Walking among more than 25 Bay Area-based nonprofit organizations at a Volunteer Fair at Cisco headquarters, I was struck by the dedication and enthusiasm of the nearly 900 Cisco employees who took time to learn how to get involved in their local community. In addition to meeting with representatives from nonprofit organizations who focus on education, homelessness, hunger and the environment, California State Secretary of Service and Volunteering, Karen Baker, addressed the crowd and remarked on Cisco’s 360 degree approach to volunteering or “doing volunteering on steroids.”
Archive for March, 2010
Since my blog post last June on usage of DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), there have been quite a few requests for updated DKIM signing statistics. I’m pleased to report that deployment of DKIM signing is continuing at a steady pace, both in terms of number of messages being signed and the number of domains doing the signing.
As before, the above graph shows the number of signed messages received in a given week. The gap for the month of September reflects a discontinuity in our statistics while we changed the infrastructure being used for DKIM signature verification. For the month of February 2010, 13.4% of Cisco’s incoming email had valid DKIM signatures, not counting messages rejected by our anti-spam and anti-virus filtering.
March 31, 2010 – San Francisco, CA – Cisco today unveiled a new line of Linksys® wireless routers, designed to let its core audience of tech experts and enthusiasts take their home networking experience to the next level. The new, streamlined product lineup sets a new precedent for simplicity, power, and performance and makes it easy for consumers to find the right technology to fit …
March 31, 2010 – San Francisco, Calif., – Cisco is pairing its wireless technology leadership with Flip Video’s simplicity-in-design approach to launch ValetTM — a breakthrough new product line that makes home wireless simple and accessible for everyone. Valet is designed to transform how families use the Internet in their homes so they can enjoy the freedom of wireless access without …
What a week at VoiceCon Orlando!
When I joined the Office Communications Server team back in August 2007, I personally was new to the enterprise voice space and Microsoft was only just painting a vision of the world to come. Roll forward two and a half years, and we are clearly seen as a major player in the communications industry with anticipation from customers and competitors of the impact we will have. That was the reason I joined the team and it is very fulfilling to have helped lead this transformation and to have learned so much along the way. At this show, we announced the availability of Communications Server “14” (code name) in H2 2010 and showed some of the capabilities for the first time. You can find out more here: www.microsoft.com/communicationsserver.
The show lasted four days and included keynotes from leading vendors (Microsoft, Avaya, Siemens, Cisco and IBM), several general sessions to discuss key broad issues in the industry and breakout sessions focused on specific topics. I tweeted during the show with some of my favorite lines, you can check out at http://twitter.com/mozontweet. On balance, I think we came out top in the show and it seems others such as ‘The UC Guys’ also agree. Here’s why….
We Have Moved Past “Is Microsoft Able to Replace My PBX”
Three years ago, Microsoft announced its initial foray into enterprise voice. This solution was sufficient for highly-mobile workers, but not sufficient to replace the PBX for many customers. Since then we have added the features that allow us to meet the needs of information workers and the enterprise. In this release we will add capabilities for users (such as call park), for survivability (such as call admission control and branch resiliency), and phones (more options for low cost knowledge worker and common area IP handsets). By listening to customers and industry experts we were able to carefully prioritize our investments to the most important product features. Our work to meet enterprise voice requirements culminated in our submission of an RFP response for VoiceCon along with all the major telephony players. While there were a few areas where we did not fully comply, we met the core requirements of the RFP, effectively validating Microsoft as a potential PBX replacement. You can read more about it in BJ’s blog post.
Everyone is Focusing on the Broader Collaboration Experience, Not Just Voice
There was a lot of talk at the show about collaboration and social networking. Without a doubt these are critical elements of next generation communications. But while legacy telephony players are starting to talk about collaboration, Microsoft has been leading the industry with assets such as Microsoft Office, SharePoint, Exchange, and now Office Communications Server. In several customer meetings I used our internal organizational structure as an example of our commitment to comprehensive collaboration experiences. The leaders for OCS, SharePoint, and Exchange report to a common Senior Vice President for office business productivity (OBP). During product planning, we think about and invest in common scenarios. Organizationally, the OBP team sits alongside the broader Office team and we work to ensure that our collaboration experiences are accessible through the Office products that hundreds of millions use every day. Most of our competitors either don’t have such assets, only have assets from acquisitions, or have siloed organizations that impede coordinated planning and investment. So while they can meet a checkbox test in an RFP response, they can’t meet the integrated experience test needed to ensure adoption and productivity gains that were of the platform investment justification. As Gurdeep said in his keynote, “while our engineers have been busy, their M&A departments have been at work”.
A great example of this kind of integration is “Skill Search”, which searches profile information from SharePoint and returns a list of users who match the search criteria along with their presence state. With one click, you can initiate voice, IM, email, or conferences with the experts you find. This user experience integration is where we stand out. It’s great to see other players in the industry follow, but we are ready for them!
Customers Are Adopting OCS and Vowing to “Never Buy Another PBX”
I moderated a panel in which several Microsoft customers were queried by leading analysts about their experiences with OCS. One of the analysts, Brian Riggs, wrote a blog entry on this entitled “OCS is a Current, Not Future, Threat to PBX Developers”. As Brian pointed out, the customers on the panel had not fully displaced their PBX. AT Kearney, for example, had made a recent investment in Cisco’s IPT solution but realized it could not meet the needs of their mobile workforce. They deployed OCS alongside their Cisco PBX, and plan to leave the PBX in place until it depreciates. Their users are increasingly using OC for all communications and simply ignoring the deskphone. Stoneridge is deploying voice to users as it reaches end of life for a PBX. It has 700 users without a PBX phone today but never plans to buy another PBX. Some customers, such as Sprint and Infonavit, do replace their PBXes entirely with OCS, but that’s just an option. The beauty of the OCS approach is that it doesn’t require a rip and replace of your existing infrastructure.
Brian and others were also impressed with an example from Clarity, an ISV that developed a call center solution for a customer on top of OCS. Clarity’s CTO explained how OCS’s higher level programming capabilities enable his team to focus on adding business value to the customer by redesigning experiences and processes, rather than focusing on lower level integration. In fact, the user experience his team built is nothing like communicator but meets the needs of the customer well. That’s the beauty of software and a key strength for Microsoft.
You can see more customers at this link: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/presskits/2010office/default.aspx
Partners Are Embracing the Potential to Transform the Industry
One thing we were very clear on from the beginning is one player can’t do it all. The real debate was whether the structure of the industry would be vertical or horizontal. We believe that the mainframe model—in which one vendor provides network connectivity, hardware, server software, desktop software, and devices—is ineffective at driving innovation and user experience improvements, and it keeps prices artificially high. We believe that a horizontal model in which players with expertise in each solution “layer” develop their best solution and support open interoperability between layers. You choose your network, your preferred hardware vendor, your preferred software vendor (where we play), and your preferred devices. This leads to integrated experiences for users and lower costs for organizations.
I am proud to say that I believe we have demonstrated the potential of this model. One slide that Gurdeep showed in his keynote was a “heatmap” of the show floor plan. Each square, rectangle or circle represents a vendor booth. If you count our systems integrators, hardware partners, trunking partners, and ISVs, you cover about 75% of the show floor! Even competitors such as Cisco leverage our public interoperability and development programs. This is the power of the ecosystem we have created and it bodes well as more partners come on board and continue to innovate.
We Had Some Fun While We Were At It
And we had some fun. Gurdeep’s keynote was a refreshing change from those with a lot of slideware and dry delivery—Gurdeep likes to throw a few playful punches. One of my favorites was his response to other vendors claiming leadership in collaboration, to which he replied: “It’s easy to think you’re the leader when the competition is so far in front that you can’t even see them!” That got the audience laughing, but at least it got a reaction. I think it’s important to get folks to ask questions and think a little differently at these events.
All in all a great event. Thanks to all who worked with us, including customers and partners for their passion and commitment. We haven’t disclosed even half the capabilities of Communications Server “14” and I think the full product will bring even more value to customers. Looking forward to making some waves as we roll out the next generation of communications.
Director, OCS Client and Devices Product Management
It’s been quite a month. For the third year running, Cisco has been named one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies in 2010 by Ethisphere Institute. The World’s Most Ethical Company designation is awarded to those companies that have leading ethics and compliance programs, particularly as compared to their industry peers.
Cisco Networking Academy, now in its second decade, is also the recent recipient of The Financial Times-Justmeans Social Innovation Award for Best Stakeholder Engagement. The Social Innovation Awards present a forum for organizations to highlight their latest concepts and practical applications to improve and advance social needs and better business.
INCHEON, Korea – March 29, 2010 – Incheon Metropolitan City and Cisco today announced that they will collaborate closely in building Incheon Free Economic Zone (IFEZ) into a high-tech, globally competitive and environmentally sustainable smart connected city, and in supporting continued innovation in Korea. To support IFEZ’s transformation into a smart connected city of …
Actually, this update is from my flight home—there was too much happening for me to break away and blog, including: Great partner announcements on Monday and Tuesday, our announcement and first look at Communications Server “14” during Gurdeep Singh Pall’s keynote (you can watch a replay at http://tv.voicecon.com/), our disclosure of the “14” voice feature set via the annual IP PBX RFP session hosted by Allan Sulkin of the TEQConsult Group, and, of course, the unveiling of Telabacus, our first “phones to art” piece, which I hinted at in a blog post last week. I really want to blog about two things from VoiceCon—the VoiceCon RFP response and Telabacus.
VoiceCon RFP Response
I mentioned in my previous post that I would be Microsoft’s participant in Allan’s “Who Delivers the Goods?” IP PBX RFP session. Gurdeep mentioned Allan’s session in his keynote, and encouraged people to attend in order to see how Microsoft and our partners have delivered against Jeff Raikes’ 2007 prediction that, in 3 years, the cost of a business VoIP solution would be cut in half.
Allan literally wrote the book on IP telephony, and he did a great job in the session (as always). He described each vendor’s RFP response, and verbally indicated where vendors met or missed requirements. Describing Microsoft’s response, he pointed out that we did not satisfy every requirement of the RFP. For example, we don’t directly support “Automatic Callback,” but we enable the use of presence state tagging and instant messaging as a modern alternative.
“Automatic Callback” is one of many PBX features that are interesting to consider in the context of a modern communications platform. As Allan describes Automatic Callback on page 373 of his book, “This feature is used when a dialed station is busy.” An implication of Microsoft’s communications approach is that it is nearly impossible for an Office Communications Server station to be busy in the traditional PBX sense because we don’t limit users or endpoints to a set number of line appearances (this is why IP phones Optimized for Communicator don’t have lots of phone line buttons). A user may be “in a call”, or, frankly, have 20 active calls, but can still receive an indication of an incoming call and decide to answer it, divert it to voice mail, or respond with an instant message. A calling party can check the called party’s presence status prior to beginning a call, and, if the called party is already in a call, can choose to be notified via tagging when the call ends. As such, we have introduced a communications model that obviates the needs for some of the legacy capabilities called out in the RFP.
There are other traditional requirements that we don’t meet, but often because they don’t make sense in the context of a truly unified communications platform. For these cases, we note where we don’t meet the requirement directly and describe our alternative. Judge our compliance for yourself by reading our complete written response.
How did we do against Jeff’s prediction?
Allan included a pricing summary in his VoiceCon Orlando 2010 RFP workshop session. It is specific for the RFP configuration only, and reflects list and discounted prices provided by the vendors. Allan agreed to let us re-use it, and asked that we note that the performance capabilities (design attributes, features, phones, etc.) vary for each system proposed and do not necessarily satisfy all of the RFP requirements. The summary is below.
You’ll note that when we compare 2010 prices across the board, the Microsoft UC solution is cost effective, but more than half the price of the others in the discounted case. Allan noted during the session (as we did in our response) that we assumed that the customer already has Microsoft® Active Directory and Exchange. Keep that in mind, particularly if you don’t use Active Directory and Exchange.
Jeff predicted that our 2010 price would be half of the other vendors’ 2007 VoIP prices, not half of their 2010 prices. Still, this event provides an apples-to-apples comparison opportunity and readers have the option to compare full responses from different vendors. As such, I used my five minutes in the panel to describe why we believe we offer a 50% advantage even when compared to 2010 pricing.
The average per user price quoted by the other 9 vendors, based on Allan’s RFP session PDF, is $783. The per user solution price for the Microsoft-based solution is $569 (dividing $911,705 [discounted price on page 179 of our response] by 1600 [number of users]). This is a compelling price, but still not half the average cost of the other VoIP solutions (which would be $391).
But, as I pointed out in the panel, $569 is misleading as our solution delivers not only VoIP, but also IM, presence, federation, and audio, video, and web conferencing. It extends these capabilities over the Internet to all users at no additional charge. It also supports new features such as the Microsoft® SharePoint-powered Skill Search that Jamie Stark and I demoed during Gurdeep’s keynote. To do an apples-to-apples comparison with a VoIP only solution price, we need to back some of this value out of the quoted price.
Web conferencing is probably the easiest, as Office Communications Server 2007 R2 already provides the ability to host Live Meeting web conferences and Live Meeting is offered as a service with publicly available pricing (we could also use Cisco WebEx, but its publicly available pricing is higher and makes this a trivial exercise). Extending the Live Meeting Standard User price of $4.58 per month over 3 years (the typical length of a Microsoft Enterprise Agreement) yields an price of $165 per user. Subtracting this value from the $569 total price, and, at $404, we’ve all but met our $391 target without accounting for the value of our IM, presence, federation, and Skill Search. Of course, once a customer purchases Communications Server, they can use the web conferencing capabilities longer than 3 years, which only improves the economics.
The opportunity I didn’t cover in the panel is to improve the economics even further by replacing some of the IP phones provided to users with USB devices. We noted in the written RFP response that replacing just half of the IP desktop phones with optimized USB endpoints at an average price of $60 results in a $171,000 reduction in the total solution cost, or more than $100 per user. Combine this with the web conferencing approach above, and the per user VoIP price is now at $304, well below the $391 “half price” target. Also, note that $60 per USB endpoint can be considered conservative: for example, a quick Bing search yielded the optimized Plantronics .Audio 615M, offered for $37.70, quantity 1.
Of course, you can do different calculations, and the pricing is specific to the RFP configuration only. For example, you may believe that some of the other bids include a complete IM, presence, federation, and audio, video, and web conferencing solution, with Skill Search, like Communications Server. Or, on the flip side, you may want to enable all of your users to work and communicate remotely and therefore choose USB devices instead of IP phones for everyone. Either way, the key point is that the Communications Server capabilities and economics are too compelling to ignore.
Enough math though. Telabacus, our “phones to art” piece was a lot of fun. I only had a few minutes to spend on the show floor during the week, but I loved the reactions that people had as they walked by our booth, saw the piece, stopped, and read the associated museum cards. As you might imagine, it generated some questions…
Q: What IS that?
A: It is a giant sculpture in the form of an abacus. Telabacus is similar to the Japanese Soroban, which uses 5 beads instead of 7, and is oriented horizontally like the Russian abacus. The beads in Telabacus are IP PBX and PBX phones displaced by the Microsoft Unified Communications platform. (Those that didn’t attend VoiceCon can see “Telabacus” behind my colleague Jamie in this VoiceCon video or can see a still shot posted by a show attendee here.)
Q: Why do you have a giant abacus made out of phones in your booth?
A: We wanted to do something different than typical product displays, and thought that an art piece would be both fun and thought provoking. We used telephones as raw materials partly because we expected other booths on the floor to have phones on display.
Q: Who built the abacus? Was it a Microsoft employee?
A: No. Mike Magrath, a sculptor who lives in the Seattle area, built it. You can learn more about Mike’s work on the web, if you wish. Please note that Mike, in his own words, has “spent the last decade or so focused primarily on the human subject,” and his web site features several of his studies of the human form. (If you are, or others around you in a work environment or public place are uncomfortable with this, please do not visit his web site. If you decide to visit, I recommend you read his description of Lot’s Tribe, which he placed in Seattle’s Pioneer Square on September 11, 2006. The combination of his choice of material and the outdoor placement communicates a powerful message.)
Q: Where did you get the phones used in Telabacus?
A: They were donated by customers and partners who have deployed Office Communications Server, and represent a tiny portion of those displaced by Office Communications Server rollouts.
Q: Are you trying to say that PBX and IP PBX systems are obsolete, like the abacus?
A: No. The abacus is in wide use around the world today for calculation, and, in fact, we used sketches of the abacus at the show to highlight elements of customer case studies. Likewise, PBX and IP PBX systems are still in wide use. We interoperate with nearly all of them to enhance existing investments with Microsoft Unified Communications. That said, many customers, such as Sprint, choose to eliminate existing equipment in order to reap the significant cost savings – after all, why pay to maintain multiple systems if a single system can do the whole job better?
Q: Well, then what message are you trying to send?
A: The goal of the abacus is to engage people and give them a reason to stop and consider the benefits of the Microsoft communications platform. For example, one sketch showed how to represent 33% on Telabacus. Below the sketch was a copy of the Credit Agricole case study, which highlights the reduction of travel expenses made possible by their use of Office Communicator’s built-in audio, video, and web conferencing.
Q: You must have specified the abacus theme. What were you thinking when you came up with it?
A: Actually, no. Mike, the artist, came up with the abacus. We discussed our goals for Communications Server, and then he proposed several great ideas. The hardest part was choosing.
Q: In that case, why did you choose the abacus instead of one of the other options?
A: Several reasons. We believed that Telabacus would really engage people at VoiceCon because of its novel use of phones, its size and its color, and because people can interact with it. The phones make a nice satisfying clunk when you slide them back and forth. Another reason is that we liked the analogy that it suggested to us: the IP PBX is to Communications Server as the abacus is to the PC. (Let me explain the color note for those who didn’t attend: Mike chose the stain color to emphasize the message waiting indicators and hold buttons on all those phones. His attention to detail is unbelievable.)
Q: What were the other ideas?
A: We’d rather not share those. We may need them given the big and growing pile of unneeded phones.
A: Put simply, these new UC endpoints are too useful and valuable to use as abacus beads. They are Optimized for Office Communicator, and work both on their own as IP voice devices, or paired with Microsoft Communicator “14” to provide a tremendous experience that includes audio, video and application sharing. They are more than just phones and are built by partners to work with a broader unified communications solution.
Senior Product Manager, Communications Server
Deakin University Maximises Virtualisation and Sustainability With Cisco Unified Computing System to Accelerate Delivery of Services to the ClassroomMonday, March 29th, 2010
SYDNEY, Australia – March 30, 2010 – Cisco announced today that Deakin University, one of Australia’s fastest-growing research universities, is upholding its reputation for the early adoption of innovative technology by transitioning to the Cisco Unified Computing SystemTM platform for its next-generation data centre. The Cisco Unified Computing System will enable Deakin University to …
Cisco General Counsel, Senior Vice President and Secretary, Mark Chandler, has been named to The National Law Journal’s (NLJ) list of “The Decade’s Most Influential Lawyers.” Chandler joins 39 other lawyers across key legal practices whose work the NLJ said “was so consequential that it helped to push the profession, an industry or a practice area substantially forward.”
Chandler is singled out for identifying changes to information technology that impact the world of legal services, and developing innovative methods to drive efficiency and collaboration between companies and their outside lawyers.. The NLJ describes him as “an outspoken champion of cutting costs before cutting costs was cool.”