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Ideas Matter

Acquisitions Aimed at Unified CommunicationsWhether companies are big or small, it’s their ideas that matter.Cisco certainly believes this maxim, and has announced the planned purchase of Metreos and Audium, two tiny software companies that could play an important role in the development of Cisco’s Unified Communications System.The additions represent a step toward enabling enterprises to further adopt and integrate data, voice, and video technology, says IDG News Service’s Stephen Lawson.Metreos and Audium offer application creation and integration environments that should enable in-house enterprise application developers use an interface to integrate their applications with the Unified Communications System.The middleware from these companies works with widely-used business applications from companies such as SAP, which will facilitate integration, says Lawson, citing IDC analyst Abner Germanow. The developers can do the integration work, which would suit both Cisco an enterprises which would like to move at their own pace.”They (enterprises) need to be able to try an application with a fairly low investment before they can figure out if it’s right for them,” Germanow said. Neither company has more than 30 employees but they provide key software, said Laurent Philonenko, vice president and general manager of Cisco’s Contact Center Business.”They absolutely open the enterprise application world to unified communications,” Philonenko said.

Action at the Edge

Cisco moves ahead with Next-Generation NetworkCisco is making waves at the GlobalComm 2006, the Telecommunications Association’s trade show in Chicago, announcing a series of initiatives designed to push forward its IP Next-Generation Network vision. Here is a summary of the announcements. For a fuller picture, go to News@Cisco’s media kit. The company made available a Cisco Intelligent Services Gateway (ISG) feature set on the Cisco 10000 and 7200 Series Routers, as well as the Cisco 7301 Router. The Cisco ISG simplifies the creation and improves the performance of advanced services delivered over Cisco IP NGNs. Cisco also enhanced the performance of the Cisco 10000 Series and Cisco 7200 Series Routers with new routing engines, the PRE-3 and NPE-G2, respectively, extending investment protection for these platforms.”Getting beyond incrementalism and truly transforming infrastructures requires providers to have subscriber management, policy enforcement, policy management and service assurance capabilities that are application, access and traffic-demand agnostic,” said Mark Seery, vice president for IP Service Infrastructure at Ovum-RHK. “The breadth of customers Cisco supports, and the architectural flexibility that requires, has resulted in the development of the Intelligent Services Gateway, an integral part of the Cisco Service Exchange Framework and a capability which sets a standard for other vendors to meet.”In the network convergence arena, Cisco unveiled enhancements to the Cisco 7600 Series routing portfolio to advance network intelligence, flexibility and return on investment for service providers and their Cisco IP NGNs. These innovations include a new integrated mesh Wireless Services Module (WiSM) for metropolitan Wi-Fi mesh aggregation to more efficiently deliver integrated fixed/mobile services, and multicast connection admission control (CAC) capability to manage bandwidth oversubscription for IPTV. The innovations also include an integrated video/IPTV quality-monitoring module to help ensure high-quality video service delivery, and Ethernet operations, administration and maintenance (OA&M) capabilities for improved service assurance. Scientific Atlanta, a Cisco company, is actively supporting telco video efforts with both RF and IP video solutions. Highlights include IPTV headends, hubs and networks, MPEG-4 part 10/H.264 advanced video coding technology, advanced IPTV set-tops for end-to-end IP video streaming and integrated home networking technologies.

On Net Neutrality

A Battle for the Internet One of the more instructive takes on the burgeoning”net neutrality” debate appears in Wired News, where Michael Grebb outlines the issue in real-world terms. The Internet is not, and really never was, perfectly egalitarian, he writes in an article entitled “Neutral Net? Who Are You Kidding?”"Vast amounts of traffic are rerouted and blocked every day,” Grebb says.”The system, while successful overall, seems to ride on the very edge of chaos, insiders say.”And now a battle is building over the future of the Internet. “Arguments over net regulations are nothing new,” says Grebb.”But they have taken on fresh urgency as the industry absorbs a wave of megamergers and the internet rapidly evolves into a high-bandwidth pipe capable of replicating -- and perhaps even replacing -- both traditional telephone and cable TV services.”But how can high-bandwidth applications and services being developed by Cisco and others make business sense if the government mandates that everyone be offered the same level of services?”œCracking down on ISPs by enforcing one-size-fits-all rules could be costly, since such bandwidth management can have a utilitarian purpose,” writes Grebb.”And it’s hard to predict what measures will work best to optimize the network at any given time, or in the future. Cisco Systems’ (Robert) Pepper (Cisco’s senior managing director for global advanced technology policy) says that net neutrality in some of its purest forms could even lead to price regulation of broadband services, which could further erode investment and innovation -- the very things that net-neutrality proponents presumably would like to see thrive on the internet. ‘Regulation is not free,’ says Pepper. ‘It always has a cost.’”Paul Meisner, vice president of global public policy for Amazon.com and one of the key lobbyists pushing for strong action on Capitol Hill to legislate net-neutrality provisions, agrees that services on the net has never been equal. “But none of those services degrade other services on the internet,” Grebb quotes Meisner.”The problem arises when schemes are discussed that would prioritize some traffic over other traffic.”Taking an opposite view is Cisco President and CEO John Chambers, who with others wrote to Congress in March saying no new legislation is necessary, according to the San Jose Mercury News. “Broadband Internet access service providers should remain free to engage in pro-competitive network management techniques to alleviate congestion, ameliorate capacity constraints and enable new services,” Chambers wrote.

Getting to the Networked Home

Digital WizardryBroadband content is moving in wildly creative directions, as the story on News@Cisco, “œFollowing Video Wizards,” clearly demonstrates.What remains hazy is how these new media forms will be made available to us, the consumer.Dana Gardner, principal analyst of Interarbor-Solutions, sees a landscape where multiple content providers and delivery channels are all jockeying for advantage. Coming soon, he says, will be a convergence of digital entertainment and connectivity solutions born of necessity in which partnerships will be created to serve the networked home.”œPeople are looking for simplicity and convenience and an all-in-one kind of approach that will not leave them doing integration,” says Gardner,”So we are seeing some major players -- Intel, Microsoft, Apple and Cisco -- all starting to piece things together in terms of simplicity, completeness and convenience.”A catalyst needs to occur to create one solution for the regular user -you and me.”œWhen my broadband provider says to me that, ‘For $120, you get broadband, TV, VoIP, a place to host your blog, a website to download your pictures, and you’ll be able to do metered TV, and you’ll only pay for channels you want and get access to a rental store to rent movies compatible with your mp3 player of choice,’ then we are talking about the big enchilada,’” Gardner says. “For $120, I’d say ‘Yeah, I’m in with that, and if you want to throw in a cell phone service for $30, terrific.”That will be the kind of package that will get us all the way into the networked home.”œSo why don’t partnerships happen where Cisco on the backend works with Time Warner on the front end?” Gardner asks.”When I buy a car, I don’t buy a transmission from Ford and an engine from Toyota and wheels from GM and put it together in my garage.”We just want the car.

Ready for the Next Step

Collaboration Buzz Rob Preston, Editor In Chief of InformationWeek, writes that the major technology vendors are focusing on collaboration as a key factor in accelerating growth.”Collaboration and productivity apps are hot again, especially Web-based tools that exploit social networking, wiki, and blogging mania,” Preston writes.And Cisco is in the midst of this wave.”œTech vendors are now playing to the growth crowd,” Preston says.”Application acceleration and WAN optimization, technologies that align connectivity directly with business process improvement, are the fastest-growing areas in networking. Cisco Systems isn’t just in infrastructure anymore; it’s pushing into unified messaging and touting “telepresence” as the next killer app. Over the next five years, Cisco CEO John Chambers maintains, as much as 50% of business productivity gains will be tied to making IP-based video conversations as rich as face-to-face ones. (If you think Chambers is just blowing smoke, consider that he and Cisco almost single-handedly made voice-data network convergence happen.)”The next step, he says, is for Cisco and others to facilitate adoption.”Until we show our people how collaboration and productivity tools can close more sales or help us meet more deadlines or build better products, they’ll pay only lip service to this stuff,” Preston writes. In the case of telepresence, that should not be a hard sell.