Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What To Consider For A WAN Optimization Solution

You're evaluating your WAN (Wide Area Network) and wondering how you can optimize performance across the network. What are you're realistic options for a solution?

Keep in mind that this isn't necessarily a bandwidth solution, such as say MPLS or ethernet is. Rather it's a bandwidth utilization question.

I would suggest looking at WAN optimization appliances: Riverbed, Juniper, Packeteer. In many cases they do a very good job with latency, especially if the main source of the problem is CIFS WAN-unaware issues (copying/opening/modifying files using Windows).

The first step in my view is to find out the path your IP packets are taking. A delay can be caused if your connection is going through satellite and not a land line (Earthbound wireless, fibre- underwater or land, etc.).

First I would suggest tracing your packets' route ..... then making an SLA with your service provider and see if they can guarantee the quality parameters you want concerning BW, delay, jitter etc.

I would'nt jump into buying or installing anything before that!

Keep in mind that all WAN-accelerators solve Latency issues. So choose any Vendor that does WAN-acceleration. But choosing the right one is not that easy. It depends on your WAN-traffic.

If you use applications (like Citrix, SAP) than a traffic priorizing Accelerator (Like Packeteer or Ipanema) will offer you the best results. However, if your traffic is more file oriented (MS-Office) ..... than you will get the best results with the Data reduction Accelerators, like Riverbed, Juniper Citrix and Cisco. In general you'll likely get the best results with Riverbed.

Wan Optimizations appliances have an effect only on TCP flows. If you have latency issues with UDP flows (voip) I don't think you can do anything against that (real time traffic is very sensitive to latency)

About generic TCP flows optimization, you'll find many vendors in the market selling products which fit well according to your needs : Citrix WanScaler, Cisco WAAS, Juniper, Riverbed, Expand and probably a lot of other vendors...

Here is the trick they all use to hide the effects of latency (they don't hide latency, because it already exists, they hide the effects), Wan optimization solutions act like a transparent TCP proxy, spoofing server's IP address to the client, and spoofing client's IP address to the server, and they send the TCP Ack messages locally. So you don't have to wait for the round trip time to get the ACK message. It helps to "fill-the-pipe" quickly. This is the great solution to avoid latency effects, as TCP throughput is highly sensitive to latency, due to the Ack return messages, also congestion control has an horrible effect when the TCP connections start.

Also they implement selective Acks and large initial flow control windows to use the total bandwidth of the WAN link. Add to this some compression mechanisms to artificially increase the bandwidth available and some layer 7 optimizations (mainly CIFS for file sharing, but also HTTP-based compression), embedded QoS stuff, and you have an overview of what we call "Wan optimization".

Whatever the vendor you choose, they all implement what I described above.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

How Can A Wireless Mobile Device Save YOU Time & Increase Productivity?

Have you ever wanted to carry your PC with you? You can with a cell phone. With all the mobile solutions programs available for cell phones, the possibilities are endless. Being able to monitor and to respond to real time email, employee tracking and even unlocking real estate lock boxes. It all depends on the industry you work in. Most new PDA's carry Microsoft Mobile 6, which is just a mobile Microsoft program which includes word, excel, outlook and a host of other programs. Open software platforms from Blackberry to Palm allow you to write software specific to your business needs. The upstart cost of purchasing a PDA and cellular plan (including data) is the only drawback. But once you become acclimated to this powerful device, the only question you'll ask yourself is "Why didn't I do this earlier?”

In this case the mobile device in itself is less interesting. What is really interesting is the emergence of the vast number of new services that can be accessed through the mobile phone. The nature of the mobile device is action oriented, and the type of services that will have a great chance of succeeding are services that deliver on site value by helping users perform a certain task. The power of these services increases heavily as people gain access to high speed internet (UMTS, HSPA, LTE etc) access from their mobile device and context and location awareness is made possible through various technologies. An advanced mobile service will in many instances be able to help the user save a lot of time and increase productivity because it provides the user with a helpful tool in a given situation.

For help in finding just the right mobile device (smart phone) for you .... comparing multiple providers, plans, features, styles, etc. ... just go here:

Find A Smart Phone

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Can Anyone Challenge Cisco For Leadership In Network And Data Equipment?

When it comes to network providers and data equipment vendors can anyone really compete with Cisco? The perception may be no. But the reality may be far different. Or at least a little muddy.

Yes, Cisco commands a whopping share of the networking industry pie. However HP, Nortel, Alcatel, Huwaei have of late been aggressively eyeing this space for more of the market share. But for anyone to truly challenge Cisco's dominance ... they have their work cut out for them.

In my opinion, Cisco just keeps smaller players like Juniper and Foundry in the data networking market to avoid monopoly situations. With the largest footprint, deep market penetration and wide open breadth of high quality product portfolio, it has built a significant level of durability into its competitive business strategy.

As far as Alcatel (or Alcatel-Lucent), and Nortel goes, they can be classified as telecom players more than data comm players and HP is too diversified to compare with Cisco as a pure data networking player.

Cisco's business can only be threatened by changes in consumer preferences/demand (external) or technological obsolescence of their current products (internal), both of which are hard to imagine due to the capital resources it spends on marketing research and niche acquisitions.

Juniper is positioning themselves on many levels to compete with Cisco. With their newly released switch platform and the J series routers and the acquisition of Netscreen and Redline etc. Juniper already has competed fiercely for the core network space and has done marginally well with the ISP market. They have not cracked the enterprise very well, though. With their new product launches aimed directly at knocking Cisco off their perch, we may see the landscape change. Large corporations like to have more than one vendor to play off each other. Healthy competition forces innovation and drives price down.

If Juniper can ever figure out an effective marketing plan and lay off the stupid cartoons attempting to be funny, they may have a legitimate shot. They did a very brilliant thing a couple years ago and offered free classes to current and potential customers to get engineers more familiar and comfortable with JunOS. Remember OS/2 did not die because it lacked quality or desirable features.

Nortel has established the necessary feature, functionality and footprint within the voice industry. As the line between voice and traditional data blurs, Nortel will be an increasing threat.

However the one component of the question left out was "why does Cisco have this position?" The answer to this question can be found in the answer to how many IT graduates have studied Cisco courses, or are Cisco accredited, or have used Cisco equipment during their education? Interestingly the answer is most. There are very few Juniper accredited graduates, and even fewer Nortel graduates, let alone Huawei. But this doesn't mean that their respective products are better, worse or equal to Cisco. Iit just means that Cisco has cleverly used brand to differentiate itself from its competitors. People by their nature gravitate to what they know or feel comfortable with. This doesn't mean its right or wrong, its a comfort thing. The same question can be asked about McDonalds, Coke, Pepsi, and Nike.

The difference is not so much the technical side of the equipment vendors, it's more the marketing approach of the companies.

Cisco, although a manfacturer, has marketed itself as a 'system provider' which is only accomplished by joint strategies with larger system integrators. This has led the client to believe that Cisco is larger and more versitile than it actually is, a very clever approach. Cisco has always run a platform to enable its clients to adopt IP strategy in the data and voice arena without massive initial cost. Thereby crossing the boundary of voice and data ( a normal strict division).

Juniper markets to the voice elements i.e. the old PABX people in voice such as the telecoms market.

Procurve sells to a strict SMB market place and is a cheap reseller product.

The Chinese have developed a Cisco competitor based in Basingstoke, UK. However it lacks a strong marketing plan with clients.

This is why we all talk about voice and data convergence. It is what most companies try to sell. However there are still strong divisions in the end-user/client job roles .... with data rooms being one area .... and voice frames in another.

The end deal is simple .... each manufacturer, each integarator from different arenas with different skill sets needs to work together to resolve/serve a clients needs. The client requires an aspirin for his headache .... and not the ingredients to make his own. Cisco will dominate in its market due to a strong stategic partnership program with direct relationships with the client. If someone wants to challenge this they have a lot of work to do yet ..... this is not really a question of technical ability.
But .... I honestly believe that Cisco is poised to take a fall just as IBM did back in the early 90s. They have forgotten that people think of them primarily as a networking company. They are no longer the first out with new ideas. They seem to think that a "me to" attitude will suffice.

For example a friend's company has just done an evaluation between 3com, Cisco and HP. All three companies make products that can easily provide him with a fantastic network. In the end Cisco has offered huge discounts, which make it competitive, but is unwilling to extend the discounts for any period of time.

They are already a Cisco shop, and they are really only comparing them to other companies for several reasons. The big one is this .... in the last couple of years they've been installing HP and 3com switches to expand their network. Because, in general both products are around 1/3 the cost. Every time they decide to purchase a new switch, they research and just can't justify the additional expense, since both of the other products will meet their requirements.

HP is a sound product line, well thought out, and has a lifetime warranty. They know exactly how to position their product, and where to price it. Their sales folk run circles around the competition. They clearly intend to clean Cisco’s clock in the small to mid sized market, and have the resources to do so. The HP solution allows you to use Chassis in the wiring closets .... if you so choose .... without paying any real premium. Their switch OS seems to be very very much like Cisco’s, but there are fundamental differences which some will find refreshing and some frustrating. Cisco better watch out for these guys.

3com has an awesome produce line in the 4500, 5500, 5500G and 8800 products. The performance is astounding, for over 2 years now in their 5500 G product line, they have been able to stack logically and physically with a 192Gbps. backplane speed. If you want to turn a non powered switch into a powered one .... all you have to do is change out the power supply. Which costs only as much as the differential in cost between the powered and non-powered switches. There has been a 10G slot in back since it was designed. They now offer an OSM module which can go in the 10G slot. The OSM module is a linux card with backplane access.

The switch OS is somewhat IOSish .... but is improved in the way you can query it, ("display this" is awesome) and the way the debugs work.

In the last 3 years 3com has vastly improved their support staff. They actually call you on the phone (which Cisco people seem not to want to do anymore) and seem to offer a high level of expertise.

3com offers 2 IP PBX lines the NBX and the VCX. Comparing these 2 today is similar to comparing the Mitel SX100 in 80s and 90s with the ROLM. The NBX is a rock solid medium to small PBX that works great, and offers lots of features. It comes up short, however, if you are looking at an enterprise level solution. This is where the VCX comes in. It can scale virtually as large as you want it to, offers great features, and although they struggled with it at first, it is now a very stable product.

This product line is awesome, and they can beat Cisco’s price even with Cisco coming in at incredibly high discounts. If 3com is ever forgiven for leaving the Core market when they did, and if they ever learn how to market their products effectively, they could easily capture a significant piece of Cisco’s market share.

My friend has not made a decision yet, but it does seem a little unlikely that he will continue to drink the Cisco Kool Aide any longer. Cisco is an amazing company, and he and I believe they will discover their vulnerabilities and react well, but not before they feel lot’s of pain. My friend has worked with their products for 18 years, and is sorry to see what has happened to them because of their amazing growth to power. Hopefully Cisco can recover their leadership aptitude and attitude.

If you're looking for Cisco equipment (and support) ... or an alternative ... I recommend using this simple search tool to find a reputable source in your area:

Network And Data Equipment Comparison

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

MPLS Is The Future Of WAN Networks

What's hot right now in business WAN networks?

MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) and Ethernet are smokin'. MPLS is not replacing the point-to-point line market (yet), but it is definitely taking a big share of the frame relay market. For example many carriers (including AT&T) are not even offering frame relay any more.

For those who don't know ... Multiprotocol Label Switching is a flexible, cost-effective wide area network solution for linking all of your locations via a secure and scalable network infrastructure.

The advantages of MPLS include:

Network Efficiency - Label based switching methods allow routers to make forwarding decisions based upon the contents of a simple label, rather than by performing a complex route lookup using the destination's IP address.

Traffic Engineering - The ability to set the path traffic will take through the network and the ability to set performance characteristics for a class of traffic (voice, video, email, internet traffic, etc.)

VPNs - Using MPLS, service providers can create IP tunnels throughout their network, without the need for encryption or end-user applications. In addition, MPLS is protected by carrier-based security. With VPNs, if one gets hacked your entire network is vulerable.
If you are researching costs of a MPLS network solution for your enterprise .... you're in luck.

You can leverage a vast archive of carrier quotes .... and find which carriers have the highest probability of being the best fit for any given multi-location MPLS project ..... by taking advantage of a free online quote system offered through Telarus. This valuable information will point you in the right direction every time, increasing the likelihood of maximizing your cost savings.

You can use either of these portals to get a free MPLS rate quote ... PLUS no cost assistance in determining the best network solution, as well as most cost effective vendor to meet your application requirements:

MPLS Quote

MPLS Network Solution

Vendors available through this MPLS quoting tool and bandwidth network solution process include MegaPath Networks, ACC Business, AT&T, Accel Networks, Cavalier, Level3, NewEdge Networks, Network Innovations, NuVox, One Communications, PAETEC, Telnes, TelePacific, TW Telecom, and XO.....with more to be added as they become available.

MPLS is not just the future of WAN networks ... it's the present. Utilize the above tool to move your business network to the cutting edge .... and save time, effort, and money in the process too.

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Monday, July 21, 2008

How To Get Out Of Your T-Mobile Contract .... Now & For Free

T-Mobile recently changed their contract by raising the cost of texting / messaging from 15 to 20 cents beginning in August 2008. This means that if you do not have an unlimited texting / messaging plan you can cancel your contract immediately without paying an ETF (early termination fee).

You can find more information on the issue here:

HowardForums

and here.......

Slick Deals

Just follow the advice above .... contact T-Mo and calmly ask what you want in a friendly tone. I haven't heard of anyone who wasn't treated courteously and quickly. They'll likely offer to cancel your contract, put you on month to month, waive the ETF, and offer you most any phone they have for free.

Now if you'd like to cancel and look for another provider .... I suggest using this handy online tool for help in finding just the right mobile phone for you .... comparing multiple providers, plans, features, styles, etc. ... just go here: Compare Cell Phone

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Friday, July 18, 2008

MajicJack Partnering With AT&T .... And More On "Problems"

MagicJack recently announced that all of its international calls have gone World Class. To be more specific .... they will use AT&T exclusively to complete all international calls placed using a MagicJack device.

Personally, my opinion is that something is just wrong with that marketing message. MagicJack's core Value Proposition is that AT&T costs too much, so folks should switch to MagicJack. Now we find out that the overpriced AT&T is the source of the international terminations. Without looking at the prices, one would expect that the international prices will be needlessly too high. For a hard core selling website, those messages seem too inconsistent ... and would scare off the heavy international caller.

I know they "say" that you'll get the "world class" international service at "the same low MagicJack price". But geez .... talk about a confusing mixed message. But, I guess you're talking about customers who buy from infomercials, choosing between Ronco's knife set or MJ's gadget. They're not going to put that much thought into it I suppose.

Maybe the attempt is to send the message that "we're mainstream." I don't think most people will consider the contradiction between being mainstream and charging non-mainstream prices. They'll just think they're getting mainstream for low prices.

Just another thought .... marketing statements like that also make it seem like they are admiting that their domestic calling is not World Class. Why would they advertise in a way that possibly risks implying that their basic product is not World Class? That's like General Motors saying the best leather is in a Cadillac, but the drive train is just so-so.

Since AT&T is the worst Telco for routing all your calls through the NSA or Homeland Security for monitoring, I don't know if this announcement is a great idea or not.

I have to throw this one out there too .... the MagicJack website looks like a bad used-car lot. As in a definite contender for any "ugly dog" contest. There's no coherent information. It's just all "Hurry, today's the last day" schtick.

Add the above to a fact few if any MagicJack customers know .... at least before they sign up for their service .... that the MagicJack business model is based on ad supported income. In other words ... they will cover their low cost to users by bombarding those same users with advertisements from "advertising partners" (in the MagicWindow). What advertising "you" see will be based on your calling habits (which MagicJack will be monitoring .... and then using to target and direct products/services advertisements aimed at your likely interests). Kinda smart .... but kinda sneaky too. I for one wouldn't want my calls to Grandma to result in adverts being to sent me on Denture Cream. To be blunt, the general idea for the concept just doesn't set well with me as a matter of principal .... no matter what adverts they were to "send".

As if that's not enough .... the requirement for an "always-on computer" to make the gadget work is more than a bit annoying. Plus expensive considering todays cost of electricity. Now maybe that doesn't bother you too much. You can pick up an old, used laptop. Replace the IDE hard drive with a flash-to-ide adaptor, install XP, and leave it on 24/7 without consuming too much electricity.

Personally .... I wouldn't try that right now. I get the impression MJ is still a bit unstable. I've read about people needing to unplug the USB device once a day for example.

There have also been reports of a Linux version. If that happens it will be more feasible to setup a solid-state, always-on computer using a small Linux distro like Puppy Linux (which is optimized for flash drives). You could use even older hardware, and smaller flash drives. No OS license.

The moral of the story .... don't get caught up in all the hype with MagicJack. Make darn sure you know everything you need to know .... before jumping on the badwagon. In all fairness there are folks who are very happy with their entire MagicJack experience. Just be sure to go in with your eyes open if you want to count yourself among their numbers.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vonage Nightmare Continues .... Don't Let This Be You

Many Vonage users have had issues with Vonage customer support (if you can call it that). But this story is really scary. Read on to see 1 person's 3 year ordeal with trying to cancel their Vonage account. You can't make this stuff up!

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....Left Vonage But The Nightmare Continues....

"First, I want to say that I was a happy Vonage customer for 4 years. The only reason I chose to leave them was I got a better deal. Leaving is the rub. Even after you leave, Vonage keeps on billing, and they resurrect dead service without notice.

In late September 2005 I ordered VOIP service form another carrier and canceled Vonage. Several calls to Vonage sent me through a succession of people, many who had poor command of English, and eventually led me to wait on hold for the person authorized to end my account. The wait was too long, and I finally believed I closed the account on a Saturday after spending more than 2 hours on the phone with them.

When I had alledgedly discontinued service, I had been using my new carrier for several weeks and had disconnected the Vonage ATA box. They billed my American Express charge for the entire month, and I paid the entire bill. All was well until the next American Express bill arrived and the usual charge from Vonage was again on the bill again. I had now not used the service for 2 months. After more phone calls to them, and long waits, I finally got assurances form a Vonage employee that the service was discontinued. Although no one would agree to credit me for the illegitimate charges. I paid the bill and moved on to more productive endeavors rather than fight over $30.

The next month, you guessed it. Vonage billed my American Express again. I phoned American Express, and they contested the charges. Since Vonage did not bother to prove they were legitimate, the charge was reversed. Every Month following that time, I had a new charge from Vonage that was contested and reversed. I repeatedly called Vonage and emailed them to no avail. As a rule no one could find my account when I phoned them .... or I was told it was an error. This continued for more than 2 years until I finally closed the American Express account. Finally all was quiet after 2 years of trying to get read of the Vonage beast.

Today (19 May 2008) I received two collection notices from an agency writing on Vonages’ behalf. They say I owe more than $250 for Vonage service including charges from last year - more than 2 years after I canceled service.

Well, dear reader, it’s time to take the gloves off and pound a stake through this thoroughly evil company’s heart. If you have Vonage service, I encourage you to cancel service and see how things go for you. There are a plethora of other VOIP carriers in the world who are less expensive .... and have much better customer service than the Vonage beast. Don’t leave for me, leave for yourself, you’ll get a better deal. Much better treatment too."

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For anyone looking for a cheaper and more reliable VoIP provider .... as well as better customer service .... just go here: VoIP Provider List They offer a convenient listing of multiple providers where you can compare plans, features, etc. Includes Packet8, Lingo, VoIP.com, and more.

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Sunday, July 13, 2008

Metro Ethernet Or MPLS .... Which Is The Best Choice For Your WAN (Wide Area Network)??

If you could choose only one technology for your wide area network .... metro ethernet or MPLS .... which would you choose and why?

Keep in mind this is not a simple bandwidth solution question. Such as choosing "how much" .... between say DS3 bandwidth or OC3 bandwidth.

First off ..... you need to understand that they are not mutually exclusive. I would use Metro Ethernet as an access technology .... and a Layer-3 technology, such as MPLS, for my backbone. The appeal of MPLS is the Quality of Service (QoS) capabilities it offers.

The bottom line when choosing a WAN technology is the price compared to bandwidth and redundancy capabilities. Service providers offer various flavors of similar technologies, so unless you have the specifics, its difficult to compare.

Be conscious of the fact that when you deliver WAN services to a remote site, you will always be relying on a local exchange carrier (LEC) to deliver the "last mile" services. Most problems with WAN circuit outages at remote offices are physical layer issues at a CO that is the LEC's responsibility. This is of particular importance if you need to deliver services in a city or rural area with a dated infrastructure. In this regard appropriate vendor selection could actually prove more important than technology.

Indeed these are not necessarily mutually exclusive - there are technologies such as VPLS which is a Metro Ethernet version of MPLS. The number one factor is what do you NEED? Are all of your sites that need this connectivity within a metropolitan area and is there a single provider who is offering Ethernet access to all of these locations? If the answer is "no", then the choice is clear - MPLS, which is fairly ubiquitous these days.

MPLS is more appropriate for a diverse network with multiple connection speeds and multiple stakeholders, especially in situations where you're looking to achieve CBR. Metro Ethernet is best used in more of a "bridge" (I use the term loosely!) situation, connecting physically-separate offices where everyone is engaged in similar work or at least working for the same division. The reality, of course, is that a typical installation consists of Metro Ethernet interconnects and an MPLS backbone, but I said "choose one".

From my perspective it would have to be MPLS, purely for the flexibility of access methods and transports supported, the scalability of bandwidth demands, and of course, the QoS and traffic prioritization capabilities. Again, the use of MPLS does not preclude MEN, but MPLS would be my overarching choice if pushed.

In sum, sadly, like many computer networking questions, the answer is, "It depends."

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Friday, July 11, 2008

How Do You Choose A T1 Or DS3 Bandwidth Carrier?

Choosing a T1 or DS3 bandwidth provider depends on location, budget, goals/priorities, and the type of application being served. The best provider depends on exact address, needs, and a good round of quoting, I won't speculate here.

If fibre is available in your area (and you may need a consultant to determine who might cover your area) its often good to jump straight there. Turnup costs are high after drilling/wiring the last mile -- but the rates and reliability over 3-5 years can't be beat.

If you decide you really need to go T1 (which is not usually my first choice these days) or DS3, it's best to choose a Tier-1 provider and a product that can be scaled up to bonded T1's or burstable DS3 later. You'll also want to make sure the router hardware you purchase/lease can support this. Beware I've seen many Tier-2 providers say they can do bonded T1's or burstable DS3 and royally screw up the implementation (its not something they know how to do well).

Make sure you choose a Tier-1 provider, Tier-2's often have the most competitive first-round quoting, but thats where the advantage stops. You can always negotiate Tier-1's down and the product is MUCH better.

You'll also need to decide whether you want self-managed or fully-managed solution. The best solution depends on factors specific to your implementation. This decision should be taken consciously with your specific needs in mind.

If you go with a T1 sign a 18 month or 24 month contract. Do not sign anything longer, even if they offer mid-way renegotiation. Ensure the autorenew clause is easily terminable and goes month to month at the end of term (instead of autorenewing for a year or more). If you go with a DS3 .... a 24-36 month contract is reasonable.

Read the SLA (service level agreement) carefully. Insist on assurances in the agreement (and don't take anything verbal or written from a telco sales rep for granted unless its in your contract). Your salesperson may move on 6 months from now and no one over there will know anything about you except what it says on paper.

Finally, if you don't have a network engineer on contract, find one (and do it before you look for/order service). A few hundred dollars now can save you huge headaches and big money down the road.

If you are looking for a T1 or DS3 bandwidth solution to meet your network needs ... you can get a free quote covering over 20 Tier 1 providers from this website: T1 Bandwidth

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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Is The iPhone A Big Disappointment??

There are about a hundred reasons that you can conjure up as to why the iPhone might be a big disappointment, but none of them matter a whit once you start using one.

Yes, it's true - you may miss voice dialing, the battery life could be better, and there's no micro-recorder, which many folks used constantly on their other "smart" phones.

But the interface is elegant .... and makes you more productive than you can imagine until you begin using it. Simple things like adding someone to a call, or merging two calls when one has come in via call waiting, are as easy as a single tap on the screen.

The ability to have my _complete_ address book and calendar, instant access to REAL web sites, widgets for stocks, weather, easy-to-view text threads and terrific multi-account email overrides any small nits you might pick about other things.

Oh, yes, there's also that upgrade thing - on July 11 when the next version of the software comes out, your old iPhone becomes a new iPhone with a simple insertion into the dock. Does your Treo/Blackberry/Tilt/ (Name-Your-Smartphone-Here) do that? No, it doesn't.

So whine if you must, but at the end of the day, the iPhone isn't just a phone, it's a computer that makes phone calls and fits in your pocket, and puts every other phone product on the market to shame. Spend one day using one and you'll be hard-pressed to return to a Java/Symbian/ Motorola/Palm interface.

It's interesting the criticisms that come as soon as Apple launches a new and innovative products. Some developers contend that the iPhone was ANYTHING but a disappointment. Per the opinions of a few ... instead of focusing on Apple, let's take a look at the real disappointments:

- Why is it that Motorola cannot create anything that DOESN'T look like a Razr? Obviously that product has overstayed its welcome as Motorola is attempting to salvage its company.

- Why is it that Palm has only stayed afloat after it introduced Windows as its OS? Why is it that Palm is such an "11th hour" company (they don't really finish the product until its too late)? How many Palm devices were / could be described by saying, "Man, it's great except I wish they would have included 802.11 wifi."

Finally, if Apple's iPhone was such a disappointment, why is it that there are so many companies developing products that are pretty darn close to the iPhone? The iPhone was a major success, much to the dismay of Palm and Motorola.

For help in finding just the right mobile device (smart phone) for you .... comparing multiple providers, plans, features, styles, etc. ... just go here: Find A Smart Phone

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Microsoft's Unified Communications Initiative: What's Up With That??

Vonage is struggling with debt. SunRocket collapsed outright. Now Jangl (VoIP to Mobile) is the first of (potentially many of) the Voice 2.0 firms to fall (granted these were / are consumer plays in the market). ebay and Skype didn't revolutionize the Telco Industry as once was predicted. Conversely, Jaxtr just secured another $10 Million in funding. there has been a lot of 'show' in this space over the past few years, and, not always a lot of 'substance.'

In light of these events (and others not mentioned) ..... how viable is Microsoft's Unified Communications (VoIP) Initiative?

Redmond's entrance into the market last year (partnering and competing with Cisco) clearly made some waves. Moreover, now supposedly more than ½ of Microsoft's partners are reselling, servicing or recommending Office Communications Server 2007.

Is there room for both Microsoft and Cisco to co-exist within this space? If so, is it possible that Microsoft will be able to lead in the SMB and/or Enterprise market with a unified communications solution? Or, will Redmond always be forced to play catch-up with Cisco? Finally, is there another looming VoIP play (Consumer or Enterprise) that is poised to sneak up on the industry independent of the segment?

My opinion??

True competition in the voice space won't exist until telco patents that maintain their monopoly status expire or are invalidated. Once this happens, competition can grow with little overhead and be able to integrate with other SIP networks and the existing POTS lines to create the last link in the unified communication space.

And for the communication to be truly unified, we will need to use open communication protocols, and avoid MS's attempts to embrace and extend, destroying competition and create just another monopoly player in the same space. Whether that means Google gets involved is yet to be seen.

First, VoIP covers a lot of space. Let's look at some:

There's the Internet Telephony Service Provider (ITSP) gang, like Vonage, Packet8, Skype, and a plethora of free services. Given the net-neutral position of the Internet, which effectively precludes using quality of service (QoS) over the public Internet, these services are doomed to offer marginal quality at best.

There are the Incumbent Local Exchange Carriers (ILEC). A decidedly USA-centric view of the world, I admit, but a valid model for much of the developed world. Just substitute "PTT" for "ILEC." As these firms deploy fiber throughout their networks, look for more VoIP services to the home and office directly from the central office (CO). For example Verizon, a local carrier, offers voice, video, and Internet (FiOS) using wave division multiplexing (WDM) and Metro Ethernet. Your internal phones are still traditional POTS devices, but Verizon could relatively easily convert your home (or a FiOS-connected business) to a VoIP endpoint and install IP-to-IP gateways to connect to other telcos.

But the big market Cisco is looking at, and where Microsoft is trying to compete, is in the Enterprise Telephony market. The connection to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) is still most often via a VoIP-to-POTS gateway. As more carriers convert their internal networks to VoIP, you'll see Enterprises connect via IP-to-IP gateways which are capable of support a variety of protocols, such as Cisco's SCCP ("Skinny"), H.323, SIP, and MGCP.

There was an adage in a USA Presidential campaign several years ago: "Follow the money." Keep in mind that no one is going to develop software for large-scale deployment that is entirely free. Asterisk may be free, but Digium still sells the hardware and G.729 codecs which provide the revenue to support continued Asterisk development. No one will sneak up on Cisco or Microsoft (or Avaya, Nortel, or Siemens, for that matter) without the sound of currency being disbursed.

To be really blunt though .... this is a tough question.

It seems that most of the "big guys" are offering the same thing which is a way to simplify communication and save some money. What is finally getting attention is the fact that most of us are not using our office/home phone as much but our cell phones since all our information is there (address, phone, email etc...) but the solutions to extend the UC out to the mobile are quite complex.

I certainly think Microsoft will quickly become a force to be reckoned with in Unified Communications. Here are a few reasons why....

* Think back 5 years ago and imagine asking the same question about Cisco. You could have posed the question "is there room for Cisco and Avaya/Nortel, etc... to co-exist in this space?" What organization could repeat the feat that Cisco pulled off?

* The whole industry is moving towards software-based functionality. Everything from Asterisk on down to Nortel's new SCS framework. In some ways you can say the telecom industry is moving towards Microsoft as much as they're entering this market.

* Channels...perhaps 1/2 of Microsoft's partners are reselling or otherwise involved with OCS. Whether that figure is correct or not, there are thousands (millions?) of MS partners out there. They've got an opportunity to get into telecom and add revenue streams. You can bet a large percentage of them will take it.

* End-users....No need to convince anyone about their installed base. Adding another piece of Microsoft software isn't exactly a daunting idea to propose to a business owner.

* Right now we still think of telephony as a separate domain from computing. What if they choose to build telephony into their products just like IE or Outlook/Exchange? How would that change the game?

Finally, I wouldn't overlook the fact that they're approaching this market from several different perspectives. Obviously there's OCS, but don't overlook Response Point, the SMB "key-like" system and even some of the Windows-based products that they could easily acquire (3CX and Objectworld for instance).

Here's some random thoughts and maybe wishful thinking .....

I would include VoIP in the Live package and get potential revenue out of ads.

I guess it would be a good idea to have some Microsoft cell phone that works with Wlan and that could be used as a normal cell phone or a VoIP device.

I would really like to have all that function on my PC, especially VoIP telephone service, Voice mail box, Video conferences and Faxes, besides the IM stuff. All in one poackage. One programme integrating all in one. Something like an Outlook + MSN + Xobni stuff + VoIP all in one package, where it would be okay to have some ads if you use MSN or VoIP services. . .

I would wish that for all plattforms, and cell phones and PDAs. A unique system. Even usuable on SymbianOS devices, or Palm Devices, and other devices that do not use WindowsPocket. And why not even on Linux? Something really "Unique" even if the code remains proprietary. (That's up to MSFT).

Alternatively, I would offer the whole package as a free download and establish a subscription service, and feature all the fax numbers, phone numbers, and voice mail services and infrastructure.

It is very hard really to penetrate a VoIP market where more and more players start in, and where some operate on a 'free' basis, for PC to PC services. I would really offer that free, and just charge the communications from PC to normal phone, and sell a MSFT VoIP cell phone (like the Skype phones) that were dual, VoIP and normal Tri-band cell phone and offer the same programme for really ALL plattforms, and I mean REALLY ALL, and offer synchronization.

Let the customer subscribe to special services as a fax or voice mail box, and keep the basic package free of charge. Finance VoIP Pc-to-pc by ads, just like MSN Messenger chat. Offer a whole package, like a super Outlook, that either you pay once for, and get all the basic services free, or get as a free download if you open a subscription.

Now .... what say you??

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Friday, July 04, 2008

How To Find Your Profits In Selling Commercial Telecom

The benefits of selling commercial telecom are easy to see..... long term residuals, income stability and predictability, increasing demand for broadband, and the most important point of all - you can only get this product exclusively through Commission River and Telarus Commercial Telecom.

T1 Lines - Our Bread and Butter

A T1 line is a dedicated high-speed internet connection that businesses use to connect to the internet. Many businesses are too big and rely on their connection too much to risk their future with a DSL line, so T1 is their only answer. Prices of T1 lines have come down from $1000 in 2001, to around $375 today. Using Telarus' Geoquote plug-in, you can add a Real-Time T1 Price Calculator to your site, or you can just link to ShopforT1.com, the main T1 shopping portal.

- ShopforT1.com:

All leads that come to your site and generate a price quote will be assigned to a Telarus "closer", or an agent who has been trained the in art of commercial telecom sales. If the deal closes, you and the closer split all commissions (and bonus spiffs) 25%/75%. Likewise, if the customer ever adds services to their account at any time in the future, you will be compensated.

You can also generate leads "by hand" by actually finding prospects in the real-world who are interested in commercial broadband service and "hand entering" them into your back office lead entry page:

All leads you hand enter pay 50%/50% on both commission and bonuses, which is double what you earn on web leads. Telarus pays more for hand-entered leads because they have a higher rate of success than plain internet leads, which means the closing agents have to sift through less duds to get to the gold.

Telarus has also created a library of banners for you to use in addition to the GeoQuote plug-ins.

Enterprise Services: Ethernet, SIP, MPLS

While T1's have been our staple in the past, Telarus has recently released new sales tools that have enabled agents to begin quoting and selling upstream products such as Ethernet, SIP, and MPLS.

Ethernet 101 - Simply put, ethernet broadband requires a direct fiber connection between the customer and the carrier. This glass connection allows customers the ability to enjoy between 10 MB - 1 GB broadband speeds. Your customers can use this to connect to the internet or to connect themselves to other offices within their same company. Telarus has created a site for you where you can generate ethernet broadband leads:

ShopForEthernet.com

SIP Voice Service - With SIP Trunking your customers can save money by connecting their IP PBX systems directly to one of our many VoIP providers via broadband. SIP trunks give business customers the ability to bypass the local telephone company's traditional analog (PSTN) network and connect directly to a VoIP carrier, often at tremendous savings. You can now generate leads for this service at the following URL:

ShopForSIPTrunking.com

MPLS Service - MPLS, or Multi Protocol Label Switching, is quickly replacing frame relay and ATM as the technology of choice for carrying high-speed data and digital voice on a single connection. MPLS not only provides customers with better reliability and increased performance, but can often decrease their overall costs through increased network efficiency. Its ability to assign priority to packets carrying voice traffic makes it the perfect solution for carrying VoIP calls. Telarus can now provide quotes from a number of carriers utilizing MPLS technology.

- ShopforMPLS.com

Upcoming Launches -

Over the next month you'll see Telarus launching more marketing sites. On the launch pad for July will be:

- ShopforVoIP.com
- ShopforDS3.com
- ShopforT3.com
- ShopforDS1.com

Stay tuned to find out exactly when these sites go live. Right now they are all pointed to test locations, so what you see now is just "filler" until the new sites are completed.

If you have any interest at all in creating an income from selling commercial Telecom ... simply register as an agent via this website: Commercial Telecom

There's no cost to you whatsoever to become an Agent .... and the potential earnings for you are awesome!


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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

What Is The Future Potential Of 4G Wireless Technology?

There are three possible future approaches for 4G (4th generation wireless technology) ....

a. 4G Approach #1 - Enhanced 3G or Extended 3G or Open Architecture
b. 4G Approach #2 - Long Term Evolution (LTE)
c. 4G Approach #3 - WiMAX

What are the realistic expectations?

There is much expected of WiMAX and it's probably fair to say that some of this can be classified as ‘hype'. Yet there is much to be excited about. Provided we set realistic expectations with early stage deployments.

Keep in mind that a hard grid bandwidth infrastructure must be in place for connectivity of hot points and transmission sites. So the "provider" is still not 100% divorced from some type of hard wire bandwidth solution as the coverage backbone. Due to scale this is likely to start at least at an OC3 bandwidth level.

Is there an open door for LTE?

The crucial difference is that, unlike WiMAX, which requires a new network to be built, LTE runs on an evolution of the existing UMTS infrastructure already used by over 80 per cent of mobile subscribers globally. This means that even though development and deployment of the LTE standard may lag Mobile WiMAX, it has a crucial incumbent advantage.

WIMAX and LTE - Either or both?

Here is my opinion:

Mobile WIMAX and LTE use similar technology but WIMAX is not a 4G technology.

LTE is expected to have better spectral efficiency, throughput, larger cell size (also matter of frequency allocation) and lower round trip time.

On the other hand mobile WIMAX is available today while LTE is still not completely standardized. The most aggressive vendors predict commercial LTE networks in few years from today. HSPA+ comes later and some call it pre-LTE technology although it’s is based on CDMA.

Today WIMAX is comparable to HSPA.

If you are wondering which technology is better. This depends on your point of view.

For a consumer, the most important criteria is the “value for money”. If we assume that value for HSPA and WIMAX is similar, then the cost of the service will determine which the preferred technology is.

However the cost of WIMAX or HSPA service will vary from country to country (depends on price to acquire license, ecosystem, population, competition etc).

Nevertheless, there are some universal factors that we can take into consideration. Deployment of a WIMAX network can be cheaper than 3GPP HSPA because of the flat architecture. On the other hand, WIMAX cells are much smaller than WCDMA cells. Thus operators will need a lot more WIMAX cells to build same coverage as with HSPA. Besides, HSPA is today available in 900MHz frequency band making it even more efficient. Also I d like to mention that Nokia-Siemens has developed flat architecture also for HSPA (called I-HSPA) which is available today.

Today there is a large ecosystem build around 3GPP. But WIMAX is not hype. Sprint Nextel’s selection of mobile WiMAX was a strong signal for the industry and brought more credibility to the technology. It will contribute to accelerating the development of 16e-enabled end-user devices and, thanks to volume, lower the costs. Intel has announced that the new Centrino platform (to be launched within this year) will have integrated WIMAX module.

Remember .... it is not just about technology, but also about licenses. An operator having a WiMAX license but not for 3G/LTE, will do WiMAX and not LTE (and vice versa). Don't forget that in many countries licenses are linked to a given radio technology. So both WiMAX and LTE will coexist.

Also, the future will not be so easy anymore. Several standards are there already, some are maturing, more to come. None will have the universal coverage and roaming capabilities except GSM (at least for a good while).

So what you already see, and will see much more often are multi-standard -multi-band devices. Within the complimentary WiFi-hotspot, the device selects WiFi, moving on in the city you use WiMAX or LTE, outside 3G/HSPA or CDMA EvDo, in remote places GSM/GPRS/EDGE. The user should not (and doesn't want to be) bothered with unpronouncable acronyms and abbreviations, his device/the network should do everything for her/him.

So in my humble opinion, 4G is not a radio technology, but the network intelligence to connect the user always and seamless to that radio interface which is most suitable for his present application.

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