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

This week at Google’s I/O developer conference, the company announced the general availability of two Chrome OS Laptops.  Both Best Buy and Amazon will be selling the devices made by Acer and Samsung.  The Samsung “Chrome Book” will have a 12.1 inch display and have integrated WiFi and Verizon 3G and will be priced at $429.  The Acer device will only be $349 but will be WiFi only and have an 11.6 inch screen.  Both devices tout long battery life and are optimized for accessing content out of the cloud.

Google also announced a very compelling business package where organizations could lease the Chrome Books for $28 per month per user.  The $28 price tag includes the laptop, full warranty, support, service, end of life replacement and a device called the Chrome Box to allow companies to connect the Chrome Book to the corporate file systems.

In my opinion, this is an important evolutionary step for the device market, for both consumers and corporate workers.  Almost every part of technology has transformed to be web optimized.  To quote my colleague, Sandra Palumbo, “we access what we want, when we want” because we’re always connected.

Cisco, Avaya and the rest of the field should be embracing Chrome OS as a way to rip the Microsoft foundation out of companies that Lync will be built on.

All eyes are on Interop this week but there’s another significant conference running in parallel to it and that’s the Google I/O Developer Conference. Day two of the event was focused on Chrome OS and its release into the market. Six months ago Google released a handful of beta units to the industry and after only half a year of beta testing it looks like Google is finally ready to bring the Chrome OS laptops to market.

What Google announced was that beginning June 15, two laptop models, one made by Asus and one by Samsung and will be sold by Amazon and Best Buy. The Samsung laptop will have a 12.1-inch screen, have WiFi and 3G services, touts an “all-day” battery (you can do this when you’re not spinning a drive continually) and will retail for $499. The Acer Chrome Laptop will be WiFi only, have an 11.6 inch screen, also have an all day battery and be priced at $349.

The struggles at Cisco have been well documented over the past year or so.  Much of the reason for this is large number of executive departures that have left Cisco over the past few years.  Here is a list of the more notable ones in recent memory:

  • Tony Bates, SVP of Cisco’s enterprise, commercial and small business division is now CEO of Skype
  • Debra Chrapaty, SVP of Collaboration became Zynga’s CIO
  • Dan Scheinman head of Cisco’s media business resigned when Cisco shut down Flip
  • Nawaf Bitar, VP of Security is now a GM and SVP of Juniper Networks Emerging Technologies division
  • Jayshree Ulall, SVP of the Data Center, Switching and Services business unit is now CEO of Arista Networks
  • Doug Gourlay, VP of Data Center Marketing joined Jayshree at Arista to become VP of Marketing at Arista
  • Jeff Hirschman, engineering manager of Cisco’s Gigabit Switching Business Unit also joined Arista to be VP of Engineering
  • Ben Gibson, head of Cisco’s enterprise mobility solutions marketing business is Chief Marketing Officer of Aruba Networks
  • Dayle Hall and Chris Kozup, both marketing managers that worked for Ben at Cisco joined Aruba shortly after
  • Joe Burton, CIO of Cisco’s Unified Communications group is now Polycom’s CTO and GM of Enterprise and service provider

But the churn in executive talent started when Mike Volip and Charlie Giancarlo left several years ago.  Those departures coincided with Cisco’s implementation of its “boards and councils” management style.  The boards and councils approach isn’t the sole reason Cisco has had people leave.  The lack of growth in Cisco’s stock price has been an issue for some as well.  Looking at the list of places where the execs have landed, other than Bitar, it’s all start-ups or high growth companies.

Having Skype allows Microsoft to be more aggressive pushing UC and VoIP in the cloud.

Microsoft has confirmed that it is planning to buy Internet phone company Skype for over $8 billion ($7 billion plus over a billion in debt). It will be the largest acquisition Microsoft has made, trumping the $6 billion that Microsoft paid for online ad company, aQuantive, back in 2007.

So does the deal make sense or is it a desperate attempt to gain on Google in the Internet markets? There’s a tremendous amount of hype around Skype right now based on many events from the past few months. Longtime Cisco executive, Tony Bates, became the CEO, an IPO has been expected and there have been rumors of joint ventures with both Google and/or Facebook, so Microsoft could be making the move for defensive measures rather than offensive ones.

Fabrics are all the rage today with data center archtiects and solution providers. Last year, at Brocade’s annual “Tech Day” analyst conference, the company unveiled its fabric strategy. This week at this years Tech Day, Brocade added to its fabric vision with the addition of its “CloudPlex” architecture. CloudPlex is Brocade’s open framework for organizations to build virtualized or cloud based data centers. Technically CloudPlex brings Brocade’s network and storage technologies together into a single, converged system.

From a vision perspective, CloudPlex will enable the merging of public, private and hybrid clouds through the open integration of compute, storage and networking blocks. The actual “unit” of service from the CloudPlex is a virtual compute block.

To simplify it, what CloudPlex does is it allows organizations to build multivendor, open virtual data centers and cloud infrastructures that are delivered in virtual “blocks” of data center resources. This would allow for movement of compute resources to be synchronized with the necessary network configuration changes. This is necessary to deliver on the vision of a virtual data center.

This week kicked off Alcatel-Lucent’s Dynamic Enterprise Tour in Barcelona, Spain. The keynote was given by ALU Enterprise President, Tom Burns, and introduced the tag line “Changing the conversation”.  Changing the conversation has many different meanings and includes having customers look at alternatives to the market leaders in voice communications and data networking, changing the way workers collaborate with one another, changing the tools we use to communicate and lastly, changing the way companies converse with customers.

The overall vision that Burns gave wasn’t all that much different from what you might see in an Avaya or Cisco keynote except for one exception — Burns dedicated much of the keynote to using unified communications (which now includes social media) to change the way companies interact with customers and improve the overall customer experience. In fact, the following two keynotes, one by ALU Enterprise Application Group chief, Paul Segre and then an outstanding presentation by Kevin Panozza, CEO of Engagement Mattes an Australian based call center firm focused on this theme. Panozza’s keynote was almost exclusively focused on how to build a better customer experience.



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