still making the decision to transition to SIP for cost reasons, capex, infrastructure, what have you. Now they also see the advantages of SIP trunking for other reasons, and have to pick the right product based on other considerations than simply cost. But the number one reason is still cost, “it’s about saving money.”

We are beginning to see more of when people want SIP to support collaborative and unified communications, as well, so there are considerations other than simply cost in play.

Interoperability is a big consideration when buying SIP, Barnard noted, and Byrd agreed. “Broadvox (News - Alert) has a fair number of platforms, we have an interop team on a full-time basis, and have certified over 40 platforms with our product as well.”

And as far as life cycles are concerned, Byrd said, interoperability isn’t as big a concern as things like who your base PBX (News - Alert) platforms are, and more for enterprises than SMBs. Interoperability generally isn’t something Broadvox gets involved in.

SIP adoption is also being driven in the enterprise space by more sophisticated buyers, and Byrd sees next-generation apps as being key to selling to this market, showing buyers how they can do more things with IP.

Avaya Chooses Hara Environmental and Energy Management Solution

SAN MATEO, Calif.- Hara, a leading provider of environmental and energy management software, today announced that it has signed Avaya, a global leader in enterprise communications systems, software and services, as a customer for its environmental and energy management offering.

Hara will provide Avaya with a comprehensive environmental and energy management system of record, which will aggregate information across various data sources to provide the company with an overall view of its energy and resource consumption, greenhouse gas emissions and environmental impact. The solution will enable Avaya to manage and optimize reduction strategies supporting energy efficiency and natural resource usage, and automate manual reporting processes such as their annual Climate Leaders report submission.

"Avaya works closely with its customers to help them meet their environmental commitments," said Kevin Gould, vice president R&D and sustainability officer, Avaya. "As such, we are dedicated to finding new ways to improve the sustainability of our own operations. Hara's tools will enhance our tracking and reporting capabilities as we continue to deliver on our commitment to reduce carbon emissions by 15 percent by 2015."

"Hara is honored to have been selected by Avaya as they continue to set a gold standard for sustainability practices," said Amit Chatterjee, CEO and Founder, Hara. "Hara EEM's 'Discover, Plan, Act and Innovate' methodology is well suited to help Avaya and its customers and partners improve resource efficiency and minimize environmental impact through informed environmental and energy management in every facet of business."

In the growing market of environmental and energy management, Hara has emerged as a leader through consistent product delivery, customer deployments and domain expertise. Deployed in over 97 countries, Hara EEM is a cloud-based solution that enables organizations to strategically manage and optimize their energy and natural resource usage and identify and execute efficiency strategies across the enterprise and value chain. Hara works with leading companies and government organizations to establish each client's environmental and energy record, identify and prioritize reduction projects, and implement best practices.

For more information about Avaya's leading sustainability approach, please visit www.avaya.com/green.

About Hara

Hara helps organizations grow and profit while optimizing natural resource consumption and minimizing environmental impact. The Hara™ Environmental and Energy Management solution enables organizations to manage and optimize their organizational metabolism - the collective resources consumed and resulting outputs across an organization and its value chain - including energy, water, waste and carbon. Hara empowers an end-to-end environmental and energy business process from reporting to reduction to help organizations improve operational efficiency, maximize value and manage risk. Hara customers include leading organizations such as ADWEA, Aerojet, Akamai, City of Las Vegas, City of Palo Alto, City of Philadelphia, Coca-Cola, Diebold, Hasbro, Intuit, EMD Millipore, News Corporation and Safeway. The company is funded by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, JAFCO and Nth Power. For more information, please visit www.hara.com.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Are Your Application Response Times Lying?

By http://www.telnetnetworks.ca

What if the if the response time metrics you relied on only presented part of the performance picture? Analysis tools that claim to provide response time often fail to include application transactions in the calculation of the metrics. In this article, we’ll highlight the two primary ways for calculating response time, the benefits and limitations of each, and why you need both for a complete picture of analysis.

Most monitoring devices track and calculate response time based on traffic occurring at Layer 4 of the OSI model. In this view, the device is typically tracking the three-way handshake between the client and server as an indication that the application conversation will begin. Here, application response time is defined as the total round-trip time it takes for SYN, SYN-ACK, and ACK to be delivered and received.

Layer 4 Response Time

While the Layer 4 approach provides response times for any application with a known TCP port, it fails to account for whether fulfillment of the application took place as expected by the user. For a more precise representation of application delivery, network analysis solutions need to view Layers 5-7 of the OSI model and have an in-depth knowledge of the specific application. Analysis devices looking at the upper layers are able to monitor for the specific application fulfillment or “Get” requests. [Note: The name of the request varies by application. For example, in SQL this is known as the “Select” request.] Response time calculations then take this request into account.

Layer 5 7 Response time

Understanding when an application’s fulfillment request was received provides a complete view of application delivery and a portrayal of response time in line with actual user experience. For troubleshooting, fulfillment requests (example: Gets) and submissions (example: Posts) can be tracked separately to understand the specific point where application delivery might be failing.

Layers 5-7 intelligence provides more detailed information for calculating and investigating response time metrics, but there are also advantages with Layer 4 response time calculations. This matrix presents the benefits and limitations of each:

Benefits of Response Time

Based upon the matrix, the take-away is simple: network teams require monitoring solutions that provide both Layer 4 and Layers 5-7 monitoring and intelligence for a complete picture of application delivery and health.

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Getting SIP Trunking Right in a Unified Communications Environment

By Erik Linask, Group Editorial Director

As much as the media gets caught up in any Apple product launch these days, the communications industry focuses much more heavily – and rightfully – on Microsoft. Indeed, reflecting back on the launches of Microsoft OCS back in 2007 and Lync just a few months ago, it’s hard to come up with many launches that equal Microsoft’s major announcement in terms of media hype.

That’s not a bad thing, though, considering the opportunities Microsoft provides other vendors to enhance their own product lines. Notably, Microsoft’s Lync Server announcement – a significant over its OCS platform from three years ago – ties into one of biggest trends in business communications today, the continued growth of the SIP Trunking market. By basing its architecture on SIP, Microsoft is both acknowledging and driving SIP as the protocol that will drive the next generation of unified communications.

I spoke to Matt Vlasach of Unwired Revolution (News - Alert), who agrees, and further points out that this only increases the importance of SIP Trunking in ensuring scalability and functionality of unified communications systems and helping bridge the gap between TDM and IP-based communications.

Vlasach will be furthering that point during two sessions at the SIP Trunk-Unified Communications Summit, sponsored by Ingate Systems (News - Alert) and collocated with ITEXPO East in Miami, February 1-4, 2011.

Among the reasons this event is a must-attend for businesses, integrators, and consultants alike, is that SIP Trunking is still a relatively new technology and, despite its growing adoption, many businesses and integrators are still hesitant because they are unsure as to how to ensure QoS and interoperability with PBXs and other network elements.

Many providers claim SIP Trunking and interoperability are easy – and in some cases, they are. But, according to Vlasach, interop also represents the greatest roadblock for customers going forward. Because much of the market is still unsure as to how exactly to deploy SIP trunks effectively, word spreads and prospects are hear warning signs – from blogs, social media posts, and from analysts and industry peers. This is leading to increased due diligence, with companies looking at experts in interop and events like the SIP Trunk-Unified Communications (News - Alert) Summit, seeking to fully understand the complexities of a SIP Trunking project.

Vlasach notes that much of his work involves helping customers salvage their unsuccessful SIP Trunking deployments, simply because they didn’t have all the information.

“There are so many implications that carriers and PBX manufacturers aren’t telling you,” he says. “Customers need to understand these things when they are looking at SIP projects if they want to deploy successfully.”

Fortunately, there are some PBX vendors that have started to strongly push the idea of en enterprise session border controller (E-SBC), which not only helps with interoperability between SIP trunks and PBXs, but also provides a layer of security.

Security conscious enterprises are starting to look closely at E-SBCs for their security features and firewall technologies, in addition to helping overcome normalization and interop issues,” Vlasach adds.

But there’s only so far PBX vendors can take the initiative, especially when carriers typically suggest deploying SIP trunks is a simple process, overlooking the fact that, while their part may be easy, they leave the enterprise with an often daunting task of ensuring their communications systems function as expected.

This is not a new challenge. As with any technology deployment, the only way to know for sure what is needed to ensure successful SIP Trunking deployments is to become educated. Vlasach suggests the best place to get a wealth of information about SIP Trunking, security, and unified communications is the SIP Trunk-Unified Communications Summit, where a number of experts, including analysts, carriers, and PBX vendors, provide an all-encompassing complete educational program over the course of the three-day experience.

In fact, Ingate has added a fourth day – at the very beginning of the event, on Tuesday, February 1, focusing on the service provider community. The service provider workshop is designed to provide a similar educational experience for providers so they can not only increase the efficiency of their deployments, but are better equipped to educate their own customers in the process.

In Los Angeles, at Ingate’s seminar at ITEXPO (News - Alert) West this past October, Vlasach discussed an implementation in which Unwired Revolution designed a system that included a data center component, a ShoreTel communications system, and Microsoft OCS for integrated IM and Web conferencing, demonstrating how an E-SBC pulls the complete solution together and ensures interoperability between the trunks and communications components. Having been impressed with the results from that presentation, and the overall quality of the event, Vlasach has decided to take a similar approach in Miami, extending it to include opportunities presented by Microsoft Lync.

Whether you are an enterprise/SMB, service provider, or technology vendor, this conference is a can’t miss event: “Anyone who is involved with or is considering a project with SIP shouldn’t maybe go, they must go,” says Vlasach. “This is a call to get people informed about SIP Trunking technologies, and it’s worth the time to attend.”

What is the Cost Associated with Failing to Meet Customer Service Level Expectations?

Providers of next gen communications services often find it a challenge to meet customer expectations. Because life is so busy and fast-paced for consumers, the key to winning, serving and retaining clients often boils down to quickly and effectively responding to customer calls—especially calls originating from mobile phones.

A recent Opus Research report authored by Senior Analyst Dan Miller (News - Alert) explores the topic of meeting customer service level expectations, and introduces the concept of intelligent Customer Front Door (iCFD).

Miller describes iCFD as “a set of applications and technological resources that enable businesses to identify callers and quickly aggregate information about them to assist in successfully resolving their needs.”

Implementing iCFD is typically an incremental process, involving the integration of intelligent routing and self service into contact center applications. This process is grounded on the idea that, every time customers visit an e-commerce website or call, they reveal information about themselves that can be captured and stored using a customer relationship management (CRM) system. The key is intelligent use of this information.

“This only works to the customers’ advantage when access to the metadata is made as soon as a new call lands in the companies’ interactive voice response (IVR) system,” Miller said in the Opus report.

The Opus report lays out four phases to implementing iCFD and achieving timely, effective responses to customer needs.

In the Establishment Phase, the customer service organization has in place an IVR capable of routing callers using prompts tied to quick database queries. (This covers information like store locations, account balances and order statuses.)

In the Consolidation Phase, basic IVR functions are enhanced with technologies that transform the phone into a consolidated point of entry for excellent service. An example is the Genesys (News - Alert) Voice Platform from Alcatel Lucent, which uses SIP-based routing to allow consistent point of entry and supports natural language dialogues.

In the Performing Phase, customer service is raised to yet another level by integrating business logic, rules and practices to customize the experience related to each specific call. Stored metadata enables personalized prompts, references to past transactions and routing based on previously selected preferences.

Finally, in the Optimizing Phase, the full dynamic of iCFD is enabled through multiple channels of customer care, robust monitoring capabilities, and sophisticated analytics and tuning resources. Constant improvement and refinement is possible at this level.

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Contributor


A white paper from Genesys, an Alcatel Lucent (News - Alert) company, also explores the topic of customer service levels. Case studies and other examples illustrate how concepts like iCFD are being used to provide excellent customer service.

The Genesys paper identifies four barriers to excellent customer service: expensive, underutilized workforce; backlog of work; proliferation of customer-facing systems and channels; and lack of operational insights.

To overcome these challenges, customer service organizations must increase employee performance, adhere to internal service level objectives, increase visibility into operational performance and compliance, and increase overall enterprise agility.

For much more on iCFD, including case study examples of how strategies and technologies are being used to improve customer service levels, read the full Opus report.

Business Spending for Cloud Computing, Managed Hosting to Surpass $13 Billion in 2014, Says In-Stat

January 19, 2011 // By Telecom Reseller


Although spending across all sectors and size of business is projected to grow, there are some segments where growth will be staggering,” says Greg Potter, Research Analyst. “The professional services and healthcare verticals will see the largest growth in spending on cloud computing services, growing over 124% between 2010 and 2014.”


SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., January 20, 2011— Businesses are moving to the cloud, at least as far as their IT spending is concerned. A new In-Stat (www.in-stat.com) report forecasts cloud computing and managed hosting spending by US Businesses will surpass $13 billion in 2014, up from less than 3 billion.

  • SaaS (software-as-a-service) spending will increase 112% between 2010 and 2014.
  • IaaS (infrastructure-as-a-service) spending will approach $4 billion in 2014.
  • PaaS (platform-as-a-service) spending will increase 113% to roughly $460 million in 2014.
  • SOHO (small office/home office) businesses are leading in the adoption of cloud computing services.
  • The In-Stat research, US Business Spending by Size of Business and Vertical, 2009–2014: Cloud Computing and Managed Hosting Services (#IN1004792VSMSE) provides forecasts of US business cloud computing and managed hosting spending for the 2009–2014 period with detailed segmentation by product category, size of business, and vertical market. Details include public cloud services: IaaS, PaaS, SaaS; co-Located services, and dedicated server services.

Forecasts are broken into the following size-of-business segments and sub-segments:

  • SOHO business (1 to 4 employees)
  • Small business (5 to 9 employees, 10 to 19 employees, and 20 to 99 employees)
  • Mid-sized business (100 to 499 employees and 500 to 999 employees)
  • Enterprise (1,000 to 4,999 employees, 5,000 to 9,999 employees, and 10,000 or more employees)
  • Forecasts are also broken down further into the following vertical markets:
  • Administrative and support services, waste management
  • Arts and entertainment
  • Construction
  • Education
  • Finance and insurance
  • Forestry, fishing, and agricultural services
  • Government
  • Healthcare and social services
  • Hospitality and food
  • Information and communication
  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Manufacturing
  • Mining
  • Other services
  • Professional services
  • Real estate
  • Retail trade
  • Transportation
  • Utilities
  • Wholesale trade

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Secure, Reliable and Seamless Shouldn’t Be a Luxury

By Marie Hattar | January 20, 2011 at 5:00 am PST

I had the luxury of keynoting at a seminar last week on the topic of “Borderless Luxury.” Yes, you heard right. Borderless Luxury.

Being borderless is about connecting to information anytime on any device, from anywhere. And, as I’ve explained here before, doing so securely, reliably, and seamlessly. So what does that have to do with the high-end retail world? The retail luxury sector has watched as the internet has moved from being a single channel of information to a multi-channel of commerce, client services, social media and multi- media communications along with virtual and augmented reality. Is there a way to bring all stakeholders together to have access to critical information on the network in a secure and reliable way? How can companies meet the newly enacted PCI regulations with a seamless, secure infrastructure?

Today’s luxury brands are discovering that they need to evolve to cater to both online and on-premises customers. And in the process, they are tackling some provocative issues. As an avid shopper, in the ether and on the ground, I was thrilled to lead this discussion as the CEOs and CIOs from the top luxury retail brands of the world gathered for the annual e-Luxe Club Breakfast seminar in Paris. The top takeaway was that being Borderless and having a strategic and robust network architecture to support the business is a key imperative to address the future of luxury shopping from anywhere, any device.

Retailers and brands must identify fresh ways to differentiate themselves through technological innovation. One video that recently caught my eye was the Tiffany video, Blue is the Color of Dreams, a 4-D extravaganza to celebrate the opening of its Beijing store. Certainly that’s an arresting use of technology, but beyond that, we need to also look at new ways to change the way customers experience the shopping process and their relationships with the brands, themselves.

To see what some are doing, check out this article on The Next Web. As for my predictions of what we can expect even further down the road? I’m certain the luxury brands will be finding even newer ways to deliver that je-ne-sais-quoi à-la-mode experience—sans borders.

Cisco featured in FORTUNE’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” list

By Ken Lotich | January 20, 2011 at 4:10 pm PST

This morning, FORTUNE magazine released its annual “100 Best Companies to Work For” list, and we are proud to announce that Cisco was awarded the No. 20 spot on the overall list, and No. 5 in the large companies category.

In addition, we are honored and humbled to be on the “All-Stars” list, which features companies that have been on the FORTUNE “Best Companies” list every year since its inception in 1998.

A big congratulations goes out to all who were named to this list. To see the full list and articles, please take a look at Fortune’s website.

Video – no longer a luxury for small businesses

By Leanne Schrotzberger | January 12, 2011 at 4:50 am PST

Guest Post by Tunji Akintokun, Head of Small Business for Cisco in Europe

When video phones were given their first grand introduction at the 1964 World Fair in New York, it had an exciting futuristic implication. However, people probably didn’t conceive then that video communications would become a mainstream technology challenging the traditional telephone.

With super fast broadband, more and more people communicate with video. Video calling and the emergence of Home TelePresence are bringing video to the masses; but how about small businesses?

There are some perception barriers to the widespread adoption of high quality video communications beyond the enterprise – mainly associated with high costs and onerous maintenance. Both these obstacles have now been removed.

In the past, video quality might have suffered from poor latency (the speed at which data reaches its destination via the internet). However, with the market maturing and broadband quality improving globally, there are a growing number of smaller, cost effective, yet high quality options coming to the fore and ready for use on PCs, mobiles, IP phones and TVs.

There are also an increasing number of companies that will manage these services for a business on a flexible, pay-per-use model.

Given these advances, adoption is growing and the business benefits are becoming more widely known. Video communications can play an important role in improving competitiveness by enabling a small business with limited resources to expand trade and the quest for talent on a national and international basis. As teams and customers become more dispersed, it is not always possible to meet face-to-face. Video provides a natural and easy-to-use method for reaching out to customers and partners, helping to reduce travel, while maintaining high levels of engagement. It is that consistent and timely contact with colleagues and customers which can really speed up decision making and collaboration, while facilitating sustainable business practices.

A casino operator, Aspers Group, is using video communications to reduce business travel around the UK. By working with managed services partner mvision-Dimension Data, Aspers Group started using video communications between their London and Newcastle offices instead of making the standard 2-3 journeys a week for face-to-face meetings, which freed-up money and time in the process. The scheme has since been rolled out to the HR, finance and business development teams and already reaped significant cost savings.

Video is no longer a luxury; but evolving into an integral part of running a business, communicating with staff and customers. With the increasing popularity of consumer video across social networking sites and home video communications, in future it will force businesses to adapt their own video use. Those small businesses that choose to capitalise on this changing video landscape early will be best placed to generate new business opportunities. As John Chambers at Cisco recently noted, “market transitions wait for no one.” As the potential of video is further unleashed, those companies that fail to recognise and embrace the power of video will fall behind in their customer conversations and partner networks.

John Chambers Talks about Cisco Home Telepresence:



For Small Businesses, It pays to invest in business-class networking products

By Marie Gassee | January 19, 2011 at 11:00 am PST

If your email inbox was anything like mine during the holidays, much of your time was probably spent hitting the Delete button. The number of emails I received from retailers trying to tempt me with special holiday offers was staggering. With prices so low, particularly for electronics touted as “prosumer,” who wouldn’t be tempted to buy those for a small business?

No matter how cost-conscious you are, when it comes to buying technology for your small business, it pays to invest in products that have been designed with you in mind. Also, it’s worth buying from a reseller who can understand your unique needs, guide you through the selection process, and provide after-sales service.

Technological advances have moved so fast that it can be difficult to distinguish between products aimed at consumers, prosumers, and businesses. As a small business owner, it’s easy to be confused about which category of products you should buy.

Let’s clear up the confusion.

Consumer: From notebook PCs to washing machines to televisions, consumer goods are designed to be easy to buy and easy to use. But depending on the brick-and-mortar retailer you go to, the customer service could fall anywhere between great and lousy. At an online retailer, you might find useful product materials to help you make your selection; or the site may offer little more than a bare-bones shopping cart.

As for product warranties, you could be lucky and get a 90-day warranty. On the other hand, the warranty could be as short as a week. If your product stops working, you’re often left to figure out a fix yourself.

In terms of product reliability and manageability, the adage “you get what you pay for” applies here. According to a News@Cisco article , “Consumer networking products lack the comprehensive features and enhancements that support more complex, secure administration and management. At the same time, troubleshooting becomes more difficult when a flotilla of different manufacturers power a small business’s networking environment.”

Prosumer: A blend of the words “professional” and “consumer,” you’ve most likely seen this term used in reference to cameras that provide professional features at a consumer price. You might be tempted to buy prosumer-grade products for your company, because they’re supposed to be more sophisticated versions of their consumer counterparts.

Although prosumer products may offer some advanced features, they’re still consumer products and not designed for business use—even small business use. Also, prosumer products often don’t offer an adequate warranty or the level of customer service your company needs.

Business-class: Your company may be small but it’s still a business. You need computer and networking products that have been specifically designed for your unique needs and at a price you can afford. Business-class products will meet your company’s needs in ways that consumer and prosumer products just can’t, for example, integrating various technologies such as voice, video, and data; securing your data assets; providing remote access and simplifying management.

In addition, business-class products are sold by resellers who are knowledgeable about your unique needs and can help you select the right product for your company. Resellers like Cisco Partners understand the needs of small businesses because most often they’re small businesses themselves. They can help you make the most of your new product, from training and installation to maintenance and more. You can also select resellers that offer additional services, such as after-hours emergency support for that extra peace of mind.

The bottom line – even if you are a small business, it still is a “business” and thus it deserves a business -class product.