Archive for the 'Cloud Computing' Category

Google has gone mainstream

Is it me, or is Google now starting to advertise? And I mean REALLY advertise? I went to the dreaded Westfield shopping centre (dragged kicking and screaming by my girlfriend no less…) recently, and there are 3 very big and impressive digital billboards advertising Google Chrome to anyone and everyone that enters. Also, on the underground there are static billboards advertising Google Chrome. Then there was a full spread wrap around the Metro. Add to this a smattering of buses now displaying ad’s for Youtube moving into the TV space, and it seems that Google is really making a concerted effort to get into mainstream media.

It’s strange, as Google has never had the need to adopt mainstream advertising to promote any of it’s products, as they own the most valuable piece of ‘real estate’ on the Internet in their own home page. Add to this the much heralded ‘Google Labs’ led ability to drip feed new products to the public and market them via various online channels. Even when Google was just starting out, they never resorted to mainstream media, and instead relied much on word of mouth. So why now?

From my perspective, the timing is interesting. With Microsoft recently being forced to give browser options to every future Windows user and FireFox 3.5 finally being lauded as the worlds most popular browser, Google must sense an opportunity to really add credence to a market that is being thrown wide open again. In my view, there is little to currently diffrentiate Chrome from Firefox, apart from possibly it’s overall speed. However, one key diffrentiator that may trump FireFox in the future is the potential to sync a desktop Chrome browser with a android/smartphone Chrome browser. This is the space that Chrome (OS at least) is moving into, with it’s seemingly inevitable merger into the Android sphere becoming nearer and nearer. This has the ability to converge both your respective desktop/smartphone environments seamlessley. With this could come the potential to have a web-based browser, with multiple interfaces from handheld or desktop devices, that would remember open tabs, bookmarks, passwords etc This could have many applications for both business and consumer, and is very exciting.

However there could be many issues with putting all your eggs into the Google cloud. I’m already firmly entrenched in Google’s camp, having gmail, Google reader, Google Voice, Google Wave, Google Calendar, Google finance, YouTube, Adsense and Google docs accounts. The thought of Google having access (if they haven’t already) to my search history via a browser or even via their new Google DNS offering is actually quite scary. For if they were ever suppoeaned (like in the famous Google vs Viacom battle some years back), they would have to relinquish all information about me, and the rest of their users.

As you can see, I’m very much a fan of Google and their range of products. However until there is a compelling reason for me to use Chrome, FireFox more than meets my needs. Backed by a network of open source enthuiasts, the Firefox browser will only get better with time also.

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My ‘Hero’

I’ll be honest. I’m not a fan of Apple. I owned an IPOD back in the day when they were different, and I never really liked it. Mainly because of hassle in transferring my already massive digital music collection onto it, and it’s inability to work with non-proprietory file types. For me, it was a clear sign that Apple just wanted to monopolise the market with. Anyway that’s a post for another day.

Since then, I have never ever purchase an Apple product out of principle, mainly because I’m stubbourn. 2 years ago, I purchased a HTC Touch Dual and loved it due to it’s versatility and dual interface. Then the I Phone came out and I was found wanting. However my principles stood firm, and in August this yr, when I could bear no more, I upgraded my HTC Touch Dual to an HTC Hero. I didn’t have high expectations, as the Android platform is still quite formalative. But in all comparisons with my friends and colleagues IPhone, it compares well. Potentially the number of app’s available could be much more than on ITunes (although I admit that currently this pales into insignificance…) whilst integration with the Google cloud is first rate. Currently I’m synched with about 6 of my social network platforms as well as my Google account.

The thing that really scares me however is that should I lose my Hero, or even worse, should someone steal it, they would have instant access to my identity. It’s a thought that has always worried me. They could obtain personal details by impersonating me on either Linkedin, Facebook or Twitter. This potentially could do a massive amount of damage.

The entrepreneur in me always thought that this would be a great niche for an app. My thoughts were that there could be an app controlled by a web interface that when accessed, could shut down the phone in some way. It would be a great example of Cloud Computing. However whilst I’ve been scribbling some plans on the back of a coaster, someone has actually designed what I think is a great app, which does just this. Created by a company called Wave Secure, they’ve made an app which operates in the background of your phone from startup. If the phone is lost or stolen, you can use the web interface to ‘lock’ the phone down. This means that the thief would not be able to gain access to the phone unless they had your unique PIN.

It’s a great app, and one I think should be a necessity on every smartphone around. Only issue I see with it is that should the thief disable the WiFi/3G, then you wouldn’t have any access to the device…

Oh well, it can’t be perfect!

The grubby world of exhibitions

It seems like we have entered the grubby season of the exhibition. I say grubby as some of the exhibitions I’ve been to previously have consisted of nothing more than a myriad of stands of vendors who don’t understand what you do, trying to sell you something that you inevitably don’t really need.

With the recent ‘Margin in Voice and Data expo’, there seemed to be a distinct change in direction towards a more focused show. I personally saw it as a good time for event organisers to re-evaluate their expos. However with the economy showing signs of picking up, there has been a return to the scene of the big all encompassing show stopping exhibition. Last week I went to the IP expo. Usually filled with big stands with big companies with even bigger egos. However this year was different. I only went for a morning on the first day, but what I found was an exhibition with a clear theme; Virtualisation. Previously where there were 4 expos centered around different aspects of cloud computing. This had now been amalgamated into one big show. Personally it was interesting to have a chat with different network operators, followed by walking across the room to discuss compatibility issues with specific vendors and system application developers. I found this a lot more worthwhile and was able to get a good level of understanding as to how different vendors/suppliers plan to incorporate a cloud based service into their product portfolios.

I then recently went to the ‘Convergence Summit South‘ run by Miles Publishing. This is specific to the channel within the telecomms industry and by their own admission has been their most successful summit for a while. As exhibitions go, it was exactly as expected. However the shining light of the expo was the seminars. Personally there was a great debate early on between Tim Hubbard of BT Wholesale, Neil McArthur of Talk Talk and Steve Gallagher of Cable and Wireless about what constitutes a ‘Next Generation Network’, and how their respective organisations are striving to compete. In my view, the term NGN is extremely mis-leading and one used purely for marketing spin. To see these industry heavyweights vying with each other about their own USP’s, whilst surveying the potential future landscape of the telecomms market was exciting, as little more than 5 years ago, BT would not have had to defend against such strong competition. The expo also saw an interesting feature, whereby hosted VOIP providers were given 20 minutes to setup from scratch their hosted platform in front of a packed audience. The one that I saw was successful and proved the ease of use and speed of the platform.

In all, expo’s can provide a valuable insight into your chosen market. Going back to the convergence summit, it was interesting to see how many big mobile carriers were present, as they tried to embrace the shift to FMC by traditional voice and data integrators. It’s a shame that the example set by the ‘Margin in Voice and Data’ expo earlier in the year was not followed, and I’m sure that as we emerge from the recession, various exhibitions will only continue to get bigger and probably more brash.

Have we seen the death of the ISP?

The good old days

The good old days

I must admit, the telecomms sector is a fascinating sector to be involved in. Always changing, always evolving, always innovating. The market is almost unrecognisable to 8 years ago, when BT ruled the roost, and we were all left to pick up their scraps. However, the rise of LLU networks has really provided end users with a plethora of choice in terms of obtaining a service that is more suited to their needs. Now one can choose from a range of acronym-ed services to help them support their business. And that is exactly what these services are doing. With the increased pace traditional businesses have moved to obtain a presence on the web, it has become more and more important for them to assess their WAN, starting at the provision of bandwidth. This means agreeing SLA’s with suppliers, obtaining redundant links and having dedicated support lines to access, as well as other key issues. And service providers have responded. Over the last few years, we’ve seen the rise of traditional ISP’s not only providing connectivity, but also diversifying into providing value-add through applications such as AV software, bandwidth optimisation modules and relevant hardware. But even more importantly, we’ve seen a rise in smaller ISP’s taking multiple feeds from multiple networks to increase their offering to their client base and substantiate upon their skill set.

Within the SME market, this was always going to happen, as clients tend to be more loyal to suppliers and consultants who have intimate knowledge of their business practices. However, within the Mid Market and Enterprise sectors, there was still a lot of scepticism around ‘placing all your eggs in one basket’. This is starting to change. With the rise of converged communications, larger companies especially are realising that placing their business with one supplier has a number of benefits that may outweigh the negatives. These suppliers however do not just provide their own solutions. Through a range of partnerships and arrangements with companies who recently may have been deemed as competitors, they have been able to penetrate their market with a unified solution that has a lot more credence than any offering they may have had previously. Take our Advance solutions. One IP range. One router. Two underlying networks. Should one of the networks fail, then traffic is seamlessley routed via the redundant network. Great for business critical applications. Great for the end user.

The rise of the VNO; who has multiple feeds from multiple carriers, has a VOIP offering through an arrangement with a SIP provider, who can offer video conferencing through one it’s partners and privatise a network by offering CPE through a trusted vendor, is becoming a lot more attractive. The key to this is the consultation that happens prior to any agreement. And this is key. In a market where consultants have always had a negative reputation, it’s interesting to see the role they are playing in driving convergence. Because of their expanding product suites, consultants now have a wide range of themes to discuss with their prospects, and more importantly, a wider range of solutions to offer them.

We’ve come a long way since the start of the noughties. And with issues surrounding convergence and virtualisation still unresolved, have a long way to go. To throw my 2pence into the mix, I still think that there is a lot of mileage yet, as ISP’s start to turn into utilities companies through their offering’s and pricing structures. So much to look forward to!

A quick update on Cloud Computing…

UBS logo
Image via Wikipedia

Came across this article in Reuters stating that in a survery conducted with leading CIO‘s in both Europe and the US by UBS, they expect to spend 2% less on their IT systems. However, in contradiction to my article yesterday, it goes on to state that based on their findings, there will be a slowdown in the sales of virtualisation software by roughly 6%, down from a 10% growth in 2008.

I found this quite surprising. The survey by UBS concluded that “This may suggest that while virtualisation is a trend that is no doubt here to stay, it still does not have the collective mindshare as many might think.”

There can be many reasons why leading CIO’s may not see virtualisation as a prominent sector in 2009. However, if we look at the report in a bit more detail, there are clues as to why these opinions exist. The report did not ‘expose’ the CIO’s who took part in the survey. However, revenues of companies involved in the survey “ranged from $2 billion to more than $10 billion annually and they represented industries ranging from communications to healthcare to utilities”.

Personally, I agree with GigaOm, who also suggest that virtualisation will be something that will be extremely popular among SME‘s’ and smaller corporate entities, as they will see more benefit in moving to a more centralised method of computing. As sighted yesterday, there are still many privacy and security issues to be tackled for virtualsiation to be seen as a defacto method of choice among large conglomerates, and it may be due to this that they are still timid about getting on board.

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The advent of Cloud Computing…

Partial map of the Internet based on the Janua...
Image via Wikipedia

Working for an Internet Service Provider, it is imperative we understand the requirements of our clients. Why do they need low contention? How is resilience going to benefit them? Why are they trying to reduce their Capex? These are all issues that are prevalent in this day and age, as IT Managers/Directors try and increase the efficiency of their WAN solutions without exploding their budget. One method of doing just that, which I feel will be a big market for ISP’s in 2009 is the general shift to Cloud Computing.

First of, what is Cloud Computing? Well there are various definitions of it, however, generally it is the means by which an individual or company moves their IT portfolio into the cloud. Why cloud? Well if you’re an old-school comms person, then the ‘cloud’ was the symbol which denotes the Internet. Another term for Cloud Computing is virtualisation, as you are moving into a virtual environment. Now the term itself is extremely general, as already there are many different ‘versions’ of cloud computing. The Register recently ran a workshop, where they broke down cloud computing into more specific areas; software as a service, utility computing and onlin

e platform provision. All offering different services to the end user within the cloud.

Lets not kid ourselves. Virtualisation has been around for years in various guises. However, its popularity is suddenly beginning to rise as internet users require more bandwidth, security and processing power. However, how does this effect ISP’s?

As more and more companies move to hosted environments, it becomes more and more imperative that they have robust stable connectivity to be able to access their business critical applications 24/7. This can be shown in the rise in attractiveness of virtual network operators and the use in data centres. One method of connectivity that is becoming more attractive to end users is Leased lines via fibre, which is markedly cheaper than it was a few years ago. However, still there are lengthy time delays, spiralling hidden costs and complicated installs associated with true leased lines. So what is the solution?

Step forward ADSL2+. Although BT has been traditionally late to the party with their deployment, many incumbents such as O2/Be, Tiscali and Cable and Wireless have been offering ADSL2+ products for the best part of 3 years. And although BT are finally getting their act together with the roll out of their 21CN, many operators have already got such a head start with the diversity of their product portfolios that it will be hard for BT to catch up. I don’t usually praise the government, but if there is one thing that we should give them credit for, it is the deregulation of the telecomms industry. As without doubt, the number of innovative solutions now available is testament to that policy change.

Without blowing our own trumpet too much, Fluidata is a prime example. Not only have we been offering ADSL2+ for the best part of 2 years, but we also standardise on the AnnexM variant, meaning more bandwidth on the upstream. Perfect for applications such as video conferencing and VOIP. With national coverage of 1200 exchanges and growing, this already out-does BT’s own 21CN, and by their own admittance, they will not have this number of exchanges ready until at the earliest least 2010. Because of the knowledge and experience we have of using AnnexM, we’ve been able to manipulate it to provide a synchronous solution, comparative to SDSL, but more robust and at a cheaper cost to end users.

However, the area in which we’ve been particularly unique in has been deploying a true bonded solution, comprising carrier resilience, true aggregation at the IP level and low contention. Different from bonded solutions, we’re unique in being able to offer high amounts of bandwidth with 1IP address/range and one termination unit, unlike others who provide up to 4 routers and then a bonding ‘device’. This has proved to be ideal for people who need the functionality of a leased line without the costs involved. Also ideal for FD’s who need to reduce their Capex. And more importantly, it has proved to be very attractive for those looking to move into the cloud.

There are still a number of issues that fully need to be addressed with Cloud Computing. Will my data be secure? How will I be invoiced for it? How much control will I have over the underlying infrastructure? What happens if the DC goes bust? As yet, no one has definite answers for the above, and it may be some time until someone does. However, what can firmly be said is that finally there are a number of cost effective robust solutions, enabling one to connect to a hosted server. And while that underlying structure remains, I am sure that the uptake in virtualisation and Cloud Computing will continue.

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