Chances are you deal with industry analysts pretty often, whether your company pays for their services or whether you meet with them at conferences. And if you don’t talk to them, your boss probably does. As a tech journalist, I talk to a lot of industry analysts on a daily basis. I rely on them for insight into nearly all the stories I write and edit.
Over the years I’ve recognized that analysts are like anyone else. Most of them know what they’re talking about. Some of them don’t. Sometimes its hard to know when these people who are paid to be the experts on a subject really are the experts they’re purported to be.
That’s why it’s so useful to hear from paying customers of these analyst firms about their experiences. Sam Lawrence, chief marketing officer of Jive Software, a social software vendor,
blogged this week about his experiences with two shops: Gartner and Forrester Research, two of the the biggest IT research and consulting firms out there. He’s assigned them letter grades based on how they treated his company, both before Jive became a paying customer and after it signed up with them.
Forrester scored a B and Gartner scored a C-. Lawrence was happier with Gartner before he became a paying customer. After he signed on with them, its performance declined, according to his blog. Forrester has been relatively steady in its performance throughout.
From my own experience, I’ve found that Gartner and Forrester both have a number of intelligent and well-informed analysts who are always willing to help me with a story. I couldn’t do my job without them. And both firms have very helpful media relations people on staff. In general, however, I’ve always found Forrester’s analysts more accessible on a daily basis. I’m not sure if their paying clients feel the same way, but with Lawrence and Jive that seems to be the case.
Lawrence also offered praise for some of the smaller, more specialized research firms out there, such as The 451 Group, RedMonk, Jupiter, and specifically Mike Gotta, an analyst with the Burton Group who specializes in collaborative technology. I’ve worked with all of these firms over the years, along with Mike and a bunch of other people at Burton Group, and I agree that they’re a big help.
What firms do you depend on to give you expert advice?
In networking news on a larger level, Verizon Wireless has officially won the coveted C block in the FCC’s closely watched wireless auction. From a statement Verizon issued:
“We are very pleased with our auction results. Specifically, we were
successful in achieving the spectrum depth we need to continue to grow our
business and data revenues, to preserve our reputation as the nation’s most
reliable wireless network, and to continue to lead in data services and
help us satisfy the next wave of services and consumer electronics devices.
“The bids we won include a nationwide spectrum footprint covering 298M
Pops, plus 102 licenses for individual markets covering 171M Pops.
“In compliance with the FCC’s anti-collusion quiet period rules,
Verizon Wireless cannot comment further until that period ends.”
Google reportedly won no auctions. The spectrum will be freed up February 17, 2009. I can’t find the FCC’s official statement on their website right now, but look for continuing coverage on SearchTelecom.com. Big day for Verizon Wireless, as they also announced more information about their “any application, any device” plans.
Cisco has been relatively quiet at VoiceCon Orlando 2008. Well, they did make a bit of a splash today with a keynote address that featured CEO John Chambers and former vice president Al Gore discussing how communications technology can do its part to fight global climate change. I’ll have more on that later over at SearchUnifiedCommunications.com.
However, unlike many of the vendors here, both big and small, Cisco made no major announcements. Every other vendor here killed a small forest of trees to print out press releases about new products, new partnerships and new customer wins. Cisco was content to demonstrate some of its existing flagship technologies, such as telepresence.
While in Orlando this week, I did meet with Alan Cohen, Cisco’s vice president of enterprise solutions. He hinted at some news Cisco would be offering up later this year.
First of all, something is clearly brewing with WebEx, the online meeting technology that Cisco acquired last year.
“I’d say stay tuned to the WebEx space,” Cohen said. “When you look at our unified communications portfolio, our UC product stack, it’s about messaging, IP telephony, contact center, Cisco mobility. But its also about new video and visual products like telepresence and WebEx. You’ll see tighter integration between premise UC products and WebEx products.”
It sounds like Cisco is poised to integrate WebEx into its UC platform as some sort of collaboration space.
Cohen said something is also brewing with Securent, which Cisco bought last November. Securent is a policy engine, which has now been renamed Cisco Policy Manager. Cohen said Cisco will be making an announcement with Securent later this spring and he hinted that this announcement would help companies collaborate with each other.
“The question isn’t, can you and I send email or share files,” Cohen said. “The question is, can I enter your UC environment to collaborate with you and basically be a part of your business in a digital way? You need a policy that says you’re allowed from this hour to this hour to come into this part of my office digitally and see my information stream. Expect to see a lot more on this from us.”
“What we see is when you take business unified communications and add social networking, you get collaboration,” Cohen said. “What we’re working on is making social networking safe and reliable for business. You’ll see a lot of that in our product direction. I think you’re going to see a larger vision of that.”
So Cisco has been somewhat quiet this week, but it sounds to me that they’ll be announcing some very interesting products later this year in the communications and collaboration area. Stay tuned.
|The other bad news is that the backup systems in the data center were not yet operational…|
> Interested in disaster recovery? You can learn more in the Storage Decisions Disaster Recovery Virtual Seminar, March 27th from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. ET. Registration is open now.
> View all our IT Guy cartoons on SearchNetworking.com.
Whether you get bombarded by vendors at a conference or have to sit through a sales pitch in a meeting, it seems getting a clear, apples-to-apples comparison of networking products is impossible. Even Googling a company’s website points us to a bullet list of vagaries meant to impress — I’m not sure who. (Seriously, what does “comprehensive solution” actually translate to, and how does that deserve a bullet point unto itself?) How can you trust the synopsis of a product offering when you’re getting it from a sales team?
When you want to get nitty-gritty details, you know some of your best options are to read whitepapers. But who has time to read multiple white papers from multiple vendors, let alone every whitepaper of every product offering?
I feel like I’m asking an age-old, unsolvable question. In 2001, this question was asked on the IT Toolbox for a comparison of SCM vendors. Three years later Nyaniz expressed the same frustration on the same forum asking for a larger set of vendor comparison. This year, SEO’Brien talked about a web analytics project that compared ultimate search engines like Google, Coremetrics and Hitbox — it just seems to be an issue that doesn’t go away.
Why should it be so hard to find such comparison charts? Is it because the information can’t be free? Are analytics firms withholding these stats for paying customers? There has got to be a way this information can be made easily accessible to honest IT personnel. But how would you find accurate enough results without paying anyone to do the work?
SearchNetworking.com readers evaluated several vendors in our Product Leadership Awards, but are user comments the best way to get a pulse of the market? What other places do you look at to find the right tools? I’d be interested to know.
Let me just say, I have no horse in this race. I’m no BlackBerry crackhead and I’m no iPhone fan boy. When Apple announced its iPhone enterprise play last week, I started working the phones. My plan was to talk to a handful of analysts and put together a reaction story about the news. I figured I’d find experts on both sides of the fence. But just about everyone I talked to had his doubts about the announcement. Some of them welcomed the software development kit (SDK), the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync support and the Cisco IPsec VPN client as good first steps, but all of them said that the iPhone still has some major barriers to break through before it can win acceptance as an enterprise smartphone.
So my story on the iPhone’s enterprise features ended up being something of a counterpoint to the blog post that Amy Kucharik wrote in this space on Friday. In her tour through the blogosphere she found several experts who were more sanguine about the iPhone announcement.
In the reporting I did for my story, I found that analysts still had strong reservations about the iPhone as an enterprise smartphone. There are still some issues that have dogged the iPhone from the beginning, such as the single-carrier agreement with AT&T, the touchscreen keyboard that many QWERTY devotees reject, and the iPhone’s heritage as entertainment device.
Some of the analysts I talked to also had doubts about whether the SDK release would promote the development of many enterprise applications. Many third-party developers will likely go after the more lucrative consumer market instead. Others pointed out that ActiveSync support hasn’t helped other smartphones make much of a dent in the BlackBerry’s dominance of the push email space — so why should the iPhone be any different?
There’s no question that these announcements make it easier for iPhone owners to use their devices on the job. That is a big deal. So all this leaves me wondering, is this announcement aimed at convincing IT executives to deploy or support the iPhone in their companies? Or, is this announcement really about convincing consumers that they can use their iPhones on the job? My guess is, it’s the latter.
The iPhone was already doing a pretty good job creeping into the enterprise, despite early concerns about its security and manageability. Now, Apple is taking steps to allay those fears; yesterday, the company unveiled new features designed to help the iPhone better fit into the enterprise.
Early critics of the iPhone disliked its closed OS, which prevented third-party developers from creating new applications for the device. This limited the ways the phone could access corporate applications, most prominently, “push” email.
Now, Apple intends to open its software development kit by June, enabling the development of enterprise-worthy applications.
Jason Brooks speculates in his eWeek blog that the new apps will give the iPhone a leg up over RIM and Palm:
I expect that Treos will begin to wither in the eyes of one-time loyalists, and that erstwhile thumb-keyboard addicts will start to judge their BlackBerrys to be significantly sourer.
That’s good news for Apple fans; what’s perhaps even better news for network people is the integration of Cisco’s VPN client software. According to Network World blogger Jamey Hearey:
This will be a full blown IPSEC client that will even support the use of certificates or password based multi-factor authentication. Very nice! The iPhone VPN client will be able to connect to Cisco VPN gateway devices, like the Cisco ASA and older Cisco PIX.
Hearey, a security consulting systems engineer at Cisco, also points out that Apple announced its plans to support WPA with 802.1x authentication. “This will enable more enterprises to allow the iPhone to connect securely to their wireless infrastructure,” Hearey wrote.
Apple also opened an iPhone Enterprise Beta Program, through which enterprise developers can play with the 2.0 code before the official launch later this year. Check out Apple’s “iPhone Enterprise” page to read more about the program or view video of Steve Jobs making the announcement:
It seems that the iPhone is unstoppable. Unfortunately, I won’t have one until they give them to you free with a three-year, $35/month service contract.
I’d like to share a piece from Kate Dostart, associate editor for the networking group. She wrote this for SearchMobileComputing.com’s newsletter, and I thought it might be of interest. Please feel free to post comments here or send them to Kate in an email. If you enjoy this post, I also recommend checking out Rob Beschizza’s blog post on Wired.com’s Gadget Lab: 7 jobs that Nokia’s phone of the future will be good for.
My drama with finding a new phone continues — in part because I’ve been hesitant to commit to a phone I don’t love, and in part because I’ve been told that my old dual analog-digital phone is going to be shut off soon, so now I must upgrade. Other than the expensive BlackBerry Pearl I wish I didn’t have to pay tons of money or renew my contract to get, I finally found the perfect device — well, maybe. And no, it’s not the tattoo phone!
It’s Nokia’s new concept, the Morph. Maybe you’ve heard of it, maybe you haven’t. But this phone is amazing, and I’m in love. The only problem is, I’m eleven years too early for it.
Optimizing on nanotechnology, the device was first offered for viewing last month in conjunction with Museum of Modern Art’s “Design and the Elastic Mind” exhibition. The Morph bends, stretches, folds and twists — think Stretch Armstrong.
In addition to all that, this device will supposedly be the ultimate all-in-one-device. It can be shaped to fit your wrist like a watch or bracelet. Unfold it and it becomes a camera or, oddly enough, a device that can apparently detect whether your apple is at premium ripeness. (You can watch Nokia’s concept video on their site, or scroll down to view the short version below.)
The device is theoretically unbreakable and self-cleaning because of its use of nanotechnology. It’s also self-charging — simply having the device out in the sun, even if it’s in use, means its recharging as the entire device acts as a solar panel. That’s a convenient truth for anyone who hates to carry around extra batteries or cable wall re-chargers.
But outside how cool this future device is, one has to wonder, with mobile devices like BlackBerrys and Palms already so integral to so many people’s lives, what a device like this might mean to how everyone functions.
The iPhone is already disrupting trends with its crossover appeal to both the consumer and the business user. While phones specifically designed for children haven’t been much more than a niche market, would something like the Morph change that?
Could a device like the Morph become an integral element to our daily lives — a required device for school children, the ultimate clothing accessory for teenagers, the best business tool for the corporate worker and the most important device to pack for the traveler?
Nokia reports that the Morph, still more in the research rather than the development phase with full-time collaborating University of Cambridge researchers, is not expected to be ready for the market for another eleven years. So one wonders whether, by then, we’ll all just have microchips implanted into our wrists that can project holograms and do everything but the shape-shifting that the Morph is being designed to do.
But, if a cyborg comes back from eleven years in the future (though hopefully not after some Judgment Day) to save me from my own cell phone drama, I won’t turn down the Morph.
Hasta la vista, baby!
– Kate Dostart
A few hours after posting my story on Extricom’s and Meru’s approaches to wireless networking, I got an e-mail from Cisco expressing their disappointment in not getting to tell their “side of the story” on fourth generation wireless. Setting aside the fact that I e-mailed them for comment the morning before, I was curious about their take. Michael King, a research director with Gartner, had speculated that Extricom or Meru might be ripe for a Cisco acquisition within the next several years.
That possibility sounded pretty remote when I spoke with Cisco this afternoon. Ben Gibson, senior director of mobility solutions marketing for Cisco, said the company views channel layering/blanketing solutions (like Meru and Extricom use) as different, but not necessarily in a good way. He said these implementations, while they may or may not explicitly break standards, break the standards spirit and this has been shown, he said, to cause problems for other nearby networks. “I think it also introduces a lot of questions about such an approach to really scale properly,” he said. Cisco has been touting their Duke case study as the world’s largest .11n network, so it would seem they have scale down pretty well.
Cisco also wasn’t too happy with the designation of “fourth generation.” Gibson said most of the problems these systems solve have already been solved better by traditional players (namely Cisco). Sub-50 ms hand offs. Seamless VoIP calling. Ubiquitous, consistent wireless access no matter where you are or or how the wind is blowing. All with what they tout as better, more complete security.
“The next generation to me is, how do you turn it from a wireless network to a true mobility application network?” Gibson said. He said it was Cisco, not Meru/Extricom, who was paving the way for this fourth generation with integrated device chips that can boost wireless performance, with VoIP handsets, with location-aware applications.
So no love lost between Cisco and the new(er) kids on the block, but then again both Extricom and Meru didn’t particularly seem to enjoy being lumped together when I talked to them. It’s a pretty cut-throat industry, not the least because it appears primed to get much bigger over the next few years as enterprises start to look at the real possibility of going almost 100% wireless, meaning huge opportunities for the winners.
Enjoy watching the back and forth? Cisco’s mobility blog has posts that explain why they’re better than Aruba and, more amusingly, draw networking lessons from pre-marital classes. I couldn’t find blogs for any of the other wireless vendors.
As for me, I honestly couldn’t say who has the best approach, but feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments or, if you’ve had first-hand experience with some of the platforms, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Who knows, maybe there will even be a CCNA Video Mentor in it for you if you’re interviewed.
Despite the occasional peril of lost connectivity, it’s a fact of modern business that more and more services are being sent overseas. Once primarily for application development and call centers, outsourcers are enroaching increasingly closer and closer to the heart of businesses. Over on IT Knowledge Exchange, several SMB-types discussed outsourcing their entire IT departments.
Fortunately, there are some things savvy networking pros can do to make themselves “strategic assets” (HR speak for “not outsourcable”) rather than “commodity services” (that’s a bad thing). We’ve got a more in-depth look up at SearchNetworking, but here are some tips boiled down from my conversations with IT veterans, analysts, and even an outsourcing company’s HR specialist:
- Those with purchasing power are less likely to be cut. If you’re buying something, it’s a good sign you understand the business needs on a higher level, and that you know how to …
- Think strategically. If what you’re absolutely great at is properly configuring routers or securing a VPN, guess what? So are a lot of other people, and often times they can do it halfway around the world just as easily. What they can’t do is look around your business and suggest ways to cut down on communication problems between sales and the warehouse.
- If you specialize, make sure your field is not going away anytime soon, and define your specialization broadly enough to be flexible in case the winds change. That means taking a hard look at the theory behind, for example, VoIP management techniques rather than simply learning how to install and maintain one brand of bandwidth management appliances.
- Don’t rely on certifications alone. As the HR specialist told us, it’s just as easy to get certified in India as it is in the States, and labor is still cheaper there.
- Don’t forget soft skills. Part of being an effective networking strategist means working with — and learning from — others outside of your domain. Leadership and communications courses can help you not only freshen up your resume, but also work more effectively outside of IT.
There’s also some really great advice in in the ITKE forums, and if you’ve got a question about what to do with your own career, you might try asking there: Generally the members are more than willing to help out, and many of SearchNetworking’s resident expert tipsters are active participants. Some career-oriented posts I came across: