Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Cluster of Conferences around ITEXPO


ITEXPO East 2012 in Miami last week was a great opportunity to meet with customers, distributors, and vendors, get the latest updates from the industry, and communicate the latest and greatest from Polycom.
The conference part had four tracks: Communication and Collaboration (mostly discussions around UC), Customer Engagements (mostly Contact Centers and Clouds), IT2.0 (Clouds everywhere), and Next-generation Service Providers (Clouds again). So in reality ITEXPO was about UC and Clouds.

TMC CEO Rich Tehrani keeps critical mass through organizing a dozen of mini-conferences in parallel to the main ITEXPO event, in effect, creating a cluster of conferences. In addition to the more established 4GWE conference and Ingate (SIP Trunking and UC) Summit, the conference cluster now includes Cloud Communications Expo, SUITS, and several other events.

Key analysts in the industry attend ITEXPO to moderate sessions, present, meet with vendors, and get updates on their solutions.

Finally, there are lively exhibits with a lot of new companies showing products and services. Traditional enterprise communication vendors (Avaya, Cisco, Siemens …) have withdrawn from the exhibits in recent years; distributors, service providers, and smaller vendors have taken over.


I attended several ITEXPO sessions. The most interesting one was "Building the UC Business Case" (Feb 1, 11am) where Irwin Lazar from Nemertes shared results from a recent survey of IT managers about UC deployments. The business case for UC remains elusive. Just 40% of the companies require business case and only 10% measure UC success through cost savings and cost avoidance while the majority relies on user satisfaction (37%), improved collaboration (21%), and feature adoption (19%). When it comes to measuring UC, soft metrics rule the day. Mobility is a key planning concern with 81% of respondents planning to support mobile devices. Finally, Microsoft Lync is making inroads in the enterprise with 19% of respondents deploying it and 37% evaluating it.

My ITEXPO session "Beyond travel avoidance – the real value of HD videoconferencing and collaboration" (Feb 2, 2pm) focused on increasing meeting effectiveness through advanced collaboration capabilities that enhance decision making and improve productivity. The moderator Mark Ricca from IntelliCom Analytics invited three speakers: Scott Morrison, BD Director at Magor Communications, Ron Burns, CEO of ProtonMedia, and me.

My talk focused on the two approaches to improving collaboration and team work with video. The first approach is to improve collaboration capabilities in video solutions - HD content sharing, including to tablets and other mobile devices, white boarding (Polycom UC Board is a good example), studio experience (like in EagleEye Director), and content capturing and management. The second way is to integrate visual communication with collaboration solutions from partners. Good examples are Polycom's integration with Microsoft Lync (for which it was named the 2011 Microsoft UC Innovation Partner of the Year), with IBM SameTime and IBM Connections social business platforms (as announced at LotusSphere in January), and with Jive social media for enterprise.

4GWE Conference 

The 4GWE conference was about building broadband wireless networks with focus on the LTE wireless interface and backhaul technologies. Since I knew a lot about the wireless interface (LTE), I enjoyed the presentation on backhaul technologies by Amir Mekleff, President and CEO, BridgeWay Communications (Feb 1, 1pm).

Due to the trend towards more tablets (tablets outselling laptops) and more smartphones, backhaul bandwidth is and will continue to be bottleneck. Users expect wire-line performance, and are usually disappointed. The sweet spot for LTE networks is microcells with 1-3 miles radius that can deliver up to 100Mbps over the wireless interface or pico cell with 0.1-0.5 miles radius that can deliver up to 300Mbps.

Fiber, cable, and copper are used for backhaul but also increasingly microwave and millimeter wave technologies. While microwaves (6-38GHz spectrum) are good for 4G traffic backhaul over long distances (6GHz can go up to 50 miles, 38GHz can go up to 5 miles), millimeter waves (60-90GHz) are good for 4G traffic backhaul over short distances in densely populated areas. Microwave links have very high penetration in Europe where 60-70% of backhaul via microwave - mostly because old cities are difficult to dig for fiber.

Cloud Communications Summit

I also presented in a session "Can UC in the Cloud?" (Feb 3, 9am) that focused on Unified Communications as a Service. This segment is poised to become nearly a $6 billion dollar market within the next few years. Traditional on-premises solutions will continue to be replaced by more modular and elastic services that can be provisioned, delivered, and monitored through multi-tenant infrastructures, to any user, and location, any device and at any time.

Moderator Thomas Howe, Principal at Embrase, invited three speakers: Davide Petramala, VP Marketing and Sales at Esna Technologies, Chad Krantz, Executive Director Channel Sales at Broadvox, and me. The discussion was mostly about real-time cloud communications, issues with quality of service and what each of participating companies was doing the cloud computing area.

Ingate Summit

Ingate manufactures session border controllers. Since SIP trunking was the most important application for Ingate initially, they started the Ingate SIP Trunking Summit several years ago and always run it in parallel to ITEXPO. They later added UC topics to the Summit and now have 2-2.5 days of educational content. There seems to be demand for education and training because the Summit is very well attended.

I had the chance to present about OVCC at the previous Summit (Austin, September 2011). The hot topic this time was the Ingate Internet+ initiative. The idea goes back to the original SIP architecture (reminds me of discussions 10-12 years ago) that is a flat IP network with end-to-end SIP sessions and IP packets flowing freely end-to-end, too. Unfortunately, voice carriers did not embrace the original SIP voice vision, and created VOIP islands that continue to peer via TDM connections. Since carriers have an established mechanism to trade voice minutes, they never moved pass TDM peering, which in turn means lower voice quality due to multiple conversions of voice from IP to TDM and vice versa; it also creates huge problems for fax. Ingate wants to persuade carriers to peer over IP, so that SIP-based voice, video, IM, presence, etc. can freely flow.

I do not think carriers will rush to embrace the Internet+ idea; the impact on their business model is too significant. However, OVCC managed to bring carriers around the table and reach an agreement on IP peering for video. Carriers seem to see video as very different from voice and do not mind having a different architecture for it. In my view, once the OVCC model has been established for video, we can talk about using the OVCC interconnects to expand the definition with other services: presence, IM, etc. Voice will continue to be the most sensitive topic…

Synopsis Under IP/Patents Telecom Sourcing Conference (SUITS)

I came across SUITS by accident in the lunch break. There was no other free table and I sat next to what it turned out to be a subset of the 20+ corporate attorneys attending the SUITS conference. The official goal of the SUITS event is to advance knowledge innovations of telecommunications, and teach technologists about IPR protection, patent pools, etc.

I had a great conversation with William Geary, Jr. VP of Business Development at MPEGLA who was also one of the key speakers are the event. Bill talked about the efforts in the H.264 licensing pool – Polycom is a part of it – to make H.264 Baseline Profile royalty-free. I really think that makes sense since vendors are moving to higher efficiency profiles such as Main and High. Making the Baseline Profile royalty-free would address some of the issues organizations such as W3C have with adoption of H.264 in their work.

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