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Linux Magazine – Top 20 companies to Watch award

What could be a better way to start the new year than with a brand new award? Check out this issue of Linux Magazine, which names Cisco to the ‘Top 20 companies to watch in 2009′ award, debuting at #5. According to Linux magazine, they’ve chosen these companies (with a little help from their crystal ball) because “these firms have a high probability of helping their customers to save some funds in 2009. Chosen because they could help enterprises survive and even thrive..”. I thought that was beautifully put, almost John Chambers like. imageAmong other things, Linux magazine specifically mentions the work done by the Integrated Services Router and the Cisco ‘Think Inside the Box Developer’ contest. I thought that was pretty cool. This is certainly a new direction for Cisco, but it also builds upon a lot of efforts that different groups of people have put in the direction of adopting Linux, Open Source and collaboration in general. Special thanks to Linux Magazine, their editorial team and a big shout-out to their readers from our side. We are excited…Go 2009!

Fax-over-IP, anyone?

The best of innovations are the ones that solve real-world problems. If they can mask complexity in the process, they are doubly beneficial. From the simple paper clip to the complex Enterprise IT software, ease of use and applicability are key to adoption.Take fax for instance. It is a vital piece of the Unified Communications strategy that is often overlooked. Traditional analog faxing has been around for ages, but it has its share of problems. It is difficult to enforce an audit trail, multiple incoming faxes means dealing with busy signals. What compounds this is the paper consumption, toner cartridges that are hard to re-cycle.Enter fax-over-IP. For those of you who are looking for sample ideas that solve customer problems for the Cisco developer contest, or otherwise, I recommend a study of the elegant solution from SAGEM-Interstar. Recently, Teresa Newell (who is a product manager for Unified Communication solutions on the Cisco Integrated Services Router) and I got a chance to host”faxperts” John Nikolopoulos, SAGEM’s Director of Marketing and Matthew Miller, XMediusFAX product manager who were visiting us at the Cisco San Jose Campus from Montreal, Canada. Against the scenic background of another Cisco building (yeah, I know) I quizzed John on the business value of SAGEM’s solution and why despite being Number one in their industry they still found it beneficial to host the application on the Cisco ISR.Not to be outdone, Teresa put her engineering hat on and probed Matthew on what developers need to consider while porting applications onto the Application Extension Platform. Mattew also shared some of their experiences in bringing applications onboard which may be useful to others. Read More »

Interesting blogs from 2008, and a warm welcome to 2009!

First, a very happy New Year to all of you! I hope everybody got a chance to spend some well deserved time with your families and have some good ol’ holiday fun. As we bid goodbye to 2008 (phew!) and welcome 2009, presumably a harbinger of renewed hope.I wanted to thank all the tech enthusiasts, geeks, analysts and media personnel who have thus far covered the Cisco Developer contest and other innovations from the Cisco stable.In particular I’d like to thank the bloggers who’ve helped with the social media outreach and stimulated discussions within their communities (see the Slashdot blog below). One of the purposes of this contest is to facilitate two-way interaction, and nothing personifies that better than some spicy blogging. These outreaches have certainly given us fresh perspective. We were fortunate to get some great blog coverage so far, and I wanted to share a few originals we came across that were particulary interesting. Five cool blogs (in no particular order):#1) The VAR guy blogged that Cisco offers $100,000 bounty to Linux Application Developers. I thought the $100K bill that the VAR Guy put out was a pretty cool visual.image#2) Brian Proffitt’s blog on the Linux foundation site, captured the contest info. quite succinctly. Brian actually reached out to me and turned out this great blog after a short conversation. I was very impressed with the turnaround time and the grasp that Brian had on technology aspects. BTW, Brian also did another blog before he talked to me, based on The VAR guy’s blog and that was great stuff too.#3) Dana Blankenhorn’s ZDnet blog had a provocative title, but covered our contest well in the body. I do think in this age of information overload, sensationalism in the right tone sells, and shows good marketing acumen. Read More »

Innovating In a Fragile Economy

Last weekend, on my marriage anniversary, I took my wife out to a fancy restaurant she cherishes. It usually requires reservations, and has a nice ambience with a quiet seating conducive for gentle conversation. Imagine our surprise when we found the restaurant had changed not just its menu, but also its business model and introduced a buffet section. Instead of a relaxed atmosphere, there was a sense of urgency. Menus were brought much quicker, food was served faster and the waiter came by a few times after a while to”check if we were doing allright”. We got the hint and left quickly. No, they weren’t being discourteous. It’s just their new business model demanded they service customers quickly and increase turnover to improve cashflow. With customers tightening wallets, they were just trying to survive. On the way back, we hit a mom-and-pop grocery store we frequent, which also had made a few changes. Previously with wide aisles, they now had a video rental in one corner, a take-out service in another and had sub-leased yet another corner of the store to a travel agent, who sat at a desk with a computer and phone booking air-travel and cruises. Sure the aisles got squeezed, but these guys were trying to increase revenue per customer. It looked like a win-win with the grocery owner amortizing expenses, the travel agent having low-set up costs, and us, the customers getting”integrated services”. There is gloom in the financial services industry and the retail sector, but nimble business owners are offsetting the economic downturn by focusing on operational efficiency and productivity, through innovative out-of-the-box thinking.This brought into mind a conversation I recently had with Zeus Kerravala, a Senior Vice President at the Yankee Group. I’ve known Zeus for a while and he’s usually at the epicenter of innovation. During a typical Network-related conversation he made some comments on innovation and the economy that I thought had a broader applicability across multiple businesses and had a common-sense approach. He postulated that in a down market economy, it is easy for an IT department to overly focus on cost savings, or even do nothing, but this posed a danger to the business falling apart. Simply put, I read his words that investing in innovation is important independent of whether the economy is looking up or down, so we can expect a return-on-investment. He said depending on the economy, such innovations could be driven from the IT departments or the business units. Zeus cited video collaboration through Cisco Telepresence as an example of a business unit driven innovation. Read More »

Medianets – where do you want your network to go today?

Last October, I presented a paper on Video-delivery networks at the MPLS 2008 conference. The audience reaction was quite positive and I enjoyed talking to a bunch of service providers, some other vendors and a few Enterprise customers on how they saw their networks and products evolving. Almost all of them saw video traffic as a major inflection point in their networks and were aligning their strategies to deal with it. Later, as we gathered for lunch, there was a healthy but spirited discussion mostly around video quality-of-experience, and which network architectures were best suited to deliver this. Why so much interest? Simple. Video will be the dominant application on networks. Service Providers envision business video as a good source of revenue and are preparing differentiated offerings, but also understand that their netwowk need to carry consumer video. Enterprise customers recognize the bandwidth and storage demands video will impose and are preparing for it. Vendors obviously are building products, and working on common and proprietary standards to best position themselves in their customer networks. Clearly, there is traction. (The Cisco Visual Network Index projects video to be 90% of network traffic by 2012). And it isn’t just one type of video or for a specific end application. It also isn’t just delivering video over IP -it really is about delivering rich media content anywhere, anytime and to any device with personalization and a high degree of reliability. So, the multi-billion dollar question -Is your Network Media ready?With video and rich-media applications becoming the dominant traffic in networks, last week, at C-scape, Cisco took the next step in this innovative evolution to announce “medianets“. This new class of technologies is designed to enable advanced communications, collaboration and entertainment experiences through video- and rich media-optimized service provider, business, and home networks.In one of my previous blogs, Zeus Kerravala, SVP, Yankee Group talks about cool ideas for the Cisco developer contest and makes a key point -the best ideas are where the network and application come together, with the application being able to tap the intelligence of the network, being able to address congestion issues etc. In other words, being “network-aware”. Medianets do all this, and more, by being media, endpoint and network-aware. They are largely based on open standards and created by adding new technologies and devices to converged IP architectures. Check out the Media Experience Engine. Read More »