You can use Internet protocols to make phone calls inside your own network. And you don't have to pay for the minutes. But you can't do the same thing with a business partner. Instead, you have to pay a carrier like BT or AT&T to carry the phone call over the public switched telephone network (PSTN).
(PSTN is an analog network born in 1878 when Bell opened a switching office in New Haven, CT. It's done us proud, but it's time to move to a digital network.)
It's even worse for video conferencing. If you want to have a video conference internally, you can use your IP network to do it. But if you want to do a video conference with a business partner, you have to use a complex business gateway link and pay a lot of money for it.
Cisco thinks it's time to change that. We spoke with Cisco executives Tony Bates, Barry O'Sullivan, and Joe Burton about Cisco's intercompany media engine (IME), a new technology to replace PSTN with its Internet equivalent. Cisco's goals are audacious:
Apple just announced its media tablet (we coined these things mobile media tablets in 2005 in private client conversations and ) amidst much excitement and surprisingly little secrecy. There wasn't much if anything in the announcement that the bloggers hadn't anticipated.
This product will appear in 60 days with WiFi and in 90 days unlocked with AT&T data plan for $629 and $29/month. It will catch on quickly as an employee-provisioned third device, particularly for Mobile Professionals, 28% of the workforce. IT will support it in many organizations. After all, it's just a big iPhone to them and already 20% of firms support them.
Most of the media coverage will discuss the impact on consumer markets. I'm going to talk about the impact on businesses and on information & knowledge management professionals, the IT executive responsible for making the workforce successful with technology.
Make no mistake, this is an attractive business tool. Laptops will be left at home.
One thing's for sure, Apple knows how to time the market. And the market it's timed this time around is an important one: information workers self-provisioning what they need rather than what their employers provide. We have called this trend Technology Populism(AKA consumerization of IT), and it's important enough that we're writing a book called Groundswell Heroes about how to harness it.
We just had another of our regular cloud research meetings at Forrester. In these meetings, we cut across our research organization to examine cloud computing from every angle.
Compared with even just a year ago, it's amazing how important and pervasive cloud computing analysis (as opposed to cloud computing guesswork) has become in our research calendar.
You can see the existing cloud/*aaS research here and our planned research here. As the meeting host, I mostly listen, probe, and take notes, but ocassionally I get to jump in with a thought.
To wit: We are often asked about whether cloud-based collaboration (email, team sites, instant messaging, Web conferencing, social computing, etc.) works best on multi-tenant, dedicated solutions, or both. The answer is both, but trending towards multi-tenant. Our clients are interested in both multi-tenant and single-tenant or dedicated cloud solutions -- as long as the price is right.
The future of cloud-based collaboration is clearly multi-tenant for two economic reasons:
1. Multi-tenant enables the fundamental economic benefits of a shared resource. We can see this in the price war going on in email right now -- a 50% price cut in the last 12 months with multi-tenant cloud email. The floor on email cost keeps dropping, fueled by the better economics of multi-tenant solutions and high capacity utilization.
That call may surprise you. You might have put storage or Gigabit ethernet or the Internet itself at the top of the list. But when I think about what's different in the life of your average information worker as the decade comes to a close, it's the instant-on access to just about everything that the adoption of consumer broadband has fueled.
From our Consumer Technographics(r) survey of over 50,000 consumers every year for the last 12 years, between 2000 and 2009, consumer broadband soared from 2% to 63% of US households. For context, home PC adoption grew from 51% to 77%.
But why is consumer broadband the workforce technology of the decade? Three main reasons:
1. Telecommuting has become a way of life for xx million information workers. We have been watching -- and forecasting -- the growth of telecommuting. The impact is immediate and obvious: more hours to work; more location flexibility in hiring and retaining; and more work-life control. Telecommuting in the US is dependent on cheap broadband to the home. Telecommuters will rise to include 43% of the US information workforce by 2016.
2. Broadband-enabled markets have triggered massive IT innovation. Google; Facebook, Twitter, Wikipedia, and LinkedIn; WebEx, ZoHo, and Smartsheets.com; Amazon EC2, Google App Engine; and Windows Azure; open source and Web 2.0. All of these and thousands of other technologies and companies are built on the back of broadband to the home. The network innovation over the last 10 years makes the Internet 1.0 era look like a pre-season warmup game.
Pal Henry Dewing and I heard yesterday from IBM's Rob Ingram about Lotus Sametime 8.5, the real-time collaboration product available on December 22. Lotus Sametime is the client/server product that first made enterprise instant messaging a global possibility back in 1998.
This dot release is IBM's first major overhaul of its real-time messaging product in three years. (My take is that IBM kept the 8.x version number to align it with the current Notes/Domino version.) For those firms that understand the power of real-time collaboration tools -- the ability to get an immediate answer, hold a virtual ad hoc meeting, or ping someone without bothering them with a phone call -- this product is an important upgrade.
Why? Because it's got the core elements of click-to-conference -- not just instant messaging and presence -- baked into it. And for ad hoc collaboration, click-to-conference is a much richer and easier thing to do than loading up separate applications for instant messaging, video conferencing, and Web conferencing.
I think of click-to-conference is "the ability to have an ad hoc meeting supported with rich media whenever you are online." It includes these elements:
One click to send out an invitation via instant messaging.
I had the chance to join 50 other people at a telepresence event last week. This one took place in real-time using Cisco's TelePresence rooms. (Okay, full disclosure, it was a Cisco industry analyst event held on December 9th.)
(This is a long post, so for those looking for key lessons and gotchas, just scroll now to the bottom.)
For those of you who've been asleep for the last 4 years as first HP and then Cisco followed by LifeSize, Polycom, RADVISION, Tandberg, and Teliris demonstrated the like-being-there experience of telepresence, it's pretty amazing stuff. Video conferencing with near face-time quality. You can in fact see the whites of their eyes.
Companies like P&G, GE, and Dreamworks are using telepresence technology to slash executive travel and give technical staff the tools to collaborate across massive distances with almost the same experience as being there (save the ability to shake hands, share a meal, and have a side conversation).
I first experienced telepresence in 2004 at HP's Corvallis, OR, lab, and it blew me away back then. It's only gotten better. (Colleague Claire Schooley has calculated the ROI of telepresence for those thinking about this technology.)
Back to this telepresence event:
Cisco used 12 telepresence rooms in at eight cities: Boston, New York, San Jose, Toronto, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Bedfont outside London.
Do you truly understand your workforce and what they need from technology? Hint, it's a loaded question. You might think so, but you'd probably be wrong. They're not like you. Not at all.
We weren't sure, either, which is why we surveyed 2,001 US information workers -- people that use computers in their jobs to find out what technology they use and what they need to be successful in their jobs.
We discovered something that consumer market researchers have known for generations: Not everybody needs or wants the same stuff. So we drew on our decade of experience with quantitative analysis and created a segmentation that highlights the differences between employees based on their need for location flexibility (mobility) and their application use:
Location flexibility, a.k.a., mobility -- drives differences in the need for smartphones, wireless networks, collaboration tools, and telecommuting support.
Application use drives differences in social computing, consumerization of IT, and tolerance for virtual desktops.
Microsoft announced the general availability of Exchange Server 2010 yesterday. For information & knowledge management professionals and for the productivity of information workers, there are five good reasons to upgrade:
Much cheaper storage. Exchange 2007 introduced a new storage model, where the email server manages direct-attached storage. Exchange 2010 extends that capability and in the words of one beta customer, "We have reduced the overall costs for our storage by 30% while increasing the usable disk space nine times." This benefit comes from using cheap direct-attached storage in lieu of storage area networks.
Support for much bigger mailboxes. Most firms limit mailbox size to 100-250 MB for good reasons: storage cost, nightly backup windows too short, eDiscovery hassles. Exchange 2010 has much faster I/O (Microsoft says 15 times faster than in Exchange 2003) and improved storage management that allows direct-attached storage and cheap disks. Net it out, and it becomes much easier to expand the mailboxes to 1-2 GB.
Cisco's John Chambers has made "collaboration" a strategy for the company's customers and employees. And enterprise GM Tony Bates is now tasked with driving that strategy. I'm writing from Cisco's launch event in San Francisco. (Well, it's actually still going on.)
There's a lot to digest and analzye, which we'll do over time. But I wanted to share some early thoughts . . .
This week's announcement marks Cisco's formal entry into the broader collaboration market, long fragmented and dominated by IBM and Microsoft for applications and by Tandberg and Polycom for video conferencing.
The company claims 61 products and features, but the key components are email, instant messaging, web conferencing, social software, and video conferencing as well as network-based services like a business TelePresence directory and policy-controlled content tagging. And in the words of Tony Bates, "a video stream runs through all of it."
Cisco's strategy for collaboration fascinates me because it's bold and frankly orthogonal to Microsoft's desktop productivity path and IBM's workgroup history. It's also enterprise-grade by default, unlike Google's consumer-first approach. But I'm fascinated and I believe IT pros should be interested in Cisco's solutions for three reasons:
Telepresence is the life-size, true color, no latency video meeting technology that creates a “wow” reaction from participants, especially those who have experienced some traditional videoconferencing that gave poor picture quality, out-of synch audio/video, and added no sense of presence to a meeting. Here are some factors that make telepresence different:
• Video provides high quality 1080p pictures with hidden cameras placed to achieve eye contact no matter where people are seated around the conference table.
• Audio is full duplex with microphones and speakers that allow sound to come from the direction of the speaker.
• The environment is purpose-built with lighting arrays, speakers, and cameras all configured for the optimum experience. Conference tables, chairs, and even the wall paint are the same at all sites to convey a uniform sense of presence. Managed service and support assure that this expensive system is going to work. Many organizations buy a concierge-type service model so participants just need to push a button to start the videoconference.