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Posts from March 2008

Nortel's fascinating move into open source telephony... but NOT with Asterisk

nortel.jpgNortel and "open source telephony"? Huh?

That was admittedly my thought when I received the list of who was going to be on the panel I moderated last week at VoiceCon on open source telephony. The other two panelists were obvious choices: Bill Miller was from Digium (makers of Asterisk) and Raza was from 3Com who have recently announced that they would be reselling a version of Digium's Asterisk Business Edition. Both Bill and Raza made sense to me. But Tony Pereira of Nortel? Nortel does not leap out at me as a company working with open source telephony - what in the world are they doing with it, I wondered?

It turns out that the answer is... "quite a bit!"

As Tony Pereira outlined in our panel as well as in conversations afterwards, Nortel is in the process of launching their "Software Communications Server 500" (SCS 500) targeted at small businesses and built using open source telephony software!

Interestingly, though, it does NOT use Asterisk.

sipfoundry.jpgInstead Nortel is using the "other" major player in open source telephony, the "sipXecs" product from (Previously called "sipX" but renamed "sipXecs" about a year ago.) I've not written all that much about sipX here but it certainly has been a product I've known of over the years. It started out as a PBX product from Pingtel which they then released as an open source version ("sipX" and now "sipXecs") and also had a commercial version called "SIPxchange". sipX garnered perhaps its most attention back in October 2006 when it was announced that would be using it for their internal phone systems (see the links on the site). At a fundamental level, sipX provides similar functionality to Asterisk but where Asterisk is focused on being a "platform" for telephony that can work with a wide range of protocols, sipX is focused exclusively on SIP and also provides an extensive GUI management tool. (Pingtel provides a (obviously biased) comparison of sipXecs vs Asterisk on their wiki.)

From what I learned at our panel, Nortel is essentially creating their own supported version of "sipXecs" that they will sell as the "SCS 500". It will have full commercial support from Nortel. Target market will apparently be "small" businesses. No info really available on Nortel's site yet, although glimpses are visible through support documents (such as here and here(although this appears to be about an earlier 1.0 version last year)).

All in all it's to me a fascinating move by the folks at Nortel and I look forward to learning more about the SCS500 product over the next weeks and months as they launch it. It's a rather nice boost for the whole world of "open source telephony", too, to have Nortel making this move as well.

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Walking through VoiceCon in a fog...

1F986311-DE40-482A-B982-3300FE408328.jpgIt's been a rough week for me down here in Orlando at VoiceCon. As you've noticed, I haven't really posted any blog entries. In fact, there have been a number of "firsts" down here which I really would have preferred to avoid:
  • first conference ever where I haven't gone out to dinner with anyone;
  • first conference where I've not recorded any audio interviews (or video), despite carrying all my audio gear with me each and every day;
  • first time I've gone back to my hotel room early each day to collapse;
  • first conference in eons where I've felt like I'm walking around in a fog.

This is all very bizarre me. Being the extreme extrovert that I am, conferences are a time to have conversations, to meet new people, to go out to dinners and lunches, to "schmooze"... "network"... or whatever you want to call it. To learn of people's stories and try to tell those stories through all these social media. I enjoy these events and am so completely in my element. I love it! There are just so many interesting people out there.

But it's darn hard to do all that when you feel like a truck has run you over... and then backed up to run over you again.

As long-time readers know, I've been traveling to what? 20 or 30 conferences over the past couple of years... and never in all that time do I recall being sick for the duration of the event with a bad cold like I am now. Hopefully, the rest, liquids and medicine will eventually kick this, but in the meantime it's been rather a struggle. I've had three speaking events (last one coming up in 45 minutes) and so all my energy has been focused on being ready for those.

It's been a very bizarre show for me!

How do YOU see social networking changing enterprise communication?

1F986311-DE40-482A-B982-3300FE408328.jpgHow do you see "social networking" and "social media" changing communication within companies, enterprises, etc.? How do you think blogs, wikis, etc. will change enterprise communication? What about Facebook and other similar sites?

What would you say on this topic to an audience at VoiceCon Orlando this week?

That's the task ahead of Irwin Lazar and I as we talk with Eric Krapf and Fred Knight in a keynote "conversation" from 10:30-11:00am on Wednesday. The panel, called "Social Networking Meets Enterprise Communication"has this for a description:

It's no secret that world of enterprise communications is undergoing a transformation; IP Telephony and Unified Communications are changing the nature of the game. Now new forms of interaction, which began in the consumer/personal communications market -- blogs, wikis and online services like Facebook are migrating into the enterprise. Where do these social networking systems and mindset fit into the enterprise communications landscape? Join us for a discussion about what's real today and what's likely to happen in the future.

Obviously, this is a topic about which I am rather opinionated and have been writing about in my various blogs for years (including this blog, as well as on Disruptive Conversations and in my reports into For Immediate Release), so I'm very much looking forward to the session with Irwin on Wednesday.

We've already got a long list of points we can cover... and obviously won't be able to cover them all in only 30 minutes (and we've got a hard stop at 11am as what's next is a presentation with Al Gore and Cisco CEO John Chambers!). But I thought to myself - how can I do a keynote panel on the impact of social networking in enterprise communication if I don't somehow include social networking into the prep for that panel?

So here's my question for you all -

What do you see as the top one or two ways that social networking / social media will change the ways in which people communicate within enterprises?
Both internally among employees and also externally between the company and its customers and partners?

To perhaps get the conversation going, here are a few of the topics that Irwin and I already have in our list:

  • interest in the opportunities to improve collaboration among employees, especially virtual/distributed
  • interest in the opportunities to improve collaboration with customers and partners/vendors
  • concerns over enterprise usage of public sites/services, i.e. what security is there for corporate data out on these sites?
  • challenges with rolling out these services internally (from a deployment point-of-view as well as business case, who owns it, integration of different systems, etc.)
  • expectations of new generation of incoming workers
What do you think? How do you see social apps/services changing enterprise communication? (Or do you take the contrarian view that it won't?) Your feedback is definitely welcome... (thanks in advance)

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My presentations at VoiceCon this week...

1F986311-DE40-482A-B982-3300FE408328.jpgI'm down in Orlando this week for VoiceCon Orlando and will be part of three sessions. Tomorrow, I'm moderating a panel at 8am on VoIP security and on Thursday I'm moderating a panel on open source telephony. On Wednesday, I'll be part of a keynote panel with Irwin Lazar on "Social networking and enterprise communication", which should be quite fun. I'll include below the full descriptions of the various sessions. If you are attending VoiceCon and want to connect, please do contact me.

Session Title: Top VOIP Security Threats
Date: 3/18/2008
Time: 8:00 AM
Room: Osceola B
Session Description: There's been a lot of concern about voice over IP security, but have there been many actual exploits? This session will inform you about the state of VOIP security. You'll learn about generalized IP attacks that have affected IP telephony systems deployed on IP networks, and you'll also find out what VOIP-specific attacks have actually been observed "in the wild"--and what to expect in the future.
KEY QUESTIONS: * What are the most serious voice-oriented attacks that are actually being carried out? What potential attacks haven't occurred yet but probably will before long? * How do you protect your VOIP systems against these attacks? * What types of equipment and technologies must you implement to stop voice-oriented attacks? * What specific kinds of damage can these attacks cause?
Moderator(s): Dan York - Dir of Emerging Comm Tech - Voxeo
Panelist(s): Sachin Joglekar - Vulnerability Research Lead - Sipera Systems
David Endler - Director of Security Research - TippingPoint
Mark Collier - CTO - SecureLogix
Session Title: Open Source for Enterprise Voice: How Much, How Soon?
Date: 3/20/2008
Time: 11:45 AM
Room: Sun C
Session Description: Open source PBXs are gaining a higher profile: Asterisk and other open-source PBX software packages continue to gain acceptance, and some traditional PBX vendors have implemented open source code for their products. But these efforts still aim mainly at smaller implementations. In this session, you'll learn why open source PBX software has growing appeal, and whether it will appeal to larger customers as the market progresses.
KEY QUESTIONS: * What level of market share and acceptance has open source PBX software attained? What is expected? * Which products use open source PBX software? * What are the most compelling reasons for choosing open source PBX software? What are the greatest areas of concern in making this choice? * What are the technical challenges of an open-source PBX deployment, and how are these overcome? * What are some real-world customer experiences with open source PBX software?
Moderator(s): Dan York - Dir of Emerging Comm Tech - Voxeo
Speaker(s): M Raza - Product Management - 3Com
Bill Miller - VP, Prod Mgt & Mktg - Digium
Tony Pereira - Business Leader Business Communications - Nortel
Session Title: Social Networking Meets Enterprise Communications
Date: 3/19/2008
Time: 10:30 AM
Room: Osceola C
Session Description: It?s no secret that world of enterprise communications is undergoing a transformation; IP Telephony and Unified Communications are changing the nature of the game. Now new forms of interaction, which began in the consumer/personal communications market -- blogs, wikis and online services like Facebook ? are migrating into the enterprise. Where do these social networking systems ? and mindset ? fit into the enterprise communications landscape? Join us for a discussion about what?s real today and what?s likely to happen in the future.
Dan York - Dir of Emerging Comm Tech - Voxeo
Irwin Lazar - Principal Analyst & Program Director, Collaboration & Convergence - Nemertes Research

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R.I.P., Russell Shaw, VoIP blogger for ZDnet

A876A2AC-FF07-4758-BF29-9765A305180C.jpgA little bit ago, Andy completely surprised me with a call via Skype (it was 8pm-ish on a Saturday night and I just happened to be at my computer printing out boarding passes for tomorrow's flights) with some terrible news.

As Andy relays in his blog post, fellow VoIP blogger Russell Shaw passed away suddenly in his hotel room in San Jose sometime over the past couple of days. Russell was out there to attend eComm 2008 and Andy said that several folks were wondering where he was as he never made it to the actual show.

I've enjoyed Russell's writing on his IP Telephony blog at ZDNet and while I never really worked with him in any way, I would often run into him at the various VoIP conferences (and often at Andy's famous dinners). He was "one of us"... those who choose for whatever reason to write about VoIP/IP Telephony/Unified Communications/whatever... and so it is definitely sad to learn of his passing.

My thoughts right now are certainly with his family, wherever they may be, as they come to grips with this very sudden change.

Rest In Peace, Russell... you will definitely be missed!

P.S. ZDNet's Editor, Dan Farber, also has a nice post up about Russell.

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Down at IETF 71 in Philadelphia this week

ietflogo.jpgThis week (March 10-14) finds me down in Philadelphia for IETF-71, the 71st meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (the people who write the standards for the Internet). I don't honestly know how much I'll be blogging here on this blog. I do hope to be writing some over at the "Speaking of Standards" blog on Voxeo's site. We'll see. These meetings tend to be rather intense.

If you'd like to follow along with what's happening here at IETF, I've written up some instructions about how to join in the audio streaming and IM group chats. I've also posted what I think will be my schedule, which will give you a sense of what the various VoIP-related sessions.

That's the news...

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The Oprah-tization of VoIP via Skype!

6562BA82-E145-4494-8CE7-854A04CA3AF5.jpgDid you ever think that we would utter "Oprah" and "VoIP" in the same sentence?

Well, we are... or more precisely "Oprah" and "Skype". If you have no idea what I am talking about, you need to head over to Skype Journal and read Jim Courtney's piece: "Skype Sponsors Oprah's 'A New Earth' Web Event"

Essentially, Oprah has taken her Book Club online to host a weekly web collaboration session for the next ten weeks with, oh, 750,000 members of her club! More information - and an audio introduction from Oprah - is available on the Skype campaign page. Monday night was the first first session and as Jim subsequently noted (as did Howard Wolinsky on the new Skype US blog), the session didn't go so well with regard to technical issues. As Oprah's company, Harpo Productions (Hint: spell "Harpo" backwards) said in their statement:

Monday night's webcast was one of the largest single online events in the history of the Internet. More than 500,000 people simultaneously logged on to watch Oprah Winfrey and Eckhart Tolle live, resulting in 242 Gbps of information moving through the Internet. Unfortunately, some of our users experienced delays in viewing the webcast. We are working to identify the specific causes for the problems experienced and will work diligently to rectify them.

252 Gbps, eh? I think that's bringing new meaning to "disruptive telephony/communication!" I'll have to ask next week at IETF-71 if anyone there ever thought we'd see that kind of throughput! Pretty cool, on one level, but it obviously taxed the Internet a wee bit - or at least the connections into the servers running all of this. They go on to say:

Harpo Productions, Inc., Move Networks and Limelight Networks recognize that interactive Internet broadcasting to a mass audience is still an emerging medium


But as Jim notes in his post, there are some definite wins for Skype here. Apparently the Skype portions of the web conference, which involved people asking questions over Skype High Quality Video, worked very well. There were also apparently some great statements from Oprah about how great she thought Skype was.

Kudos to Skype for getting in there in such a massive event - I can honestly say that I never would have thought I'd be writing about Oprah here. It will be interesting to see how the subsequent sessions go.

And for all us who are not joining in - for the next 9 weeks, Monday nights are probably a good time to stay off the Internet! (You know... read a book... play a game... go for a walk... ;-)

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Today's Squawk Box podcast - A conversation with Jeff Pulver about VON.x

squawkbox.jpgFor some time now, I've been participating in the daily "Squawk Box" podcast hosted by Alec Saunders. These calls take place using Iotum's Facebook app - "Free Conference Calling" - and they are, in fact, free outside of your normal costs to connect to the calls. I haven't made it there every day, but I've tried to get there when I can. I know Alec well and the calls also include many familiar faces like Jim Courtney, Ken Camp and more.

Anyway, the call today (March 6) was with Jeff Pulver about his upcoming VON.x show. It was a fun conversation and VON should definitely be a great show again this year. (Even if I'll be on the other coast at VoiceCon!)

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UK suggests carrying multiple mobile phones may make you a terrorist!

two phone
Originally uploaded by Pat2001
Over the weekend, Pat Phelan posted about a sign in the UK that asks "What if someone with several (mobile phones) seems suspicious?" (Click on the image to the right to see the sign larger.) The paragraph then reads:
Terrorists need communication. They often collect and use many anonymous pay-as-you-go phones, as well as swapping SIM cards and handsets. If you're suspicious of the number of phones someone has, we need to know. Let experienced officers decide what action to take.

On one level, I do understand the point they are trying to make. But on another level, I just think of all the people I know who travel to trade shows and conferences with a whole range of cell phones!

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