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Branch VoIP Recording – It’s NICE, really!

Ever been put on hold while calling your bank, or another customer line? A mechanical or sweet voice comes on and says”your call is being monitored for compliance and/or training purposes”. Yeah, they do record our calls. Government and industry regulations, risk management issues, corporate governance, and sometimes training requirements prompt organizations to be diligent about recording conversations. (Or, at least that’s what they claim, though I’ve not seen my bank use such recordings anytime to provide better service -- they make me go through my service request every time I get my call put on hold for 20 minutes and I hang up to call again:-|).But let’s get back to talking technology.In one of the previous blogs with Mike Wood, we discussed complementary approaches to cloud computing involving the branch. The premise was to have a lightweight, local instantiation of the application footprint in the branch that would provide a degree of survivability, performance and perhaps in some cases, additional security, perceived or otherwise. It combines the best approaches of a centralized model and a distributed model, adopting a hybrid model.One such application involves Branch VoIP recording. Nothing fancy, but very useful. This can be a cloud based application, or it could involve the branch where the customer support personal or local staff is located.Sometime back, I hosted a panel discussion involving NICE, an Israel-based”well-established company that started more than 20 years ago”. What’s more relevant to us is NICE has developed a branch recording application and put some effort in integrating it with the Integrated Services Router on the Application Extension Platform.Nadav Doran from NICE came all the way from Israel to Orlando, Florida to participate in this panel discussion. It was very lively, and we did a balancing act on a small stage with three bar stools, but it was totally worth it. Read More »

Two’s company, three’s a team – Making it all work!

From those registered to participate in the Cisco ‘Think Inside the Box’ Developer Contest, among the most frequent questions we’ve received of a non-technical nature have to do with two aspects (i) Intellectual property and (ii) Team composition.Given the nature of the contest, questions on intellectual property are highly understandable. We’ve tried to clarify the variations on IP through individual responses via e-mail, and also put on a blog on it some time ago. See “A Question of IP”imageAgain, questions on team structure and composition are also very natural and several variations have resulted, including:• Can we change our team composition midway through the contest?• Can I add more members to the team?• Do I need a team? What should be the profile of the team members?• What if there are more than 3 team members?• Can a company submit its IP for this contest? What if extended team members have worked on the concept?• Can we have team members across different geographies?• Can a team submit multiple proposals?• And quite a few others of a similar nature…As with any contest, the variations to accommodate the requirements of the select few have to be balanced with the ability to operationally administer a contest for the broader populace. The answers to most of the questions can be found in the terms and conditions.While the nuances of team composition and dynamics are different with each team, a team will benefit from bringing in different perspectives into the play. While the contest is primarily for application developers, these applications reside on the Integrated Services Router which performs a pivotal role in branch networks. So, understanding the branch problem space, and applications therein are likely to help you provide better proposals that are not only innovative, but practical as well. Cisco’s Dave Frampton suggested as much, a previous blog. We’ve predominantly found two constituents who approach this contest, often from opposite ends of the spectrum, but they end up finding middle ground. The first set is that of Linux programmers and application developers. The second is Network and IT solution architects. On the contest website, you’ll find some approaches to both sets alongwith some resources that provide complementary perspectives.Some individuals want to go alone, and not want to split the prize money, should they win. Of course, this is entirely possible and all the more power to such individuals. While it is possible for an individual to wear multiple hats, it does help to bring in people with the relevant domain expertise in some capacity within your team. Not mandatory, but practical. Read More »

Video-On-Demand: Cisco AXP Virtual Workshop

Earlier this week, Cisco hosted a live interactive workshop for developing applications on the open Cisco Application Extension Platform (AXP). Click here to access the video-on-demand version of the workshop. Cisco experts, including: TechWise TV host and developer guru Jimmy Ray Purser, Anurag Gurtu, Cisco technical marketing engineer, and John Voss, Cisco Integrated Services Router (ISR) product manager take you through conversations extremely beneficial to application developers, network and IT solutions architects, and Cisco customers and partners interested in exploring application development and hosting solutions on the ISR via Cisco AXP. Here is an outline of the Cisco Virtual Workshop for Developing Applications on the AXP:- Introduction- Branch (or remote site) challenges- ISR overview- Why build applications on routers?- AXP partner examples and business opportunities- AXP technical overviewOver 5 million Cisco ISRs have been sold! This translates to over 5 million potential customers for application developers who can now develop any type of application on the open Cisco ISR and AXP. It’s not too late to register and submit applications for the “œThink Inside the Box” Developer Contest, the first phase of the contest has been extended to Friday, February 27, 2009. If you have any questions or comments, please let us know in the comment section of this blog or the visit the Cisco Developer Community Forum.Follow @CiscoGeeks on Twitter for “œThink Inside the Box” Developer Contest updates and conversations.

A walk in the clouds

Many publications listing the top technology trends in 2009 have cloud computing on their list. It’s not something new, but as buzzwords go, this one is gathering more momentum. The reasons aren’t hard to seek -services in the cloud are becoming more mature, and bandwidth is becoming ubiquitous and inexpensive. Google, IBM, Cisco, Sun, Microsoft Salesforce.com have all done their bit. Many fledgling startups have thrown their hat in the ring. Grid computing aficionados are adding cloud computing to their interests. The acronym industry is in fifth gear with SaaS, PaaS, ITaaS, NaaS and all the other”aaS”es, though I find some definitions to be confusing at times. Our resident ‘stir-the-pot’ blogger Doug Gourlay has chipped in with his thoughts and it seems that even some of the industry bigwigs agree to disagree on the definition.The thing is, cloud services by whatever name are becoming popular, but they aren’t there yet, except in a few instances. And even it’s there 100% -- ready -there will always be people, especially in branch offices, who’ll look for complementary offerings. Here are three reasons I think why:- Trust - how much do you trust services in the cloud? And if you have the perception of security and trust, do you belong to an industry that mandates you NOT to trust? Regulations perhaps?- Performance -When compared to the LAN, anything coming over a WAN link will have performance issues. Either because of the WAN link, or inspite of it- Availability -Your cloud services may be available and always-on. But your access and connectivity to it may suffer, a corollary for the WAN link statement above. In that case, how survivable would your applications be? I met up with my good friend Mike Wood, who’s the Director of Unified Communications and discussed a few of these ideas. He spent concentrated bursts late last year exploring business fundamentals of cloud computing, was brimming with new ideas, and as always, willing to share them. Read More »

How can a retail store manager make business decisions driven by IT?

During the 2008 year-end post Christmas shutdown, as we checked out the Great Mall of the Bay Area, I wasn’t really expecting a lot of shoppers given the state of the economy. I was pleasantly surprised and a bit annoyed at finding the parking lots full, and having to circle the mall quite a few times before I could finally park, complimenting my quicker set of reflexes as another middle-aged man was trying to get the same spot from the opposite direction. Walking in, I saw that most of the shops did have fairly lengthy lines, especially those that were offering huge discounts. On closer look, some of these long lines were at the returns counters, where customers were either exchanging gifts they’d received for the holiday season, or in some cases, returning them back. Whether the lines are for purchasing products, or for returning them, the efficiency with which the store is able to service these people is what leads to customer satisfaction, and eventually customer loyalty. Nobody loves standing in long lines. So, given that customer satisfaction is inverserly proportional to lengthy lines, how do you use technology to “keep the lines moving”. That essentially forms the problem statement here. Barcode scanners, point of sale terminals, RFIDs, loyalty cards -- all these have helped in bringing technology to the retail environment to help keep lines moving quickly. What is the role of the network here, and how can embedded network-aware application help?In this demonstration, Ed Collins, one of our Enterprise Architects explains how integrating the conceptual”Credit card floor limit” application into the network is one cool way of bringing the network and application convergence through Embedded Event Management API.. This was one of the demos we shared on tradeshow booths, much before we launched the Cisco ‘Think Inside the Box’ Developer contest, and needless to say, it resonated very well with our customers.And do you know what’s cool? Read More »