No, I’m not in Vegas for Interop this week. I’m sitting at my computer in Massachusetts, where — thanks to social networking — I feel like I’m almost not missing out on the conference.
Journalists from my own team and rival publications have posted more content than I can read in one day. With the addition of Twitter, real-time updates with an off-the-cuff candor help create the same kind of ordered chaos, the hubbub and camaraderie, that exists at a real world trade show.
Meanwhile, voyeuristic Interop Webcams offer a live view of the show floor (yesterday, I watched a man wandering between booths while typing on his Blackberry).
Among their more serious (and frequent) tweets reporting on the sessions, IDC analyst Abner Germanow posted an amusing Twitpic of women boxing, while Network World editor Denise Dubie discussed the aforementioned scantily clad booth babes.
Information sharing, with a high dose of frivolity: Behold the power of Twitter. Analysts, journalists, vendors, and a few actual IT guys posted pictures, shared stories, and hashed out everything from beer to the businsess case for IT. In fact, just by chatting and “retweeting”posts with the “#Interop” tag on them, I unintentionally created the illusion that I was actually in Vegas! (Sorry to disappoint, but our other editors, Shamus, Rivka, Tim and Sue, are there.)
I am missing out on the vendor swag, though, and those experiences that only happen at a conference, especially in Vegas: Poolside vendor briefings, or chatting about open source routers until 2am on some roof deck. (Sigh.) So I am missing out, a little.
I’m also missing out on the whopping travel expense.
As fate would have it, yesterday I received an invitation to Cisco’s upcoming Cisco Live (formerly Networkers) conference:
We would like to invite you to join us virtually for Cisco Live 2009 from June 30 to July 1.
Press and analysts will participate in an exciting and interactive virtual environment where they will have the opportunity to hear John Chambers, Padmasree Warrior and other senior executives outline Cisco’s vision for the IT industry and the actions Cisco is taking to help our customers innovate.
Wait a second … Does that mean that press and analysts aren’t invited to the “live” part of Cisco Live? I’m not sure how I feel about that. Padmasree Warrior has been touting Twitter as a collaboration tool — and my Interop experience this week has certainly proven that there’s a lot to gain from a conference experienced virtually. We’ve held some very successful virtual conferences at TechTarget, as well. But I’ve also found that it’s hard to immerse yourself in a virtual conference. You keep multitasking, getting pulled back to your “real” work. Or you spend half the day updating your version of Flash and just trying to get the darned thing to play on your computer!
Also, even in this economic climate, even with all I’ve said above, that doesn’t mean that the virtual experience can ever compare with the real, live, one. Because at the end of the day, I’m missing out on really meeting the conference attendees, the network pros who read our site and are our reason for being. They’re a little shyer on Twitter than press and analysts (and a lot shyer than vendor PR folks!) for some reason.
So if you’re out there, in Vegas or cyberspace, send me a tweet and let me know your thoughts on Interop and our Interop coverage. I look forward to virtually meeting you.]]>
Ahoy! Just in time for our Talk like a Pirate Day blog post (what’s a weekend late among old salts?), we hear tales of treachery and triumph, of bold moves and dastardly deeds.
First, matey, is the tale of Cisco’s Jabber acquisition. Why would the world’s dominant networking gear provider buy a second-tier IM platform? While you may not actually know anyone who uses Jabber, the Extensible Messaging and Presence Protocol (XMPP) Jabber is based on has seen quite a few fans, not the least of which is Google which has embraced the protocol for its Google Talk instant messaging platform.
As Cisco continues to make good on their promise to put structure behind Web 2.0-type tools, Jabber is a good place to start: A widely accepted IM standard heartily approved by the geek crowd which also gives enterprises the control they want. And some are also seeing it as a shot against frenemies Google and Microsoft, like the National Business Review’s summary:
IM gains more respectability with the announcement over the weekend that networking giant Cisco will buy Jabber, whose software allows users of rival freebie IM programmes, such as Apple’s iChat, Google’s Talk, Microsoft Windows Messenger and Yahoo Messenger, to interact with each other, plus send messages to commercial grade programmes such as Microsoft’s Office Communications Server.
The article title was even more direct: Cisco guns for Google, Microsoft with Jabber buy.
On a more swashbuckling note, Aruba’s taking aim at Motorola, counter-suing the company for patent infringement:
“The first asserted patent was assumed by Aruba in March 2008 as part of its acquisition of AirWave Wireless Inc., while the second asserted patent was issued to Aruba in May 2008,” the company said, adding that it is seeking a permanent injunction against use of its patented technologies as well as monetary damages.
The WLAN market is treacherous waters, as we’ve reported before, so we don’t expect this back and forth end until one or the other goes to Davy Jones locker.
Image: SearchNetworking’s belated Talk like a Pirate Day cake.]]>
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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.”]]>
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.]]>
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.”
It also sounds like Cisco is getting ready to make some noise in the social networking space by leveraging recent acquisitions such as Tribe.net and Five Across.
“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.]]>