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Curtain comes down on Phase-1 of the Cisco Developer Contest

We urged you to think outside the box, for the Cisco ‘Think Inside the Box’ contest, and you did. After a little over 4 months, the curtain came down on the proposal submission phase of the contest (a.k.a Phase-1) on the 27th Feb. The deadline was 11.59PM PST and we had proposals coming in till the very last minute, literally, and beyond.With registrations from 75 countries, the honor of being the first to get a proposal in goes to Team GNU Telephony of USA coming in on Oct 20th, while the ‘just-in-the-nick-of-time’ distinction is a tie-in between two proposals coming in from Team Jaadoo and Team Enhancers, both from India. Their proposals came in at 11.59PM. Obviously, coming in neither first nor last makes any impact on the actual judging process, as they’re all considered to be within the timeline for consideration into Phase-2. We did see a majority of the proposals being submitted by teams, rather than individuals over the duration of Phase-1. Our recommendation was also along similar lines to help leverage the power of the team.So, what happens next?Now, the fun part begins. We go through the judging part in a tiered manner to short list the best proposals in the coming weeks. Due to the number of proposals that have come in, and the requirement to comply with legal requirements etc., we should be announcing the finalists around the end of April/early May 2009, as we indicated before. While the finalists will shortlisted by a panel of Cisco internal experts, we have solicited and will be bringing in industry experts to help determine the final winners later in the year.For all those contestants who have invested their efforts into this contest, coming up with innovative ideas either as invidiuals or as part of a team, here’s a big THANK YOU! The organizing team also extends its heartfelt thanks to all the Cisco members and our internal and external agencies who have supported the evolution of this contest, thus far. While this initially began as a moonlighting activity, it has drawn considerable time investment from our team as we’ve worked with various internal and external constituents to ensure the smooth operation of the contest.Contest updates as we move into Phase-2Registrants and contest aficionados – Staytuned for updates on the Innovation Blog. image Read More »

24 Hours to go – Clock’s Tickin’ as Proposals Surge

Hey, all. Another day to go for Phase-1 to close. Tomorrow is it (I’m writing from a PST timezeone and it is not midnight yet).Boy – do people wait for a deadline to really get going. We’ve seen a tremendous surge of proposals come in during the last 72 hours. We’ll summarize some of the statistics and thoughts from the contest early next week, but looks like our contestents are keeping themselves busy and are planning to keep us busy the next few months . Over the past 4 months we’ve had an exponential rise in registrations and proposal submissions, and we’re bracing ourselves for the exciting time when we begin evaluating the proposals, determining finalists and sharing with the judging committee. We’re also getting a cross-section of judges with diverse industry experience to help evaluate. It’s going to be fun.But more on that later. For now, if you’re still working on the proposal, keep an eye on the clock and make sure it comes in before the deadline tomorrow – February 27th, 2009. All proposals coming in after the deadline, will, unfortunately have to be rejected.

Security – more than just a stateful firewall!

Security is hot. It has always been. It will always be. If you look at IT-related spending security budget allocations usually tend to be among the highest. However, having spent nearly 15 years directly and indirectly in various security-related roles, I’ve observed it to be among the most misunderstood areas of technology as well one with the most number of preconceived notions.Interestingly, many organizations start taking their security requirements more seriously when they’ve been exposed to an attack of sorts. It could be a virus attack, denial-of-service, data compromise or theft. Though never an afterthought, security considerations are given more prominence after exposure to risk. Sometime back, while speaking at a Roadshow, I ran an impromptu survey with the attending audience in three cities before beginning my session. These were a random cross-section of customers from different verticals, varying business sizes and mostly those making business decisions. They were asked to provide a true/false response to the questions below. Some words were purposely bolded, to add a blind and make the responder think:- My organization is completely secure because I have a stateful firewall- Most security threats originate from outside the network and can be prevented by installing a firewall at every ingress path- Installing an self-updating anti-virus package on laptops is sufficient to prevent internal security breaches- Securing my IP data network, helps provide Secure voice-over-IP- Mobile phones cannot transmit viruses as they have to pass through service provider firewallsAny guesses what a majority of respondents answered? Interestingly, the bolded words which were incorporated as placebos threw most people off-track. Everybody had a hearty laugh when they saw the results. With so many organizations (including Cisco) spending millions of marketing dollars over a decade or more, creating security awareness, one would think people get what pervasive security is all about. They don’t, at least not yet. Organic education takes time, as opposed to threat-based education that provides shock value. You may see continued spending of these millions of marketing dollars over the next decade…:-)As Jimmy Ray Purser states in one of his earlier videos for the Cisco Developer contest, calling application developers to think secure,”security is a lot more than just a firewall”. As always, Jimmy Ray stimulates grey cells as only he can.The truth is -the nature, source and complexity of threats is evolving as we adopt different media for communication and bring different types of devices into the”network”. Today, in an IP-based environment, where mobile phones, microwave owens and video cameras are all different network-addressable devices jostling for attention, anything could be a source of threat, and should be treated accordingly. And there are other extremes. These are the people who just don’t trust anything. Here’s an anecdote. For most of us, AES may be inherently secure and widely adopted. However, a number of institutions are mandated not to believe it. They still have their own proprietary encryption algorithms, which they believe provide superior security. It is interesting to recollect that one of the reasons Cisco considered opening their routers, was a Eastern European government outfit requesting permission to port their own security algorithm on the Integrated Services Router instead of the standards-based ones that Cisco supports by default. They didn’t trust AES. Read More »

Cisco’s INTERNAL Developer contest closes – Results around the corner

Okay, DON’T confuse this with the external Developer contest! Phase-1 of that contest is open till Feb 27th, 2009. We extended it, remember?This one is about the INTERNAL developer contest. It closed on Jan 12th, 2009. For those who don’t know, this was something we mentioned in one of the previous blogs. In conjunction with the external contest we adopted a two-fold approach to this contest, with an internal version focused on our Sales and Network Engineering community with a small prize pool. Since our SEs are among the closest technical liasons to our customers, and understand the branch problem space the best, we thought it’d be a great idea to get them to submit innovative ideas, and tap into their knowledge of customer deployments. Over the last few weeks, we received a few questions about our internal contest results and if the winners were finalized. I thought it’s perhaps a good time to give an update.Since we don’t expect any of our Sales Engineers to code (a lot of them probably are hardcode coders though), we restricted the entries to proposal submissions only. Yeah, the shrewd observer will realize that it somewhat concurs with the Phase-1 of the external contest. There were some differences though – the template for the internal contest was geared towards customer relevance and applicability of the solution to deployments familiar to them. I just want to exult for a moment and state that our global SE community rose to the challenge and delivered a number of innovative proposals, many with detailed schematics of the solution and its possible implementation. A panel of judges with diverse areas of expertise did the honors and it was tough to shortlist and choose three. Why am I sharing details of the internal contest here? Because we intend to share some of the innovative ideas from our SEs in this blog and on the contest website.. There were a number of honourable mentions too. We’ll try to bring them on and get their perspectives as well. When? Read More »

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 »