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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

Archive for March 2014

Line-of-business influence, cloud’s emergence, and the Internet of Things are among the drivers of the new reality for all vendors’ channel partners.

Most channel partner events I’ve been to have a certain theme to them. For example, a few years ago under the rainy skies of Vancouver, Cisco promoted the concept of “Rattle and Hum,” meaning it was time to rattle the competition and get the business for both Cisco and its partners humming. At this year’s event in Las Vegas, the theme of “change” was heard loud and clear, over and over.

During his keynote, Cisco CEO John Chambers mentioned frequently that change might be uncomfortable, but today it’s necessary. Wise words from a man who has seen his own company change several times before and is currently undergoing its own transition.

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Credit: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith
Credit: REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

For a couple of years now, Cisco CEO John Chambers has been proclaiming that Cisco will be the world’s No. 1 IT vendor. This proclamation has been met with mixed reactions as the IT community has many large, incumbent vendors already. Over the years, though, Cisco has proven to be the master of market transitions by moving into markets with large incumbents and quickly grabbing a leadership position. Voice and servers are two examples where many thought Cisco had no shot, and now the company stands as the dominant provider in both.

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There have been great advancements in UC management; it’s just that we keep adding stuff to UC to further increase the management challenge.

The final day of the 2014 edition of Enterprise Connect kicked off with a panel on the topic of UC Management. Given that the show floor closes the night before, I’m never quite sure how well Thursday sessions will be attended, particularly for a topic like network management, which is viewed by many to be a necessary evil.

This year’s session, though, was packed, which is kind of a good news/bad news thing. It’s great to see this many people come out to the session, but it’s a sign of how much of a struggle managing UC is after all these years. The fact is, despite great advancements in UC management tools, there is no holistic, single pane of glass that organizations can use for the end-to-end UC environment.

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Altocloud works to raise the bar on the customer service delivered from the contact center, through the use of machine learning, contextual information and predictive analytics.

On Day 3 of Enterprise Connect, I had a chance to catch up with long time participants of the show, Barry O’Sullivan and Lawrence Byrd. Barry is most recently known from his days at Cisco and Lawrence was Mr. Everything at Avaya. Today both hang their shingle at a startup called Altocloud, where Barry serves as the company’s CEO and Lawrence’s title is “technology evangelist”.

This industry is filled with start-ups, some good and others not so good, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I met with them, but I left the meeting impressed with the product and the opportunity ahead of them.

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How the two companies will integrate products, and what it could mean for Hangouts, WebEx, Google Docs, and collaboration.

Day 2 of the 2014 edition of Enterprise Connect started with a bang. The first keynote of the day was by Cisco’s Collaboration Business Unit General Manager, Rowan Trollope. Although Trollope has presented at other conferences, this was his first Enterprise Connect keynote. As expected, he showed off the new video endpoints the company had announced last week and talked a lot about ease of use and the problems with UC today.

Trollope certainly saved the best for last, though, when he invited Google’s director of product management for Chrome for Business, Rajen Sheth, to join him on stage, then proclaimed that the two tech giants would be teaming up in the area of unified communications. The two companies demonstrated Cisco’s WebEx running natively on a Google Chromebook within a Chrome browser.

WebEx has not been able to run on a Chromebook, the fastest growing segment of the laptop market, because WebEx requires a browser plug in to be installed on the device. I, like many of you reading this, probably use WebEx regularly on a Windows or Mac OS computer, but this partnership opens up the Chromebook market, which now accounts for around 20% of the US laptop market.

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The network industry has largely been focused on network transformation over the past few years. Most of the vendors, though, have been geared towards the evolution of the data center network. It’s time that businesses started looking at evolving the wide area network (WAN) as this is often where the biggest pain points is for application performance.

The WAN fundamentally hasn’t changed at all in the past 30 years, as most companies still use the traditional “hub and spoke” design with a private network technology, such as MPLS. Often the WAN has a backup connection that becomes active when the primary fails. This model has worked well for decades now, so living by the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” credo has meant that most companies just leave well enough alone and haven’t done anything to evolve the WAN.

I think it’s fair to say that most network managers understand why this architecture is inefficient. It was really designed for client/server traffic, and all Internet traffic is backhauled through a central location. Also, much of the traffic “trombones” up and down the WAN links through a central hub, moving from branch to branch or even Internet to branch. This is one of the reasons we’ve been talking about WAN re-design for years now. In my opinion, though, I think it’s time to take this seriously.

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