Archive for December 2013


Sales of telepresence have stagnated not because of lack of demand, but instead of because of lack of innovation.

As a technology, telepresence (TP) has been mainstream for about a decade now. In the mid part of the last decade, TP came to life with a big bang that was comparable to what we saw with Tebow-mania. Like Tebow-mania, the momentum behind TP has cooled off over the past few years, and shipments of the once shining star of the collaboration industry have plateaued over the past few years. In football, Tebow-mania is officially dead; in technology, critics of telepresence have been stating that this era of video is officially over.

So is telepresence really dead?

For the purposes of this blog, when I say “telepresence,” I mean the immersive room experience, in which it appears that I’m sitting across the table from one or more people who in fact are located at a remote, similarly provisioned site. While Cisco has tried to stretch the definition of telepresence by branding a number of products with that tag, most customers think of the following attributes when I say “telepresence”–expensive, three-screen, room-based, life-like experience, and easy to use.

The corporate wide area network (WAN) is a funny thing. Even back in my early days as a network manager in the early 90s, there was talk of finding an alternative to the tried-and-true “hub and spoke” MPLS, frame relay, or other type of network. There’s no question that this type of network, although widely deployed, is inefficient, as it routes all traffic through a single choke point (the hub). Additionally, each branch location at the end of each spoke is at risk of being down if the WAN connection fails.

So why is this model of network design still so popular? Well, as inefficient as it is, it has worked OK with client/server-based applications, as most of these were in the corporate data center, or the hub. The inefficiency I spoke of was more relevant for Internet-based applications as that traffic had to come through a single point, traverse the WAN and then “trombone” back down the same connection.

Given the rise in cloud based applications, the need for WAN change has never been higher, and more and more companies are finally evolving the WAN. One of the more notable trends has been to connect branches with direct Internet access. The direct connection provides faster access to cloud applications and can also be used as an alternative connection to the primary network, creating a hybrid network.

Polycom stands on the precipice of the most significant change in its history. Leav seems well suited to the task at hand so I’m expecting big things from him.

Earlier this week, Polycom announced that Peter A Leav will become the next President and CEO of the company, taking over from interim CEO Kevin Parker. Mr. Parker will remain Chairman of the Board and will help transition Leav into the company.

Bringing in a new leader, particularly from the outside, can be somewhat risky; a new person at the top typically means a change in culture and focus for the company. For instance, under Bob Hagarty, Polycom was a very engineering-focused organization but wasn’t all that strong a sales execution and marketing company. Andy Miller then took over as CEO and the focus shifted and we saw a much more aggressive Polycom, which reflected Miller’s personality. This, coupled with the continued strong engineering, allowed Polycom to pick up share in video over rival Cisco during the Miller tenure.

Telecom and IT departments need to use their senior engineers for more high-value tasks.

About a month ago, I wrote a 1 Comment why telecom and IT departments need to change their support model in order to scale IT. The thesis of this post was that organizations should move to a self-service model where employees could perform many of the run-of-the-mill, mundane tasks that senior engineers are processing today. This includes things like voice mail password resets, setting up speed dials, changing call forwarding numbers and many others.

Since writing the post, I’ve received some feedback from IT managers. These managers indicated that shifting to a self-service model is a great option. Many organizations like the concept, but may not want to shift every administrative task to the user.

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