The Network Hub

June 25, 2008  5:01 AM

Cisco’s collaboration strategy: Adding vision to social networking

Ron Richard Profile: Ron Richard

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.

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.

June 25, 2008  4:07 AM

Cisco CEO John Chambers puts EMC acquisition rumors to rest

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Wall Street’s buzz about a possible Cisco-EMC marriage faded this afternoon when Cisco Systems CEO John Chambers sat down with the press for a round table discussion during his company’s annual customer conference, Cisco Live. When asked whether Cisco would be acquiring a storage vendor, Chambers immediately shot down the idea, saying he couldln’t see a way for his company to differentiate itself in the storage hardware market.

“The margins aren’t good in storage devices,” Chambers added. He said prefers more modest acquisitions, companies with a large staff of engineers that’s about to take a a new product to market, for instance.

Last month, some Wall Street analysts and journalists had speculated that an EMC acquisition by Cisco might make some sense for the company, but it looks like simple wishful thinking at this point.

Chambers also revealed that Cisco is currently evaluating its potential for growth in the consumer technology market. He said Ned Hooper, senior vice president of corporate development and the consumer and small business group, owes him a plan for consumer brand development within the next 12 months.

Chambers said Cisco’s current consumer play sits at around $3.5 billion ($1 billion in business from its consumer wireless router Linksys brand and $2.5 billion from its Scientific Atlanta set-top box business). He said Hooper, who is known as a merger & acquisition guru at Cisco, is evaluating whether Cisco can push its consumer business to $10 billion.

Since Chambers also revealed that he envisions consumer adoption of Cisco’s TelePresence technology to take off once the company can offer a $10,000 price point for a home solution, a $10 billion consumer business might not be out of the question.

June 18, 2008  7:43 PM

Open mobile devices get the most market penetration

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

To be a player in the mobile device or network appliance game, having an open platform is a must, according to CEO Robert Bowman at the Mobile & Wireless World conference keynote last week.

In a closed device platform, content providers have to go through a carrier to get to the pipe to get to their consumers. In an open device platform, the content providers go straight to the pipe which goes to their consumers — and this eliminates the middle man.

Take the two most popular enterprise and consumer devices right now: the BlackBerry and the iPhone. It’s not a mistake that they’re popular. Bowman explained that the “iPhone and BlackBerry are considered the most open devices,” and that plays a factor in which devices will live longer.Blackberry

In addition to a longer shelf-life, these devices also have the potential for greater market penetration in coming years. According to Bowman, by 2013, 3G phone penetration will rise from 9% to 27% in the U.S.

Along with this, average revenue per user (ARPU) for data will rise 21% to 75% in the next five years — so after your kid graduates high school, you’ll no longer be talking on your device; texting will take over the majority of your communication.

As mobile devices grow stronger in their coverage and market share, they’ll grow proportionately in the stronghold of our lives.

“How many times do you think you will look at this device?” Bowman asked, holding up a gleaming BlackBerry to his audience. It’s shiny; it’s aesthetically pleasing…

“It’s like your watch,” he explains: It will catch your eye, so you’ll look down at it. You’ll be bored, so you’ll look down at it. When someone asks you what time it is, you’ll have to look back down at it even though you’ve just looked at it because you didn’t think to read it…and this is how it will be with your BlackBerry he says.

The BlackBerry will be something you will look at 500 times a day,” Bowman calculated.

Think of all that face value time you’ll have with your device! I can only imagine what Craig Raine (author of “A Martian Sends A Postcard Home“) would have to say about our phones now:

“In homes [briefcases?], a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores [lights up??] 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. “

June 17, 2008  11:10 PM

Have Cisco pay YOU for a change

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

After all the money you’ve diverted from your (enterprise’s) coffers, don’t you deserve a little something back? I mean, your requisition orders must pay the salaries of at least a few marketing types, sales types, and even a few engineers, so a kick back is the least they could give you.

Well, you’ve got your chance as Cisco continues moving from providing dumb pipes to selling services and solutions. BusinessWeek has the scoop on Cisco’s I-Prize contest, which will award $250,000 to a team of innovators and entrepreneurs for their idea, with up to $10 million in funding set aside to potentially staff, develop, and market a business based on the idea.

If you’re sick of ho-hum tasks and pointy-haired bosses, this could be your ticket out. And while entries are closed for this year’s contest, there’s always next year or one of dozens of similar contests, as Business Week reports:

Cisco’s innovation contest is one of at least a dozen corporate-sponsored competitions that have cropped up in recent years, all aimed at developing and rewarding innovation. Microsoft (MSFT), for instance, annually awards its $25,000 Imagine Cup to a student team that best uses technology to solve a real-world problem. Using money to reward technological innovation is hardly novel; historians say one of the first innovation prizes dates to 1714, when the British government offered £20,000 to the person who could devise a method for determining a ship’s longitude. (The prize was officially awarded 59 years later.)

Hey, if a Canadian steamfitter and a German student assistant can make it to finalist status, what’s stopping you? If you’re not quite ready for that 180 degree career change, there are other opportunities to give your networking career a jolt.

One quick method: Enter to win Cisco Press’ CCNA Official Exam Certification Library. We’ve got 10 copies to give away to 10 lucky readers. See contest details for a chance to win.

Internetwork Expert is sponsoring a Real CCIE’s, Real People 2008 Scholarship, where the winners (one U.S. and one international award will be given) will receive:

  • CCIE Self-Paced End-to-End Program
  • Complete CCIE Rack Rental package compliments of Graded Labs
  • Onsite Bootcamp of the recipients choice (including airfare, hotel, provisions, and ground transportation).

Not bad, but hurry up: The contest is over in 3 days!

Further Reading:

June 10, 2008  6:50 PM

Data to be favored over voice: Youth will alter communication technology

Tessa Parmenter Tessa Parmenter Profile: Tessa Parmenter

The enterprise must prepare for the ‘millenials,’ or Generation Y as they are often known, according to a report from 60 Minutes. This was a theme echoed by President and Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Media LP at (the Major League Baseball website) Robert Bowman in his keynote speech at Computer World’s 2008 Mobile & Wireless World conference on Monday.

He began the topic by presenting a statistic gathered by Chetan Sharma Consulting: Only 20% average revenue per user (ARPU) come from data plans on users’ phones.

“Right now, people are still reluctant to move to data plans,” Bowman said. But he suspects that the 20% ARPU will switch completely five or so years down the road; instead only 20% ARPU will come from voice and the remaining 80% ARPU will come from data.

As anyone knows, data plans are much more expensive than straight voice plans, so why is he so certain these statistics will swap? According to Nielsen NetRatings, broadband held only 8% ARPU in 2000 compared with 92% ARPU of narrowband users. Eight years later, 87% of users choose broadband over narrowband — and the reason? You get to have more faster; the ease of use and what users expect to own far outweigh the additional cost of broadband. The same, Bowman says, can be expected for people to switch from voice to data.

Still need more convincing? As a representative of the current 20%, Bowman explained why data was more important than voice: Anyone who knows him, he said, will know that if they have something urgent to say, they will send him a text message so that he can see it immediately. This cuts out an extra step of having to call his voice mail and listen to a message. Anyone who leaves him a voice mail knows that they will just have to wait.

The fact also remains that for younger generations, text is and has been the preferred method of messaging. Take his own teenage children for example, as Bowman did in his keynote: “Everyone who has a kid knows how they use a phone; it’s all data… My daughter only used her phone [for voice] to call us to pick her up.”

Even in the Developing a Global Wireless Infrastructure session today, Vice President of Information Services at UPS Mark Hillbush said that his daughter only had one contact in her phone for voice. “One contact,” he said “in two years! The sad part was that I don’t even think I was the contact in her phone.”

This goes to show, Bowman said, that the way children consume data and get entertainment is completely different than adults generations above them. The way they communicate using technology will evolve new applications, new devices and change the way we work in the world.

In my mind, what the enterprise has to prepare for are rapid advancements in technology. If you think new devices weren’t being created rapidly enough, I believe having Generation Y enter the workforce will zoom technology up the quadratic curve.

June 9, 2008  9:59 PM

The NBA Finals and Lenovo

Shamus McGillicuddy Shamus McGillicuddy Profile: Shamus McGillicuddy

Last week I took a “tech tour” of Boston’s TD BankNorth Garden, home of the Boston Celtics. The tour, which took place hours before Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals, demonstrated how the NBA uses Lenovo tablet laptops to tracks statistics and scores during games.

Aside from the tour, Lenovo also provided me with a press pass that allowed me to stick for the game. So full disclosure here: I got to see a very exciting basketaball game for taking this tour. The story I wrote about how the NBA uses Lenovo’s laptops can be found on

Watching the Celtics and the Lakers in the NBA Finals was a great privilege. It was definitely one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. But I did do some work while I was at the Garden. Really I did!

I shot some video of the demonstrations the NBA and the Celtics put on for me and other IT journalists. I thought I’d share them with you here.

Here we have Stephen Hellmuth, NBA executive vice president for operations and technology, giving an overview of what his team does on technology side to support NBA games.

Here is Jay Wessel, vice president of technology for the Boston Celtics, describing how wireless technology helps the NBA keep the game clock more accurate.

And finally, here is Wessel talking about how the NBA uses Lenovo laptops to keep score and log statistics.

June 9, 2008  2:17 PM

Deep diving into deep packet inspection

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

Speaking of deep packeteering, is a new non-profit with the goal to “foster and support community interest and progress in deep packet inspection (DPI).” OK, so the Gates Foundation it’s not, but I got on the phone with two of the founders, Kyle Rosenthal and Axel Weichert, both formerly with DPI provider Bivio Networks, yesterday to talk a little bit about the site’s ambitions and how it might help network engineers who are tackling how to integrate DPI into their networks.

They said they initially set out to create a very technical community, but they’ve since broadened that mandate to include high-level discussions about the place of DPI at both the network and service provider level. That topic tends to bring out ideologues on both sides, particularly as it’s linked to net neutrality, but hopefully the savvy searcher can avoid the worst of the flame wars and find some useful information, such as vendor profiles and a piece on using DPI to check and improve Skype traffic.

Rosenthal said one of dPacket’s big challenges would be to prove to readers that the site isn’t an industry mouthpiece, which might be tough with financial sponsors like Sandvine and Ellacoya. Still, the more resources there are for complex subjects like DPI the better, particularly if they are willing to tackle both the tough technical aspects of network deployment alongside the creation of ethical guidelines to address how far into the network should DPI peer, and how that information should be handled.

June 9, 2008  2:13 PM

Big Burns is Watching

Michael Morisy Michael Morisy Profile: Michael Morisy

My friend over at InsideHigherEd stumbled upon a novel approach to discouraging illegal P2P while allowing legitimate research usage:

In order to download (or upload) files on any peer-to-peer network whatsoever, all on-campus users have to pass an online quiz on copyright infringement.

But not just once. Passing the test — with a perfect score — enables peer-to-peer access for six hours on the user’s on-campus registered machines, presumably enough time to download that (legal) song, TV show or e-book. The next time, the student, staff or faculty member has to go to the intranet Web page and take the randomized test again, for a maximum of eight uses per month (which, kind of like vacation days, can accrue to at most 20).

While it’s certainly innovative, what’s the point? Nobody is better off, except maybe the RIAA when they use the quiz to show illegal downloading was “willful infringement,” which can bump damages up to $150,000 per song. Those intent on downloading tend to find creative workarounds , while those with legitimate needs are unduly hassled.

In the enterprise, we often hear that education of Net do’s and don’ts is critical, but randomized quizzes and P2P privilege accrual seems a pretty complicated way of doing it.

On the other hand, the statistics are impressive: The year before the program was implemented, the university got 800 copyright complaints; since, they’ve only received eight. Imagine the work productivity boost if you inserted to a picture of the boss every time an employee accessed a flash game or MySpace profile.

On second thought, no.

Back to work!

June 5, 2008  6:54 PM

Gen X to Gen Y: Grow up!

Ron Richard Profile: Ron Richard

From my perspective, there aren’t many differences between Generation X and Generation Y — except that people born in the 80s aren’t as likely to remember Spider Man and his Amazing Friends. (If you subscribe to the typical generational classifications, I was born toward the end of Generation X.) As far as their touted technological prowess, Generation Y, a.k.a. the “Millennial Generation,” doesn’t seem that different, either, except maybe when it comes to text messaging while driving a car. (I have friends who do this, mostly without incident. Now, that’s amazing!)

Yet, to listen to the media, you’d think that the children of the 80s were born with USB ports built into their nostrils and, like the iPods they commonly carry, are preciously fragile pieces of high-performance machinery — capable of amazing achievements, but oh-so-sensitive. Recently, 60 Minutes reported how the Millennials are revolutionizing the workplace. Millennials demand, according to the report, the right to work when and where they want. They also need lots of mentoring because they’ve always been told “you’re special, you deserve the best,” not “life’s tough and you have to work to get what you want.”

Shortly after I saw the 60 Minutes report, TechRepublic blogger Toni Bowers wrote about how IT managers must prepare for the Millennials. Again, the focus was on how our culture must make way for the under-30 workforce; supposedly everybody has to kowtow to the Millennials because they think their elders aren’t supposed to intimidate them.

Hello? Am I the only one who thinks this is just wrong?

I’m not that much older than these people, but I am old enough to remember that Generation X entered the workforce to the tune of “you’re a slacker,” “you need to be more motivated,” “get a job,” and “you’re a loser if you still live with your parents.” Now, slacking is considered a “market condition,” and living at home is considered a wise economic decision. How come we had to adjust to the world, and now we’re adjusting the world for them?

As a representative of Gen X, I have to say that at the first mention of “step aside, old lady,” I will whap that Millennial whippersnapper upside the head with my soon-to-be-non functioning iPod.

That being said, I work with quite a few Generation Y colleagues, and they are lovely people — hard workers, for the most part — smart, and motivated in the way of ambitious young people, not at all the special snowflakes or idiot savants 60 Minutes made them out to be.

There are, admittedly, a few generational differences. But in my mind, these center around the idea that technology is taken for granted among people who have spent most of their lives around it.

For instance, not that long ago when I was in college (and I’m certainly dating myself here), I was told that to pursue a future in graphic design, I would need to learn the appropriate computer skills on my own because the school lacked those resources. Also, our “social networking” was done via Telnet, in green text on a black screen, with only our imaginations and vocabularies enabling us to throw sheep at each other. Nowadays, both those cases would be unthinkable.

Similarly, fellow Network Hubster Tessa Parmenter recently blogged about how shocking it can be when someone lacks email in this day and age. The same day, Michael Morisy reported on the fact that Generation Y wireless customers are more fickle and likely to jump ship if their carriers don’t deliver.

Both those examples show an insistence on connectivity — on technology that does what people want it to do — but (in my mind, at least) they don’t scream “hold my hand or I won’t work for you!”

So maybe it’s not Generation Y, but the media hype machine, that needs to grow up.

May 29, 2008  6:32 PM

Geek Squad vs. Sex and the City

Ron Richard Profile: Ron Richard

Sure, Carrie Bradshaw was mystified when her Mac died, but that’s no reason to hate on Sex and the City.

As much as pop culture may have you believe that the worlds of beauty and brains lie as far apart as Mars and Venus (Ashton Kutcher’s television “social experiment,” Beauty and the Geek, comes to mind), the truth is that the world is made up of plenty of geeky girls and eye-candy boys — and individuals who defy stereotypes and combine the best of both worlds. And one of the lessons from Sex and the City (if you can believe an HBO comedy would have a lesson) was that love can come in many unexpected packages, from Carrie’s Mr. Big to Charlotte’s true love — short, bald, sweaty and hairy-backed Harry Goldenblatt. Carrie even once dated a comic book guy… though he looked more like an indie rocker than Jeff Albertson.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that a few geeks won’t gag a little at the mention of tomorrow’s Sex and the City opening.

Nobody expects computer nerds to get giddy about satin pumps or the latest trends in foil highlighting. Leave the differential equations to the geeks and the eyebrow waxing to the so-called beauties, because if they try to swap, the results are not good — that’s the kind of thing that makes Beauty and the Geek entertaining. For that matter, I don’t even think the majority of men or many women care about that stuff.

But I do like to rail against the stereotype that women just can’t grSex and the City girlsasp technology (or that geeky people can’t also be pretty people, if they want to). So when I got an email from Ketchum PR this afternoon announcing an anti-Sex and the City promotion with Best Buy’s Geek Squad, I decided to have a little fun.

The email started off with a typical publicity shot of the four Sex and the City ladies with the caption, “IF THIS PHOTO UPSETS YOU, READ ON.” It followed by saying, “Sure Sex and the City will be adored by fanatic females that sip cosmos, adorn Manolos and look for their Mr. Big to get them out of credit card debt, but what about the unfortunate men that get dragged to this film?”

It went on to explain that Geek Squad agents will be handing out promotional packets at theaters in New York, Chicago and LA. The packets will contain four quarters and a list of excuses, so the geeks can run away to the safety of a video arcade. (Good luck finding that arcade, or an arcade game that runs for just four quarters!)

They also sent Geek Squad agents on the NYC “Sex and the City tour” to “become experts on the show.” The video is pretty amusing:

Here was my reply. I hope geek girls everywhere are vindicated.

Your email message was more offensive than the photo — what about men who *like* Sex and the City, or females who don’t like it, or the masses of well-rounded people who actually enjoy (gasp!) both their Manolos AND Mario Bros.? Can’t I have my cosmo and play arcade games? And, incidently, I’ll take Tony Stark to ease my debt over Mr. Big any day.

– Amy Kucharik, tongue firmly in cheek.

(In retrospect, I should have said that I’d rather be Tony Stark than have Mr. Big rescue me from debt.)

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