Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cleantech Blog Post: Flexible Workforce

A well written article on what companies are doing and should be doing to reduce the carbon footprint... run down topic, but worth reading because of the literary quality of it.

read more | digg story

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Work Remotely, without your PC

As I planned for my New Year's trip, I decided that I was not going to take my laptop with me and fully relax. Although, it is nearly impossible to do that, due to job constrains and dependency on it. What if I want to check my emails? or need that contact information? How about if I need to work on a presentation for an important customer? I discovered two excellent tools that will help me carry a USB key instead of a heavy laptop.

The first one is U3 technology from Sandisk. It came with a USB thumb key that I bought during black Friday. The main idea is that you can carry around, not only your synchronized files, but also applications in a USB key. That is, for example, there is a Firefox U3 version that installs the browser in the USB key. There is also Skype, PDF reader, Opera, and OpenOffice (for any Microsoft Office Document) for U3 among others. So, now I am taking my USB key with me. I put my favorite browser (Opera for U3), Skype in case I need to call abroad, the PDF reader and OpenOffice. Of course, I am taking my important files in case I need to work on those too.


The second thing is LogMeIn. It is a free online application that you can use to control any computer in the world. Even behind firewalls. The process is simple: you open an account with logmein.com, pay nothing, and download a thin client for the computer that you want to control. That's it; now the laptop or pc will show up in your list of remote computers and you can control it from any browser. It is an excellent tool for remote control to provide tech support and for gaining access to your full desktop anywhere in the World.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Six online tools to communicate with customers

As most of my readers know me, I work as a Sales Engineer for a large Networking Company. I support sales efforts in my region. That means recommendations on ways to increase productivity, streamline their business, simplify management, and reduce cost, all from a technical perspective. What that means too is that I need to be in constant communication with my customers, in order to be effective. As of this year I have successfully started using innovative ways to stay in touch and be able to offer a better and faster service. So far, I have received great feedback, and my personal productivity has definitely increased. Some of these are:

  • Webex – to deliver rich media online trainings and meetings that can be recorded and played back by attendees whenever they want. No need to travel or spend hours in traffic.
  • Del.icio.us – to have a public source of bookmarks and relevant links for my customers. They can go to my del.icio.us page and get the link for downloading files, whitepapers, and information on a specific product.
  • Confluence (my blog) – Started it a long time ago, and not only publish articles like this one, but also relevant news, interesting findings, and upcoming products and benefits.
  • Yahoo Messenger – sometimes it is better than a phone call; especially for those quick questions. I also use Meebo, sometimes, to access messenger from any computer.
  • Twitter – To communicate my presence information and micro-blog posts on interesting things that I am dealing with. I tend to include links to the stuff I am doing, such as the new router I am playing with in the lab, or that presentation on WAN optimization
  • RSS – to syndicate my blog posts, presence information, and social bookmarks so I don't flood their mailboxes with emails.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Five reasons why you should deploy Unified Communications in your SMB

Here's a simplistic and to-the-point list of indicators and symptoms that tell you that your small business or start-up should have Unified Communications Apps:

  1. No one to maintain the infrastructure. SMB market characterizes for not having many employees and resources; especially for operations and administrative work. Your efforts should focus on product development and sales. Unified Communication is going prime time with small boxes targeted to the SMB setup-once-and-forget-about-it environment
  2. If you don't do it, your competitors will. A key system, or a bunch of Panasonic phones only give you dial-tone and a telephone line for outbound calls and incoming calls from customers and partners. A full blown UC integrated device brings productivity generation features like auto-attendant (for friendly incoming calls and call-routing), voicemail-to-email (for the ability of checking your voicemail from your email), and soft-phones (for having a phone on your laptop wherever you go). It builds competitive advantage.
  3. Paying too much for the phone line. Carriers offer IP telephony lines directly to the customer premise at a lower rate than a regular line. Look at Vonage rates versus a regular AT&T phone line.
  4. You want to look good with your customer. From an image perspective, you want your customers to see that you deploy the latest technology and that you are ahead of everybody.
  5. You want to be available wherever and whenever for your customers. Advanced call routing functionality in a Unified Communications system allows you to do things like single-number reach, call forwarding, retrieve calls on your laptop, or conference people in with the push of a button.

The price of Unified Communication systems has dropped dramatically. It is no longer exclusive for the enterprise. Devices like Cisco's UC500 for the SMB bring wireless, routing, analog and digital phone lines, voicemail and unified communications applications into one single small-form factor platform, at a low cost for the SMB. Also, manufacturers like Linksys have a line of SIP phones for that market too.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

IP Telephony benefits morphing trends

IP Telephony used to be about toll bypass only. That translated into cost savings for the company, as its main benefit. Of course, there were other benefits, as a natural consequence, such as ease of administration due to having to operate one single network, and lower maintenance costs. All that fell on the reduced operational expenses bucket.

Once it became mainstream IP Telephony is no longer a competitive advantage, and it was commoditized. Today, companies need more than just cost savings as a benefit: they need increased productivity, improve company image, and raised barriers of entry against competitors. IP Telephony morphed, and opened itself to the world of applications. That is, APIs have been published for programmers to generate new and unprecedented benefits, and vendors are releasing customized voice services on top of the voice network.

IP Telephony even changed its name into Unified Communications. This reflects the convergence of not only IP Data Network and Voice Network, but also the convergence of user applications such as messaging, mobility and presence. Finally, Unified Communications has more to offer than the reduction of costs. ROIs need to incorporate increased profitability due to the gain in efficiency of employees and the competitive advantage gained by the increased speed of reaction to customer needs and trends.

Read a full article about this on Network World, or read more about how Unified Communications can apply to you here.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Use Social Sharing To Extend Your Message

There is, after all, a business use case for social websites and services. This is a great blog post on how to leverage that. The funniest thing is that I got to it, from following the author on Twitter. Click bellow for the post.

read more | digg story

Thursday, November 29, 2007

URL shorteners. Are URLs too long?

Now that I find myself tweetering constantly and announcing my presence information to the world, I discovered that 140 characters are very limiting. Not so much to give out specific presence information like what I am doing, but rather when you want to embed URLs.

This brought to my attention, the general practice of using online services to create short URL aliases. The top services that I've found are Tinyurl.com, Snurl.com (a.k.a Snipurl.com), and Decenturl.com. According to Wikipedia, these are URL Shorteners. They come very handy for tweeting, and even emailing URLs to friends, blog posts, and SMS text messages.

The fine print is that the real URL is hidden, similar to a regular phishing attack. By clicking on them, you are going somewhere, you just can't tell where to. As a general practice, when in doubt, I read the URL before clicking on it. In other words, I look in the status bar of my browser, where the link is going to take me. This does not work with URL shorteners.

Let me give you an example of the usefulness of the tool. There is a great article on some new tools in the Cisco.com website. The URL for the blog post is http://blogs.cisco.com/webexperience/2007/11/sneak_preview_new_tool_to_help.html , 80 Characters in total. However, the shortened versions from two of the three services above are http://tinyurl.com/3btbkr (25 characters) and http://snurl.com/1ueg7 (22 characters). How can you tell where the two last links are pointing to? The only way is to actually click on them.

These service providers are aware of this, and they are introducing work-arounds to the issue. For example, TinyUrl offers a small link for a preview of the real URL. In the previous sample long URL, the preview is http://preview.tinyurl.com/3btbkr and it shows you where it is pointing to.

I think they offer a great service, but be careful and aware of the threats.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Help! Too many social web services

People spend every hour of their lives in online social sites. There are too many popular ones: Facebook, MySpace, DIgg, StumbleUpon, del.icio.us, orkut, Flickr, Yahoo, Twitter, Jaiku, Plaxo, LinkedIn, Xing, YouTube. Which leads to the question: which ones do I sign in for? All of them? Do I do it systematically?

One answer is to sign up for everything, but there are scalability issues: you will not be able to keep up with all the sites, especially today when we have competition between social services (e.g. Orkut, Facebook and MySpace). The correct answer is to be selective, to learn to say no to some friend's requests, and to resist the temptation.

Before signing up for anything, think about what you want to achieve first. Do you want to post your thoughts to the world, do you want to inform your relatives across the world, or do you want to share your photos with friends? Once you know what you want to do, then you must narrow down to the appropriate services. For example, if you are looking to share pictures with friends and family, you can use Flickr, Ofoto (Kodak Gallery), or even Facebook's photo application. Then, you should consider the impact of the service to your target audience. Do they have to sign-up for the service, or can they access the content without having to register? Would they mind registering, or not? Usually people don't mind registering to one site; but they do if they are already registered with a competing one.

The bottom line is that you have to be selective, and stick to it. Otherwise, you will not be able to keep up with all the new services coming in the next couple of years of Web 2.0. One last thing to note is that with social sites, there is a requirement for positive feedback. That is, the more users, the better it is. That is why these sites experience explosive growth.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Blogger's fake to check facts... that's good!

I stumbled upon a blog post on Digg regarding the consequences of failing to check sources. It was fairly interesting, the note talked about a case where a magazine article on new developments for car paint led to the rumor that Nissan will release a car with chameleonic paint controlled by a button.

My thought around that is that I don't see that as a flaw of online collaboration. There is much more value in the speed (or as I call it, time-to-market of the information) than the fake news itself. Collaboration is self-healing, meaning that people will detect the flaw and correct it immediately, fixing the issue in the spot. I love the Wikinomics example. When Wikipedia and Britannica go head to head for accuracy and they find more mistakes in Wikipedia than Britannica, Wikipedia can say, thanks for finding the mistakes, they have been already corrected, test for accuracy again.


read more

Friday, November 16, 2007

Twitter: follow me around

Twitter is another collaboration tool of the Web 2.0 wave. The concept is called micro-blogging. You have 140 characters to post on the web what you are doing, or whatever you want to post.

The idea came from all the people changing their status constantly on Yahoo Messanger and MSN Messenger. Facebook and MySpace offers a similar capability to change your status. For more information, check out Wikipedia's entry on Twitter.

Twitter is dedicated to just that. People can follow you, and you can follow others to see what they are doing. Moreover, you can update Twitter from different avenues: directly on the website, your cell-phone via mobile Web or via SMS, or you can even have RSS applications and desktop applications that interconnect to Twitter.
you can follow me at http://twitter.com/leoboulton and check out all the potential of it.

It sounds scary to have everybody seeing what you are doing... bear in mind that you can set up privacy settings so that only your friends can follow you, and you are also free to post whatever you want: if you post your credit card information, you are the only one to blame for that.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Bloggers get free stuff?

VMware released version 1.1 of its Fusion virtualization software to run Windows on Intel-based Apple computers free for exclusive bloggers. The company believes in collaboration (applause, please) and knows that offering it for free to popular bloggers is equivalent to giving free candy to kids. They know that they will ask their parents for more. Classic marketing: offering sample products applied in the web 2.0 era. Brilliant!

read more | digg story

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Tartan Racing DARPA Site Visit

This week DARPA's Urban Challenge took place. University teams compete for the best automated vehicle (not driven by humans) in an urban scenario.
Carnegie Mellon and Stanford have been the biggest competition so far. In 2005, Stanford won the DARPA challenge, in the desert. This time it's in the city.
Check out Carnegie Mellon's SUV. This time it's ours!

Friday, November 2, 2007

Small Web 2.0 start-ups attrack more people than large companies

Facebook, MySpace.com, Flickr, and even Google started as small start-ups. Napster, AIM, and Blogger, too. Users are always attracted to innovation, and this usually comes in the form of small start-ups. The question is, do those users stay engaged and loyal once one of these companies gets absorbed by a monster corporation?

I saw this with Ofoto, that got purchased by Kodak. They even changed their name to Kodak Gallery. It was the biggest online photo storage/sharing site in the old days. I am, still to this date, a big user of it. However, I noticed that my friends started to use Flickr more and more. Flicker was not the incumbent, nor the large player. It was the small start-up. And now Flickr seems to be king - until another start-up brings further innovation and displaces Flickr.

Same thing happened with Facebook. They were the small player. MySpace.com was the incumbent. As soon as users saw MySpace.com as a monster, they switched to Facebook. Why is that? Why do users switch?

There are two major things that cause this effect. I call it: Explosive growth, may lead to and accelerated law of diminishing returns, with respect to user attraction and loyalty.

The first thing is that start-ups must maintain full momentum of innovation. They must outpace competition constantly and reduce the product life-cycle. A new big feature every 6 months or a year. This will keep the users engaged and excited with your application.

Secondly, they must maintain their identity and trust their brand. Specially, when they get absorbed by monster corporations like Microsoft, Yahoo, or Google. Some people tend to have unfavorable opinions about large corporations and they might see it as evil or the start of the end for a great app. I gave the example of Ofoto, but it also happened to FeedDemon (when purchased by Newsgator) and others. However, blogger and del.icio.us, when purchased by Google and Yahoo, respectively, kept their identity and were able to maintain their growth and attractiveness. So, watch out Facebook.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Fund Raising: join a large company challenge, and get it all done

Large companies, like Cisco Systems, have entrepreneurship and venture capital programs. Similar to what an incubator would do. They typically look for start-ups in areas that they support. For example, Cisco just announced the I-Prize, for start-ups in the web 2.0 collaboration space.These programs are usually ideal for entrepreneurs who like the 'Intra-preneurial" concept (e.g. innovation and entrepreneurship inside large corporations). Winners gain a ton of benefits, including not only funding for the start-up, but free publicity, instant brand recognition under the large company name, and potential buying or partnership conversations.

read more | digg story

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The hardest thing is making the product, not fund raising

The hardest thing to start a business is making the product
When putting together a business plan, things usually look great on paper. You can have a terrific idea, great numbers, and market segment growth in the hundreds. However, there are two key parts that are significantly harder to execute, than to think about them: Funding and Sourcing/Manufacturing.
Funding is usually the most popular. How are you going to get the money to get the business started? You need to pay employees every month, and you need to pay the bills. Even if it is a small home business, you need seed money. Most people is familiar with how to overcome that. In a nutshell, there is venture funding, angel investors, equity loans, and even family and friends.
The second most difficult thing is the actual manufacturing of the good. Unless your business is about a service that you can provide on your own, you most likely have an idea that materializes somehow. If your business is about baby goods, you need to fabricate them somehow. Even if you are in the Web 2.0 entrepreneurial trend, you will have to find the people that would design, build, host and maintain the site.
If your product requires physical fabrication, then China is a good place to start. It is an inexpensive place to build things. You can also turn into other places like Latin America or Africa, where labor is cheap. You need to facto in, shipping costs and import fees.
Where to look for those places is a little bit harder. Of course you have Google and the rest of the web. You also have friends that know friends that know people that import from other places. Finally, you have business publications that report about successful start-ups. They usually list the company names and contact information; they are always eager to help fellow entrepreneurs.
In summary, if you want to start a business, but you don’t even know what it is about. Think about the two hardest things in the initial stages. That is, how to pay the bills and how to make the product. Therefore, if you are looking to start a small home-business, and you are not clear about your idea, look for inexpensive ideas and those that are easy to make.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Becoming green mean saving money or the environment?

I was wondering the other day if people want to become green to save the environment, or do they want to lower their monthly bills. After all, they are the same thing. The whole idea of becoming environmentally friendly (a.k.a. Green) is for everyone to consume less carbon generated energy, which in turns means save on energy bills. For example, save on electricity by cranking up the AC to 78 degrees, or save on gas by buying a fuel efficient car. Those things may indeed help the environment (there’s an intense debate this days whether global warming is for real or not). Though, in addition to that, they help your pocket.
BY replacing your incandescent bulbs with CFC’s, you may lower the electric bill by about 20%. By raising the AC to 78 or 79 degrees, you can save about 10% extra. If you get a fuel efficient car; instead of paying $50 a week on gas, you may pay $30, and save %80 each month. I know this for a fact, because these are three things that I have personally done. The numbers above may not be exact, but they are reality.
How about recycling? That really doesn’t help you save money. Not true. If you compose and recycle, the volume of trash that you generate will be lower, hence you bill for trash will go slightly down.
Now, how about if you buy carbon off-sets? Isn’t that helping the environment? Well, I think it is not at all. There have been a lot of scandals related to carbon offset organizations. Stories tell about complete scams of nonexistent organizations and ignorant orgs that plant non-native trees in third world countries.
The bottom line is that if you don’t believe in Global Warming; you should at least look into the savings associated to embracing some green initiatives in your everyday life.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Top Green Blogs

As I was updating my blog today, I saw a post from the blogger's blog (the official blog for blogger, called The Buzz) summarizing top Environmental Blogs. Some blogs are indeed very tree-hugging hardcore environmentalists, but others blog about technology and advancements in the so called "green technologies". It is worth readying and subscribing to a couple of those.

Just as my other posts about news and referring other blogs: Follow the yellow-brick link bellow

Blogger Buzz: Environmental Blog Roundup

Netvibes widgets now available on Google, Vista, Mac...

Netvibes CEO Tariq Krim Twittered earlier today from the Widget Summit, "Just finished my talk at Widget Summit announcing that Netvibes widgets works now on Vista, Live.com and Yahoo Widgets." This is great news for widget fans, like me, who are often frustrated to find that a module they like doesn't work on another platfomrs

read more | digg story

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Top US States to establish your start-up company

Maybe this sounds like an advanced topic, though it is important to think where it is best to incorporate your business once you are ready to go for it. Today, as I continue my test of FeedDemon from Newsgator, I came accross one very interesting post on one of the daily blogs that I read on entrepreneurship. It was relaying a list of top (and bottom) 10 states, from tax purposes, to incorporate a business from a report from the Tax Foundation. Apparently, and I didn't know that there even was such a foundation, they releases a yearly "2008 State Business Tax Climate Index". The Index ranks states based on the taxes that matter most to businesses and business investment: corporate tax, individual income tax, sales tax, unemployment tax, property tax, etc.

Here is the list:o



Top 10 - Best States for business
1. Wyoming
2. South Dakota
3. Nevada
4. Alaska
5. Florida
6. Montana
7. New Hampshire
8. Texas
9. Delaware
10. Oregon

Bottom 10 - Worst States for business
41. Maine
42. Minnesota
43. Nebraska
44. Vermont
45. Iowa
46. Ohio
47. California
48. New York
49. New Jersey
50. Rhode Island

Florida is there. So it seems that I am in a good place...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Aeron chairs in 'Second Life' rights showdown

Fake Aeron chairs in Second Life may lead to Virtual Law Suits. Apparently Second Life citizens are copying the AEON chair, and the real manufacturer has opened a stored in Second Life. They have even contacted independent manufacturers and informed them of trademark violations. I wonder if we'll see a virtual law-suit.

read more | digg story

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Where can I get my business idea?

In their latest book, Wikinomics, Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams define what they call Ideagoras. These are virtual places where companies and individual contributors meet to exchange problems and solutions. That is, companies in search for solutions to a specific problem; and also companies with solutions without a problem.
For example, companies like P&G invest millions of dollars in Research and Development, to usually not find a definite application to the thousands of resulting patents. This is where ideagoras come to play. One application is for companies to post problems that they can’t seem to solve, in-house. Looking for individual contributors to proposed an optimal solution. Another application, that I find much more useful for entrepreneurs and what triggered this post, is for companies to offer patents and R&D results that have no apparent use for the originating company. In other words, companies post IP material and offer it to others for commercialization or a business application that they have not thought about.
The database has detailed description of the solution, potential uses and everything needed to replicate it. You might think that it is the same as searching the National Database for Patents, however there are major benefits. First of all, ideagoras are frequented only by companies truly seeking for individuals to license their patents. Therefore you know that you will be able o license it. Also, the ideagora site will serve as intermediary for the transaction. Something similar to what eBay does for auctions. Finally, the database is indexed, categorized, and very simple to use and navigate.
To me, this came as a great revelation. I always struggle with creativity for potential business ideas. I believe that 1/3 of the success of a start-up comes from the idea itself, 1/3 from the execution of the business idea, and 1/3 is luck. What ideagoras bring to the equation is that the first 1/3 can be taken from a database of ideas.
The first website that I have seen with great potential is yet2.com. You register with the accustomed free account, select your preferences for what you want to see in the main page, and you are ready to go. It is important to say that you can perform both activities at yet2.com: you can post problems in search of a solution, or you can request licensing for solutions that do not have a problem.
Certainly, I will be in the lookout for other ideagoras out there. Once you find a good idea, then all that is left is the 2/3 of execution and luck.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Entrepreneurial Vocation

As I signed in to Digg.com, I did a quick search for "entrepreneurship", and found a blog entry on a topic that caught my attention. It refered to the definition of Entreprenurship from a Catholic point of view. I thought it was interesting when they compare the church to an enterprise. It is very inspiring, and for those of you, my readers, that have thought of incorporating your faith with your entrepreneurial instinct, should definitely read the article for inspiration.

The Entrepreneurial Vocation - Acton Institute


I have deviated from my orignal premise about blogging about entrepreneurship in the confluence of Business and Technology. I will start a series of posts about the art of entrepreneurship and high-tech start-ups. You may think, that I haven't done it... and I have not funded a company... therefore we will all learn together.

Monday, October 1, 2007

First Look @ Microsoft Surface Application

I was checking out some articles in Digg this morning, and came across a great in-depth review on the new Microsoft's Surface application. Clieck bellow to read the entire article.

read more | digg story

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Private Equity Eats Avaya for $8.2 Billion and 3Com for $2.2B. Burp.

Money injection is happening in the data and telecom manufacture industry. This is happening because the industry is realizing that the two giants, Cisco and Microsoft, will dominate the exploding Unified Communications arena.
Read the news bellow:

From the original post at TechCrunch: "Two big private equity deals today. Shareholders finally approved the $8.2 billion buyout of Avaya by Silver Lake Partners and the Texas Pacific Group (not bad for an IP phone company that once was part of Lucent). And 3Com, the money-losing maker of computer networking equipment and competitor of Cisco Systems, has agreed to be acquired as well."

read more | digg story

Living "Off the Grid". How hard is it?

I am a big fan of the TV show Survivorman. I found on YouTube, a documentary on what it really takes to live "Off the grid" by the host of Survivorman (Les Stroud). It's 10 episodes and more than an hour long total... but very enjoyable.



For all 10 parts, follow this links: Off the Grid-- all parts 1 through 10

It is no secret that YouTube hosts a lot of copyrighted material that shouldn't be there without permission. Though I didn't upload the video, I am sharing the post with you. I hope this is OK with you, Les.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Careful with what you Web-2.0 about...

When engaging in Web 2.0 in your company, be careful with what Web 2.0 services you enroll to. The idea of getting your company into the big Web 2.0 wave, may get you off track and forget about security sometimes. You may safely use internal tools when constrained inside your company; the ones that you have to be careful with are external tools on the Internet that employees may use.

Some examples are:
Del.icio.us – online bookmarking: careful when bookmarking internal and confidential sites in public sites that share bookmarks
Blogger, etc – online blogs: careful when blogging about proprietary information and information that is not publicly available to the rest of the world.
Netvibes or Google RSS - Online RSS aggregators: careful when aggregating your company's internal feeds, you may be sharing internal and proprietary information with everybody.
Facebook or MySpace – Social networking: Again, just like blogs, careful with what you post about the company.

Like all security practices, common sense is the best defense. Think twice before posting something for everybody to read.

Has China finally matured?

 
A big networking company (3COM) is being acquired by a Chinese company (Huawei).... I wonder how this is going to work out? Is China a manufacturing ground, or is it shifting to an investing and truly mature business ground? Huawei is a pretty big company and key player in the Telecom Manufacturing industry.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Web 2.0 in Video

Here's a video description of how the Web 2.0 is changing us, and how we need to change to survive.




Thanks prof Michael Wesh and YouTube.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Generation Net

According to marketing theory there are several demographic cohorts. These group individuals with generational similarities based on birth year. They go from “Depression cohort” (born from 1912 to 1921), “Post-War cohort” (1928 to 1945), to the famous “Baby Boomers” (1946 to 1964), “Generation X” (1965 to 1976) to the latest “Generation Y” (1984 to 2001). According to Wikipedia, the key characteristics of the Generation Y’ers are the quest for physical security and safety, patriotism, heightened fears, acceptance of change, technically savvy, and environmental issues. Notice that they were born with the rise of the Internet. 

In my opinion, they don’t give enough emphasis on the rise of the Internet to Generation Y’ers. I believe that they should be called the “Generation Net” instead. Young adults that Google for information online, network socially using MySpace and Facebook, send emails rather than letters and Online Postcards rather than classic postcards. They understand what Java is, what Macromedia is used for and the importance of Adobe Acrobat Reader. They did homework reports using MS Word and used Excel for doing their physics graphs. They can find information online in a matter of minutes, sometimes seconds. In other words, they are ultra efficient – in part because of their multitasking practice when listening to the iPod while talking on the mobile phone and chatting with someone online.

For the workforce, Generation Y’ers (or Generation Net’ers, as I’d like to call them) represent the major source of momentum for economic growth. They are efficient and with a ton of energy. This generation will use collaboration as a main weapon of productivity. Every major company in the world ought to have a college graduate program in place to try to retain these individuals as soon as possible. Their potential is much greater than older employees looking for securing a job for life. However, the biggest beneficiaries are the Start-ups and SMB’s. All employees should have fresh ideas, highly effective and risky.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wiki at the company

Wikipedia is the panacea of online collaboration. It is an Encyclopedia that organically gets written by collaborators all over the world. Anyone can edit an article. The natural law of online collaboration, just like pure capitalism and economic laws, ensure that the information is valuable and accurate.

The question is, can a Wiki be of use in the enterprise? The answer is yes.
A Wiki can be used to enhance productivity by enabling collaboration internally. For example, for a software company, software developers can share a space where codes get stored, best practices get fine tuned, diagrams are edited and available for the entire team, and users can post comments or bugs. If your company is in the retail industry, the marketing department can have a Wiki for communicating marketing campaigns, editing logos and ads, consolidating projects data and showing market research output data. If a wiki is used internally, it can enable collaboration and enhance productivity as a by-product of that.

Though a Wiki can also be used externally. That is, for customers to interact with a Business Unit, or with the company directly. Though few companies do this today, you can have customers access a Wiki for providing feedback on your products, requesting support, or just as a communication medium. Then it also becomes a revenue generator tool.

The bottom line, and major benefit of a Wiki is that it is very low maintenance. Unlike a full blown website that has to be designed, encoded, maintained and updated by someone, a Wiki is a framework that is created, maintained and updated by everybody. Instead of having a single person or entity carry the maintenance of it, the law of online collaboration does it all. It is cheap to implement, and enhances productivity.

One great open source platform for running a wiki is Twiki.... and for more information on wikis, got o Wikipedia's definition of a wiki.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

RSS Updates

Administrative update:
I just updated my RSS feed and incorporated postings into my Facebook profile thanks to an application called Flog Blog, developed by Jeffrey Wiens, Justin Rosenthal and Ryan Colwell. Thank you guys.
Don't you love web 2.0 integration?...

The new process for collaboration

I have talked about videconferencing, Telepresence, supporting the green movement by meeting online, how important it is to bridge the distance, and how useful Skype can be. One piece I have not talked about is "the process" per se. What makes it so great? What does it feel like?

To answer that, people might just say "well, to see what it feels like, you gotta do it". I not only encourage you to create an account with a videoconferencing provider, but I would like to take some time to analyse the feeling for it.

This actually came to me, from three events in my recent job. First, internal focus groups conducted by Cisco when Telepresence was to be released, proved that participants would focus on the technology for the first couple minutes, but after a while they would immerse themselves in the meeting and forget it was a Telepresence virtual conference room. Second, personal videoconferences with my family oversees have the same effect. For the first couple of minutes (probably longer with a Skype Webcam than with a Telepresence room) you are playing around with the cameras and making fun of how you look. After that, you move along with your conversations as if they were sitting right there, next to you. Third and finally, I read about how the authors of Wikinomics, the book I am currently reading, used to bring up a Skype session while they worked together.

All's been said so far... you can draw your own conclusions on how this thing works. In a nutshel, collaboration has two stages: (1) the Playing-around stage, and (2) the Productive stage.
The Playing-around stage corresponds to that period of time where you are aware of using an outstanding piece of technology. Therefore you look at the options, customize it, see how it works. The shorter this stage is, the most efficient the product is and the greater the productivity you will obtain. The second phase is when you are actually conducting the meeting, and forgetting that you are connected via the Web.

The more conferencing you do, the faster the playing-around stage will be. The closer to real life the product is, the faster the playing around stage will be. Therefore... if you can't afford a Telepresence unit at your workplace, stick to the same technology and as you get familiar with it you will peak productivity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Videoconferencing from home

I recently tested Skype's webcam feature. Last time I used a webcam over the plain Internet was with the first release of Yahoo Messenger. It was OK, back then. Just slightly slow.
I have to admit that Skype's codecs are great. I think it supports G.711, G729 and iLBC. Though I don't know exactly which one is the one used over the Internet (not G.711 for sure, because it is too fat.) I also don't know anything about the Video codecs... I'll find that out on my free time.
Anyway... I just thought of mentioning that the webcam is great. Very sharp video quality in a low-bandwidth environment (less than 1 Mbps).
[...]
Too technical?... well, I guess all I want to say is that the quality is great. I just wish Skype's client was a bit simpler to use.

Monday, August 27, 2007

How to be part of the Web 2.0 trend?

Some people do it without even knowing that they are going into the Web 2.0 trend. Here are some points on how to be part of it:

  • Edit an article in Wikipedia
  • Write a comment in a blog
  • Join a Social Netowork like LinkedIn or Facebook
  • Watch and upload a video in YouTube
  • Get a free web-based email from Yahoo or GMail
  • Make a free phone call or video-phone call with Skype
  • Read the news via an RSS feed from a major newspaper or news-site
  • Participate in a chat with a virtual-stranger in SecondLife
  • Use Instant Messaging, like Yahoo IM, as a primary source of communication
  • Listen to a podcast
Feel free to add a comment with your way of participating in Web 2.0

Monday, August 20, 2007

Can Facebook be a business tool?

Facebook.com is getting a lot of attention lately. It was said to reject a $1B bid from Yahoo, because its founders believe that it is worth much more than that. According to Alexa's Database, its traffic has tripled in the last three months.

But, when do we think that Facebook.com is going to stop as a web 2.0 tool? People is saying that it will become a tool at the office, as well that as in the home. I say that it will too... it just seems odd to me to have your mom and girl-friend in the same Facebook as your manager and customers. I wonder what a customer might think as when I send him a fish-bowl. Facebook will need to have a "Business" look and feel to succeed in that realm.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Smart phones are not so smart

When you need to buy something, buy what you need and nothing more, nothing less.

My goal, was selecting one mobile phone where I could comfortably synch with my outlook calendar. Notice the wording. It says selecting a mobile phone, therefore it should be a good phone. It should have basic mobile phone features like an address book, speed dials, voice recognition and bluetooth for a handset.
Second, this phone should be comfortable to synchronize and use. That is, the calendar should be in a good readable format, fast, and it must have the ability to synch with outlook, so that I do not have redundant calendars.

Well, in today's smartphone-mania era, it is easy to get immerse in features, and dual-mode phone, and 3G high speed data rate, and ultra slim. Notice that non of those are on my list of requirements. There are a ton of smartphones out there: Nokia, Samsung, Motorola. Every major brand has one. The key in selecting a device, lies in the one that has the best fit for your needs.

Of course, you'll say here "well, Leo, but that is for any purchase that I make". Yes. Absolutely. The problem is that you can very easily fall in the trap of marketing, and think that you want all the bells and whistles.

This happens in corporations and companies too. Technology can be very complicated. That's where vendors come into play, and they recommend products. That should be the product with the best fit for the company's need. So, my advice: when you think about your next big project: go with the vendor that provides a solution to what you want, not to what they tell you that you need.

Oh, and by the way... I got a Samsung Blackjack, which has my second requirement to the perfection. On the other hand, it is an awful phone with not even voice recognition as an option for dialing.

Monday, July 23, 2007

CCIE Certification for Design

A New Cisco CCIE certification may be out there soon: CCIE Network Design

http://www.networkworld.com/newsletters/edu/2007/0716ed1.html

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Seamless roaming or How to get work done in the john

After a lengthy sabbatical, I am back with another wireless post to satiate your appetites. On the heels of Leo's intriguing post about consumer vs. enterprise class products, I thought I would chime in with the wireless slice of the pie and also explain one of the great features to emerge out of the enterprise wireless network- seamless roaming. It is something we take for granted, but a lot of thought goes into ensuring that all the employees stay connected to the wireless network as they roam around the campus and move from access point to access point.

Now some of you are scratching your heads and saying "I can do that with my current wireless network in my house and roam all the way to the backyard!" While that is true, and impressive, you aren't really "roaming" in the wireless sense. You might be physically roaming, but you are still connected to the same AP. In your office building, you might be connected to one AP near your cube, but when the meeting starts and you enter the conference room, you are connected to a totally different AP. If you notice, your computer jumped to an AP that had stronger signal- but you wouldn't notice if you had a cetrally managed wireless control system, whose job it is to manage all the APs and pick up wireless clients seamlessly as they move. Why is this important? Well, if you were to lose the connection to the network everytime you moved around the building, then things just wouldn't be working out very well. Soon, frustration would set in, and everyone would be complaining that they can't get any work done because the wireless network is so terrible. If you would like, here is an experiment to try at your home:

Set up two routers in different parts of your house and make sure that they cannot "see" each other. You should not be able to get any wireless signal where you are setting up the other AP.
Give them both the exact same parameters and start closest to one AP. When your computer associates to that AP, start to move towards the other AP.
As you get closer, you will notice that your computer drops off and has to reassociate to the other AP. You have lost the connection to the first AP and have started a whole new session.
No seamless roaming for you!


In the corporate world, this would not work and IT departments spend lots of time making sure that there is wireless capability everywhere in the building. Even if you have hundreds of access points, unless you have a way to have them talk to each other then you will not be able to seamlessly roam. It is a critical part to the wireless network and along with the site survey should allow you to provide your users with a level of service that rivals that of the wired network.

You might be asking "Why is this important enough to write about? Let's talk about security or Pam Anderson!" The simple reason is that one huge application of roaming is the Voice Over IP. As Wi-Fi phones become ubiquitous in offices and warehouses around the world, seamless roaming is going to take on a more important function in the wireless network. In order to maintain a jitter-free voice connection, you must have a sub-50 milisecond hand-off from AP to AP. There is no time for a disassociation and a reassociation since the call will be dropped. The client will look for the strongest signal and the network has to be able to accomodate that move from one AP to the other without dropping any packets. Everyone knows how embarrassing and frustrating it is to be on their cell phone and have the call drop while you are in the middle of a business meeting.

In order to ensure seamless roaming, it is important that a centralized wireless network be implemented in the organization, not only for management purposes, but because by allowing the wireless controller to manage all the APs, it will be able to handle the sub- 50 milisecond roam that needs to occur to ensure connectivity remains. We will explore the differences between the centralized and autonomous solutions in another posting, but for now be aware that the idea of seamless roaming is the one thing that can dramatically affect productivity in the workplace....along with your ability to work in the john.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Where do consummer products and enterprise products differ?

The whole new iPhone boom made me think of a topic that's been out there for years: What is the difference between a consumer type of product, and an enterprise class product? Say for example, why do companies pay the extra bucks to go for an enterprise level product? why don't they go to Best Buy or Circuit City, and get an eMachines desktop for their employees? Instead they go and pay for expensive Lenovo Thinkpads.

This question arises in networking and IT departments almost daily. A 24 port Linksys switch sold at Best buy costs arond $100. Why does a 24 port Cisco Catalyst switch cost thousands of dollars instead?

Well, lets name a few things here. First, the enterprise product is usually built with industrial level components, whereas the consumer product is built with off-the-shelf chips from discount manufacturers. The consumer product components are of less quality than the enterprise class ones. Then, for example, the Linksys switch is made out of inexpensive chips and components, while the Catalyst switch is made out of industrial components that will last much longer, sustain parameters at higher temperature ranges, and have less probability of failure. That is OK for the consumer buyer. You don't need the Linksys router to last for 20 years.

Second, there is the support or maintenance. If you go for an eMachines at Best Buy, and the hard drive dies, then you are out of luck. If a company purchases Lenovo, there is a maintenance and support contract associated with the product, and in the case of the HDD dying, then Lenovo will provide another one at no extra cost. This is an example, of course; Support contracts vary per vendor.

Finally, some products are simply not design for an enterprise level, from a functionality perspective. Picture driving a Formula 1 race car to work every day. The F1 car is built with industrial type of components, but it was not design to be an every day car. Same thing happens with IT systems; a Cisco router has features and whistles that benefit a specific customer; but not necessarily a consumer.
This last reason is what caused my writing of this posting. Apple is coming with the iPhone, but is it really an enterprise product, or a consumer product? Is it a Toyota Corolla, or is it a McLaren Mercedes?

People want to have a balance between work and personal life. Can there really be a product out there that satisfy both? I think this is a very difficult task. After all, that's why marketing segments markets.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Beta participation? Why?

Tech vendors and manufacturers are always looking for beta testers. Specially companies that are perceived as innovators, and they consider innovation as a competitive advantage. e.g. Cisco, Microsoft, Apple, Oracle....

Beta testers are regular customers (or users) that try out products and features for free, and give feedback to the manufacturer in order to get a better product. The interesting thing is that both parties benefit from the symbiotic relationship: the vendor gets feedback from a real and un-biased customer, while the customer gets to have a direct and closer relationship with the vendor that can lead to free products, deep discount and even voice in the direction of the product.

Sometimes, when we think about beta programs, we tend to think of it as us being users, and wanting to see how the latest and greatest is. Take for example Windows Vista. Some people got a chance to enrol in the program, and had a chance to get a first look of vista. Others tried GMail for several months, before it became available as a full blown supported version. With enterprise level products, the coolness of a product does not produce any benefit. Real benefits come from, getting closer to the vendor, having a voting voice in new product functionalities, and gaining power over the vendor (reducing the barriers of entry)...

Friday, June 22, 2007

Get connect anywhere

I recently started using a great tool to get connected anywhere. It's called iPassConnect by iPass. We use it internally at my company and it has become a key tool for me on my trips.
Whenever I take my laptop with me on a trip, I can launch the client (windows or PDA) application and get a list of public (and partner) WiFi providers and Dial-up providers.
Instead of keeping a long list of dial-up ISP's, or turning on my wireless card in hope of getting access to an Open WiFi network, iPass does it for me. When you travel, you just specify your geographic location, then select a provider from the list, and login with your credentials. It even starts the VPN client for you once you are connected. It's great.
For those of us who don't have a 3G card on the laptop, the benefit is huge. It's not free, though!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Deploying an enterprise network or How to save yourself from sabotaging yourself

So you have taken the plunge- looked at the budget, fielded questions and requests from employees, huddled in conference rooms looking at the one wired computer- and decided that your office or campus could really use a wireless network. So you talk to your Cisco representative and let him know that you are ready to buy some controllers and access points. He or She happily takes your order, shakes your hand, jokingly suggests a dinner, and skips out the door.

Congratulations! You are now the proud owner of a wireless network- soon your employees will be surfing the web, convening for impromptu conferences without worrying if there is a jack to plug into, and interacting more with each other. However there is still lots of work to be done- not necessarily by you, but work nonetheless. It is time for a site survey.

The step is critical yet overlooked by most companies. They simply think you can take an AP out of the box, plug it into the ceiling or wall, and everything will work well. If coverage is spotty, you just take another AP and voila! problem solved. Alas, nothing could be further from the truth. While Wireless Control System (WCS) and other management tools have made it easier to see trouble in the network and Cisco's Auto RF does allow for the network to self-correct, it does not replace the need for a site survey. Many companies try to insist that with their product they have eliminated the need for a site survey, but it is much more than channel assignments and making sure you have an access point outside the boss' office.

I always recommend a good, professional site survey. This is not some co-worker walking around with a laptop scanning for possible signals from Starbucks, the apartment complex across the street, or the one you have hidden under your desk because you at least deserved wireless even if the CIO didn't see it that way. A site survey should start with you contacting a partner who is knowledgable about RF and has dedicated himself to surveying locations and installing APs. These people are not cheap (usually around $5,000-$10,000+), but they will usually guarrantee their work and will make the necessary adjustments and calculations to achieve the best coverage. They use sophisticated equipment to look at the enivronment, taking everything into consideration including usage patterns, worker habits and business practices, and possible interference (like that pesky microwave in the break room). A good survey will usually take a few days to complete and at the end the installer should hand you something close to a book report on what your environment looks like and antenna recommendations and so on. There is a lot of information you can get. Surveyors will also mark off where APs should be placed, possible channel assignments (though most will let the network determine the channel to set it to) and other factors no one takes into consideration.

I know what you are thinking- that seems like a lot of money to spend for a guy to tell me that information. Nothing could be further from the truth. These are the people who will actually get your wireless network to run. Once the network is deployed and you start seeing coverage issues or problems, it is already too late to make major adjustments (and considerably more expensive). I am constantly visiting customer sites where they simply took an AP and placed them around the building and are starting to have issues ranging from coverage, interference, bandwidth, and placement. When I walk in, the first thing I usually ask is if they did a site survey. If they have, then I can look at the plan that the sureyor put together and see what happened. This happens 1% of the time. The other 99% of the time I get a blank look and a mumbled answer of "I used Airmagnet." Those 99% always have network problems because they don't know what to look for when planning the network. There truly is a lot to think about. The people who do a site survey have great wireless networks because they took the time, resources, and energy to do everything properly.

Allow me to leave you with this example. When you buy a car, you don't just go to the dealer and pick up the car without asking questions and then worry about problems as they come up (if you do, I have a car that is perfect for you). Instead, you do research, perhaps buy some consumer reports, consult with other people, and even figure out pricing and options you want so that when you walk into the dealership you have all the information you need to buy the car. But that's not all. The crucial step is that you also take the car out for a test drive. You have all this information about the car, but you haven't sat behind the wheel and pressed on the gas. And when you do the test drive, you don't just take it around the dealership parking lot and make a decision. You take it on the road, open it up on regular streets, and see how it performs under regular conditions. It is like you are site surveying your car. Skip that step and you have no idea if your car is going to perform as you would like it to. Skip a site survey and you will end up with a wireless network that belongs in the junk heap as well.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Touch based computing and digital signage... no keyboards needed


Touch-based computing is technologically feasible today. It all started with the magic wheel of the iPod. That marvelous wheel that you can roll without rolling; by just touching it. After that, came the big news about the iPhone, with a touch-based interface to the phone. Finally, last week, Microsoft announced what they call "touch screen computing": a computer with the shape of a table, and that you interact with it through drag-and-dropping with your fingers.

If you stop for a moment and think about it, computers are no longer just Personal Computers and application servers. They are becoming part of our everyday lives, and new applications come and go.

Of particular interest is the upcoming Digital Signage industry: where high-definition flat screens display any content that a company may want.

What does this tipping point in computing mean for your business? - well, your company can make use of computers like never before... you can make marketing more effective by displaying dynamic content in your retail stores (e.g. imagine that your local supermarket having information about new products and special offers displayed in the shopping car). Not only that, but also productivity can be improved for your everyday tasks (e.g. imagine that your restaurant has tables with touch screen computing, and your customers order directly from a menu that pops up on the table screen).

We are definitely seeing another avenue for innovation and technology. Web 2.0 might be driving the effort to make the Internet industry evolve..... the computing industry is also changing.

More green sites

These are two great links that I recently found:
Yahoo's Be a Better Planet and Global Green USA....
Expect more postings on this subject... :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's note easy being green

Conservationism (or how they are calling it today: Been Green) has come a long way in the last couple of years. As the concern for global warming and horrible irreversible consequences grow, people (and companies!) have changed the perception for conservationism.
Being green is no longer for "tree-huggers from the Sierra Club" or 'Hippies from California". The thread is a proved reality, and it is very easy to become green.

First I must briefly address the why. Why do something for the environment?. Well, first of all, because we care for the future and it is the right thing to do. Period. Just like you don't through your garbage out of the car window in the middle of the road. Also, and sometimes more importantly for the extreme capitalist, because you can save some money. Do the math, when saving on electricity, you pay less for it. Duh. (As you can see, in reality, the leftists and rightist meet somewhere in the middle, when it comes to conservationism.... though I will not go that route).

Second, what does becoming green imply? - well, I am sure that everybody is expecting me to write no about the famous: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. In reality, there is so much more to it....

For individuals, it is relatively easy to comprehend what our role must be, and how we can be proactive. Well, yes, we can (1) consume only the necessary resources by, for example, generating as little as possible trash or shutting off the light when we leave the room [reduce], (2) avoid disposable products as much as possible [reuse], and (3) collaborate with society by recycling [recycle].

Ok, that's great and seems relatively simple. However, for companies to go "green", it is a little harder. Yes, companies are the ones that can have a greater impact in the whole issue. They can not only turn off the lights of the corporate office at night and save a ton of money, but they can also create a tipping point in the whole industrial revolution.

Companies must modify the whole concept of "Product Life-Cycle". They must design products, not just to be recycled, but moreover to have a positive impact in the environment. Product designers have to be able to look further into the future of their products, and instead of thinking about product life cycle as a succession of finite stages, they should be thinking about as a virtuous circle. As a product reaches an end of a particular functional life, it is reborned into a different and beneficial functional life.

For [a crazy] example, today, when a product designer sits down to design a pen, he or she thinks about the classic New Product Development stage where there is no revenue generated, then it moves to a market introduction and growth stage, to finalize in mature and decline stages. He or she builds the product to move thorough those waves, and does not think about what happens once it reaches the end of the ride. Instead, the designer should look at the pen, and think about what other uses the pen could have for another function that is not just writing in paper. Maybe the ink inside the pen could be a natural fertilizer, so that if you write in a piece of special "organic" paper, once the written paper is discarded and put underground, it can germinate into a tree. Notice that we've reached full circle and the thing that once was a tree is back to be a tree. Also notice that the same designer had to devise a "living" piece of paper that is based out of seeds that can become living trees. I have to make clear that this does not mean simply designing a product to be recycled in the future (Or how they call it, downcycle). Rather it is a matter of the product having a 100% positive impact in the environment afterwards; not a reutilization of the same good into another good. Another brief example would be T-shirts made out of positive biodegradable fibers. They don't have to be natural fibers!, they can be synthetic fibers, as long as they can be absorbed by a living being (maybe even eaten by a human!)

This is the tipping point that I am talking about: If all companies adapt their designs, and we break the paradigm of having a finite product life cycle, and we make it a virtuous product life circle, we can truly have impact in the economy and the environment. Again, this is not just incorporating "recycling potential" into the picture. I am talking about positive feedback for the environment. Then, we could finally reach the confluence of business and nature.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Rich-Media Collaboration: Voice+Video+Web Conferencing

I always mention that the general business model is getting global (now I say it's also getting green, but that is something for a future posting). Some proof is that we have a global work-force, mobile workers, and we have to be faster than ever to be competitive. This time, I want to talk a little bit about how to collaborate more effectively: thru Rich-Media Collaboration mechanisms.


There are three types of conferencing solutions that a business can have:

  1. Adhoc: is used when you want to conference on the spot. For example, when you want a three party phone conversation, you call one person, and then click the "Conference" button and call a third person to join. Cellphone companies and telcos call it three-way-calling. Although, with Adhoc conferences you can have more than three people. The idea is that it is a "push" effect, where the user generates the conferences on the spot.
  2. Reservationless: is used for when you all agree to virtually "meet at a conference room". In other words, all participants call a specific telephone number, and join the conference.
  3. Scheduled: This is what is mostly used in a company. The meeting organizer generates an invitation that gets sent to everyone, for a specific time/date. Then everyone calls the meeting phone number at that specific time. For example, you can integrate it with Outlook or Lotus Notes.
Traditionally, when we think of a teleconference, we think about a voice conference. When we have IP as the foundation network, we can enhance the experience endlessly. Now we can introduce, not only video into the picture; but we can also have Web collaboration to create a full virtual conferencing environment.

If we go in order of "user experience" or "look-and-feel", we have (1) voice conference, (2) web collaboration, (3) Video conference and, finally, (4) TelePresence. Most companies today get to a level 2, with something like WebEx.

The principal benefits of having a full-blown virtual collaboration space are:
  • Enables organizations to communicate more effectively and streamline business processes
  • Moving on-network implies key cost savings and productivity enabler
  • Reduced travel: Increase sales, support, meeting, and training effectiveness


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Green Technology Reference Blog

As I prepare a posting on Green initiatives and conservationism, I want to point out to a great blog that I found out a couple of weeks ago:
News.com - Green Tech Blog

Monday, April 23, 2007

802.11n- making sure everyone forgets about 802.11a

Every meeting I attend I get asked the same question right at the onset- "What about 802.11n?" My first response is usually "What about it?" followed by "What do you know about it?" I would usually dismiss these questions as merely knowledge-gathering questions if it were not for the potential purchasing ramifications.

Many people see 802.11n as the wireless technology that is going to finally make it possible for them to get HD video, VoWLAN calls, and all sorts of multimedia traffic at the same time on their computer. After all, the draft plans call for the technology to offer close to 120Mbps of throughput (of course that is the "in-a-vacuum" spec, much like the 54Mb for 802.11a/g). This fire is further fueled by the fact that every month sees the passing of a draft resolution and companies are starting to release 802.11n APs and client cards. This makes it seem that resolution of the debates and the emergence of a draft standard are right around the corner. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

It is pretty clear that 802.11n is going to incorporate something called Multiple In/Multiple Out technology, allowing for "full duplex" via wireless. Remember, wireless is a half-duplex technology. With an association to an AP or radio, you can either transmit or receive at any time, you can't do both. 802.11n has promised to change that- by utilizing more channels at the same time and therefore allowing one to transmit on one channel and receive on the other. I won't deny- it is very exciting and the possibilities are there. However, people tend to overlook that the possibilities are already here now- they exist in the red-headed stepchild known as 802.11a.

802.11a made its debut in the consumer market around the same time as 802.11b and was much more expensive. Then 802.11g came out and everyone thought that they were getting everything they would get with 802.11a plus compatibility with 802.11b. The only difference is that because 802.11a is in the less crowded 5.8Ghz space and has more non-overlapping channels compared to the three for the 2.4Ghz range where 802.11b/g reside, it tends to work much better- there is simply less potential interference from other devices (Quick sidenote: try this experiment- set your 802.11b/g channel to 11 and go into your kitchen with your laptop. Turn on your microwave and look what happens to your wireless signal or your ability to send/receive data). Anyway, because 802.11a received such a tepid response, people still tend to ignore it and believe that 802.11n is going to fix all the problems they have with 802.11b/g.

The key question to ask, is what are you currently doing or wish to do that you cannot do with 802.11a? Given the much more open space in the 802.11a range, one can reach high throughput speeds allowing them to do most of the things they desire with 802.11n. Plus, no one is quite sure how 802.11n is going to work within a mixed environment. On its own, 802.11n will give you great results, but in a mixed environment it will have to drop significantly to give equal time to the other clients (much like 802.11g has to do for 802.11b).

Further complicating the issue, is that 802.11n will not work with the same 802.3af Power over Ethernet that is currently being used by companies everywhere. The radios require too much power to drive the MIMO technology and will need to have power adapters until the new PoE standard is adopted. The infrastructure costs to companies alone will be quite huge, and there will not even be a great benefit because true 802.11n clients are not going to be out until the tail end of 2008. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, unless you are in a n-only environment, you are not going to get all the throughput you desire.

"But what about all those wireless routers at Best Buy?" you ask. Well, those are based on the pre-draft standard, and given the number of changes being made on an almost monthly basis, the purchases you make now might not be a simple firmware upgrade to get to the released draft standard. Also, you are probably not running anything in your house that requires such a speedy wireless connection. I currently run 802.11g-only environment, and I get more than enough throughput to satisfy all my needs. The key is to make sure and select the least congested channel (I suggest channel 1) and making sure that you try and get rid of all the b clients in your environment so that you don't have to lower throughput to accommodate for them. In an office environment, look to 802.11a- you can run it over the existing PoE and can also take advantage of the less crowded bandwidth. The performance limitations that exist for 802.11g are not there for 802.11a because it runs on its own radio.

I know I sound like I am pessimistic on 802.11n, but I assure you I await its arrival like everyone else. The misconception is that one should put off wireless investments today to wait for the 802.11n standard to be release in 1.5 years from now. That is the big mistake- the cost to your company will far outweigh any benefits that you will see from the technology. It is not the hardware that drives the moves to new technology, but consumer need and the applications. Eventually you will need it- there is no doubt, but 802.11a can handle everything presently and into the foreseeable future.

Wireless in the city

http://www.networkworld.com/news/2007/042307-wi-fi-cloaks-the-city-of.html

The debate on Municipal Networks has a long history... though, wouldn't we all like to live in a completely Wired City? How about London?

Friday, April 20, 2007

Ten servers for the price of one... almost.

Server Virtualization is here to stay. VMWare is a great application. Now that we have dual core and quad core servers, is like having multiple CPU's in a single chassis. Well, Server Virtualization means literary that: having multiple servers (each one with its own OS) in a single chassis.

Corporations are enjoying the benefits of managing a single hardware, while dealing with as many as ten virtual servers on that hardware: better Return on Investment, lower Total Cost of Ownership, simpler administration and easier upgradeability are just a handful of those benefits. The value proposition that VMWare brings is tremendous.

Any drawbacks? - a perceived one is the limited bandwidth that those servers will "share". People think that a server typically has one GigabitEthernet interface (i.e. 1 Gbps), therefore when virtualizing it into 10 servers, each virtual server will have to share the one Gigabit connection. Well, that is true; though the beauty is in that you can have multiple GigabitEthernet interface in a platform. As many as you want. Therefore you can link ten 1Gbps interface, and aggregate all the bandwidth.

Another great component of virtualization kicks in: blade switches. This is a switch for your specific server at the data center to avoid installing several GigabitEthernet interfaces. The switch goes straight into the blade server where the virtualization will take place; not connected to the server, but rather connecting the server to the network.

Major benefits? - provide an integrated switching solution which dramatically reduces cable complexity and offer consistent network services like high availability, quality of service and security. All directly to the blade.
As you can probably see, Virtualization can be complex in itself.... though expect to see a lot more of that in the nearby future. We'll probably have virtual desktops at home soon!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Vonage is out!

http://www.usatoday.com/money/industries/telecom/2007-04-15-vonage-usat_N.htm

I believe Vonage will be out later this year, or maybe next year. To me, this is a similar case to what happened to Napster in 2000. This time, is Verizon driving the doom of Vonage.

Now, a lot of people is wondering if this is going to impact Internet Telephony in general. Well, I really think that it will impact it, though not in a definite way. When Napster was taken out of the cyber-map, did that stop file sharing?... not really. Now we have Limewire, gnutella and other technologies. It is probable that the same will happen to Internet telephony: Vonage will be gone, but others will find workarounds on time. We may be able to see a Broadvoice, Packet-8, or Skype survive.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Cisco's position on Net Neutrality

Net Neturality keeps coming up as a hot and controversial topic.Well, I found a great position and I want to share it.
Regulate only if necessary:

Cisco's Position on Net Neutrality
[http://newsroom.cisco.com/dlls/2006/corp_031506b.html]

Friday, April 6, 2007

LAN/WAN/VoIP in a box

As announced in NetworkWorld, Cisco recently released the LAN/WAN/VoIP ultimate integration for the small and medium office. Small offices don't have to pay tens of thousands of Dollars for getting a solid IP Telephony key system, with Power over Ethernet switches, and IP Phones.


The products: UC-500 (small form-factor IP Based Key System), CE-500 (Catalyst LAN switches with PoE) , and AP-500/WLC-500 (compact and inexpensive wireless Access Points and Controller).

Key Benefits:

  • Inexpensive
  • Latest and greatest technology: IP Telephony with SIP/SCCP, Voice-Mail, PoE Switch, Wireless 802.11a/b/g
  • Full support from an enterprise level company: Cisco
  • Super easy to manage

Monday, April 2, 2007

Web 2.0 - Why do we need software anymore?

Web 2.0 is truly transforming the software application's industry. A couple of years ago, the hot topic was that Google Spreadsheet will kill Microsoft Office's Excel application. And then Microsoft said that Windows Live will provide word processing, spreadsheets and presentations on a hosted model. All that is possible thanks to Web 2.0.

YouTube, Netvibes, Del.icio.us, Google Maps, and Windows Live are some of the player in the revolution. I realized the other day that I am progressively and subconsiously moving to the Web 2.0 model: I use LinkedIn to keep my contacts in order, I use Netvibes as my online based RSS reader to read the news online every day, I use webmail for my personal email, I use jajah.com to make phone calls over the Internet. Eventually, the entire OS will be online! Video Games are now played online, there are online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon.com. There is even a parallel universe called Second-Life.

In the future, corporations will move into that direction (remember my posting on who creates demand these days). They will use online spreadsheets, online word processing, salesforce.com for CRM, and an online based PBX for managing their telephony system. The small fish will start deploying the great Web2.0 model. It is left to see if big enterprises will go that road... probably all these services and applications can be hosted in the companies data center, managed by IT. This is way into the future now. For now, I believe enterprises do not see the value of going into that model... Salesforce.com is the best example of a successful model for companies. They are growing very fast, and people is seeing this as a good alternative to large scale CRM applications like Oracle or SAP. It is much simpler for the user, and easier to manage by the IT department.

Another great example is NetSuite. They are an online based accounting provider. Picture it as a QuickBooks online, where you can track coporate expenses, revenue, profit, and maintain all your companies accounting. Big companies are starting to spot NetSuite as an alternative.

The benefit is definitely out there.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Is the future of Internet Telephony clouded by politics and regulations?

Going back to some of my favorite topics, as some of you know, there was a recent ruling against Vonage for patent infringement that dictates that Vonage will have to pull the plug from the PSTN by April this year. Naturally, that hit Vonage's stock hard (yet again!) and people started speculating that this decision will impact the whole Internet telephony industry forever...

Well, first of all, this is nothing different than another legal battle that will lead to appeal after appeal. Second, we know for certain, that the FCC will get into it, defending Vonage as a non-telecommunications carrier, but rather a data company (some of you may know that the telecommunications act of 1996 clearly separates a Telecommunications Service provider like Verizon from a Data Service Provider like Vonage or any regular Internet ISP). Furthermore, the consumer will get into the fight... after all, Vonage has about 2 million users.

I foresee that the whole debate will trigger new discussions over not only the famous Net Neutrality, but also the Computer Inquiries, new Intercarrier Compensation schemes, and specially the new proposal of Horizontal Regulation.

As it affirmed in the 1996 Communications Act, in section 230(b)(2), the US will "preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet and other interactive computer services". This was targeted to VoIP services like Vonage, and hoping to keep them unregulated... Verizon and the Communication Services folks don't want that, naturally. If you notice, the whole language is very broad, left to interpretations. Therefore the FCC asked for comments on what is called Horizontal Regulation.

Horizontal Regulation adopts the layered model of the OSI model for networking. It is what is called a layer-oriented regulation model. Instead of separating voice (communication services) from data (data services), the model suggests building layers for each model. So there would be upper layers for "services" and "applications" like for example voice-mail offerings, or video streaming. All that running on top of other more fundamental layers as in the physical medium used to transport the service. Then regulators at the FCC would determine which layers are subject to regulation.

Of course, this brings multiple concerns because it is a completely new approach to the original act, and implies full rewrite.

This will be an interesting battle. Let's see if the industry wants to start getting aggressive again, or if the Internet Telephony folks loose to the incumbent triple-play players...

[As a reference, if you are interested in how to model the layered-model of regulation, I found this great paper by prof. H.E. Hanrahan ]

Thursday, March 29, 2007

This posting will self-destruct in 3...2...1...

For the paranoid type, there is a service that I found called VaporStream (https://www.vaporstream.com/ ). This is quite a controversial security service that claims it makes possible to send an email that leaves no record of their existence for confidentiality purposes. Messages sent using VaporStream can be viewed but not forwarded or copied. Also the sender and recipient information is not on the email (for protection of the identity!?!?) .

An individual subscription costs about $40 per year.

So, is this for "confidential messaging" or for "Spam availability to the masses"???

I also found this Self-Destruct email service. You would be surprised, but there are in fact several companies that offer the service. Are you willing to make a time-bomb of your email for pseudo-security reasons?... how about leaving a trace of your email on the service provider's servers??? can they truly guarantee that???

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Who's ready for VoWLAN?

A cheery hello from the warming North (so now Leo can stop bragging about Florida). As the weather has turned more conducive to outdoor activities, I have noticed more and more mesh customers are starting to ask about voice over wireless. Similar to its Voice over IP sibling, voice over wireless has been plagued by misinformation, bandwidth issues, and usability concerns. However, VoWLAN is around the corner and several handset makers are already making 802.11 or dual-mode handsets. Cisco has two 802.11 phones. The first one, the 7920 suffered from design and performance issues, but those problems were corrected with the 7921. It would behoove us to understand what the early problems were and why I believe that VoWLAN will soon be a reality.

First off, I am not talking about Skype, Vonage or any of those types of service if used on your computer. They do fall under the category of VoIP and subsequently VoWLAN, but I want to deal with the more impending issue of talking AND walking. Currently, you can open your computer at any wireless hotspot, fire up skype and talk to your friends- it's not that big a deal. As long as there is enough bandwidth and some measure of Quality of Service (don't worry, there usually is), you'll be fine.

Since people like to use their cellphones so much, there is going to be a booming market (unless the cell carriers try to block it) of VoWLAN phones. However, the issue is not how to do the call and be able to talk to someone, but instead, how do you walk around the city while staying on that same call? Remember, for people to consider this a success and have widespread adoption, the call quality and reliability must rival that of cell phones (which, even with all the dropped calls and static have come a long way in the last few years).

In mesh deployments, Cisco currently does not support VoWLAN, because we have no way of guaranting the level of service. However, as dual-mode phones and phones with a/b/g radios become more prevelant, we are going to see consistent levels of service. Most of these phones are going to play in the 802.11a radio spectrum, and with the enhanced abilities of fast roaming (a topic which must be discussed in the future), we can have clients roam from AP to AP and not drop packets. With the 1500 AP, we have tested it on courses with cars in excess of 100mph staying connected to the network and easily hopping from AP to AP. The issue of roaming has been the one thing holding back VoWLAN. We have been able to do it in office buildings for some time because there are few areas without coverage and people did not need to roam off one AP to another. Outdoors it is a different matter entirely

In addition to roaming, great strides have been made in offering quality of service through wireless. Similar to the wired network, we can tag frames and give them special priority through the controller. So while it is true that all packets and frames are competing for the same space, some of those frames are getting more help.

In conclusion, it is not a crazy idea that you will be talking on a phone outside that will not be linked up to a cell tower but instead to the coffee shop network. Phones that are both cell phones and wi-fi phones are already hitting the market, but are going to take off once wireless mesh networks really start to take off. We shall be covering mesh networks in a later segment- but for now, allow your thoughts to entertain VoWLAN..

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Teleworker Resources and News

I just thought of toping it up with some good references to other online articles and news. There is a great article about it on BusinessWeek and if you haven't heard, Cisco just announced that it agreed to acquire WebEx. The official release can be found here.

Teleworker Guide - Management

To close the series on Teleworking, I will talk about Management. How do you manage all the systems involved on a Teleworker solution?... we have VPN's, NAC, Wireless, IP Telephony, and Unified Communications.... lots of systems. And as you probably know already, the more global the company is, and the more of this systems are in place, the greater the need for a centralized and intuitive management solution.

You need to take into account that in reality you are to manage a suite of products. For example, for the IP telephony piece, you manage your Communications Manage, dial plans, Voice-Mail storage and servers, and also end-points (e.g. physical IP Phones and Soft-phones). Also, for your wireless solution you must manage your SSID provisioning and centralized deployment, and also the end points (e.g. Access Points). You must understand the size of the monster that it could become. Although, you should not be scared of deploying it! Teleworker can be (and should be!) deployed phased out. Say for example, first the VPN and NAC must be rolled out to the users, and once the system is stable and manageable Wireless and IPT can be installed.

Although, it is important to understand that as things get messy and complex, cost of operation and maintenance goes up. Therefore, the big benefit of a centralized management system in place is to contain that cost from offsetting all the benefits that you get from the Teleworker solution. In summary, if you want any of the following, you should get a centralized management solution:

  • Lower and Contained operational cost - as the system gets larger, it gets more costly to manage
  • Free-up some personnel - IT Department may spend more time in other tasks
  • Reduction of business down-time - Greater optimization and design due to appropriate design practices reduces potential problems that lead to business down-time

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Teleworker Guide - Unified Communications

This week the largest technology conference in IP Telephony took place in Orlando, FL. VoiceCon groups the most important vendors, entrepreneurs, and leaders in the industry.
This year's topic... is all about Mobility and Unified Communications.


Unified Communications is not IP Telephony. IPT is one of the blocks in the whole picture... when we say Unified Communications, we mean the integration of different communication channels to interoperate and facilitate communications to increase productivity. Usually, all that runs on top of a robust IP network.

The integration happens with any channel that you may imagine: voice (telephone), voice-mail, Instant Messaging, E-mail, RF Radio, Cellular, web (blogs!), etc… picture listening to your voice-mail as an attachment on your email. Or imagine having a FAX read to you over the phone. Or imagine having an officer, talking on his Push-to-talk radio with a fireman in California.

Some of the benefits are:
  • Increased employee productivity
  • Increased efficiency and response time
  • Reduction of mistakes and issues caused by communication gaps
Therefore, for your teleworking solution it is key to have the most efficient communication with your geographically distributed team. You must maximize the investment by having the most efficient communication possible. After all, you need to replicate a real office, where you can just walk around to a particular cube and discuss an issue in person. With an efficient communication suite, you can replicate that by having a presence server on an Instant Messaging application, and knowing in advance if the remote worker is on the phone, or if he is just not in his desk. Instead of leaving a post-it note on his desk, you can leave him a voice-mail with a “call me when you get back”.