Tag Archives : cisco

P&G IT/IS – Real Time Communication and Data

I’ve not worked or been involved with anything at P&G but from what I have read and heard from a few second hand sources I am very impressed with the CIO Fillipo Passerini and his emphasis on how communication and data are changing how organisations do business.

I’ve included some quotes below from an Information Week article and a roundtable discussion from the Wall Street Journal article:

Lets start with the premise that the IT landscape has fundemtnally changed over the past 5 years and you need different skill sets within your department (WSJ)

The focus on business has become extremely important. An IT professional can transform the way business is done. This is very, very different from the profile of the people we would hire five or more years ago.

The IT department is no longer the king of technology.  Consumerisation has created a push business model where business people are constantly knocking on a CIO’s door.  IT has to embrace this change, if you don’t the business will find someone who will.

From a Unified Communications persepctive it is interesting that a CIO with such a vision highlights video conferencing as a key aspect of an IT provision (IW);

Another example is the ability for people to video-connect anytime, anywhere, any place, because we are a truly global operation. We may have teams working on a new business initiative in China, a commercial plan is developed in Europe, and commercialization [happens] in the U.S. For these people to come together instantaneously without having to fly or without having to plan—this is what is going to enable us.

I think you could take the above paragraph from 95% of the Fortune 500 and it would be an accurate statement of how they are wanting to operate.  They are literally turning their organisational model inside out. Yet if I was to survey those Fortune 500 I’m willing to bet that a significant number of them will complain about their video conference estate.  Even with significant investment most large organisations believe their VC estate is too cumbersome to operate, not fit for purpose and doesn’t have the required network to support.  You then often find the IT department state that video is just a gimmick that no uses anyway.  Well here is a CIO that is as close to the business as he can be and he’s committed to delivering high quality video to as much as the work force as possible.

Moving away from communication and onto data.  P&G want to invest in real time data.  I’m fully committed to this aim as well.  Consumers are living in real time.  They comunicate with their friends and families in seconds yet they typically communicate with the businesses they buy from in days and weeks (and on a separate point they communicate with their governments in months and years but that is a different story).  This will not be acceptable in the communication age.  For a business to respond in real time their data has to be accurate and available in real time (IW);

In terms of data, this strategy needs the right real-time data. What’s real time? The goal P&G’s working toward is that as soon as data is collected, it’s available for use, Passerini says. P&G isn’t after new data types; it still wants to share and analyze point-of-sale, inventory, ad spending, and shipment data. What’s new is the higher frequency and speed at which P&G gets that data, and the finer granularity. Passerini says P&G has about two-thirds of the real-time data it needs.

If P&G really do have 2/3 of data in real time they are probably producing significant competitive advantage within the market place.  My experience with large organisations is that they often don’t even know where their data is or what they are generating let alone have it available in real time (WSJ);

The other example is the ability to predict, do modeling and “what if” analysis. We’re creating some automation to [analyze] what is happening, why it is happening, so that we can focus all of our energies on how to improve what we have to improve. This will give us an ability to predict or to stay in control of sales volume, market shares, much, much better and be more specific, surgical, in the interventions we make.

In my view P&G have the exact blueprint for an IT department:

  • Find business people who can talk IT and employ them rather than IT personnel.  There may not be that many available on the market but its ok you don’t need too many to run a large IT department
  • Concentrate  and focus investment on real time data and communication
  • Don’t fight consumerisation – ride it and use it
  • Continue to cut costs in the department and invest those savings

In the articles Passerini didn’t mention the normal fodder for CIOs, such as; data centres, service levels, security but I guarantee they are the issues that under performing IT departments land on their CIO every day.  I know where I’d rather be focusing my time on.

Cisco seek restrictions on Microsoft Skype Integration 1

Today Cisco asked the European Commission to reconsider their recommendation that the purchase of Skype be approved without restriction.  Cisco has specifically asked that Skype video conferencing be ‘open’ and prevent a Lync/Skype lock-in.  This is fascinating stuff on several levels:

Cisco and Microsoft have many ties and joint working agreements (as the Cisco blog mentions) and for Cisco to officially complain will almost certainly sour those relationships.  I thought the working relationship had improved over the past 12 months but I’d assume this will be a set back.

Cisco might like to think they are a competitor to Microsoft and mention them in a great deal of their market information, where I don’t really see the same focus on Cisco as a competitor within the wider Microsoft machine.  Sure the MS UC teams talk about Cisco but outside of Lync I just don’t see the same recognition of Cisco.  You always hear Microsoft guys whisper about teams being hauled in front of Balmer for losing a deal to Google, I’ve never heard of a similar fate for losing to Cisco.  Maybe by poking the big Balmer bear on a key acquisition Cisco might get more competitive focus within Microsoft.

And my thoughts on the substance of the request.  I’m in no doubt that Lync/Skype integration would prove a popular selling point for Lync (if MS ever officially announce such a thing) just as the Cisco acquisition of Tandberg proved popular, but neither purchase creates a market distortion:

Microsoft’s plans to integrate Skype exclusively with its Lync Enterprise Communications Platform could lock-in businesses who want to reach Skype’s 700 million account holders to a Microsoft-only platform.

This is patently absurd.  If a business wishes to reach the 700 million account holders it downloads Skype for free on any platform they choose and contacts a user directly from Skype without any need for Lync.  Far more likely in fact is that a company can contact a Skype user via their corporate Facebook account – how is this possibly locking anyone into a Microsoft platform?

In addition the various regulators rightly highlighted that internet platforms can quickly dissipate, consumers are not locked into Skype.  Apple and Google already have similar products, Twitter or Linkedin if they so wished could easily deploy a video platform – Vidyo I’m sure would be more than willing to spin something up for either platform.

Then I think there is the technical legal point that Cisco’s own blog post highlights.  Cisco state that the current industry today lacks interoperability.  They are dead right but if that is the case how can the EC justify that a merger of two systems, one of which is already closed, create any further industry degradation?  If the EC forces MS to open Skype then Microsoft lawyers will rightly demand that all other video systems are forced to be open and interoperate due to legal precedence.  Sony, Wii and Xbox, Apple’s Facetime, Google hangouts would all be forced to interoperate.  Can I use Google hangouts to join a Cisco Telehealth VC session today ?  The courts simply could not enforce such a ruling.

I just don’t understand why Cisco have done this, it makes them look desperate, it probably damages working relationships, I’d be amazed if their appeal stands any weight and they might just have woken up the Microsoft machine.  Cisco stepped away from the network space with PostPath and Flip and lost billions.  Focus on your own strategy and products rather than making ill conceived requests.

Cisco UC Partner Deliver Application for Healthcare

A couple of posts ago I mentioned that the FDA had approved the first medial use iPhone application, well it looks like the FDA will be having a busy time over the coming months reviewing more UC applications for the healthcare industry.  Extension Inc has recently submitted to the FDA for Class III Medical Device clearance an application called ‘HealthAlert for Nurses’ built on Extension’s middleware platform.  Their platform takes information from multiple systems and develops an interactive workflow.  In the case of HealthAlert for Nurses, nurses recieve alerts and information on their Cisco wireless handsets.

Extension Inc also has a number of iPhone applications which presents the information gathered by the middleware platform.

There is huge potential for these types of applications within the healthcare industry.  The twin forces of ever increasing costs and complex provision makes the healthcare industry an ideal industry for technology enabled reform.  UC implemented correctly within healthcare will saves billions of dollars, directly improve customer satisfaction and free up resources for investment in patient healthcare.  I do hope the FDA respond positively to the submission and on a wider front help establish a vibrant healthcare technology eco-system which embeds open unified communication standards within the industry.

For further information on the Extension application take a look at the video below

Miercom Test Lync Capability

Miercom has recently released a comprehensive report on the voice and security capabilities of Lync 2010.  I’ve not dealt or heard of Miercom before but they certainly don’t look anything other than independent.  They have a deep breadth of manufacturers that they have reported on and include Avaya and Cisco testimonials on their website.

The Microsoft engineering team will be most pleased but the likes of Avaya and Cisco will have to think harder on how they tackle the Microsoft threat.  Avaya’s and Cisco main marketing thrust against Lync is that you can’t trust your voice estate to Microsoft.  This report provides Microsoft with a comprehensive riposte.

The full report on Lync is available here but there are some real highlights for me:

Significant developments in reliability, security, and a business enabling features make Microsoft Lync a viable option for businesses looking to revolutionize their current communications platform.

HD Video performance with limited bandwidth:

Microsoft Lync successfully passed voice and video Quality of Experience (QoE) tests under heavily loaded and degraded network conditions. Even with significant jitter and a packet loss percentage in excess of 5% the voice and video quality of the Lync client with High Definition Video was superb. High Definition Video Conferencing was conducted over T1 bandwidth with an average bandwidth of only 142 Kbps needed to maintain the connection. Peak traffic utilization did hit 1.5 Mbps at times when there was full motion in the video sessions.

Call Admission Control option available:

In tests we restricted new video and voice call requests from being initiated based on available bandwidth. Microsoft Lync 2010 has very extensive call admission control capabilities to ensure QoE is maintained for customer networks. If resources are insufficient for a quality experience the session is refused and alert is generated.

Resiliency and failover now integral:

We established intra-branch calls between multiple Lync clients, and then pulled the WAN cable at the SBA. We observed that intra-branch calls remained up, and the Lync clients did not log off or on during failover. We were able to place new calls successfully during failover.

And perhaps the most satisfying for the Microsoft engineering team:

Microsoft Lync Server 2010 was able to sustain heavy call volume without dropping any calls or reporting any errors in a 4 million call completion test. The delivery rate with sustained operation without error is the highest capacity test applied to any Unified Communications / IP PBX product we have tested to date.

Bottom line from the report:

Microsoft Lync 2010 is a resilient, scalable, feature rich Unified Communications System. Microsoft Lync 2010 should be in the short list of top three to consider for enterprises communications infrastructure upgrades.

For comparison I went back and read the Miercom report from three years ago on Microsoft’s OCS R2 release and Miercom came to the conclusion that while OCS R2 was a large step forward it was not a PBX replacement due to a complex and costly architecture which suffered from unanswered reliability and security questions.  This seemed to be reflected in customer’s views of OCS R2.  Good but not ready to take on the full voice capability.

The Microsoft engineering seem to have comprehensively answered the questions from OCS R2.  The focus now has to shift to the Microsoft partner channel and direct account teams to see if they can exploit the opportunity and start to generate licence sales and win business off the likes of Cisco and Avaya.

Cisco and Lync HD Video Integration

I can’t help thinking that eventually Cisco and Microsoft will lock themselves in a room and come to an agreement that recognises their mutual benefit in developing joint UC solutions.  The Cisco/Lync integration seen below is a great example of how two companies can create great services for end users.  I appreciate this is using Tandberg equipment that was more than likely signed off for development before the Cisco acquisition.

Global organisations are crying out for the type of UC services demonstrated on the video but the negative marketing push that both Cisco and Microsoft are engaged in creates confusion within the IT departments of large organisations which typically prevents investment in new equipment and software and ultimately frustrates end users.

If MS and Cisco could come together and I do not mean in an anti competitive way but just merely stop the FUD flying back and forth and engage in some joint account planning within their client base I guarantee they collectively will sell plenty more hardware, software and services.

Soon they may have a common enemy which may bring them together…..Google are just around the corner when it comes to having a value proposition which they will be more than willing to push into large organisations.

Get ready for the UC update week – w/c 15th Nov

Week of the 15th November is set to be an exciting week in the UC world as both Microsoft and Cisco provide major updates on their UC portfolio.

Take a look at Cisco’s Collaboration update on the 16th here

And you can save the 17th for Microsoft’s Lync virtual launch here

Just to finish the week off for those in Europe/London IDC are hosting a one day conference dedicated to UC on the 18th, find details here

MS need to widen their Lync client choice, is Mac Communicator the start? 3

I’m going to have the chance to give some direct feedback to the MS product team on Lync next week and item number one for me is the need for the Lync team to de-couple their client from the MS and windows predominance. They have started this move in the conferencing space, making Lync conferencing available via browsers other than IE. They now need to push very hard with their senior managers to allow the full Lync client to be widely available on Apple and Android systems.

If this were to come to fruition lets just take a couple of examples from the last couple of weeks. Cisco announced Umi which costs circa $600 for the unit. If Lync were available as an app in the Android Market they could have provided exactly the same solution with Google TV and a Logitech HD camera for at least half the price. The same would go for the Cuis or the Avaya tablet. If there were a Lync Apple app that could provide voice and VC on Apple’s iOS platform it would make the costs of Cisco and Avaya’s VC systems prohibitive.

The Lync software is expensive and difficult to provide a traditional ROI, it will be even more difficult with the new licensing costs top be introduced this year. This is not a nice to have for the MS Lync team, if they want to sell Lync in large numbers they have to provide a hardware and OS agnostic choice for the Enterprise.

Perhaps the recent accouncment of a MAC Office Communicator client and the shock news that MS have chosen WordPress as their Live blogging platform is highlighting a change of direction by MS, allowing greater diversity to support their individual product lines.

Cisco implement Telemedicine in Russia

Cisco have always been at the forefront of implementing UC solutions for Telemedicine. Yesterday Cisco released another use case based on their Tandberg platform which allowed a remote monastery to receive vital medical assistance from experts over 130 miles away based in St Petersburg.

The Tandberg solution, now provided by the Cisco TelePresence Technology Group, connects the remote monastery with mainland hospitals so that local practitioners can rely on the experience of Russian and international experts, delivered via high-quality video. Valaam Monastery is located on Valaam Island in Russian Karelia, the largest island in Lake Ladoga, 22 kilometers (13.7 miles) from the mainland and 220 kilometers (137 miles) from St. Petersburg.

The Island of Valaam receives more than 110,000 visitors every year, and the new center is already providing teleconsultations for pilgrims and tourists as well as monks and other local patients. In the first two weeks of its operation, 20 sessions were organized in the outpatient medical room, including consultations with specialists in St. Petersburg and Moscow hospitals. In addition, the center carried out a multipoint three-party consultation with the G.I. Turner Orthopedic R&D Institute in St. Petersburg and the A.N. Burdenko Neurosurgery Institute of the Russian Medical Academy. During that session, the professors attended a 9-year-old disabled girl trying to regain her ability to walk.

Take a look at the press release here