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Archive for July 2011

Having Dell in networking creates another significant competitor to Cisco and HP; this will further innovation, which is good for everyone.

On Wednesday July 20, Dell ended months, even years of speculation surrounding its entry into the networking market by announcing its intention to buy Force10. Over the past year or so, Dell has steadily been hiring network talent from all of the major networking vendors to bolster its expertise in this area. Clearly, Dell didn’t hire a bunch of high-level network engineers, marketing people, and other folks just to sell PowerConnect and OEM a number of other switching vendors.

The rumors of Dell’s acquisition of Force10 seemed to peak around Interop (I guess that’s what happens when you put thousands of network people in the same place for that many days) but the names Extreme and Brocade were also thrown around. Anyway, Force10 it is, so here are my thoughts on the deal.

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Back in March, I wrote a blog post about Extreme Networks new positioning around mobility.  This was a very bold move for Extreme considering they are best known as a wired switching vendor.  However, the repositioning of the company is consistent with Yankee Group’s vision of mobility being redefined, with the wired network playing a key role in that redefinition.

This week, Extreme announced the expansion of their product line introducing the “Ethernet Access Switch” (EAS) to deliver cost effective access for corporate networks.  The concept of the EAS is similar to the concept of a wireless access point.  That is a company would build a robust network with a rock solid core and LAN edge and then extend the network to an access edge for the various devices to attach to.  Because of the impact of consumerization, much of the focus of building an access edge has been on building a wireless access edge but there are still millions of devices that connect over the wired network.  The best way to think about it is that organizations will use wireless APs to build out their wireless access edge and EAS switches for their wired access edge.

The Extreme EAS is a switch that has been feature optimized specifically for access, so it has layer two and layer three options, Gig-E connectivity, optional POE+ and QoS.

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A tablet is a great, maybe the best, display tool. However, for any of us that don’t just consume information but have to create it, it’s not a great device.

One of the most interesting items at Cisco Live 2011 was, of course, the Cisco Cius tablet. It’s been talked about and shown before at some events, but I think this is the first time so many people had access to be able to touch and play with the device. In addition, most of the support people directing you around the Mandalay Bay event center were using a Cius to look up information and direct people around, making the Cius even more prominent. If Cisco wanted to use Live as a way of showcasing the Cius, they certainly did do a great job of it.

However, despite the hype and popularity of tablets today, the tablet hasn’t really replaced anything, as people still carry laptops and smart phones, so it’s become just something else to lug around. I carry both and I know a lot of other people that do too. So what’s holding tablet computing back from being a viable replacement for laptops? I believe it’s the input interface.

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If Cisco executes on what Chambers talked about, the company will be a much leaner, focused execution machine.

Cisco Live! kicked off on the morning of July 12 in Las Vegas. Obviously with all the controversy and speculation surrounding Cisco over the past year, all eyes were on the Chambers keynote to get some idea of what the “new Cisco” looks like. Overall, I thought Chambers did a good job of outlining the direction of Cisco but I did think there were some open questions that still lingered.

From an overall corporate standpoint, Chambers stated that the next generation of Cisco has three main corporate priorities. They are:

* Deepening customer relationships
* Faster innovation
* Simplified operations

These all make sense, but Chambers summed up what this means to Cisco nicely by saying that “the speed of decision is the number one thing I want to see improved”. This is a curious statement since the “boards and councils” model of running Cisco was supposed to be the thing that sped up decision making. From my conversations with Cisco leaders over the past year or so, it appears that the boards and councils approach ran its course and now it’s time for a change.

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Being able to address nomadic E-911 for Microsoft Lync is a good example of what you can do when the network that supports VoIP is end-to-end IP.

For years, the terms VoIP and convergence were used hand in hand. In fact, much of the early value proposition of VoIP was centered on convergence–that is, the ability to take two networks and converge them down to a single network. My stance on this is that the value proposition of VoIP should never have been about convergence. If the world really wanted convergence then ATM would have won out decades ago.

So what’s the difference between ATM based convergence and what we do today? The answer is that ATM converged things at layer 2 where VoIP does it at layer 3 and being able to do things at the IP layer is the real value of VoIP. I’ve always contended that when you can do things over IP, the service becomes much more interesting because it maintains state, it’s dynamic and resilient. However, it needs to be end-to-end IP and not IP at the edges and layer 2 in the middle.

This recent announcement of Level 3 being able to address nomadic E-911 for Microsoft Lync is a good example of what you can do when the underlying network that supports VoIP is end-to-end IP.

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