Archive for March 2013

The annual Enterprise Connect event was held in Orlando last week. I had a number of speaking slots at the event, including as one of the panelists on the final session of the conference, the Locknote. One of the questions that co-chair Fred Knight asked me was what was new at this year’s event, to which I responded that I hope the term “conferencing” is stricken both from our vocabulary and our corporate collaboration tools. Conferencing tools are typically single-purpose tools that aren’t integrated with any other collaboration tool. Think of the audio conferencing bridge that you use, or web collaboration tool or video system. All good tools, but not integrated with one another. In fact, we often use more than one in a single collaborative session.

Big Switch stole many of the networking headlines this week when it announced its Switch Light software release. Switch Light, based on the open source technology Indigo, can be used on commodity white box switches to create an OpenFlow-based switch than can be used as part of a software defined network implementation. One of the elements of the press release that I felt flew under the radar, was that Extreme Networks would be the only “mainstream” network vendor that was committing to this reference architecture for a rack switch.

Extreme will later this year introduce its Slalom switch, which will be an optimized SDN switch running the thin virtual network software. Slalom will complement Extreme’s Open Fabric portfolio that has a number of SDN-capable switches in both stackable and chassis-based forms. Slalom will be a 48-port Gig-E Ethernet switch that will be based on a “white box” solution.

Normally, when a vendor is the undisputed king of a market, there’s a risk of the company taking their eye off the ball and letting markets slip away. BlackBerry in the smartphone market, 3Com with NIC cards and switches, and Nortel with almost everything they made are some examples of this. However, every once in a while vendors do surprise by trying to change the very market they dominate. Sure, it has risk, but generally markets need to be shaken up once in a while to make sure they don’t stagnate.

On March 25, Brocade, the clear market leader with north of 70% share in storage networks, announced its “Fabric Vision” strategy to make the generational upgrades to Fibre Channel technology about more than just raw speeds. Currently, whenever someone refers to a SAN switch, it’s referred to as “Brocade’s 16GB Switch” or “Cisco’s 8GB Switch,” which in some ways indicates the switches’ only differentiated value is speed. Juxtapose this with the wireless industry, where the generational leaps are referred to as “3G” and “4G.” Sure, buyers know that 4G is faster than 3G, but there are also other benefits that come along with it.

Conferencing, Lync, innovation and management were among the themes that loomed largest

Well, the 2013 version of Enterprise Connect is behind us now, and the show seemed to have more energy and activity than other shows in years past. This wasn’t your typical Enterprise Connect, as topics such as interoperability or the cost of VoIP weren’t dominating the conference. Instead we saw a number of new topics take center stage in a big way, particularly true mobility (see this post and visual conversations (I’ll get to this later). Overall, a great conference, well worth the four-day investment. Here are my key takeaways from Enterprise Connect 2013:

This week, the 2013 edition of Enterprise Connect was held in Orlando, Florida. I don’t attend many of the sessions as I try to use the time to meet with companies, but I always reserve time for the keynote sessions. I hope to see something new and, as C+C Music Factory used to sing, “things that make me go hmmm.”

The keynote I was most excited for was Microsoft’s because of all the changes that group has gone through recently. It’s merged with Skype, it’s part of Office 365, and the product recently held its first dedicated Lync conference.

Overall, I’d give the keynote a C, only because of the tear-jerking video at the end. The keynote was presented by a casually dressed Eric Burney, who is the VP of both Lync and Office Data. The keynote kicked off with Burney setting up an Office 365 user and adding whatever specific Office applications that user might need. The demo then moved on to Eric Burney demonstrating Lync making calls from Windows Mobile, Apple, and Android phones. Both were met with a surprising amount of applause.

The era of software based UC is here and we should expect to see more innovation faster than we ever have before.

If WebRTC was the Day 1 theme of Enterprise Connect, it seems that “software” was the Day 2 theme. The day started off with Cisco making a number of announcements regarding its software positioning. Specifically the company announced the following:

* Software that can understand the type and the amount of resources required to support a collaborative session and then adjust those resources on the fly. This will allow customers to optimize resources, which ultimately makes collaboration more cost effective.

UC has finally reached the level of penetration where management must become a bigger part of the deployment.

I, like so many of you reading this blog, are at or heading to Orlando for the 2013 edition of Enterprise Connect. It appears we’ll have the normal hot themes such as video and Cisco versus Microsoft, but UC management should rear its head this year in a much bigger way. I’ve got a number of sessions related to UC management including Tuesday at 4:45 (UC? Mobility? FMC? BYOD? SIP Trunking? Video? WebRTC? It’s Time to Take Control), Thursday 8am (Software Defined Networks: Impact on Communications) and Thursday at 9am (UC Management: Does it Really Exist?)

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