Posts categorized "Mitel"

Tune in to the Mitel / Sun Webinar tomorrow (Aug 21) at 1pm EDT

mitelsun-mcnealy-matthews.jpgIf you are free tomorrow, Thursday, August 21st, at 1pm US Eastern time, I'd encourage you to listen in to a joint Mitel / Sun Microsystems webinar. Details are available on the Mitel web page.

Why am I encouraging readers to tune into this webinar? Especially when I no longer work for Mitel and have really nothing to do with them any more? Two words:

Terry Matthews.

During the time that I worked for Mitel from June 2001 up until last October (2007), the telecom industry went through some pretty bleak periods. Some very bleak periods. Mitel was not immune and there were certainly some tough times there. There were multiple times when friends seriously questioned why I continued to work there amidst some of the challenges and headaches. And while I admittedly had a few of those moments myself, I kept on working hard at Mitel because of the tremendous people I worked with there... and ultimately because of the vision and enthusiasm of Terry Matthews.

If you aren't familiar with Sir Terrence Matthews, his Wikipedia biography and Wesley Clover (his investment firm) biography give a taste of the man. Terry is at this point a billionaire serial entrepreneur who has founded something like 60 companies related to high tech and telecommunications - primarily in Canada and Wales. Not all of his investments have been successful, of course, but many have, and there are a great number of companies and products that owe their birth to Terry. He bought back Mitel in 2001, focused it on the emerging space of VoIP and continued to invest in its future. He understood back then that the revolution in ubiquitous broadband was underway and that that huge availability of network bandwidth would open many opportunities for products and services that could make use of that bandwidth.

In the last few years of my time at Mitel when I was working in the Office of CTO, I had the privilege of working more with Terry Matthews and his advisors and it was definitely an interesting and memorable time. There is a certain energy, enthusiasm and charisma that Terry exudes that just inspires you to want to do more. Sure, there were challenges, too... like all of us he's only human. But even now, almost a year after leaving Mitel, I still retain an immense amount of respect for the man and his vision.

He's also a great presenter... so if my schedule allowed I'd definitely tune in to listen tomorrow, if only to hear Terry's take on where part of the industry is going. [NOTE: Now that I'm building him up like this, I do hope he's not sick and off his mark tomorrow!]

mitelsun-jointproject.jpgOh, yeah, Sun chairman Scott McNealy is speaking, too, and the product they're talking about, the Mitel Unified IP Client for Sun Ray, is pretty cool, too.

I had a chance to see earlier versions a year ago and definitely thought it was a very cool way to deal with strong authentication. Essentially you insert a secure Java card into the Mitel phone and you are logged into both your phone as well as the Sun thin client. Pop the card out... move to a different station in that office or in some other office on the network... insert the card, and now you are logged in there. All your desktop apps go with you, as does your phone extension, voicemail, message waiting indicator, etc., etc.

Very slick way to do secure "hot desking". If you go down the thin-client route, that whole solution works real well together.

Anyway, if you're around tomorrow at 1pm US Eastern, I'd encourage you to join the webinar. I'll unfortunately be on a train from New York City heading back up to Vermont/New Hampshire, so I'll have to view it later (I'm told it will be archived for later viewing). Cool stuff.

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Attempt to join a VoiceCon/Mitel presentation on UC foiled by Real Player on Mac

voiceconeventrealplayer.jpgSo today my participation in a VoiceCon webinar was foiled by "fun" with RealPlayer and my MacBook Pro. The VoiceCon team was running a webinar called 'Demystifying Unified Communications' and I was curious to check it out as it was sponsored by my prior employer, Mitel, and the speaker was Mitel's Doug Micheaelides who I know well. I was just curious more than anything else to see if Mitel's marketing had changed in the six months since I left. I'm also one to often listen to analyst presentations - it's part of what I do.

It was not to be. Now, admittedly, this is largely my fault for not checking whether the webinar system would work with my Mac in advance. But attending the webinar was low priority to me and something I would just try to "fit in" if I could do so. Since it looked like I could, I jumped over to the page, registered and clicked the link to launch the presentation...


Turns out that the web presentation system the VoiceCon folks are using needs Real's player and as shown in the image to the right, my browser wasn't very happy with that.

Naturally, I did try to install the plugin. Clicking on the images shown there to "download the plugin" took me to Real's page about Real Player 10 for the Mac OS X, but here was the first problem:

Where's any mention of the "plugin"?

Plugin? What plugin? All that is mentioned here is the "Real Player 10 for Mac OS X" and far more annoying is the fact that I have to "Get it now with SuperPass". This of course takes me to a screen where I have to register to sign up to get my "free 14-day trial"!!!



I don't want to do a 14-day trial. I don't want to do a 1-day trial. All I want to do is download a browser plugin to view a #$%@@#? webinar!

Clicking around the site I eventually did find a page that let me download the unencumbered RealPlayer 10 for Mac. So I did that. This was where I hit the second problem. On the page, it says simply:

4. Drag the RealPlayer icon into your Applications folder.
5. Double-click RealPlayer to begin using it.

But I didn't want to "use" the RealPlayer. I just wanted to use the plugin for my browser. So I didn't double-click it, knowing that many Mac applications do whatever installation they need when you simply drag them to the Applications folder. After I copied it to the Applications folder, I restarted one of my browsers and... nothing. I tried the installation again with the same result.

At this point I gave up on attending the VoiceCon webinar and went off to do other work.

Sometime later I tried just double-clicking the RealPlayer icon and... ta da... there was the installation screen! So here's a note to Real - your page should really read:

5. Double-click RealPlayer to complete the installation.

All in all a brief bit of frustration. I guess the good news is that I now do have it installed for future VoiceCon webinars, but it shouldn't be this hard! The part about the "SuperPass" was particularly annoying to me. (Could you tell?) I realize that Real wants to capture names in return for giving away the player for free and wants to get people to buy more services from them. But I would argue that should be something that users can more easily opt-in to. Real has, perhaps, found that this "in-your-face" method yields better results. But it really turns off some % of people - of which I am obviously one.

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Mitel/Inter-Tel integration plan restructures me out of a job...

UPDATE - October 23, 2007 - As of yesterday, I started employment with Voxeo.  MANY thanks to all of you who offered kind words, job leads, references and help in many other ways. Thank you!

UPDATE - Sept 13, 2007 - Because I have been repeatedly asked about the type of roles I am seeking, I posted some thoughts on the kind of positions I would ideally like to pursue.

UPDATE - Sept 9, 2007 - My resume is now available for those wanting more information on my background.


"Every new beginning starts with some other beginning's end."

I found myself humming that chorus from the song "Closing Time" by the band Semisonic late on Tuesday after a very frank and cordial call with my manager (Mitel's CTO), who has always been great to work with and with whom I've had a wonderfully open relationship.  Some of you may have seen the news - there was a "reduction in headcount" at Mitel on Tuesday as part of the "integration plan" resulting from the merger with Inter-Tel.  This is pretty much inevitable in any merger as there is always some duplication and some need to reduce the overall number of employees. Unfortunately this time around my head was one of those.  My last day with Mitel will be September 21.

I'll be honest and say that this was not entirely unexpected.  Taking a role in a CTO organization focused on analyzing emerging technology is not without its risks.  It's a great role to be up in the crow's nest with a spyglass scanning the horizon to identify opportunities and threats and calling down suggestions about where to steer the ship.  You learn a huge amount and, quite honestly, it's a great amount of fun. (That is, if you are a techie/geek who is interested in how emerging technologies can be applied to solve business/communication requirements/issues.)  But the risk is that if the seas get really rough, you're role isn't absolutely necessary for steering the ship.  Navigation can still occur from the decks down below, albeit with a shorter perspective, at least until the seas are calm again. I knew this was a risk when I took the role two years ago - and so on one level I wasn't overly surprised to get the call.  Disappointed?  Absolutely. Initially shocked? Sure.  Even with the intellectual preparation, I don't think you're ever fully ready for "the call".

That's the situation.  Mitel's got a little rough patch of water to work through right now as it merges the two ships into one, and to keep with the metaphor, I guess, I'm one of those who had to go overboard.  The company will get through it, I'm sure.  It's got outstanding products and some of the most amazingly talented people with whom I've ever had the privilege to work.  As they sort out the right size and structure, I know it will do fine and get back to clear sailing.  I'm very grateful for the six years I had there. I learned an incredible amount and was honored to be part of the team.  The list of people to thank is way too long to include here.

So now it's time for a new beginning for me.

What's next?  I'm not sure, to be honest, as there are several pathways.  I'd love to run back up to the crow's nest and perform that kind of analysis/investigation/exploration/communication/evangelism for a company in the IP telephony/unified communications space, especially with a focus on social networking / social media.  I think its a great fit with my technical, strategic, marketing and communication skills - and I think sites like Facebook will have a profound effect on our communication. I'd love to help explore and guide people through that space. Having said that, I definitely recognize that those roles are few and far between.  I may look into something focused in the VOIP security space, where I've obviously got some great depth and experience, or something related to IETF standards, another strong interest of mine.  I've considered some form of strategic consulting, or joining the analyst ranks.  There are a couple of books I'd like to write.  There's a startup idea I'm pondering. As is obvious, I completely enjoy blogging, podcasting, etc. and may pursue a role focused in those areas - or in community development, another strength.  And then there's always returning to my open source roots in the Linux space...

Whatever the case, my aim is to be with of an organization that is part of the disruption in this space (or at the very least chronicling the disruption).

Right now I'd love to hear from folks who have openings in any of those various areas (or know of such openings).  Please do email me - or contact me via Facebook or Skype.  For folks in the IT telephony/unified communication's space, I'll be out at the Internet Telephony Conference & Expo next week in Los Angeles and would be delighted to speak with folks there. (As I mentioned previously, I'll be speaking there.)  Information about my background can be obtained at LinkedIn ( ), my VOIPSA bio or my (soon to be updated)  In my ideal world, I'd love to find a role that lets me continue to live in Burlington, VT, (with some amount of travel) since we're nicely settled in here and love the area.

In the meantime, I may be blogging a little less here for a bit as I focus on what comes next. Also, I've already had a couple of questions sent my way:

Q: What does this mean for your role on the Board of the VoIP Security Alliance?
A: No change, assuming I wind up in a role where continuing with VOIPSA makes sense. My VOIPSA appointment was a personal one and was not associated with my employer, so it will move with me to wherever I land.

Q: What does this mean for Blue Box: The VoIP Security Podcast or any of these blogs?
A: No change.  While I was always keeping Mitel PR and Marketing management in the loop on what I was doing with those sites, they were and are personal projects.

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Mitel and Inter-Tel announce the completion of their merger (and there was much rejoicing!)

image Very good news here in Mitel-land today - at about 4pm the merger of Mitel and Inter-Tel was completed! At least, in the legal sense... obviously there will be more work to be done on the integration, but for now the celebrations can begin.  The company has now doubled in size, gained a very strong US organization and is all-around well-positioned for growth. As the news release stated:

The company will now be #1 in the North American SMB market1, #2 in the Western European IP PBX market2, the overall leader in the U.K. communications market3 and continues to grow its operations globally. With three trusted brands (Mitel, Inter-Tel and Lake), the company offers customers a broad choice of solutions from the very small to the very large, from IP enabled to pure IP unified communications, from standard solutions to tailored, from single site to multi-site and from outright capital purchase options through sophisticated managed services. 

It should be a fun ride to see where this all winds up!

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UC Strategies podcasts with Mitel executives about unified communications, Microsoft, Sun, HP and more...

Back at our Mitel Forum event in late June, analyst Blair Pleasant from Unified Communications Strategies recorded a couple of podcasts[1] with Mitel executives and I've been meaning to write about them here. (Full Disclosure: While Mitel has no direct connection to this blog, I do work for Mitel.)

image First up, Blair interviewed Mitel CEO Don Smith.  They discussed Mitel's view of unified communications, business process improvement, the use of SIP and XML interfaces and much more. Don discussed the importance of presence and availability, the need for "in the moment" communication and the importance of "presence everywhere". He also offers his view of the greatest challenges facing Mitel and the industry in the time ahead and his view of where Mitel is heading.

image Second, Blair interviewed Stephen Beamish, Mitel VP of Business Development and Strategic Alliances about the partnerships Mitel has with Microsoft, HP and Sun. Given the announcement before Mitel Forum of the partnership with Sun, this interview gives one of the first views into the Mitel-Sun relationship.  Blair and Stephen also, of course, discuss Mitel's relationship with Microsoft, especially in light of the Microsoft-Nortel relationship as well as Microsoft's other partners.  Stephen also talks about the HP relationship and Mitel's participation in HP Procurve's upcoming "Taking It To The Edge" Seminar Series. Finally, he discusses some of the environmental benefits of using Mitel products in terms of power savings.

For those interested in where Mitel is heading and Mitel's views of unified communications, both podcasts are highly recommended. Each podcast runs around 16 minutes.

[1] And yes, as a podcaster I had serious geek envy of the Sony PCM-D1 recorder that Blair was using  courtesy of her colleague Jim Burton.  Very nice piece of hardware! (And also just a wee bit outside of my personal price range!) interviews me: "Security and Disaster Recovery for IP Telephony Systems"

Just out yesterday, TMC.Net published an interview with me titled, "Security and Disaster Recovery for IP Telephony Systems", by Mae Kowalke, where I talk about general VoIP security issues and then get into specifics about Mitel solutions.  Given that the author nicely gave me the chance to review the text and offer feedback before she published it, I have to say I'm pleased with how it came out. :-)

(And yes, I normally blog about VoIP security over on the Voice of VOIPSA weblog, but I just field weird about posting something like this over on that site.)

Remote VoIP teleworker sets serve as an Internet connectivity warning device...

image Here's a great side benefit of having an IP phone in teleworker mode hanging off of a system somewhere out there on the Internet - you have a close-to-instant warning system about Internet connectivity issues. 

Take this morning... I walk into my home office and see that one of my phones has come out of its sleep status and the backlight is on and showing "CONNECTION PENDING..." with these black square boxes next to it.  I glance at another IP phone:  "PLEASE WAIT"

Oh, %#$#?!.  It's going to be that kind of Monday morning!

Yes, indeed, as I woke up the PCs, I did indeed have no connectivity.  Couldn't get to any websites and all the IM clients were cycling waiting to get connected.  After doing the usual power-cycling of the cable modem and verifying that I could get an address but couldn't ping beyond the next hop router, a relatively-quick call to Comcast brought the word that there was a "partial outage" in my area and that connectivity might be going up and down for the next two hours.

Great.  Wonderful way for a home office worker to start a Monday.

But it did remind me of one great benefit of having these IP teleworker phones[1] - they are a great way to know almost instantly whether my connection is up.  If I'm in the middle of doing something on my PC and it seems like connectivity is down, I just turn my head to look at the phones and can see very quickly if they are up.  Likewise, if I'm downstairs using my wife's PC and it seems like Internet access is down, I just go up the stairs and pop my head in the office... first glance is to see if the phones are up. 

It's a great side benefit of having the phones, although admittedly it wasn't anything on my mind when we were rolling out the Mitel Teleworker solution back in January 2003.  (Full disclosure: I was the product manager for the product when it was released.)

Now, this works in my case because the phones are using Mitel's own MiNET protocol and always have an encrypted MiNET connection established back to the Teleworker server sitting on the edge of the corporate network.  If the connection is broken, the phone flags that by displaying the aforementioned warning messages.  It's not *instant*, but typically within 30-60 seconds of the connection being down the messages appear.  If the phones were, say, in SIP mode connected to a SIP server out there, I wouldn't get the same fast notice because in SIP mode they are essentially stand-alone endpoints - think of them as mini-computers with a phone handset.  The first time I'd really notice was when I went to make a connection (or if the phone went to make some regularly scheduled connection and couldn't and put up an error message). 

This "side benefit" is, of course, not at all unique to Mitel implementations.  Basically any other IP phones that have "always-on" connections back to a central server will have the potential to do the same thing.

It works the other way, too, in letting you know when the connection is back online... while I was on the phone talking to the pleasant customer service rep at Comcast, how did I know that my Internet service was restored  (at least for the moment) without looking at my PC?  Simple...

... all my IP phones were back in operation.

[1] And yes, I have several teleworker phones- three to be exact, but hey, I'm working on emerging technology stuff so I have to be able to experiment and work with these phones.  They are also on different switches and trial systems.

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YouTube video from Sun blogger sets shots of Sun/Mitel gear to hip-hop...

Following on my previous post about Sun blogger Craig Bender, I should note that he also posted a video to YouTube that is the first time I can honestly say that I've ever seen shots of Mitel and/or Sun gear set to hip-hop music!   Enjoy...

YouTube video shows the Sun / Mitel collaboration - voice/data hot desking via card...

 One of the many cool things I've been hoping to find the cycles to write about coming out of Mitel Forum last week is the collaboration occurring between Mitel and Sun Microsystems.  First announced June 19th, there are really two components to the collaboration: 1) the Multi-Instance Call Server (MICS) that can have up to 200 instances of our 3300 ICP call control software running on a Sun server; and 2) a very cool integration of a SunRay thin client computer into the base of one of our phones.  With the phones, a user can simply insert their "Java card" into the base of the phone and the user is automagically signed onto the computer and to the phone.  Pull the card out, the user is logged out.  Insert another user's card and the computer and the phone are logged in as that user.  It takes the "hot desking" we've had for years and extends that to now also include the PC.  As I said, it's very cool!

The good news is that I can actually share a bit of the experience with you courtesy of Sun blogger Craig Bender, a.k.a. the "Thin Guy", who writes the Sun Ray Blog.  I didn't realize he was at our show, which is a bummer because it would have been great to meet, but he posted this video to YouTube:

You can see my colleague Stephen Beamish demonstrating the capabilities at the Sun booth at Mitel Forum.  Craig did a nice job editing the video and it's great to see it up on YouTube.

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Returning from Mitel Forum...

It's been an absolutely exhausting week out in Las Vegas for Mitel Forum. Presentations, meetings and events basically from dawn until late in the evening both Tuesday and Wednesday... travel all day yesterday...  I'm tired. Very tired.  But... I do have to say that it was an absolutely outstanding event.  Great meetings with our resellers/solutions providers.  Excellent sessions with analysts.  Great exhibits showing the work of many of our partners - many cool things to write about here in the days ahead!  There was such a level of excitement there at the event... it's definitely a great time to be part of Mitel.

Hopefully we will be able to follow some of the analysts' blog postings as they get home and start writing... right now, though, a Technorati search on Mitel is just a wee bit preoccupied with other recent news releases. :-)

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