Blog archive - March 2012
Use the blog to discuss and comment on the latest industry insights provided by our analyst experts.
by Rob Arnold 30 Mar 2012
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Now that Enterprise Connect has come and gone, I’m comparing notes with other attendees and fielding inquiries from colleagues and clients alike about my thoughts on the UC market’s biggest showcase event. A couple of years ago, the then-called VoiceCon event was aptly renamed Enterprise Connect as it became obvious that the enterprise communications market had evolved to become an ecosystem of integrated technologies spanning voice, data/text-based, and video applications of both the communications and business software. As usual, my Enterprise Connect schedule, as well as those of my colleagues and everyone I met with, was extremely packed. There was so much to see, many new announcements, and yet it seemed, so little time. The exhibition floor was a flurry of activity, with flashing lights, and boisterous as well as polite spokespeople competing for attention. Crowds gathered at the booths of the usual suspects, while other exhibitors enjoyed a more even flow of visitors. In no particular order, here’s what stood out to me: Video applications continued to rank among the hottest topics. Cisco, Avaya, GlowPoint, Vidyo, RADVISION, LifeSize, Polycom, Logitech and others all either unveiled new solutions or showcased their most recently introduced visual communications solutions. Common threads here were enhancing the user experience, improved interoperability as well as reducing the costs and complexity that have traditionally hampered adoption. Customers have raised these same concerns for years. Obviously, developers are listening. Cloud appears to gain momentum by the day. Avaya, Siemens Enterprise Communications, Sprint, NEC, 8x8, and ShoreTel were highlights among many cloud-centered discussions as these providers articulated their latest initiatives to make UC&C solutions more flexible, reliable, feature-rich and cost-effective options for customers. However, conversations in session tracks and numerous panels served to remind us that real-time applications served up from the cloud still need further development and maturity before many customers are ready to offload their mission-critical services to the cloud. Demoing the latest UC clients, whether desktop, Web-based or mobile, pervaded the early part of my schedule. Representatives from Aastra, ALU, Cisco, Siemens Enterprise, Avaya and others readily drove me through their respective next-gen interfaces. It soon became clear that UC developers are still in competition to deliver the most intuitive interfaces while packing in the most features. And getting my hands on the latest devices from Logitech, snom, Plantronics, Digium, Jabra, Yealink, Sennheiser, RTX, ClearOne, and others reinforced my belief that endpoints remain pivotal to UC adoption, utilization and ROI, as it is the end point that connects a user to his/her applications and where the user experience begins. Now that the value proposition of network convergence is widely understood and proven, business process integration has finally emerged as the next powerful driver for UC&C. Customers can appreciate the elegance of a UC client from which a long list of comms apps can be accessed. However, customers are looking for solutions that deliver real business value that can be measured with metrics that matter to them. UC&C is manifesting itself as a means to streamline and otherwise reduce latency in business processes and workflows—a promise that resonates with any enterprise decision maker or influencer. Nearly all the booths I visited (with Microsoft, Thrupoint, Siemens Enterprise Communications, Avaya, Interactive Intelligence, Cisco, ShoreTel, and Genesys coming to mind) displayed a solution in which communications features (presence/IM, click-to-call/IM/video) were exposed within business applications (e-mail, CRM, ERP, etc), thereby enabling users to remain in their current working environment while collaborating with others. VoiceCon may now be Enterprise Connect, but connectivity and networking have not diminished as talking points at the show. Discussions of enterprise SBCs, multi-vendor interop, reliability, next-gen connectivity and enabling cloud solutions have only served to brighten the spotlight for providers delivering the often-overlooked essentials of UC&C architectures. Accordingly NET, ADTRAN, Acme Packet, AudioCodes, HP and others appropriately leveraged Enterprise Connect to announce and showcase their latest and greatest developments. There were sessions, demos and discussions on social business, yet it was notably much quieter on this front than it was last year. Yes, BYOD took a head seat at the table of many discussions. Developers are trying hard to help, and to capitalize. Despite these efforts it is obvious that most enterprises are struggling with the phenomenon, and this raises my last topic. One of the most valuable things for me was the opportunity to listen and talk to all types of customers. We know that sponsors carefully screen the reference customers that they invite to speak publically. It’s always good to hear the positive things that they say about their chosen technology partners. It’s rare that customers raise strong concerns when asked to evangelize for their provider. This year was notably different in that regard. Customers I interacted with were seemingly more candid than in the past. Perhaps it is because they realize they have options to go elsewhere if needed. Product viability was a concern raised by customers several times, as was help with managing BYOD, moving to the cloud or optimizing their investments in video solutions. I’ve long thought that UC&C requires a much more consultative approach and a more tightly knit customer-developer relationship compared to siloed product deployments. It looks like that has not changed, despite the progression of technology itself. Rather, some of the talking points have shifted. This is only a partial diary of my time at Enterprise Connect this year. I’m still digesting everything I’ve learned. After I’ve settled back in at my desk for a few days I’ll probably begin to look forward to the hustle and bustle of next year’s show.
by Francisco Rizzo 19 Mar 2012
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Last Friday the iPad 3 was made commercially available to the world and it is incredible to think that just 24 months ago the original iPad first appeared. One could say that the tablet gold rush is a contemporary phenomenon; however, the tablet—as we know it today—is the result of countless prototypes and commercial blunders of more primitive technologies. While the success of the modern tablet is attributed in large part to Apple’s proven marketing strategy and product excellence, I would add that the underlying technologies that define the tablet experience were not ripe until recently. If we are to reflect on the pre-iPad world, we must keep in mind that iPad’s predecessors were very different from what we have come to expect from contemporary tablet devices. The modern tablet is the offspring of personal digital assistants (e.g., Palm-Pilot), and the graphics tablets that began to appear in the early 1980s (e.g., Pencept Penpad). These technologies influenced the modern tablet concept—through form factor and functionality—and should be recognized on this date. It is also worth mentioning that before there were consumer tablets, enterprises were making use of professional tablets that were purposely designed for different vertical markets. These were cumbersome, limited in functionality—no web browser and application store—and costly, making them a niche product. These enterprise-centric products are still around today; however, the ubiquity of the iPad and its contemporaries (e.g., Android-based tablets and the RIM PlayBook) is forcing professional tablet vendors to rethink their product strategy. Consumer tablets have the peculiarity that they were influenced by professional tablets, and due to their commercial success and broad range of functionalities, have made their way into the enterprise space. Today, we see personally-owned tablets being used by workers across the globe and this is resulting in a paradigm shift within enterprises, particularly within IT departments. Support for bring-your-own-device (BYOD) is the latest trend to hit the ICT world, and this is a direct consequence of the proliferation of tablets and smartphones. The tablet market is a cash cow in the making. Not only are tablets here to stay, their versatility allows them to be used in almost any enterprise setting. This means that the tablet market will create new markets, making this the opportunity of a lifetime for many ICT vendors. The other side of the coin is that the tablet will destroy pre-existing markets; however, many would say this is the price to pay for progress. Happy birthday iPad 3, we expect great things from you.
by Roopam Jain 15 Mar 2012
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Avaya-Radvision acquisition rumors have been flying for months so it was barely a surprise when Avaya finally pulled the trigger and announced this morning that it is buying Radvision for $230 million. Avaya is paying about three times Radvision’s annual sales of $78 million in 2011. We see this as a technology acquisition that was a long time in the making after Avaya’s competition has clearly entrenched itself in the videoconferencing market. Avaya offers a full portfolio of UC products but has been lacking in what is one of the fastest growing collaboration markets today – videoconferencing. Particularly after Cisco’s acquisition of Tandberg and Microsoft’s acquisition of Skype, Avaya was placed in a position where it was missing a key piece of the collaboration puzzle. While Avaya has been selling partner solutions from LifeSize and Polycom and offers its own desktop video solutions, this move places it in the middle of all the action in a multi-billion dollar enterprise videoconferencing space which grew at 22% in 2011, according to Frost & Sullivan’s latest research. Radvision in return will get a new home that it desperately needed after Cisco’s acquisition of Tandberg resulted in fallout for its OEM partnership, which at one point accounted for a whopping 35 to 40 percent of its revenues. Having followed Radvision for years now, I had long ago reached the conclusion that its strength lies in its engineering and a well rounded product line but it could only go so far without a strong marketing and distribution channel backbone. With a fledgling channel strategy, particularly in North America, Radvision remains a distant player to market leaders Cisco and Polycom. In fact in recent years Radvision has been surpassed by stronger and relatively newer companies like Vidyo (co-founded and led by ex-Radvision Ofer Shapiro) and LifeSize and fast growing APAC vendors like Huawei. What Radvision lacked in marketing acumen and reach can now be made up by Avaya with its established UC channel network as well as a strong DevConnect community, Avaya’s developer ecosystem. Radvision offers a full suite of videoconferencing endpoints and infrastructure products for room-based, desktop and mobile video applications. From a product line perspective, the acquisition will be complementary with little overlap. - Radvision’s Scopia videoconferencing products will enhance Avaya’s core UC capabilities integrating into the Aura architecture, allowing single user experience for multimodal communications over multiple media endpoints. - Avaya will also gain a platform in mobile video in a market that has been transformed by the strong emergence of video over tablets and smartphones. Radvision’s Scopia Mobile platform offers HD videoconferencing over iPhones and iPads and could add capabilities to Avaya’s Flare experience. Scopia Mobile is not available on Android yet. Avaya had originally introduced Flare over Android OS and recently extended it to iPad. Combined, these two solutions could open up interesting possibilities for a wide array of 3rd party mobile video apps. - Radvision’s recent products have been particularly targeted at the SMB space which will provide inroads to Avaya to penetrate new segments. - The acquisition will also offer Avaya opportunities in Europe where Radvision’s acquisition of Aethra has resulted in established channels and rapidly developing partnerships with leading service providers. According to our latest research, Radvision holds a market share of 2.2% of a $2.7 billion videoconferencing endpoints and infrastructure systems market. While Avaya is not gaining a significant market player like Cisco did with the Tandberg and WebEx acquisitions, this move is strategic to Avaya. It makes Avaya a serious contender in the end-to-end collaboration markets where it can now offer a complete solution to its customers. It would be interesting to see if other UC vendors that do not yet own the videoconferencing piece will follow suit and move from a partner-friendly approach to a more self sufficient collaboration strategy. Anyone who uses videoconferencing today knows that the technology continues to face interoperability challenges. As a result, customers have shown a strong preference for end- to-end solutions from a single vendor. Both strategically as well as from a technology point of view, it places Avaya in a stronger position when competing head on with Cisco and Microsoft (which closely partners with Polycom for video). This is not a customer acquisition or a market share growth move by any means but a technology acquisition that will strengthen Avaya’s collaboration product portfolio. Moreover, as Avaya is preparing for its IPO, Radvision adds the highly valued video collaboration piece to its portfolio that positions it well in the eyes of investors. Avaya’s three phase integration plan- starting with basic integration between Avaya and Radvision’s SIP and H.323 stacks followed by tighter integration of Radvision products with Avaya Session Manager and Avaya Aura and finally full integration of user interfaces - will take several months. However, Avaya is known for its nimble execution when it comes to integrating acquired companies into its fold. The videoconferencing market, dominated today by Cisco and Polycom with a combined market share of over 75%, will have another large player to contend with. At the same time, Avaya has a challenging road ahead since both Cisco and Polycom have deep roots in videoconferencing through advanced product lines and strong channel and partner relations. Cisco announced this morning that it will buy NDS group for about $5 billion to accelerate its Videoscape platform. Cisco’s video vision in enterprise markets extends beyond videoconferencing to pervasive video through web presence, learning management systems, streaming, digital signage, surveillance, and video enabled smart boards. Bottom-line is that video collaboration in general is growing to become a key piece of business activities today. With the acquisition of Radvision, Avaya can further tighten its grip on the enterprise communications and collaboration market.
by Rob Arnold 08 Mar 2012
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Just before the turn of the New Year my colleague Roopam Jain (@Roopamjain) and I published a research report forecasting the adoption of software-based desktop videoconferencing among enterprise users. Login to read it here: Global Desktop Videoconferencing Market. For the purposes of this report, Frost & Sullivan defines desktop videoconferencing applications as those that utilize software clients provisioned to PC or Mac computers. Such solutions include desktop videoconferencing applications that are integrated with broader unified communications and Web conferencing software, and purpose-built solutions. Purpose-built desktop videoconferencing applications may leverage client-server architectures (optionally including gateways, MCUs or other infrastructure), or be implemented as software-based solutions. The scope did not include: Prosumer solutions, such as Skype; hardware-based endpoints such as executive videoconferencing endpoints, personal systems and video-enabled IP phones; or software clients provisioned to smartphones and tablets). All of these endpoints are covered in other Frost & Sullivan studies. Several dozen developers and service providers, and approximately 200 enterprise decision makers users (many of them as part of our annual UC&C investment decisions survey) contributed to our study. During the course of our interviews with leading developers a number of trends emerged. Mobile is huge. A majority of customers and prospects are seeking to improve collaboration with mobile staff, to circumvent or reduce infrastructure upgrade requirements, and to augment fixed desktop station equipment via videoconferencing solutions smartphones and tablets as endpoints. Scalable Video Coding (SVC) is being positioned as the panacea to reduce the bandwidth costs required to support real-time video communications solutions. However, there is still much work to be done in terms of SVC standards maturity and uniform adoption across different developers. HD is expanding the use cases for videoconferencing. Higher resolution not only enhances the user experience, but the crisper/clearer images greatly improve the reliability and accuracy of remote diagnosis, trouble-shooting, demonstrations, and more. There is increased demand for B2B capabilities as companies look to strengthen relationships and improve collaboration with customers and partners, as well as to increase utilization of their videoconferencing technology investments for faster ROI. Prosumer solutions (such as Skype, iChat, etc) are helping business users become more comfortable with videoconferencing. These experiences are helping to drive demand for more reliable, scalable and feature-rich solutions in the business place. Enterprise-grade applications delivered from the cloud hold great promise to lower the barriers of adoption. Reduced risk, upfront cost and ongoing management/maintenance responsibilities offered by cloud-based services alleviate many of the traditional restraints of videoconferencing deployment by enterprises. From a demand perspective we determined that the drivers and restraints vary to a certain degree by industry, size and location of the organization as well as its business culture and the demographics of its workforce. Overall, the top drivers for adoption are cost reduction (travel avoidance, carbon offsets, etc) and the need to improve collaboration among distributed staff. The overall primary restraints are the unclear ROI for many types of organizations and the network upgrades required to support real-time video communications. In our data collection we determined that purpose-built software clients account for only a small portion of the total installed base of desktop videoconferencing software clients. In fact, most business users today and in the future will access desktop videoconferencing as part of their web conferencing or unified communications solution. Takeaway: desktop videoconferencing is now and will continue to be an important component of broader, tightly integrated communications solutions.
by Jake Wengroff 02 Mar 2012
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This blogpost was first published on Social Media Today. ============================= Opened with much fanfare in December 2010, the Social Media Listening Command Center inside the Dell campus in Round Rock, Texas, of which I received a personalized tour last week, provided for an interesting peek inside the social media operations of one of the largest technology companies in the world. The social media initiative is parsed into three separate but related initiatives: S.O.S.: Social Operations and Service, which resolves nearly 2,000 customer service issues per week via social media, with an impressive 35% conversion rate. SMaC: Social Media and Community, which is the bulk of the team, providing social media guidance for the rest of the company primarily through certification and training of employees. Currently, 3,297 of Dell’s 103,300 employees are certified by ‘SMaC U’, or the Social Media and Community University that administers courses that provide guidance and oversight on utilizing social media on the job at Dell. Four courses are needed for certification. Command Center: The operation in which 12 full-time employees across the globe monitor real-time social data in 11 languages. But beyond the numbers -- I was feverishly trying to remember everything our tour guide, Amy, was saying, because there are no printed materials for the press -- I wanted to learn more about any changes, surprises, lessons learned, or insights which Dell has experienced in the year in which the company has operated the Social Media Center. In the tour, and then later through a meeting with Richard Binhammer, Dell’s Director of Social Media and Community, here’s what I came up with: Social media needs to be operationalized and pervasive. Besides the dedicated social media team, individual sales and product groups are encouraged to use social media -- to monitor what is being said on the social networks and also to be trained to officially communicate and represent the company socially. As such, no single department is completely responsible for social media at Dell. There is a central team which monitors activity, trains employees, and crunches data, but the entire company is encouraged to harness the medium to do their jobs better. Use a good monitoring vendor, but also create your own analytics mashup. Dell is proud of its social media listening and monitoring provider, Radian6, which clearly has one of the most scalable, robust products (and happens to be only one of 4 companies that subscribes to the entire Twitter firehose). However, even with a strong analytics partner, Dell admits that it had to build some proprietary software to track sentiment, especially as it drills down among consumer and various enterprise segments. Indeed, even for a social media operation the size of Dell’s, customization of monitoring software -- to glean unique insights -- is important. Sales are just one measure of ROI, but shouldn’t be the only thing tracked (or celebrated). One of my last questions of the day was asking Binhammer, ‘So, how’s @DellOutlet doing?’ I was referring to a wildly successful Twitter campaign in which it became known in social media circles that a single Twitter handle at a large, Fortune 500 corporation was solely responsible for millions of dollars in sales. This was close to 3 years ago, but I still remember Dell being the poster child for ‘social media ROI’ -- a company that could map hard dollars to social media. Rather than sounding as excited as I was, Binhammer quickly noted that measuring Twitter success as merely a ‘cash register’ is ill-advised; Twitter traffic also leads to heightened awareness and additional traffic back to the main Dell.com homepage, in addition to sales. With a more robust social media presence since 2009, and continued inventory swings at the Dell Outlet, the company has actually stopped tracking separate sales for the @DellOutlet Twitter handle. This clearly was refreshing for me, for as an analyst, as I am continually being asked to speak about social media ROI. If Dell, could see past pure sales figures as a measure of success -- and less than 30% of Dell’s revenues are from consumers -- then there is hope for other companies as well. I hope to return to Dell later on this year for additional social media insights. Stay tuned.