The Network Hub

July 11, 2008  3:41 PM

Is pervasive mobility perverse?

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

In my last post I quoted a description of a phone from Craig Raine‘s poem “A Martian Sends A Postcard Home:”

“In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.”

Who knew that the end of my last post would be a prelude to my time at Burton Group Catalyst Conference last June. I ended up unknowingly booking at a haunted hotel! (“In [hotels] a haunted [Tessa] sleeps…”) The haunted Horton Grand Hotel

And I’m not one to believe in ghosts, but the Travel Channel, hotel maids and several newspapers insist there is a presence of an other-worldly being at The Horton Grand Hotel — in the room next to where I stayed.

Though I didn’t end up seeing the so-called “roger the lodger” (the name of the mostly-friendly ghost), the other form of ghosts (described in the poem) did a bit of their own haunting…

 The reason why was made clear to me after I attended the “Do I Really Want to Be Anywhere at Anytime? session, presented by Burton Group Executive Strategist Jack Santos.

Santos said “You can work from anywhere on earth and you can access just about anywhere on earth, [but] there are implications that go along with that.”

The implications were listed in Santos’ consequences of pervasive mobility: The first one being “the organization effect” where instead of individual knowledge we now have the ability to share knowledge across a group; knowledge is easily transferred from the individual to an organization. The second consequence was “message bloating:” One thought suddenly spawns many messages. Then came what Santos called “royalty syndrome:” Once a client or manager had your number they could call you at any time to ask you to work for them now. The last notable consequence was “total serfdom.” Santos said that “people have to have their devices.”

The last two consequences of mobility I find particularly vicious: If you have to have your device, then you consequently have to receive calls from your boss asking you to work for them then, which means you’re never fully away from work.

There were, of course, positives to having pervasive mobility. For instance, Santos said “there’s remote-ability, accessibility … and the ability to extend organizations,” which can not only save organizations, but also save individuals commuting fees.

Do these positives outweigh the negatives, though? In this information age, we are experiencing information overload — which is almost as bad as no information at all.

We're on a wireless leash Worse still is the idea that “we’re leashed on a wireless leash,” said Santos.

This concept of a “wireless leash” is something even the general public feels the weight of. Take Jonathan Clare, for instance in his blog post on humans complicating their lives with technology:

“Cell phones are probably the most handiest and intrusive technology today. They are life savers when you need them, and they create stress when you don’t. You are always reachable… always. This leaves little space for privacy.”

What’s really unnerving is that people attached to their devices and computers all day and night are finding normal conversation difficult. “Live talk — conversation between real people — is awkward,” says Santos.

I can attest to this in my own experience when I work for prolonged periods of time by myself in my home office. I often find verbalizing thoughts extremely challenging. And human interaction isn’t made any easier when you realize it’s not acceptable to hold up a sign that says “BRB” — you have to figure out how to express your need to leave a conversation momentarily in a tactful manner. After a while you begin to forget what tact and acceptable exchange is.

I remember a person who would start a conversation, and midway through — without warning, excuse or farewell — would simply walk away. He did this with everyone he spoke to.

That loss of tact and respect was something Santos saw as a consequence of pervasive mobility: “We need to define a work in this culture of civility and respect … we’re losing these things.”Hammer-smashed phone

So how can we do this? Santos suggested we switch from pervasive mobility to pervasive civility. “Let’s not forget the human element,” he said. My personal suggestion is to start talking to people in the cubicle or desk next to you. Not IM — or, god forbid, text.

In Santos’ session synopsis he wrote: “Hammers will be given out at the end of the talk to destroy Blackberries, iPhones, and other mind-threatening paraphernalia that is ending life as we know it.” 

They weren’t given out, but we were strongly urged through a march-like mantra to “turn off your mobile phones!” “turn off your devices!” “go to places where you don’t have service on the weekend.” — which was a tune I happily marched to, and have no qualms about singing now.

July 10, 2008  1:20 PM

Cisco: No quick turnaround for tech spending

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

Those hoping for a major boost in IT budgets shouldn’t hold their breaths: Cisco CEO John Chambers said he doesn’t expect a sales rally for at least five quarters, sending the companies shares on a sharp tumble while stirring some grumblings that maybe it’s time to form a better succession plan to keep top talent.

As Reuters reports, Chambers’ results have been impressive:

Since Chambers took the CEO role in January 1995, Cisco has grown from a company with $1.2 billion in annual revenues to around $40 billion, as the expansion of the Internet fueled demand for routers and switches that direct Web traffic. Cisco also has been expanding into new areas such as online video.

However, his unusual longevity in the top spot might have spurred others to depart:

Analysts have speculated his retirement plan, or lack thereof, was behind the recent departures of strategy chief Charlie Giancarlo, who was widely seen as Chambers’ heir apparent, as well as No. 2 executive Mike Volpi and Jayshree Ullal. Ullal was a rising star who headed Cisco’s switching group, its biggest business.

Chambers addressed those concerns in the Reuters interview, saying he expected the top management spots to look very different in five years, both with new personnel and a new style of leadership. “The next CEO will probably be more a leader of a council than a ‘command and control,” he said, which would play off Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior’s collaborative focus and Cisco’s “human network” strategy in general.

While it’s nice Chambers is taking the future seriously, not everyone was pleased with his plans: “If Cisco in fact takes a collaborative approach to the corner office, we believe they would have taken their management experiment a little too far and would expect more defections from the senior ranks,” wrote JPMorgan analyst Ehud Gelblum in a research note.

Further Reading:

July 9, 2008  7:40 PM

Good times at Cisco Live! (Networkers)

2020viip Profile: 2020viip

I promised to write more about Networkers, and here it is already almost two weeks later, and I haven’t followed through. For the moment, instead, I’ll share my personal videos from Orlando: One of the Peabody ducks, and two from the Journey cover band, Evolution, which performed at the Hard Rock Cafe during Cisco’s customer appreciation event — which, happily, media was invited to attend. I know it hasn’t much to do with networking, but network pros have to have fun once in a while, right?!

March of the Peabody Ducks:
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Evolution — Oh Sherrie:
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Evolution — Don’t Stop Believing:
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July 9, 2008  1:01 PM

Can your access point help arrest a thief?

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

Bad boys

I got a chance to meet with the fine folks over at wireless networking vendor Colubris for the first time yesterday, and they were kind enough to give me a tour of their offices as well as explain some of their technology. Like most wireless networking vendors, they use a centralized controller to manage access permissions and hand offs, with what they say is an important difference.

The difference, Carl Blume, director of strategic marketing, and Tom Racca, vice president of marketing, said, is that Colubris avoids sending all the data traffic through the controller.

Instead, the controller first authenticates users on the wireless LAN, and then tells the acccess point (AP) how to route the data itself, which Carl and Tom said greatly cut down on the amount of redundant data flowing through the network. (They also said, like every other wireless vendor I have ever talked to, that they are the only ones who have solved 802.11n with standard PoE.)

Tom also relayed what I thought was an interesting story: Colubris access points can be set to work semi-autonomously, and if they get knocked offline they can be configured to automatically re-connect to the central controller. One school system, sick of APs wandering off, opened up a port in their firewall to let the devices reconnect even when they were out on the public Internet. Sure enough, a missing AP started phoning home, and the school was able to use the AP’s IP address to locate the missing access point … and arrest its thief.

We hear such “phone home” capabilities are going to become more common, and already stories of cameras and laptops photographing perps and posting their pictures are common. While maybe not a deal sealer, it’s certainly not bad as extra protection for devices that retail for $1000 and beyond.

Do you have any home phoning success stories?

July 8, 2008  3:28 PM

The IT Guy: The binary tattoo

2020viip Profile: 2020viip
The Binary Tattoo
“Angelina looks cool, but a tattoo in binary would be so inefficient!”

> View all our IT Guy cartoons on

July 2, 2008  4:39 PM

Cisco certifications aren’t what they used to be

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

We knew the economy was bad, but did Cisco really have to drop their impressive medallions for plastic plaques?

Arden Packeer, CCIE 20716, blogged the run up to his CCIE: Routing & Switching exam, posting tutorials and regular progress updates as he went. After months of preparation, he posted that he was “deliriously happy” when he finally passed.

Two days ago, when he received his certification by mail, those feelings were slightly less warm:

Seriously, Cisco, the new CCIE Plaques suck!

We pay $1400 a pop for the Exam (not to mention countless hours of blood sweat and tears), surely Cisco can make the prize at the end a little better than this!

Compare Arden’s plaque:
New Plaque

and the older medallion style, courtesy Greg Ferro’s blog, Ethereal Mind:
Old medallion

We can sympathize with Arden, but apparently he’s a few years too late to rock the medallion. We asked Peter Koht, who works with Learning@Cisco’s public relations, if the older models were still available, and this was his response:

Hi Michael,

According to the folks I asked over at Cisco, the original CCIE award/plaque was a medallion at the
end of a ribbon in a shadow box format.

This was retired out at least 5 years ago and replaced with the plaque, which is on it’s second iteration.

The medallion is no longer offered.

Hope that helps


Sorry Arden, but maybe a petition can get Cisco to change their mind. Think of all the great publicity certifications would get if people started wearing their medallions when they went out? Maybe there could even be some product placement with Mr. T: Imagine him adding some CCIE bling and shouting, “I pity the fool who don’t know Cisco.” I think it could be a win-win all around, and would help give those hard-working Cisco studs the recognition they deserve.

Further Reading:

July 1, 2008  8:18 PM

What’s up with WhatsUpGold

2020viip Profile: 2020viip

I just happened to be sitting next to an Ipswitch representative on my flight from Boston to Orlando last week for Cisco Networkers, so I decided to stop by their booth and take a look at their network monitoring and management product, WhatsUpGold. I apologize in advance for the video quality, but I think you can still get an idea of what the tools look like and what it’s designed to accomplish.

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June 30, 2008  6:15 PM

SolarWinds Hulks out about nonessential traffic

2020viip Profile: 2020viip

I can’t resist a networking/comic book analogy, so I taped this booth demo from SolarWinds at Cisco Networkers. “Head Geek” Josh Stephens talks about how nonessential traffic — such as the Hulk movie trailer — can make network engineers very angry, and how the latest SolarWinds Orion release can help keep that traffic in check. He also describes SolarWinds’ community portal, Thwack.

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June 27, 2008  5:29 PM

Cisco’s Warrior on collaboration, innovation and bathtubs

2020viip Profile: 2020viip

It’s pretty clear that Cisco is serious about the principles of connectivity and collaboration put forth during Networkers. I just got back from Orlando and discovered both a Twitter and a Facebook connection invitation from two different Cisco employees. I also don’t think I’ve ever sent or received so many text messages in my life as during the conference. But more on that later.

I wanted to write a little about Cisco CTO Padmasree Warrior‘s keynote address, which took place Wednesday. Warrior opened by recounting the legend of how, while taking a bath, Archimedes invented his method for measuring the volume of an irregularly shaped object. Supposedly, the great mathematician had to come up with a way to measure the purity of a golden crown, and realized during his bath that submerged bodies displace an amount of water equal to their volume. Then, versions of the legend claim, Archimedes leapt from the tub and ran naked through the streets, shouting “Eureka! I have found it!”

Warrior went on to explain that while we can’t discount this idea of the lone genius having a sudden spark of inspiration, she believes that “ideas get stronger when shared” and that collaborative, collective genius is the way humanity will persist.

She also talked about a phrase she has coined, “brainforming,” which is her take on brainstorming. Without getting very specific about how technology would enable brainforming, Warrior explained that in brainforming, we start to select ideas while we collect them. Collaboration, she said, should be a culture, not a function, and is going to become a persistent global conversation.

Of course, innovation and collaboration aren’t worth much without execution, and Warrior emphasized that in her keynote as well, saying “I strongly believe that without execution, there is no vision.” Her words echoed those of another great inventor, Thomas Edison, who once said that “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.”

Now, I have to admit that I’m a fan of the genius in the bathtub idea, and don’t put too much stock in group intelligence. We all have seen the unfortunate products of “design by committee,” which seem all too prevalent in both computer software and business culture — ideas that lack focus, products that are needlessly complex, unproductive meetings that only spawn more meetings, and so on.

I was thinking about the example of Linux creator Linus Torvalds this morning. On one hand, Torvalds basically came up with Linux one day in his bedroom in Finland — supporting the “bathtub” model of genius. On the other hand, Linux didn’t become what it is today until Torvalds put the fledgling OS out there and let the open source development community hack away — supporting the collaborative model.

I discussed Warrior’s keynote with two attendees: Brad Fox, a network manager and security engineer at Black & Decker, and Peter Perreault, senior network engineer at Tullett Prebon (a financial inter-dealer broker). Peter put things into perspective by saying that even if there’s a lightbulb going on for the guy in the bathtub, great ideas are always built on the shoulders of giants — so collaboration technology, at its best, perhaps gives that genius a larger pool of giants to draw from.

Brad said, “Just don’t take your laptop in the bathtub.”

June 25, 2008  5:01 AM

Cisco’s collaboration strategy: Adding vision to social networking

2020viip Profile: 2020viip

Cisco chairman and CEO John Chambers welcomed attendees of Cisco Live 2008 (a.k.a. Cisco Networkers) at his keynote address in Orlando Tuesday morning with the message that the network will become the platform for all communication, and that Cisco will be the leader in providing the connectivity.

Cisco Networkers Chambers keynote

After an opening segment with loud music, colored lights and 11 screens displaying attendees’ favorite sports teams (on which they “collaborated” via text message), Chambers got down to talking about Cisco’s ability to stay abreast of market transitions. He explained that Cisco will leverage their position as the market leader to facilitate “any device, any content” communications and collaboration, which he sees as the market transition that is happening now.

Major components of this collaboration scenario, according to Chambers, are social networking and video — in fact, he said that “visual networking is the future.” But Chambers said Cisco plans to add vision to social networking, putting structure behind Web 2.0-type tools like Twitter or Facebook (he alluded to the way “kids” use social networking tools here), validating their use as business tools.

A highlight of the session was the demonstration of WebEx Connect and how Cisco’s latest and greatest collaboration technology (brought about by Cisco’s recent WebEx acquisition) will enable us to communicate differently. Jim Grubb — jokingly dubbed “chief demonstration officer” — joined Chambers on stage for the demo. They showed off one-touch meeting functionality and something called “casting,” which I captured in this short video.

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Chambers reiterated the theme of his March VoiceCon keynote that the focus of online video collaboration (a.k.a. telepresence) is not only about cutting down on travel costs or “going green” by reducing associated emissions, but also, and more importantly, about changing business models to increase productivity.

As proof that Cisco is eating their own dog food (so to speak), Chambers gave some statistics about the growth of social networking use at Cisco, including blogs, wikis, discussion forums, and something called C-Vision, which he said was like “YouTube for the Enterprise.” (Later in the day, Chambers also answered user questions online in Second Life, underscoring his company’s interest in using social networking tools for business. Somewhat ironically, a glitch in the program made Chambers’ avatar’s virtual pants render as sort of an “image loading” error message.)

Other prominent themes of the keynote were Cisco’s focus on innovation, as evidenced in their I-Prize program, and on virtualization — not just in the data center or server, Chambers said, “virtualization in everything you do.” An example of this was Cisco’s virtual launch of their ASR 1000 product.

Of course, I’m always skeptical, and wondered whether the network having to deliver all communications is really going to be such a good thing. One, there’s the increased reliance on technology — which, let’s face it, no matter how good Cisco makes the product, can still fail. Two, there’s the problem of user integrity; virtual tools only work really well when users take the time to create fully-fleshed out profiles and enter all their contact information — and social networking tools enable the delivery of not just productivity, but lots of twittering about our cats, poking and ROTFLing. Then again, I’m not so sure that’s completely different from real life collaboration.

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