Archive for July 2012

This morning Oracle announced the acquisition of Xsigo Systems and there has been a frenzy of media coverage around it, primarily because it follows VMware’s acquisition of Nicira, creating speculation of future acquisitions and many implications to the future of IT. However, some of the positioning of this acquisition was just flat out wrong.

I first want to dispel some of the myths about what Xsigo does and the type of vendor it is. I’ve seen it compared to other SDN vendors, such as Nicira and Big Switch, but Xsigo is not an SDN vendor. From a very high level I would agree that Xsigo creates virtual network connections through software, so I guess it may be technically correct, but it isn’t an OpenFlow-based software controller that can automate the configuration of network changes, which is what “SDN”s have largely become. Xsigo is virtual I/O. The company sits between servers, storage and network infrastructure and virtualizes I/O connections, and does a great job of it.

The summer Olympics in London kick off with the opening ceremonies this Friday, and this year’s games will be different than the Beijing Games for a number of reasons. Back in 2008, smartphones were a rarity, “iPad” wasn’t a word heard outside of Apple, and Facebook was something just a few college kids used. This year’s Olympics is expected to attract about 4 million spectators, more than 15,000 Olympic and Paralympic athletes and countless members of the media covering the event.

Needless to say, high-quality, continuously available communications is an absolute must for the 2012 Olympic games, as the use of Twitter, Facebook, Skype, VoIP, Video and other communication services will be at an all-time high. Solving such a challenge is as difficult as beating Usain Bolt in the 100m sprint, as the network capacity is expected to be 7-10 times that of the last summer Olympic games. This is the task placed upon British Telecom (BT).

The promise of fully interoperable, enterprise-wide video has been much more a vision than a reality over the past decade. Why? Because it’s a really hard problem to solve.

H.323 has been around since the late 90s, and both the market leaders, Cisco and Polycom have subsequently submitted proposed standards to help bring interoperability to video. Additionally, there are a number of cloud-based video providers such as Vidtel, BlueJeans and Glowpoint that have built robust service offerings to help solve the interoperability challenge. Despite these efforts, video interoperability remains limited, albeit much better than it used to be. In fact, today my Cisco Callway end point connected to Polycom, Vidtel and Cisco, so there is progress being made.

On Monday, startup Vidyo released the VideoWay service, which the company is positioning as the panacea to all business video problems. According to a blog on the Vidyo website, “VidyoWay addresses ALL three factors of cost, complexity, and limited connectivity for legacy devices to remove the barriers to enterprise visual collaboration more effectively than any other solution in the market.” Let’s read that again: “VidyoWay address ALL factors that limit connectivity.” Not bad for a startup considering much bigger companies have been working on this challenge for years.

Earlier this month HP quietly announced the end-of-sale for the VCX IP PBX that was part of its portfolio from the acquisition of 3Com. The end-of-sale date is expected to be December 2012 and puts to rest any speculation that HP might try and revive that product and move into the VoIP/UC space.

The company announced it would support existing customers for the next five years, but the product is, for all intents and purposes, walking the “Green Mile” to death row.

From a personal standpoint, it’s sad to see this product get put out to pasture. Although Cisco, Microsoft and Avaya take most of the VoIP/UC headlines today, it was 3Com that was one of the early pioneers in the space. The 3Com NBX was an unbelievable product in its day. Great quality, easy to set up and helped legitimize VoIP. However, 3Com had run into some financial struggles and then CEO Bruce Claflin chose to sell off Commworks but kept the Commworks soft switch to be an enterprise-class IP PBX, which eventually became VCX.

Cisco added to its long list of acquisitions after recently plucking off Silicon Valley-based Virtuata. Virtuata is a provider of virtual machine and cloud security and will be incorporated into Cisco’s data center group, which is run by former Q-Fabric chief David Yen. No financial details were given but the company only has 15 people, so it’s likely to be a relatively small deal for Cisco.

This is typical of Cisco, which either buys large, market-leading firms like Tandberg or WebEx, or very small technology companies that can be dropped into existing business units. Considering the Obama administration has yet to grant a repatriation holiday, and is unlikely to prior to the election, this is likely to be what we will continue to see from Cisco regarding domestic acquisitions.

This move makes sense for Cisco for a number of reasons. First, security remains the biggest inhibitor to cloud and virtual environments, so adding a security product into the mix makes total sense. Virtuata is also a technology company, making integration into Cisco’s existing products such as its Unified Computing System (UCS) and Nexus-based Fabric much easier than if it had been a product company with a large install base.

The underlying theme: “To make video collaboration ubiquitous”.

This morning Polycom issued a bevy of press releases in support of its RealPresence platform launch, which includes solutions for its traditional Enterprise customers, Service Providers and the mobile industry. The underlying theme for all of their announcements today is the statement: “To make video collaboration ubiquitous”. Seems simple enough, doesn’t it? Make video something everyone can use independent of device, network, protocol or application.

While this vision is an easy one to throw out there and say, the idea of pervasive, ubiquitous–or whatever you want to call it–video has been something we, as an industry, have talked about for years now but have made very little headway in achieving.

Despite the lack of movement in the past, I do think times are changing and the video industry is collectively working towards the vision of ubiquitous video. Today’s enterprise, service provider, and mobile announcements are strong proof points that Polycom is finally starting to walk the walk to make video pervasive.

I’m not sure what happened to the IT mindset this year but it seems BYOD has gone from something that most IT departments are trying to avoid to something that tops most IT priority list. Perhaps it’s the result of better MDM tools, pressure from the business leaders, or maybe just a willingness to admit that it’s the way things are now.

Whatever the case, a switch flipped, and ZK Research shows that fewer than 20% of companies actually oppose BYOD. That means for every five companies out there, four are embracing it.

So what happens after BYOD is put in place? Now companies have, what, 3, 4 or 5 times as many devices to manage? That means with an employee growth number of zero, IT departments have to manage up to 500% more devices. Now, think of the impact that has on the network. DHCP servers get slammed, DNS requests go through the room, the number of IP addresses jumps an order of magnitude, devices have to be assigned to VLANs and then reassigned as that worker moves through the company. Then all of that information needs to be updated and kept in sync.

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