Seamless Enterprise Circa 2009 - 2011
Wireless, wireline and the new world of IP convergence
For a number of years the Seamless Enterprise offered insights, opinions, and newsworthy information regarding the subject of IP Convergence.
Content is from the site's 2010 - 2011 archived pages providing just a glimpse of what this site offered its readership.
About The Seamless Enterprise
The mission of our blog is to provide a voice and central hub for ideas, news, and information about the subject of Convergence.
Our bloggers are experienced professionals in delivering the power of IP and converged wireless and wireline solutions to business customers, which results in competitive advantage, cost savings and even reduced network complexity for businesses. Their thoughts and commentary should provide insight into issues related to Converged Solutions - a dynamic, ever-changing subject.
It’s important to note that the blog represents the opinions of the bloggers, and not those of Sprint Nextel Corporation. Our mission is to keep up with these issues and help others to gain a better understanding of Convergence — the trends, the opportunities, its future, where we’re seeing successes and all the challenges. We really depend on others involved in the field to provide ideas and make this a more well-rounded forum, so feel free to comment, provide your own commentary and help shape the conversation. We look forward to hearing from you.
There are Wrong Reasons for Embracing Collaboration
We’ve talked here many times about the reasons to move to Unified Communications and leverage the benefits of collaboration. But are there wrong reasons to make this move?
Geoffrey Moore thinks so. The analyst and author of a number of books about disruptive technologies talked to InformationWeek recently, declaring that implementing collaboration tools because you think the younger employees in your organization expect them as the “worst possible reason” to do so.
Problem is, Moore explains, that when you implement collaborative technologies such as IM, mobile e-mail, and Facebook/Twitter-type tools because you feel you are forced to, “you’re not going to do it very well … and you’re not going to do it in any focused way.”
Moore calls this approach a “sop to the millennials,” the generation that has never really known what it’s like not to be connected at all times. His prediction: such an initiative will not only be a waste of money, but it may actually alienate those younger employees you’re trying so hard to accommodate.
Moore isn’t advising organizations to avoid or delay collaboration, just to implement it for the right reasons. Seamless Enterprise readers certainly know what those reasons are: the increased productivity and efficiency of being able to connect with and collaborate with your peers in the most convenient ways, virtually anytime. That includes mobility in all its forms, and the ability to know who is available and when and what is the best means of communications with them at any given time.
You are hearing more and more about “latency” – delay – in communications technologies, as networks aim to trim milliseconds off the connection times for applications such as stock trading and other financial services. That is, in a sense, what UC and collaboration are designed to do – reduce the latency involved in working with fellow employees toward completing projects and ongoing business.
So as Moore and others advise, collaboration and UC have to be custom-fit to the needs of the enterprise. They must be focused on the “critical moments” that a given organization faces. Those could be the specific needs of R&D teams, the need to respond promptly and carefully to customer service issues, reputation management, or any number of important, delay-sensitive concerns.
Moore postulates that a new era of IT investment is coming, built around collaboration technologies, akin to the wave of investment we saw in information management systems such as ERP and supply chain/inventory management tools not so long ago.He contends that while many companies have embarked on bold collaboration initiatives, and still more are talking about such moves, we haven’t yet seen the broad, across-the-board, must-have embrace of collaboration and UC.
He knows it’s coming, though, and so do we.
Making the Most of a Dizzying Amount of Data
Gartner calls it Data Deluge. McKinsey calls it Big Data. No matter the name, the flood of incoming data to an organization, and data captured from the Web, is doubling every 18 months says McKinsey in its August 2010 Quarterly Report. Web communities, and technologies for capturing and analyzing information, give organizations access to customer data as never before.
How can the enterprise capitalize on all this captured data and knowledge within its organization? The August 2010 McKinsey Quarterly Report offers advice:
1 – Rethink how people are organized
Employees are a company’s strongest assets. Traditionally, employees are organized around business units (finance, IT, marketing, etc.) What if employees were instead organized around critical tasks? Dow Chemical, an example in the report, set up its own social network to help managers identify the talent they needed to execute projects across different business units and functions. To broaden the talent pool, Dow even extended the network to include former employees, such as retirees. Furthermore, companies are leveraging web technologies and unified communications solutions to bring people together across organizational boundaries.
In this example, the organization was able to quickly identify and access the best talent and resources through the network. Not only that, but these resources could collaborate to innovate and solve problems, making the network and its people a true competitive advantage.
2 - Understand how data/information flows within your organization
For organizations to take advantage of intellectual capital and for technology to be effective, organizations need to understand how knowledge sharing and transfer take place. First, an organization must identify the type of information needed. With so much data, you want to pay attention to the useful and relevant data. Then enterprises can begin by mapping informational pathways through which information travels, observe how employees interact, and identify wasteful bottlenecks.
3 – Pay-as-you-go for applications that make intelligent use of data
There is no shortage of web applications, software, and other resources that can help an organization capture, organize, and make sense of its data. What is new is paying for services rather than hard physical assets that require large capital investments. These service offerings are the new assets that allow companies to purchase units of service and account for them as a variable cost. The real benefit is that businesses pay only for what they use. This becomes especially relevant for businesses with seasonal spikes and those wanting access to the latest technology and upgrades, for example.
Cloud computing best represents this new model, as companies are now accessing computer resources provided through networks.
4 – Leverage IT as a tool to reduce environmental impact
Interestingly, the environmental footprint of all this data is growing. McKinsey says electricity produced to power the world’s data centers is generating greenhouse gases on the scale of countries such as Argentina or the Netherlands. However, McKinsey research also shows that the use of IT in areas such as smart power grids, efficient buildings, and better logistics planning could eliminate five times as many carbon emissions as the IT industry produces. The demand for IT capacity and services will continue to explode; enterprises should be looking for IT-enabled solutions in other areas of the company to offset the environmental impact of the ever-increasing demand for data. Also, by harnessing the power of cloud computing, enterprises lessen their environmental footprint by using only what they need.
5 – Use acquired data for a new revenue stream
As data is captured within an organization and externally mined, enterprises should consider if and how a new source of revenue may be generated. McKinsey encourages businesses to ask themselves these questions, to assess a new opportunity:
• “Who might find this information valuable?” Can the company sell information related to consumer behavior or preferences?
• “What would happen if we provided our product or service free of charge?” If a company increased its online customers or membership significantly, a new revenue stream may come from advertisers or other companies who want access to this community of customers.
By capitalizing on all this captured data, enterprises can quickly and smartly invent new ways of doing business and create new market opportunities. The bottom line is that data can be a competitive advantage and a profit creator.
Run WAN Run!
I was chatting recently with Jeff Nossan, a Global Converged Solutions Manager with Sprint, about WAN acceleration. The purpose for deploying WAN acceleration technologies is to give enterprises and organizations fine-grained control over WAN traffic. They can have business-critical applications accelerated, unimportant traffic managed, and malicious traffic mitigated. The result is better application and network responsiveness, not to mention reduced bandwidth utilization.
WAN acceleration is a critical component of a long-term cloud computing strategy. Cloud computing isn’t just about “dumber” computers and software hosted in the network. It’s about a smarter network, one that anticipates demand, understands not just the labels on packets but the payload as well, and improves user experience as a result. I see WAN acceleration as a given with cloud computing; in fact, I see caching moving past the router and into layer 2 switches as well. The potential is unlimited, because acceleration is not just about caching and compression, it’s about non-stop dynamic pattern recognition.
In today’s typical enterprise environment, a person may email a 10 MB presentation to 20 people, who in turn each forward it out to 20 more people. If these 400 people are located in only 10 different locations across the enterprise, that means the file got pushed across the enterprise WAN a whopping 390 times more than it had to! In such a case, WAN acceleration technologies could have reduced the bandwidth utilization across the enterprise by 97.5 percent for that one email alone. Imagine what WAN acceleration could do if it was deployed across an entire enterprise.
With examples like the above, it’s easy to see why WAN acceleration can reduce bandwidth for some enterprises by half, or even 75 percent. To achieve this kind of gain, one has to deploy a WAN acceleration solution that provides good application visibility, management and tuning technologies. This includes bandwidth management, protocol optimization, caching, and compression. While this sometimes requires deeper packet inspection, that can be a huge benefit, since malicious data traffic and associated viruses are the biggest long-term threats to an enterprise.
When looking into WAN acceleration solutions for the first time, an enterprise needs to look at the totality of its network QoS strategy. WAN acceleration is just one piece of the overall puzzle. Providing better network performance to an enterprise is about mapping the right traffic to the right Class of Service queues, taking advantage of multicast capabilities and applying the right security paradigms.
Jeff said customers are asking about WAN acceleration not just because of the potential to reduce bandwidth, but because of the way that bandwidth is reduced (it happens in a way that benefits network responsiveness). Ultimately, that is what enterprise end users notice the most. The employees and customers of an enterprise don’t think about network congestion; they think about their electronic interactions with each other. In today’s fast-paced society, people have less patience. They don’t want to wait an extra 500 ms to get the data they need (while that doesn’t sound like a lot of time, if you are loading a web page with 97 elements, that 500 ms can toll a number of times before the page is fully loaded). This is why WAN acceleration is so important in a cloud-based strategy. If you are thinking about the “cloud,” you also need to think WAN acceleration.
Christopher Glenn is a featured contributor on The Seamless Enterprise and explores emerging technologies that will help companies create convergence strategies that bring together wireless and wireline communications.
The Confluence of Cloud Computing and the Retail Industry
No doubt e-commerce has proven to be a critical channel within the retail industry. Just look at the overnight sensation of Groupon and Amazon which turned buying behavior upside down. So it is interesting that the retail industry overall, is lagging behind most other industries when it comes to cloud computing.
The retail industry, just as any other, can realize the common benefits of cloud computing, such as cost savings, scalability, and the freedom to focus on strategic competencies (and less on IT). For an industry with peaks and valleys in the sales cycle, scalability and pay-for-use models are very attractive. Not only that, being free to focus on the customer is central to the success of any retail organization. So what has been holding back retailers from joining the cloud revolution?
Up until now, the missing component has been the killer app. Today, mobile applications, especially location-based services, are becoming a major impetus for retailers to make the leap. Now retailers can identify customers when they are in a particular geographic area. At that moment, the retailer can then send them a relevant message with the purpose of driving them into a brick-and-mortar store. In one test, a whopping 65 percent of consumers made a purchase after receiving the virtual message!
Other relevant retail application tools are moving to the cloud such as: data analysis and forecasting. “Cloud computing is particularly efficient in collection and analyses of huge volumes of sales data and in real time inventory management.” Forecasting can also be done more quickly and efficiently in the cloud, says techtarget.com, as these critical applications are accessed on-demand and retailers pay only for the service they use.
It is no surprise that more and more consumers are wedded to their wireless devices. This too is driving retailers to the cloud. Says technet.com, “As location-based services, mobile smart phone applications, mobile data, the wireless Internet and smartphones become ubiquitous, the cloud becomes the fabric that enables each of these to function dynamically and at scale, delivering content (and advertising) that is instantly made relevant based on place and time.”
As we are seeing, real-time visibility into operations as well as instant mobile access to consumers is revolutionizing the retail industry. Cloud computing is now providing real business benefits beyond the IT organization. The cloud is becoming a strategic asset for the retailer, finally.
How Green is My UC?
Let’s add one more entry to the list of really good reasons to embrace Unified Communications. It’s a great way to help make your company greener, helping the environment and saving money at the same time.
A recent Frost & Sullivan Market Insight says the overall “Green IT” trend is likely to be a key factor in the adoption of UC, despite the fact that with the economic recession still hanging on, fewer companies are currently making “green” the priority it had been before the downturn.
Still, Frost analyst Dorota Oviedo says, telepresence and conferencing tools are one area where there is significant enterprise interest regardless of the economy. These, she says, “offer virtual meeting alternatives that reduce the necessity of traditional face-to-face contact. Collaboration features, in addition to the integration with voice and data networks, as well as other business applications allow for significant productivity enhancements. Telepresence solutions create a lifelike experience among meeting participants.”
She also says more and more companies are recognizing the benefits of teleworking, increasingly offering employees the option to work outside the traditional office.
“The companies that are actively pursuing a green strategy understand that letting employees work from home (or close to home) not only contributes to lowering CO2 emissions, but also brings direct benefits to the company, like increasing employee satisfaction, decreasing employee turnover, and attracting highly qualified professionals who may not live in a reasonable daily commuting distance. Advances in technology and introduction of new collaborative applications facilitate teleworking while keeping the virtual workforce productive.”
When you start tallying the ways UC can contribute to the environment, you can also see how it helps the bottom line, too. The employees who are working at home, for instance, are burning less gasoline thanks to their non-commute, but the company also doesn’t have to provide office space for them, either. In Sprint’s own case, our UC implementation has made it possible for 4,000 employees to efficiently work outside the office and helped us eliminate more than a million square feet of office space, with its associated real estate, power, and other costs.
Another example: SIP Trunking, as a foundation of UC, converges all communication onto a single link, streamlining the network and enabling the elimination of local telco trunks. Where’s the environmental benefit there, you ask? Well, pointing again to Sprint’s own experience, we have eliminated hundreds of PBXs in favor of SIP trunks. A study last year found that we achieved a 98 percent reduction in power usage as a result. The SIP Trunking system uses only 237,600 kilowatt hours per year, compared with 13.5 million kilowatt hours for the 489 PBXs that used to be the core of our enterprise network.
The important thing is that UC has matured to a point where people working outside the office don’t have to feel like they’re coping with second-class tools. With their headset and laptop, plus a good wireless or wired connection, they are just as effective as in a corporate office, especially with all the collaboration and presence tools UC offers. They can start with IMs or texts and easily click their way into multi-party, collaborative meetings with their peers, and do it more effectively than if they went cubicle-to-cubicle at headquarters rounding up those same people.
Green … is good (apologies to Gordon Gekko), but we all realize that companies won’t embrace green solutions if they don’t either improve productivity or reduce costs. UC hits the trifecta: more productivity, lower costs, and environmental benefits.
Joe Hamblin Blog Post
Fifteen years ago this month, the age of spam began. Like so many things, it started innocently enough, when a couple of immigration lawyers in Phoenix pitched their services to pretty much everyone who was on the Internet at the time, via the 6,000 newsgroups in existence then.
Actually, the very first Internet promotion was way back in 1978, when a DEC (Digital Equipment Corp.) marketer sent an invitation to 393 Arpanet users, promoting an open house in Los Angeles where they could see DEC’s newest computers. The overwhelmingly negative response was sufficient to put a lid on that use of the Internet for the next decade and a half.
The 1994 action was not well received by Internet users either, and the story goes that one of the lawyers was even disbarred for it. Yet these same lawyers went on to write a book promoting spamming as a way to leverage the “Information Superhighway” and make a fortune.
Well, it’s all gone downhill since then, as any Internet user knows. Spam, in all its ugly forms, makes up a majority of the messages in the average user’s mailbox every day. Want to know how bad it really is? In one 12-month period, Sprint stopped more than 250 billion spam messages from reaching customers. Think of it this way: If each spam message was on one sheet of paper and you stacked them on top of each other, the pile of spam would be 14,993 miles high.
It’s easy to think of spam as merely a nuisance, but it’s far more than that. It’s dangerous – if an employee were to accidentally open the wrong message, it could trigger a download that would infect the corporate network – and it eats up valuable bandwidth. It’s also disruptive to the efficiency of corporate resources. And frankly, it serves no useful earthly purpose. The way we look at it, every spam message that is kept from delivery represents a tiny victory for Good over Evil.
Spam elimination is one of the important functions of our Sprint Secure Email Protection product. Keeping malicious, unwanted traffic from reaching enterprise networks not only protects them, but it also frees up bandwidth. The bandwidth that spam messages and other network threats would have been consuming is now made available for better network performance.
If you want to really help control spam, and its evil cousins, malware and viruses, you can also consider our Sprint Secure Web Protection product. SSWP comes in two versions, premises-based (a better choice for enterprises with a high concentration of users at a small number of sites) or network-based (for enterprises with a large number of sites). It also includes options such as URL and content filtering, IM control, and enforceable usage policies.
Remember when Bill Gates promised in 2004 that the world would be spam-free by 2006? Such a pledge is good for a laugh now, because we’ve come to realize that the world will never be spam-free. Too many spammers, and too little time to hunt them all down. The only answer is individual action, with each of us implementing the best security solution we can, to make our company’s network as spam-free as possible.
This Isn’t Your Father’s Telecommuting
Just 10 or 15 years ago, companies typically frowned upon telecommuting. Managers had a hard time telling if their subordinates were really on-task because there was no way to tell if people were really working. Executives worried about losing the “water cooler effect” – the name given to the productivity boost that occurs when workers unintentionally bump into each other throughout the day and happen to exchange progress reports and remind each other about deadlines and deliverables.
As someone who telecommutes from somewhere in the U.S. every day, most often from right here in Peoria, I can attest that when an entire company embraces unified communications technology the way that Sprint has, the concerns of yesteryear are moot. Modern UC technologies not only increase the productivity of today’s remote workers, I believe that the productivity of some teleworkers today is actually higher than that of office workers. I call it the “presence effect.”
At any given time, 24 hours a day, I can see who around the globe is “in their office,” whether their “door” is open or closed, or if they are on the phone or in a meeting. They can see that about me too. The more insight an employee has to the availability of their peers, the more productive they can be.
The water cooler effect expands with UC as well. My boss is in London and I have peers across America, Europe, and Asia. Today, I can stand at scores of water coolers all around the world simultaneously – not only those at my company – but those of any trading partner, supplier or customer that I am working with as well. The decorum of these virtual water coolers demands directness and succinctness, unlike the physical water coolers of yesteryear which often required pleasantries and small talk at both ends of every conversation. Not only does UC allow you to forego the “hellos” and “goodbyes,” but it can be seen as poor etiquette at times, especially when you are interrupting people who are in a meeting.
My latest innovation is “?”. When someone’s presence indicator shows “in a meeting”, they may be still be open to receiving an instant message or “chat” inquiry on their laptop. Rather than type “I know you are in a meeting, do you have a moment?” or ask them if they can multitask, I merely send a question mark. People who work with me know what that means – and they know it does not require a response if they actually don’t have time to take my question.
My Dad worked on a plant floor and the closest he ever came to telecommuting was explaining over the phone where to whack a machine with a sledge hammer to get it working again. My work is a little different. The raw materials are ideas and the outputs are bits and bytes. Thanks to seamless communications, in this brave new world of telecommuting, I can be updating a report on the Web, participating in a conference call, and whacking a few virtual machines with virtual sledge hammers …and I still have time for a couple of simultaneous water cooler conversations with people from Poughkeepsie to Prague.