Thursday, June 30, 2016

Refresh Coming for my Blog and Website

UPDATE, JULY 22

MY NEW SITE IS NOW IN EFFECT - MY BLOG IS NOW INTEGRATED THERE, AND WENT LIVE ON JULY 20.

THIS BLOG SITE IS STILL DRAWING A LOT OF TRAFFIC, AND TO KEEP THINGS MOVING FORWARD, HERE'S THE DIRECT LINK TO MY NEW BLOG:



HERE'S THE BODY OF MY FINAL BLOG POST HERE, WITH MORE DETAIL ABOUT MY NEW SITE, WHICH RAN JUNE 30:

I've been working on this do-over for some time, and it's getting real close. The blog you're seeing now has been running here since 2005, and the same is true for my website.

Not only is all of this getting a full updating - am working with a great web design team, and referrals are welcome! - but both entities are getting combined. So, my blog will now be folded into my website, just like how the rest of the world seems to do things. I'm still old school, and have resisted this for a long time, but it's futile, so onward we go.

This may very well be my last blog post at this location and using the format you see here. We're doing a cutover this weekend, and if things go to plan, my regular blog traffic will redirect automatically.

You'll end up on my new website, which remains unchanged: www.jarnoldassociates.com

I know this will cause some hiccups for some people to find me, but if you stay with me, I think you'll like what's coming - and if you do, please let me know!

If this is the last post on this blog site, then I'll  go full circle and exit at my point of entry - my first post here from March 29, 2005.

I don't re-read old posts, but if you check this out, I think you'd agree I've stayed true to my focus when I started out back then as an indie analyst. I'm still here, so I must be doing something right!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Is Microsoft's Purchase of Linkedin a Good Idea?

Big story and a big question. It's not quite at the heart of the UCC world, but close enough that it needs to be further understood. That's what we addressed in our latest UCStrategies podcast, and it's running on our portal now.

This is Microsoft's biggest acquisition to date, and their track record hasn't be great, generally overpaying and under-delivering. They are Skype's third owner, and you'd be right to question why this name has taken over from Lync, but clearly, they're sticking to it. MSFT paid a similar amount for Nokia, which was written off about a year ago, and a few years before that their pricy acquisition of aQuantive met a similar fate.

They have never been able to crack the mobile market, so precedent does not suggest Linkedin will be a home run. For that much money, it better be, but on the other hand, MSFT can afford it. Perhaps more importantly, they can't afford to miss big opportunities, especially in the business market, which is easier to monetize than the consumer space.

Linkedin reportedly reaches an audience that's bigger than Skype - some 430 million vs. some 300 million - and they've built a highly engaged community with solid business value, whereas Skype remains largely a low cost or free consumer-grade communications platform. No idea what the synergies may be between those two worlds, and it sure will be interesting to see how it unfolds.

Of course, there are concerns that the Linkedin community will become a sales channel for MSFT products, and if it's not handled right, another pureplay business/professional network platform will surely emerge to give that community an independent alternative. Lots of angles to explore, and there's more on the podcast, so I hope you give it a listen.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

New JAA Content - Two Papers for ShoreTel

Been busy on several fronts, and ShoreTel is one of them. Last week was my well-attended webinar on how to choose the right deployment model for UC.

That webinar was based on my recently-completed white paper for them, titled "Cloud, Hybrid or Onsite: Assessing Deployment Options for UC".

From that, ShoreTel has also developed an e-book, titled "Find the Best Fit for Your Business". It doesn't have my JAA byline, but it's a snappier, condensed version of the paper for those who don't want to read the whole thing.

Both documents can be downloaded from ShoreTel's site - just need to complete a short registration page. Here are the direct links for both: white paper and e-book.

Let me know if any problems, and can provide PDFs if needed.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Is Interactive Intelligence an Exponential Organization?

Unless you saw Salim Ismail speak at the recent Interactions 2016 conference, this title may sound cryptic. Previously, I didn't know what an exponential organization was either, but now I do. After hearing Salim, I began wondering how well his ideas - which I really like - apply to the host company, Interactive Intelligence.

The event itself was great as usual, and I posted briefly about that here. This bigger question - not quite exponentially bigger, but still worth asking - needed a different forum, and to address it, I put on my UC Expert hat. My writeup is running now on our UCStrategies portal, and tomorrow I'll be moderating our next podcast where I'll get my fellow UC Experts to weigh in on this as well. Your comments, as always, are welcome!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Tower of Babel and Texting, plus a few updates

Gee, time flies when you're heads-down writing.

Just realized I haven't blogged all week, and there is stuff to talk about. My ShoreTel webinar on Tuesday was really well attended, and with UCStrategies, we did a timely podcast this week about the Microsoft/Linkedin deal - I think we'll be pondering that one for a while. Have also been finishing up two new white papers and an e-book, and just got the proofs back on an upcoming magazine feature I wrote about the future of work.

I'm also quite excited about my long-in-the-works refresh of my blog and website. I've got a great team working on this, and we're merging these sites, so finally there will be one place for all of my content, along with an updated overview of my services and how I work with clients. New projects are about to start with new clients, so it's never dull around here. Oh, on the fun front, it looks like I'll be doing another gig with the SIPTones at the annual SCTC conference this fall in Kansas City - yee haw!

So, Tower of Babel? Almost forgot. This is about our most recent UCStrategies podcast, where we focused on how various text and messaging applications are complicating the UCC landscape. This keeps folks like us gainfully employed, but it's getting even harder now for decision-makers to know where to place their bets. I think our collective thoughts on this might help, so if you missed it, here's the link.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Call-out - my UC Webinar next Tuesday with ShoreTel

Response has been strong for this, and if it hasn't crossed your path yet, I'm doing a webinar next Tuesday at noon ET. The topic is helping SMBs choose the right deployment model for UC, and it's based on a paper I recently did for ShoreTel.

If that's on your radar now, I hope you can join us - registration details are here.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Interactions 2016 - Reimagine the Future

How do you reimagine the future if it hasn't happened yet?

Hmm. Sounds like an oxymoron, but if you listen closely to what's been on tap during this week's Interactions 2016, it's not. The present is changing so quickly, that whatever notions we have about the future are very likely based outmoded thinking. Some of that thinking is outmoded by generations - but it still persists - but other thinking is outmoded by only a few years. The latter is kinda scary, but just look at our kids - what's cool to them right now probably wasn't even invented six months ago.

Interactive Intelligence definitely gets this, and that's the messaging they're trying to impart to the roughly 2,000 people here in Indy. Both customers and channel partners need to reimagine the future, and ININ provided us with a pretty good glimpse about the future they want to take the contact center market into.

Hold that thought for now, as time is short with this being my getaway day. Several of us at UCStrategies were here, and we'll be doing a podcast about our takeaways next week, plus, I'll be doing my own writeup on what that future just might look like, so stick around.

Until then, here are some photos from the conference, with highlights from a few different stages, both non-musical and musical. :-)

Head of Whoopass Marketing, Dan Rood - these guys know how to have fun, and it's great to see such a youthful team at Interactive - I think that's a big part of why they're doing so well.
Keynoter Salim Ismail - way too many big ideas to absorb about the future and disruption, so run out and buy his book. Better yet, order it from Amazon and have a drone deliver it in ten minutes. Or, before long, you can just download it to a chip that ultrasound waves will gently implant into your brain. Yeah, he's that kind of guy - loved it!
I know, they just had the Indy 500 here, and this car isn't going to set any land speed records. However, it's a great example of exactly what Salim was talking about. On demand driving - another form of car rental - just like with bikes - and it's ideal for cities. You pay at the kiosk, get authenticated to drive the car - it's all charged up, this one at post 01, and you're off. Just drop it off when done at any Blue Indy spot downtown and walk away. We talk about ease of use as a driver for getting people to adopt new technology like UC - same thing here - what could be easier?
PureCloud demo time - yes, it works as advertised
If you don't believe those guys, here are real customers talking about it with Dan Rood
Mr. Interactive, CEO Don Brown - great as always
Ed Omland of Amazon Web Services - explaining why the cloud is so powerful and why their partnership with ININ is so strong - agreed.
Fun time - Canadian Music Night at Tastings wine bar - I'm on the left playing guitar. Thanks to Lynn McCready for the photo!
More fun - Open Mic at the Slippery Noodle last night. We came out in big numbers, and our steady rolling SIPTones man, Steve Leaden sat in on drums for bit - he was great. The SIPTones didn't get to play at ININ this year, but hopefully next year. If you want us back, make some noise and let 'em know. If you didn't see us play last year at Interactions, here's the highlight video of our show.



Friday, June 3, 2016

Next Stop - Indy for Interactions 2016

One more stop on the industry event circuit til the fall, pending anything new, anyways.

Am off next to Indy for the Interactions 2016 event. This is with Interactive Intelligence, and it's become a regular event for me over the past few years. I'm getting a double-shot of ININ, actually, as this week I attended their Canadian launch of PureCloud here in Toronto - thanks! - and then I'm off to Indy on Sunday.

Will blog and tweet as time allows, and you can follow the event directly with their hashtag #InteractIndy16.

The past couple of years, I've been part of the SIPTones, and we've played some great gigs at Interactions. Unfortunately, that's not in the cards for 2016, but I've still managed to get some music in for next week. The Canadian contingent is hosting a music night on Wednesday, and I'll be one of the players for a fairly informal, but fun set of songs everyone knows. This time I'll be on guitar, and maybe I'll see you there!

May Writing Roundup

Not as busy on the public writing front last month, but plenty else keeping me engaged, and that will be reflected in my next roundup post.

Why SMBs Need to be Thinking About Hosted VoIP, Toolbox. com, May 31

How UC Supports the Needs of Mobile Workers, Toolbox.com, May 24

Contact Center Agents - the Original UC Users, Toolbox.com, May 23

NEC Advantage 2016 - Quick Take, my blog, May 20

How Different Job Functions Utilize UC, Toolbox.com, May 11

Context - the Real Driver for Customer Care, Toolbox.com, May 9

Energy Thought Summit Redux - Video of my Open Mic Session, my blog, May 3


Thursday, June 2, 2016

Why Are We (Still) Using UC?

Good question, and I think I've got a pretty good answer.

This is the focus of my latest Rethinking Communications column on TMCnet. It's actually a continuation of other recent posts asking "why?" about other tools we use for work, and my intent is to pose some questions to reconsider their true value.

I hope you give it a read - and perhaps my earlier columns too - and would love to hear your thoughts on whether UC is still worth using - or not. There's usually a short registration process on their site to access the article - let me know if any difficulty and happy to get it to you another way.

Friday, May 27, 2016

My Next Webinar - UC Deployment Options with ShoreTel

Happy Friday! It's a short week here in Canada, as we had Victoria Day on Monday, and now Americans are getting ready to check out for Memorial Day. Nobody feels like working right now, but gotta get some things done today.

Been a busy month both with regular writing and client work. Am finishing up a White Paper with ShoreTel that will soon come out, and we're doing an add-on webinar to amplify some of the key themes.

In short, the focus is helping businesses understand and assess the best fit for three different deployment models - cloud, onsite or hybrid. Joining me will be ShoreTel's Richard Winslow, and we're doing the webinar on Tuesday, June 14 at noon ET.

The registration page was recently posted, and it's time start getting the word out. Hope you can join us, and I'll post reminders as we get closer to the date.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

NEC's Advantage 2016 Conference - UCS Podcast

There was a small contingent of analysts and consultants at last week's NEC conference, and there was enough presence from the UCStrategies group to bear collective witness, so that's what we did for our latest podcast.

Being so big and diversified, NEC brings a different twist to the UC space, and it takes some effort to get to know them. However, it's worthwhile, and if they play their cards right, they have a solid portfolio that competes well with anybody.

I was part of that contingent, and along with us, we had a few other UC Experts who weren't there weigh in with their thoughts. So, lots of perspectives, and if you're looking to get up to speed on NEC, our podcast will be 40 minutes well spent.

If you want the two minute version, along with some photos, I did a short blog post about the event, but the podcast provides a much deeper dive.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

My Webinar Tomorrow - Hosted VoIP for SMBs

Just one last post about tomorrow's Ziff Davis webinar I'm doing. The topic is hosted VoIP for SMBs, and I'll be exploring the pros/con and use cases, along with how to take a strategic approach for putting telephony in the cloud.

Webinar runs from 2-3 ET tomorrow, and all the registration details are here.

Friday, May 20, 2016

NEC Advantage 2016 - Quick Take

Just have time for quick getaway post before flying home.

This was my first NEC Advantage event, and I was one of just a handful of analysts there. It's mostly for partners and consultants, and this is where a lot of the business comes from, so it was a great opportunity to learn more about how NEC goes to market in this space.

I'll have more to say on that later, along with two other themes.

1. With so many UC offerings, it's really hard to differentiate, and that matters for everyone in the food chain. NEC is not a household name in this space - at least in North America, and they're very focused on changing that. The main differentiation message for me was how they focus on the integration between IT and UC for their value proposition. Other vendors do this to varying degrees, and given how strong NEC is with network infrastructure, this pairing makes sense.

2. Their SDN story is becoming a dominant theme for going to market. It's still evolving, but the virtualization story is resonating with enterprises, and NEC is pushing to become a market leader. This also ties into their IT/UC integration focus, and not many vendors can take things to this level. Most are going to market with a standalone UC solution, but NEC is surrounding this with a deeper play that can solve a lot of problems for IT.

That's it for now, but I'll have a recap post coming soon on UCStrategies, and as I get further along with their SDN story, look for more analysis on that as well.

Until then, here are some pix from the showcase, and a couple from our SIPTones gig last night. We had a blast, and when the dancing gets going, you know it's working. More to come on that as well, and if the video turns out half decent, the highlights will turn up on YouTube. I'll keep you posted, and if you like what we do, we'd love to play again soon!



 We're not internationally known yet, but it's nice to see our name at the top of the list here at the rehearsal studio on Tuesday.
 Hope to get photos soon from the NEC photographers at the gig, but this one comes via my analyst colleague, Rob Arnold, who posted this shot on twitter last night. Thanks bro!

Hot off the press from breakfast this morning - band shot, along with our patron saint of all things fun, Larry Kollie. 



Monday, May 16, 2016

Next Stop - Jacksonville for NEC and Another SIPTones Gig!

I've been following NEC for a long time, and this will be my first time attending their annual event. The main focus will be customers and partners, but there will also be some analysts and consultants at NEC's Advantage Executive Conference.

Am looking forward to meeting more of NEC's executive team, along with roadmap updates, especially for their UC platform, Univerge Blue.

I'll also be part of the fun, doing another stint on keyboards with the SIPTones. We've been working on our songs, and as per the agenda, we're playing poolside for attendees Thursday night. Hope to see you there, ready to dance!

If you haven't seen us play, here's our most recent gig at last fall's SCTC conference in Atlanta:

Friday, May 13, 2016

CPaaS - New Acronym for UC - Our UCS Podcast

This week's podcast topic was the growing role of APIs and emergence of CPaaS as the latest acronym - that's Communications Platform as a Service.

All of us at UCStrategies try to keep up with the changing landscape, and what we've long been calling Unified Communications seems to be morphing into the equally amorphous term Business Communications. Your guess is as good as mine as to what's next, but for now, the buzz is about CPaaS, spurred by the recent news of Vonage acquiring Nexmo.

It's becoming clear now that UC providers need to have some form of messaging in their offering, and that's what we covered during our podcast. The session was moderated by Blair Pleasant, and you  can check it out here on the UCStrategies portal.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Hosted VoIP - My Next Webinar

Wanted to start off the week with another shout-out for my next webinar with Ziff Davis.

The topic is hosted VoIP for SMBs, and I'll be providing a roadmap to help decision-makers understand what's involved when you put telephony in the cloud. Too much ground to cover in one webinar, but if it's early enough still in your "buyer's journey", it should be time well-spent.

You've got time to plan, and just trying to get/keep it on your calendar for now. The webinar is on Wednesday, May 25 at 2pm ET, and from here, just hop to the registration page to sign up.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

April Writing Roundup

Despite being away nine days at the end of April, I had plenty of writing going on, and below is a digest of posts you may still want to read if you didn't see them earlier. Aside from my ongoing focus on UC/collaboration, there's some smart grid content, a post about Toronto's global ranking for being future-ready, and Flashback Friday, where I re-run older posts from my blog archive - just because!

My Q&A with Esri - How GIS Delivers Value to Utilities, ETS Insights, April 26

Collaboration and Moments of Truth, Toolbox.com, April 26

How Can I Use an Online Whiteboard in my Business?, TechTarget, April 25

How Collaboration Impacts Customer Care, Toolbox.com, April 22

Flashback Friday - Cisco Telepresence Turns 5, my blog, April 22

How Disruption is Driving Change with UC, Toolbox.com, April 19

My UC Expo Article: Flexible Working - Adapting to New Challenges, my blog/UC Expo magazine, April 18

Toronto - We're Number 11!, my blog, April 15

Are Real Time Collaboration Tools Necessary for Enterprises?, TechTarget, April 14

Lowering Barriers to UC with the Cloud, UCStrategies, April 12

Connected Enterprise Report - Future Expectations for UC&C, Toolbox.com, April 11

LatAm Spotlight - VoIP Group CEO Talks Business Necessity of VoIP, TMCnet, April 5

Why Are We Still Using Email?, Internet Telephony Magazine, April 4

How UC Addresses Today's Business Challenges - Improving Productivity, Toolbox.com, April 4

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

More ETS Thought Leadership - GIS and Smart Grid

I blogged yesterday about a session I hosted at the Energy Thought Summit in Austin. It included a video of the full session that Zpryme has posted on YouTube, and am glad to see that my post is getting a lot of readership. So, to keep the ETS vibe going, here's more content.

As Community Advocate for the summit, another hat I've been wearing is doing a series of thought leader interviews. Many of these were posted prior to the event, and can be accessed from the News section of the ETS16 site. Other interviews were done later, so I have a series of those coming soon. One was published while I was away last week, and am sharing it here now.

This one was done with Bill Meehan of Esri, a company that has been pioneering the use of GIS since the 1970s. The applications go well beyond energy, so my UC/collaboration followers will also find this of interest. Bill explains this quite well in the interview, and you can see him in action on the above-mentioned video from my session - he gave a very colorful presentation!

So, here's the interview, and will update the blog as the remaining interviews get posted.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Energy Thought Summit Redux - Video of my Open Mic Session

Zpryme's Energy Thought Summit - ETS16 - was just over a month ago, but there's still good content being posted, and will share here for those interested in the smart grid/smart cities/smart home/smart car space. Our event was a great success and you'll be hard pressed to find richer, more diverse insights about what the future holds for the energy economy.

By now you should know this is another hat that I wear, and as Community Advocate for ETS16, I contributed in a few ways. If that's news to you, my recap post for the summit is a good starting point for my involvement there.

During the summit, I hosted the Open Mic event, where three energy thought leaders each had 10 minutes to talk about an energy challenge - with props - and persuade the audience theirs was the best. The game show format was fun, but don't let that fool you. Each had a timely and relevant message to share that causes you to re-think what energy means in 2016.

My role was to MC the session and keep things moving along to the end where the audience cast their ballots to choose a winner. Being ETS - and being in Austin - we did things a bit differently. As you'll see in the video clip, the speakers had to write the title of their talk on a chalkboard - can't get more old school than that. In keeping with the creative/artsy vibe of Austin, my new piano friend, Adam Lozoya was plucked off the busker-lined streets the night before and provided great ad lib accompaniment throughout the session. On top of that, we held the session in an improv theater space at the back of a nearby cafe.

You won't see this at other conferences, and it was a lot of fun. It's part of what makes ETS unique, and am glad to be part of it. So, explore at your leisure - the whole session is captured below - it runs about 45 minutes, and I won't give the winner away here. Hopefully, you'll watch the whole thing, and if you do, I'd love to hear who you think was the best. You up for that?


Monday, May 2, 2016

Mitel/Polycom Deal - our UCStrategies Podcast

If you're still wondering about what this deal means in the UCC space, our recent podcast on the Mitel/Polycom deal will be time well spent. As you may know, our group at UCStrategies covers the gamut among both analysts and consultants, so collectively, we've got a pretty good handle on the implications for both companies and the market in general.

I know this will be old news for some, but I've been away/offline 9 days, and didn't catch any fish. It was a great trip, though, but that's for another time.

For now, I hope you visit the UCStrategies portal, and give our podcast a listen. Comments as always, are welcome, and we'd love to hear whether you think this form of consolidation is good or bad for the market.

Otherwise, back to work, and I have a ton of postings to catch up on and share, so more to come.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Gone Fishing

This doesn't happen often, but  it's time to disappear for a while - back in a week or so!

Flashback Friday - Cisco Telepresence Turns 5 - Oct. 2011

The longer you blog, the bigger the archive, and for those only recently following me, you wouldn't know my earlier posts unless you went hunting. With time comes perspective, and I thought it would be fun to re-post some older posts, so am starting this Flashback Friday theme. Not sure if I'll do this weekly or whenever, so let's see how this one flies.

If you enjoy revisiting interesting points in time for the communications space - or are just wondering about things like "what were those VON events all about?", "what was life like before twitter?", or "I had no idea about Huntsville, AL!", I think you'll enjoy these flashbacks. Or, if there's something in particular you'd like to re-visit or discover, let me know and I'll see what I've got. Am sure many of you, like me, are students of history, and having blogged regularly since 2005, I've got a lot of posts, and have seen a lot of things happen.

So, here's my first Flashback Friday post. The UC&C market has largely moved away from telepresence, but it sure was a game-changer and Cisco bet pretty heavily on it. Not so much today, but here's my post from 2011 marking it's five year anniversary.

As an aside, the video clip at the bottom is from my YouTube channel, and is the most-viewed clip I've ever posted. I hardly post video any more, but maybe I'll start again soon. If you wander about there, you'll see lots of interviews from conferences, as well as a bunch of music clips of mine from bands playing at various conferences. I'll get around to some of those on future Flashback Friday posts.

So, here we go, and if you want to view the post directly from my blog archive, here's the link.

.................................................................................................

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Cisco TelePresence Turns Five

I put up a short tweet about this yesterday (and if you're not following me there, well, you don't know what you're missing - sign up... @arnoldjon)- but amidst all the other things keeping me busy right now, I realized it needs more attention. Just wanted to add a few thoughts here.

So, the first question to ask now that Cisco has reached the five year milestone with telepresence is the same one I would have asked back in 2006. Aside from the fact that back then nobody really knew what to call it, I'll simply ask - is it telepresence or TelePresence? I'm still 50/50 on this one, and as a rule of thumb, when I'm talking about Cisco, it's "T", but for the category as a whole, it's "t".

Branding is just as important in tech as any other business, and if you toe the Cisco line, you will believe they invented everything around this space and by rights, then, it's TelePresence, period. Of course, they're not the only game in town, and weren't even first to market, but nobody does tech branding for business better than Cisco. The consumer market is another story, but let's not go there for now.

Whether or not Cisco is the Kleenex of telepresence - much like I used to say that Vonage was the Kleenex of VoIP - you really need to give some props here. I think they've earned it, and when John Chambers talks about making big bets and capitalizing on market transitions, I think he got it right with Telepresence. There, I said it - with a capital T.

I don't really think it matters that Cisco's lead offering is hugely expensive - they've been the frontrunners in immersive TP from Day 1, and now that Tandberg is in the fold, I think they'll stay there. It's a bit like complaining that the biggest stars in pro sports are overpaid. In absolute terms, that's absolutely true. Only whiny sportswriters care about that - it's the relative basis that really matters. So long as those athletes live up to expectations (and that's a big IF - hello John Lackey and Carl Crawford - I digress...), and big market teams like my Red Sox are willing to pay the freight, all is in balance. There are buyers and sellers at all price levels, and the market ultimately defines value. Cisco Telepresence may be out of reach for SMBs, but their book of business with the enterprise crowd is doing just fine, thank you.

That leads me to yesterday's announcement, which talks about some updates to their offering and how Cisco TelePresence can now reach a broader market. I'll save the details for another time, but the main thing is that Cisco is evolving the product as market conditions require. Again, this brings me back to why this five year milestone is worth reflecting on. We didn't have tablets or Android then, and the smartphone market was basically RIM and Nokia. You don't need me to tell you what's come along since, and that video has now become pretty mainstream for everybody.

As a result, Cisco needs to evolve its TP portfolio to cater to these new - and emerging opportunities, some of which didn't exist 2-3 years ago. Of course, Cisco would love to own every segment of the TP and collaboration market, but that's not going to happen, esp with all the free/OTT offerings out there that I've been writing about here and elsewhere recently.

Regardless, Cisco has done a lot of things right with TelePresence, and these new twists are just ensuring they'll have a place across all market tiers. More than that, Cisco wants be to remain at the innovation forefront with this technology, because if they don't, those fearsome interlopers - Apple and Google - will take their spot. I'm not saying that Cisco has all the great innovations here, but when it comes to delivering a value proposition that businesses are willing to pay for, they know what they're doing. This ground is going to be harder to defend as these other players continue to make inroads, but if anyone can to do it, it's Cisco.

Finally, for those of you sticking with me here to the end, you get a prize. If you want to step in the wayback machine to see what TP looked like at the beginning, here's a video clip I took of my first live demo at Cisco's Canadian HQ here in Toronto, back in December 2006. This clip is on my YouTube channel, which you're welcome to explore. I'm not posting video there these days - I don't know why - but wanted to share this as a sidebar to Cisco's fifth anniversary for TP. I was there at the beginning, and to show you how much interest there is out there around TP, this clip has by far received more views - over 100,000 - than anything else I've ever posted, and - as you'll see on the site, to this day, I'm STILL getting comments about that clip. How's that for the long tail of the Internet? If I could just find a way to make this pay...


Monday, April 18, 2016

My UC Expo Article: Flexible Working - Adapting to New Challenges

Among other things, I contribute occasional articles to U.K.-based Enterprise Management 360, with my latest being this one, in support of the upcoming UC Expo in London. I won't be participating at this conference, but am hoping to for their follow-on event later this year.

The cloud and future of work are big themes for the expo, and my article focuses on flexible working. If you're attending UC Expo, you'll see it in their special Preview Magazine to support/promote the event. Otherwise, you can read it here in the digital edition, starting on page 20. You can also access it from the UC Expo website - just scroll down a bit on the homepage, and you can't miss the info about how you can read it online.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Toronto - We're Number 11!

It's not every day that I get to say Toronto, Dell and Harvard in the same sentence, but we were all in the room together earlier this week, and am doing my civic duty here.

I've been developing some good relationships recently with Dell, and the stars lined up for me on Tuesday to participate in a panel as part of a Dell Canada event here in Toronto. This was a new event for me - Power To Do More - but it included a session with analysts, press, Dell Canada customers, and most notably Prof. David Ricketts from Harvard.

For background, Dell sponsored the 2015 Strategic Innovation Summit, which was convened by Harvard, with Dr. Rickerts serving as the summit's General Chair. Briefly, the summit focused on harnessing the forces of change - mostly tech-related of course - to drive the "innovation-based economy" of tomorrow.

Lots of good insights came out of this summit, and Dr. Ricketts was on hand to discuss them in a group setting. The newsworthy highlight came in the form a list of top 50 global cities that the research deemed as being most "future ready". I'm not going to break down the methodology or full listing here, but you can get all the key takeaways in the press release issued by Dell Canada in support of this event.

I find this research fascinating, and Toronto certainly comes out looking good, ranking at #11. We all love to shout "we're #1", but San Jose has a lock on that spot, and #11 is not too shabby. I'm not alone among Toronotians who can effortlessly spout all our shortcomings, but as liveable cities go, TO is pretty hard to beat.

Given that I also wear a smart grid/smart cities hat, I'd be remiss if I didn't give a hat tip as well to Austin, which came in even higher in the global rankings at #7. Having just served as the Community Advocate for last month's Energy Thought Summit in Austin, I can tell you first hand this is an up and coming city - looks like the next San Francisco to me - and they are doing some very cool and smart things, especially in the energy space. For a taste of that, here's my blog post with some highlights from ETS16, and for our broader thought leadership on energysmart cities - including mine - feel free to check out the News tab here.

Coming back to Dell/Harvard, what the research is really focused on is the extent to which leading cities have the right mix of attributes to sustain economic growth, and the authors break this down into three core dimensions - human capital, infrastructure and commerce.

There's lots more to explore here, but for now I'm just doing a shout-out to share TO's good news. As well, kudos to Dell for sponsoring this research, and as I get more involved with their IoT practice, I'll have to more to say about what cities need to do to be globally competitive, as well as how best to use technology to help make that happen.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Lowering the Barriers to UC with the Cloud - My New Post

My writing takes many forms - as it has to these days - and one of them is on a partnership basis. Regular followers will know that I'm part of UCStrategies, and contribute a monthly column - new one coming next week - along with participating in our regular podcasts.

Another is authoring thought leadership on behalf of sponsors who engage with UCStrategies to help educate the market about industry trends and new technologies. AT&T is one such sponsor, and as part of an ongoing program with them, I was tasked to write about how I see the cloud as an enabler for UC adoption. There are lots of reasons for enterprises to push back on the cloud, but plenty of others to embrace it, and that's what I focused on in this article.

AT&T may be the sponsor of this series, but the content is largely mine. The writing may have gone through many corporate review cycles, but as you'll see, it's my independent voice in the article. There's always a balance to strike with sponsors, but I think you'll agree it's pretty objective, and hopefully you'll find it helpful as you think about UC and the best way to get full value.

The post is running now on the UCStrategies portal, and if you like my writeup, look around a bit, as there are some other articles there from the AT&T series that are you'll enjoy just as well.

Monday, April 11, 2016

My Next Webinar - Hosted VoIP for SMBs

VoIP adoption still has a long way to go among SMBs, and the best validation for that is how crowded the hosted space has become. With cloud poised to become the option of choice for telephony, SMBs have a lot to choose from, ranging from incumbents, cablecos, CLECs, OTTs and even SIs.

My upcoming Ziff Davis webinar focuses on why conditions are well aligned now for SMBs, as well as a review of persistent holdbacks that have kept VoIP from taking over the world since entering the telephony space back in 1995.

The webinar date is Wednesday, May 25, so you've got time to make plans. Since the registration page was posted the other day, I might as well do an early shout-out now. All the details are here, and if you don't know your May plans yet, I'll post here again as we get closer to the date.

Friday, April 8, 2016

My VoIP Group Interview - Spotlight on the LatAm Market

Sometimes content gets generated in a few seconds, and other times much longer. This falls into the latter category, as do most things that are published and go through editorial review. I actually have another example of this set to run next week, and I'll update that in due course.

For now, the story is my interview with Alfredo Bellagamba, CEO of Brazil-based VoIP Group. I didn't know this company until I met with Alfredo for an interview during the recent ITExpo event in Ft. Lauderdale. They have a good story to tell, and it's a great example of what goes on in the VoIP space outside of North America. LatAm is a major market in its own right, and VoIP Group seems to be in the middle of most everything going on there.

My interview was published this week on TMCnet as a featured article, and I hope you give it a read.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Why Are We Still Using Email?

That's a good question, and that's the title of my current column in Internet Telephony Magazine, and is a follow-on to my previous column, titled Why Are We Still Using Desk Phones?

These are valid questions and they speak to a radically changing landscape driven both by new technology and changing expectations among end users. There's a lot to explore here, and you might be surprised by the issues raised in my column. I hope you give it a read - and the previous one - and if either spurs a reaction, I'd love to hear from you and even more so if you care to share.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Next Stop - Chicago and Cisco

Still feeling the vibe from last week's Energy Thought Summit in Austin, and am increasingly optimistic that utilities will figure this transformation out as they modernize for the digital world. We think of the Internet as being all-important, but it's not compared to the true necessities of life. After food and water, nothing matters more than power, and as this becomes more of a demand-driven market, it's really interesting watching how utilities adapt.

There are parallels happening in the customer care space, and Cisco is at the forefront of how vendors are adapting to changing demands and expectations from the marketplace. Contact centers are assessing the business value of the cloud and new approaches like omnichannel, as well as trying to figure out how to map the customer journey before their customers wander off someplace else.

Am going to Chicago tomorrow for a short analyst event with Cisco focused on customer care, and look forward to hearing where Cisco is on their own journey to strengthen their hold on the contact center market.

Friday, April 1, 2016

March Writing Roundup

Busy month, yeah.

Had two conferences at the back end of the month - Channel Partners, and ETS16 - from which I just returned late last night. So, aside from my regular writing stints, I produced a lot of content for the GetVoIP blog from Channel Partners, along with my smart grid thought leadership around ETS16 - and more of that to come. Here's a summary of what I was up to in March.

Channel Partners Takeaways -What Millennials, Mobility and 5G Mean for UC, UCStrategies, March 31

ETS16 - Day 1 Quick Hits, March 30, my blog

What Else SMBs need to do to Ensure UC Provides Flexibility, March 29, Toolbox.com

Channel Partners Spotlight on Vonage - What Makes Them a Good Partner, March 25, GetVoIP blog

Microsoft at Channel Partners - "We're Partner Friendly", March 25, GetVoIP blog

Channel Partners Spotlight on Nextiva - Winning Those Loose Balls, March 22, GetVoIP blog

8x8's State of Channel Program, March 21, GetVoIP blog

Intel Q&A - Utilities and the Internet of Things, March 18, ETS Insights

How UC Brings Flexibility to Your Business, March 17, Toolbox.com

Channel Parters Conference - First Take, March 16, GetVoIP blog

Why SMBs Aren't Adopting UC, March 14, Toolbox.com

Why Are We Still Using Desk Phones?, March 9, Internet Telephony Magazine

S&C Electric Q&A, Part 2 - Energy Storage Opportunities, March 8, ETS Insights

Allconnect Q&A - News Ways to Connect with Customers, March 8, ETS Insights

Why VoIP Hasn't Yet Replaced Legacy Telephony, March 7, Toolbox.com

Humans - Bringing the Personal Touch to Energy, March 7, ETS Insights

Univago - Solving Video from the Cloud, March 4, my blog

Thursday, March 31, 2016

What Millennials, Mobility and 5G Mean for UC - My Channel Partners Takeaways

I produced a series of spotlight profile posts for the GetVoIP blog around the recent Channel Partners conference, but I had more to say specifically about UC&C. That's what I focused on for my latest contribution to the UCStrategies portal.

As the title implies, these three factors all have an impact on where UC&C is heading, and when you mash them all together, it's pretty profound. I got a really good sense of that from a panel at Channel Partners comprised of Millennials, and moderated by Verizon. If you're willing to listen to the younger generation rather than dismiss them, you can learn a lot, and that's the tack I'm taking in this writeup.

We have lots of great content on the portal, and hopefully you'll read my post, and from there check out what my fellow UC Experts have to say. Sharing is encouraged as only, and if you share for me, I'll gladly share for you!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

ETS16 - Day 1 Quick Hits

Things are moving fast here at Zpryme's ETS16 - Energy Thought Summit - and I'm wearing a few hats. I've been producing a lot of thought leadership content in advance of the summit, and this morning, I hosted the first session - an Open Mic panel that was a lot of fun. Today I'm also doing a series of video interviews with industry execs, and these will turn up soon on the ETS Insights page.

Time is short, and for now I can only manage a few photos with brief commentary from yesterday, plus some late additions from the Open Mic session. Here we go...

Early start yesterday, with a tour of the power plant site, which was decommissioned a few years back, and has been totally reinvented as a different kind of community asset. Very impressive, and Austin is really leading way for integrating energy and the role of utilities into the fabric of everyday life in the digital age. Kind of ironic to see two letters below not illuminated - not sure if that's Austin humor, or nobody noticed these lights are out.  :-)
Another cool vibe about Austin is the arts scene. It's more than just a music town, and creativity is everywhere here. I believe it's actually a key part of the secret sauce that makes the tech startup scene here so dynamic. If that's not on your radar, it really should be. Check out what they've done with these huge metal tubes - as I understand things, it's part of how they cool the water when producing steam to drive the turbines. Not any more, and I love what they've done here. Perhaps it symbolizes a prison break, escaping from the legacy energy model, or more likely reinvention - for both the energy sector and repurposing an industrial site to something with great aesthetics. I'm reaching, but I also see the bodies of two guitars here, and that wouldn't be out of place in this town.
Another example of repurposing the site and 21st century urban renewal. Dormant cooling tower next to a high rise condo, making this a very hip neighborhood now.
Another part of the tour was to see what they're doing to promote alternate forms of transportation and energy - electric vehicles and e-bikes in particular. They're doing lots of leading-edge things in these areas, and here's a fast charging station, with a Nissan Leaf with the lid flipped up for charging.

Nothing really radical here, but I really like how the charger has the look and feel of the pumps we all use at gas stations. I asked about this, and they are in fact, looking at partnerships with gas stations to put in some chargers, even one that serves BBQ. Why not? Fast chargers only take about 20 minutes, so it's about the right amout of time to get a bite to eat and get back on the road.
Now, here's the interesting part for me. The experience of using an EV charger totally has the same look and feel as if being at a gas station. They didn't have to design it this way, but when you think about the activity you're trying moving people away from, it's much easier to do that when the user experience is so familiar.

If EV charging looked different - or weird as they say in Austin - or complex, people wouldn't use it so readily. The UC&C space is going through this now, and the vendors definitely get it, and that's really helping drive adoption. Great to see that here with energy, and when other points of contact in the home have the same thinking - smart meters, thermostats, home networks, etc. - that's going to make smart grid adoption move a lot faster.

Show time at the Paramount - they don't make 'em like this any more.
ETS President Drew Johnston welcoming everyone and setting the tone.
Dr. Thomas Wagner from NASA - great talk, more about that later - and some visual art happening in real time. I didn't catch the name of the illustrator, but over the course of the morning sessions, she created a visual narrative that captured the essence of what the speakers were sharing.
Voila! The finished product - very cool, huh? And, between sessions, there is a musical performer to serenade us - different ones each time. In this case, we had classical music. Loved it, but am not sure if she was playing a cello or a viola. Anyhow, I don't think you're going to see this mixing of arts, creativity and music - all acoustic, all live - at any other event. Again, you may call Austin weird, but it totally works for me, and really engages all the senses.
For star power, we had Dr. Vint Cerf, via remote connection. Too bad he couldn't be on stage, but it was great to hear his thoughts. The experience was just so-so, though, and Google Hangouts was probably not the ideal choice for such an esteemed speaker. That's another conversation, but I'm wearing my smart grid hat right now.
Finally, some me time. This was from today's 8am session, so it's really a bonus add-on for my Day 1 recap. I MC'd the Open Mic session, and I grabbed this photo that was posted on twitter earlier. Thanks for that! We had a full house, and was very happy to have a local pianist accompany us during the transitions from speaker to speaker. Maybe it's just an Austin thing, but it was a nice touch.
Here's the piano man, Adam Lozoya. Literally, he was discovered playing on the street the day before, and next thing you know he's at my session. Great guy, and nice of him to let me play a bit too - I can't not do that if there's a piano in the room. Here he is with Act II, performing outside the theater during our morning break. Gotta love the electric candles sticking up, and of course the tip hat. Man's gotta make a living!





Tuesday, March 29, 2016

UCS Podcast - Role of Customer Engagement in the Contact Center

Well, the role is definitely changing, and we don't talk about this enough, but that was the focus for our latest UCStrategies podcast. Blair Pleasant as usual, did a great job moderating, and we had a wide range of perspectives, covering both how technology is impacting the customer experience, along with how the relationship between buyers and sellers has evolved in today's digital world.

The podcast can be accessed here on the UCS site, and my comments start at the 7:33 mark.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Channel Partners Conference - Two More Posts: Vonage and Microsoft

At the recent Channel Partners conference in Las Vegas, I produced a series of posts for the GetVoIP.com blog. They were based on interviews I conducted with various executives from the companies being profiled, along with my own take on where each one fits into the shape-shifting world of UC and collaboration.

The first set of posts featured Nextiva and 8x8, along with my overall impressions of the event. Links to these can be found in my sumary post about them from last week.

Since then, the final two posts are now running on the GetVoIP blog - one featuring Vonage and one with Microsoft. The links to each are below, and while you're there, I encourage you to check out the other content on the GetVoIP blog, which covers more than just VoIP and UC.

Channel Partners Spotlight on Vonage - What Makes Them a Good Partner

Microsoft at Channel Partners - "We're Channel-Friendly"

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Energy Thought Summit, Austin - Final Shout-Out!

With this being a short week, I wanted to push another post out about Zpryme's ETS16, starting next Tuesday in Austin.

I've cited the back story regarding my involvement in the summit along with the smart grid space in general many times, and if you don't have that, here's a recent post about it.

I'll be flying to Austin on Monday, and if you're there, I won't be hard to find. As you may know, I've been writing a fair bit to support the summit, and my latest is a Q&A I did with Intel about the role IoT plays in how utilities evolve for 21st century needs.

Once you see that, my other posts won't be hard to find, and I'll continue blogging and tweeting throughout the event.

Oh, and if you're there, I'm hosting the Open Mic event bright and early on Wednesday at 8am!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Channel Partners Conference - My Initial Posts

It's been a week now since the Channel Partners conference in Las Vegas, and while I've been doing a lot of writing since then, I haven't been doing much blogging. A big reason is that the writing I've been doing specifically around the conference is being published on the GetVoIP blog.

You may have come across these posts already, as myself and others have been sharing them on social media. If not, here are links to the first three posts of mine, all of which I think you'll find of interest. I've got two more coming, and will update this post when they run, hopefully by end of week.

Channel Partners Spotlight on Nextiva - Winning the Loose Balls!

8x8's State of Channel Program - My Exclusive Interview at CPExpo

Channel Partners Conference - First Take

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Next Stop - Channel Partners Conference, Las Vegas

Got a quick trip this week - going to Las Vegas later today for the Channel Partners Conference. Am doing things a bit differently this time around, as I'll be guest blogging about the event for GetVoIP.com. I've contributed to their blog before, but this time I'll be providing updates there on the conference from an analyst's perspective. If you're at the conference, drop me a line, and if not, I hope you follow my posts.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Energy Thought Summit - My Q&A Interview Series

Slipping on my smart grid hat, as Community Advocate for the upcoming Energy Thought Summit in Austin, I have a few roles to play. One of them is developing thought leadership content to provide a preview of what to expect at ETS16. This has taken two basic forms, one of which I just completed, and now I've got a second track underway.

The first form is my four-part TECH series, where each article focused on a distinct theme that defines ETS16 - Transformation, Emergence, Convergence and Humans. Earlier this week, the final article was posted, and that's a good starting point if you'd like to explore the full series.

Just as the communications space has been radically disrupted the past 10 years, the same story is unfolding now in the energy sector, and that's why I've been involved here for several years. These posts will give you a pretty good idea of how technology has been a driving force for change across the entire energy value chain, and we still have a long way to go.

Now I'll get to the second form of thought leadership. Another way of understanding what's driving change is to hear first hand from across the ecosytem - the disruptors, the utilities being disrupted, and energy consumers. I've done this via a series of Q&A interviews that is still ongoing, and the first set was just posted this week, and links to each are provided below.

I'll add others as they're posted, and I hope you enjoy these. Who knows? Maybe it will be enough to get you to come join us in Austin, March 29-31.

S&C Electric - Energy Storage Opportunities
S&C Electric - Innovation and Collaboration for Energy
Allconnect - New Ways to Connect With Customers
Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative - Managing Customer Chaos

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Why Are We Still Using Desk Phones?

This is one of my favorite questions, and depending on your needs - and perhaps age - the answers will be very different. Neither is right/wrong - it's just that the realities of how we communicate have been constantly changing ever since VoIP came along. Those changes continue to come, and the idea that desk phones will disappear isn't so radical any more.

While that logic might lead to an inevitable conclusion, we're not there yet - far from it. The desk phone business is very much alive and well, and my latest Rethinking Communications column for TMCnet explores why that's the case and what you should consider in terms of what's really best for your employees. That should be a strong enough hook to get you over to their site, where my article is now running in the March 2016 digital edition of Internet Telephony Magazine.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Humans - Bringing the Personal Touch to Energy

That's the title of my fourth and final post in the "ETS16 Primer" series as a lead-up to the Energy Thought Summit later this month in Austin.

As you may know, this is part of my broader involvement in the smart grid space as well as this conference, both of which I do with Austin-based Zpryme Research. I've been posting updates here, with the most recent being about the third post in the Primer series.

The latest post looks at the importance of keeping humans central to how utilities go about modernizing their business. It's easy to think passively about energy as a commodity service, but humans are the ones building the smart grid, as well as being the consumers of what they produce.

Our world is much more connected and engaged today - hence my interest in smart grid coming from the UC/collab space - and the success of modernization efforts relies heavily on keeping the human touch. That's what this post touches on, and helps set the stage for ETS16. I hope you read it, and if you like it, I encourage you to read the earlier posts in the series, and maybe, just maybe you'll decide to join us in Austin, March 28-31.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Univago - Solving Video From the Cloud

Overview
Cloud-based video collaboration platforms are turning up across the spectrum of communications providers these days, and for good reason. Ease of use has improved, the quality of experience is now enterprise-grade, and cloud economics are making these offerings very attractive. All of this represents a big step forward from legacy, room-based systems, and now the power of video is accessible to everyone across an organization.
One of the keys to making video valuable as a collaboration tool is the ability to support ad hoc meetings. There will always be a need for formal, scheduled conferences, but today’s workplace is highly fluid, and what enterprises are really striving for is to provide applications that employees can use on their own, from any location, at any time and with any type of endpoint.
The cloud makes all this possible, and I’ve had a chance to review one of the latest entries, namely Univago from Yorktel. Pronounced Uni-vahgo, their cloud-based collaboration service was launched last October, and is one of many offerings Yorktel has developed as a managed services provider for the enterprise market.
User experience
My comments about the user experience will be brief since I don’t have intensive needs for platforms like this. That said, the user portal is intuitive, and the screens aren’t overly cluttered with options that tend to cut down the real estate that’s actually used for video. Overall, I’d say Univago has succeeded in making the process of collaborating fairly easy, right from starting a meeting, inviting people and then managing the session.
All the features you’d expect are there in terms of control functions -mute/unmute, show self view, full screen mode, etc. - selecting audio/video devices, content sharing, screen sharing, chat, etc. I particularly liked the feature for selecting bandwidth – not just to optimize the quality of experience, but also to help conserve power consumption. While Univago is very much built as a self-service platform, IT is accountable for the costs, so this is a subtle way to encourage end users to help keep that in check.
In terms of capacity, it’s worth noting that Univago can support HD meetings up to 30 people, and for a cloud-based service, this should suffice for most needs. I should also add that Univago can be customized, meaning that enterprises can use these meeting rooms as branding opportunities to show customers how tech-savvy they are. The same applies to service providers as well, so they could offer Univago on a branded basis to enterprise customers to differentiate themselves from competing carriers.
Joining a conference is quite easy, with three options that cover all the basic scenarios – via a browser, a phone or an endpoint. For browser access, Univago is optimized for Chrome, while other browsers may need a plug-in for initial use, and some certain features, such as desktop sharing are not yet supported. When calling in via mobile phone, Univago supports iOs and Android, and both require the Pexip Infinity Connect Desktop Client, which can be downloaded for free from their respective app stores.
These are fairly straightforward, but it’s the third option that enterprises will especially like. The “Endpoint” option allows participants to enter a Univago meeting room from existing video systems, either legacy or IP-based. While enterprises will already have some mix of such endpoints, in most cases, they’ll be able to use what they have to join Univago-hosted meetings. More importantly with Univago, they’ll be able to interoperate with each other – more on that later. Currently, Univago supports video endpoints and applications from Polycom, Cisco, Microsoft Lync 2010 and 2013, Lync Online via Office 365, Skype for Business, as well as the dominant video protocols, H.323 and SIP.
Another nice feature is the ability for users to have up to three separate rooms – URooms – so they can have saved settings and groups for regular meeting sessions. This makes it easy in cases where employees have back-to-back meetings with different groups or teams. Once these meetings are scheduled in the calendar, going from one to another just requires a few mouse clicks. Nothing needs to be customized or downloaded, allowing each meeting to start on time.
Notable points of difference
With so many hosted and WebRTC-based video conferencing/collaboration solutions out there, it’s hard to tell them apart. For everyday needs, they all perform similarly and have a comparable set of features. To be fair, the lines are getting blurry when focusing just on video conferencing for meetings, and then needing to compare that against full-fledged UC and/or collaboration platforms that incorporate video into their offerings. That’s a broader discussion for another time, and I’ll conclude by noting three aspects of Univago that stand out for me.
1.   Flexible deployment options
Univago is offered via three different models, two of which will be familiar. First is the pure play cloud model, where the service is hosted by Univago and accessed over the public Internet. This will be the most economic option, requiring no new infrastructure, but QoS can be impacted as scale increases or during periods where bandwidth demand is highly variable.
Second would be a private network scenario – namely MPLS – where the enterprise connects directly with the Univago cloud, bypassing the Internet entirely. Off-net users would still need to connect via the public Internet, so the attraction of this option may depend on where most employees will be working from. This option will be more expensive, but it scales better than the public Internet and IT has more control over QoS.
Third is a bit of a twist, in what Yorktel calls the “hybrid deployment”, where a Univago conference node resides onsite, behind the enterprise’s firewall. Off-net users still need to connect via the public Internet, but for everyone else – on-net users - this provides the most secure environment with highest quality experience possible. What makes this attractive is the ability for Univago to deliver a consistent experience for meeting participants from wherever they’re calling in.
For the enterprise, there’s a big benefit in that all the public Internet traffic is routed directly to another Univago node, hosted in Yorktel’s cloud. In fact, they have three data centers, one each in North America, EMEA and Asia, and each one hosts a Univago node. Wherever this traffic originates from, it is routed to the closest of these data centers, at which point, it establishes a direct connection with the Univago node on the customer’s location.
In short, this federated approach allows public Internet traffic to be vetted by Univago, only allowing authenticated participants past the enterprise firewall and into the meeting. Not only does this help keep customer bandwidth consumption down, and mitigates IT security risks, but with this distributed architecture, Univago can intelligently route calls, saving precious milliseconds in latency that can degrade a video session. There’s also a cost savings element for enterprises when participants use telephony for the audio portion of a conference. Since the nodes are regionalized, local toll free numbers can be used in place of a centralized system where all the calls dial in to the same number.
To date, this option is still in trials with some enterprise customers, so it’s not yet commercially deployed. However, I’m told interest has been keen, as it addresses some key challenges faced by distributed enterprises for supporting video with both onsite and offsite participants.
2.  Virtual gateway to bridge legacy and IP systems
The earlier issue of supporting proprietary systems and mixed protocols is addressed by their Enterprise Gateway service. This can be deployed either onsite or in the Univago cloud, but the result is the same - “any to any” interoperability. Yorktel believes Univago to be unique in this regard, whereby this service brings together all these disparate elements that usually create barriers for video conferencing – H.323, SIP, WebRTC and Skype for Business.
For enterprises struggling to do this, along with having a strong desire for a video solution that’s accessible to everyone, their virtual gateway will be a selling point. Another factor to consider here is that Univago is a full service partner. That means they’re more than just a conference bridge up in the cloud. If enterprises need support to get these elements working together, this is where Univago – and Yorktel – adds value that pure play cloud offerings cannot provide.

3.       Virtual receptionist
This is another feature that ensures only authenticated participants calling in off-net can join a Univago session hosted on the customer’s private network. Much like with audio conferencing, callers are prompted via IVR to enter their ID using DTMF tones to pass the “gatekeeper” and enter the meeting.
Since these calls will be Web-based, an IP address can be used as well, which only bona fide participants will have. Aside from making the process of joining a meeting more seamless, it keeps the spam out, which also helps optimize bandwidth consumption. It’s also worth noting that this feature represents another branding opportunity for enterprises, whereby callers can have a direct association with the company at every step of the way during their meeting experience.
Conclusion
All of the above comes with the offering – not separate, costly add-ons - so enterprises have a comprehensive solution in Univago, with a great deal of flexibility for deployment. There’s far more here than what purpose-built cloud video services offer, and compared to premise-based systems, Univago gives customers greater choice and control.
In essence, Univago is a PaaS offering that’s built for what enterprises need today when it comes to making video meetings and collaboration as easy to use a making a phone call. For enterprises looking for a vendor-agnostic partner, and don’t have the resources to manage a collaboration solution in-house, PaaS for cloud-based video is a viable approach. I’d keep watch on Univago, as their success will be a good indicator of the PaaS model as a driver to accelerate the use of video for collaboration.
Unlike most cloud-based services that are pure play video providers, I should add that Univago is one of several offerings from Yorktel, and being new, it’s almost like a startup venture inside the company. So, kudos to Yorktel for innovating around long-standing problems which enterprises really need to get solved. Collaboration is too strategic now, and with enterprises so decentralized, video simply has to work better, and that’s why Yorktel has come up with Univago.
Finally, from the buyer’s side, it’s worth noting that Univago can be purchased as a standalone offering – making it directly competitive with pure play video providers – but also in tandem with other Yorktel services. This would make sense where enterprises are looking for a full-service MSP to handle all their communications needs.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

February Writing Roundup

As you can see below, I had a good variety of writing last month. Aside from the regular mix of UC, collaboration, customer experience and VoIP, there are two things to note that are a bit outside the norm.

First, wearing my smart grid hat, I'm quite involved with the Energy Thought Summit, running end of March in Austin. I've been active in this space for some time, and one of my roles is to create thought leadership leading up to the summit. Last month, two posts in a four part series of mine ran - see below.

Second, if you just read one thing from this digest of posts, go to the very last one, which wasn't even written by me. Rather, it's by long-time Forbes writer David F. Carr, who wrote a great review of a panel I moderated on collaboration that he was a speaker on. I don't get cited in the mainstream business press very often, so this was very nice to see - and totally unexpected.

Otherwise, here's what else I was writing about last month to give you a sense of what I'm seeing in the communications market.

Ideal Scenarios for Cloud-Based UC, Feb. 25, Toolbox.com

What Employees Will Not Like About VoIP, Feb. 23, Toolbox.com

Vertical Communications - Can They Succeed Selling Direct?, Feb. 22, UCStrategies

Considering Unified Communications as a Service?, Feb. 18, TechTarget PRO+ Premium Content

Three Things Employees Will Love About VoIP, Feb. 15, Toolbox.com

VoIP Deployment Mistakes to Watch For, Feb. 9, Toolbox.com

Convergence - The Road Ahead When Transportation and Energy Merge, Feb. 9, ETS16 portal

Three Factors That Impact Audio Quality for Conferencing, Feb. 8, Toolbox.com

Top Six Tips for Shaping the Customer Experience in 2016, Feb. 4, Enterprise Management 360

UC Analytics Must Mature Before Benefits can be Seen, Feb. 4, TechTarget

Emergence - New Players and Technologies Bring Utilities to the Innovation Game, Feb. 3, ETS16 portal

Honorable mention - I moderated a panel about collaboration in late January at ITExpo, and one of my speakers, who spoke on behalf of a vendor, is also a regular contributor for Forbes. He wrote an article about the session, with generous citations for me and the other panelists.

Are You Communicating or Collaborating?, February 2, Forbes, by David F. Carr