Monday, December 10, 2007

Cisco releases the VSS 1440

Cisco released the Cisco VSS 1440 which, for those who are not in the know, is a pretty big deal. It is very apparent now that Cisco is moving more and more in the direction of virtualization for their platforms and in supporting virtual environments. I think this is a very good development and will bring about a whole new series of product innovations for the company.
This platform and the 3750E series platforms are now going to become the primary methods that data centers connect in a high available and redundant fashion large scale VMware VI3 deployments. The technology is well aligned and from a design and deployment standpoint you couldn't ask for much more. I hope they will add support soon for some of the service modules soon which would make this solution an absolute powerhouse. I am sure that is coming so I would have to say this puts Cisco back up on the pay attention list.
On a side note - it does appear that Cisco is trying much harder on the UC front with the release of Microsoft's OCS 2007 product. I hope they push even harder to innovate and get more robust client solutions out there for the UC platforms.
- Ed

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Microsoft OCS 2007 Launch

I attended the launch event last week and I have been thinking over what I really wanted to say about OCS. First, I think it is very cool product (Kudos to the team). Second, I think Microsoft is not marketing it correctly in the Enterprise space. Third, they have definately gotten Cisco's attention (I think I ran into more Cisco folks I know at the event then Microsoft folks if you can believe that.) Fourth, the guitar opening for the keynote was lame.

Ok, so, to my points. If you haven't played with OCS 2007 you should. I think the new MOC and presence features that they have put into this platform are very cool. If you are looking for a great presence and collaboration tool this should be on your list without a question.

Microsoft has been delivering a message of VoIP as you are (which just makes me think of a Nirvana song) and the majority of their published presentations on the topic of QoS is to say it is more important to deal with Quality of Experience (QoE.) They have taken the approach of Skype and Live Meeting and are utilizing a wideband codec that is very good at delivering high fidelity audio over questionable networks (think the unknown of the Internet.) Their argument is that if you design for the potential loss and latency you commonly see on the Internet then the product will perform just fine in a corporate enterprise environment. They have tailored their design philosophy this way and therefore they arrive at the QoE argument. They are not concerned with what the network is doing with QoS, they argue that the advances in the wideband codec handle those issues in almost all cases. They do request that you add bandwidth but they are saying do not bother to design QoS into the network at all.

Well, here is where I think they are missing the mark. Most enterprises UNDER provision in networks - especially on WAN's. No one ever gets praised for increasing a companies monthly recurring costs so for many enterprises adding more bandwidth is a very expensive proposition. In addition, many utilize QoS to prioritize line of business applications, data backup, replication, database functions, citrix and lots of other network traffic due to the limitations. They are willing to keeps costs in check and build a more measured approach to controlling their costs relative to what all their application needs are. With voice and video, they are simply another application riding on top of IP and therefore should be designed and accounted for in the same way. I think Microsoft is missing the main point for the enterprise, they need to redo what they are telling partners and customers about the best strategy for deploying because they have not accounted for the fact that for many companies they don't have a WAN that has unlimited BW potential. Perhaps they could argue that no one should get a WAN and that all infrastructure should run on the Internet since getting a relatively large pipe to the Internet is cheap - there may be something to that but we don't have room to talk about that now.

Since I work for a company that is both a Cisco Premier Partner and a Microsoft Certified Partner (plus others) it is interesting seeing the shake up at Cisco about what Microsoft is doing. I think Cisco is in an interesting position of having a much more mature and stable platform but one that is modeled in many ways on a traditional voice PBX. Microsoft has really stepped out of that model and is shaking things up. They are a long way away from having the feature sets and robustness that Cisco has today but some of the features that Microsoft has out in a 1.0 product is very impressive.

Well, more thoughts later but that gets the first wave done.
- Ed

Monday, September 10, 2007

VMware ESX Server 3i - the gauntlet has been thrown down

I managed to attend Partner Day for VMware's annual conference VMworld and the announcement of ESX Server 3i is just huge. The fact they they have gotten a full hardware integrated hypervisor built out on standard Intel platforms will be a massive blow to other players out there. I think what is more remarkable is the fact that it is only 32MB in size and they have Dell, HP, IBM.
To top it all out they released Site Recovery Manager and a new release of management for VDI and a new version of ACE. While Xen is still moving forward on product and I am sure will have some interesting things to show off once the integration is done with the Citrix folks they are still behind what VMware is doing. Microsoft isn't even on the roadmap, which I think is a real shame since they have such a strong Server OS product line. It might be time for Microsoft to just buy Citrix and get it over with.
- Ed

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cricket Liu

Cricket presented at the last PacITPros meeting in San Francisco and if you were lucky enough to attend it you got to see a great presentation on DNS. Cricket works for Infoblox but his presentation was great for anyone to hear since it really does apply to anyone running a robust DNS infrastructure.
Best part was he was kind enough to sign my second ed. DNS and BIND book. We should have his presentation posted up on PacITPros soon.
- Ed

Monday, July 16, 2007

Apple iPhone update

It appears I am not alone in my feeling regarding the Apple iPhone. Check out this article over at the Register. I think it says a lot about some of the difference between those that are using it from a consumer level and those that look at things from a business utility point of view. Like I said before - they are nuts to think EDGE would be a good solution for this device.
So - who else has returned their iPhone? Anyone else frustrated with the hardware limitation? This $500+ phone has no extended battery option, no option to replace the battery yourself at all for that matter, limited headset compatibility due to a design flaw, no option to expand the storage with Micro SD or any other cheap and available storage, and the list goes on and on.
Honestly, am I super happy with my Windows Mobile 5 phone? - no. Do I think the hardware vendors have a log way to go? - yes.
That being said, at least I have some options when it comes to my current phone. I am still bitter at Verizon and CDMA in general for not doing the smart thing and using sim-cards like all the GSM phones do. It slows the release of handsets for both Verizon and Sprint plus it limits the option for upgrading the phone quickly (like not having to call customer service.)
- Ed

Update (again): Well, it appears that the iPhone isn't enterprise network ready either. Here is an interesting article at Network World about the iPhone killing the Duke University wireless network. Hope Apple can fix this issue before it starts plaguing us all. Plus, the review over at The Gadgeteer makes a good point. The iPhone is a feature phone, not a smart phone, seems to be the case from what I am reading.

Update July 30,2007 (again...): There have been corrections to the iPhone on Duke's network, I've been lazy and not posted them, which isn't too fair. Michael Swan has the link posted in the comments on this entry. At least Cisco fixed their issue, but it still makes me wonder what else awaits us with the iPhone. I've seen some reviews that say the performance on edge is very good and others that seem very disappointed with it. Honestly, I am not willing to part ways with $500 to find out for myself.
- Ed

Sunday, July 01, 2007

MVP status

Well, it seems that I have been renewed for another year as a Microsoft MVP. I honestly didn't know what to expect this year as so many of the MVP's I do know didn't get renewed. Thanks to PacITPros (SFNTUG, TVNUG and EBCUG). Without them I would not qualify at all so a big shout out to all those who are members of those user groups.
- Ed

Friday, June 29, 2007

Apple iPhone - yeah yeah, whatever

OK, I think the folks camping out and waiting for a new iPhone are nuts. I understand the desire for a device but even Steve Jobs admits that surfing the web on the AT&T Edge network is horrible. I am still amazed that they released this product running on the old Edge network. I think people will be kicking themselves when Apple releases the next version of the phone in 6 mo. time that is running on the newer 3g stuff. Apple has been known to do that sort of thing in the past, I wouldn't be surprised if they did it here. Somehow saying that wifi will fill in the void really isn't good enough and sort of slights the vision of having good mobile communications everywhere.
I am the first to admit that Apple builds very sexy products that are remarkably consumer friendly. At the same time, regardless of the vendor, I do expect them to move the bar forward, not backwards, which is what Apple is doing by deploying on Edge.
I'll stick to my Verizon EVDO service for now...
- Ed

Friday, May 25, 2007

Ubuntu, VMware, Windows - the ultimate laptop?

OK, for work I have a new Lenovo T60 (IBM Thinkpad) 15.4" widescreen with 60GB HD, 3GB of RAM and an Intel Core2 T7200 chip at 2.0Ghz. Needless to say, it is a very nice laptop. So, the question is, what do I run on it? Normally this would never come up, install Windows Vista and be done with it. But two of my colleagues run Ubuntu and I felt it was time to learn something new again. So, I have Ubuntu up and running (7.04 - feisty) and I have installed VMware Workstation 6.0 on it. I have built a VM for Windows XP Pro and will be building another for Windows Vista (I am thinking of doing Windows Server 2003 also).
At this point I have gotten everything working that I expected. I have been very impressed with the performance and ease of use of Ubuntu and how robust the feature are compared with Windows.
There are still a ton of special apps I need on Windows but that is the point of the VM - I don't have to give it up yet. Also, I get to run XP in a full sized window on one screen while still being able to switch screens to my Linux environment.
I think for a lot of folks it is time to check out some of the Linux distros again and see if one works for you. They have gotten more and more desktop friendly and the ease of upgrade and management is very remarkable (especially in light of what it was at a few years ago).
Hope everyone has a great Memorial Day weekend - my hats off to all those who have served our country.
- Ed

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Microsoft Longhorn Beta 3

For those that want to see what is going on in the server side check out the beta 3 release. It is available here: Longhorn Beta 3
What is odd is that new releases like OCS 2007 haven't been platform tested against Longhorn yet even though beta 3 is an overkill for Longhorn. I haven't been hearing the sort of buzz about Longhorn as I have about Exchange 2007, Vista and Office 2007 - I guess server OS features just aren't that exciting to talk about anymore? With any luck they will get Longhorm out to an RC and RTM prior to the end of the year - then all the IT Pro's can spend their holiday season installing a new server OS!
- Ed

Microsoft Office Communications Server 2007 Beta

The Beta for OCS 2007 is out and I just got done attending a two day long hands on lab in San Francisco going over all the feature and functions and getting them up and running. I must admit I am impressed with some of the integration and work that Microsoft has put into this product. Granted the list of missing features is big ( there is nothing on the roadmap today to support the concept of a stand alone device that has no user associated with it - like a phone in a common lobby area or kitchen, voice paging, music on hold, and some other standard telephony items) but some shops will be willing to work around those issues to get the rich environment that Microsoft is pushing.
You can get the beta software here: The Power of Unified
So, what is Cisco going to do with their presence solution now is the real question. I honestly think Microsoft entering the game will help push along funding and research within Cisco which is a good thing. While Cisco has been interested in UC presence + voice it hasn't done the sort of serious push behind it that other Cisco products have had as of late. It deserves more attention and investment IMHO.
To top it all off I have already been asked a bunch about Exchange 2007 UM and OCS 2007 integration vs Cisco Call Manager and Unity + CUPS. Plus, some folks are considering doing some weird hybrid approaches or small test deployments. For those VAR's and partners who don't know both sides of the fence (Cisco and Microsoft) they will see their business value erode due to lack of technical knowledge. Hate to say it but I am going to have to brush up on all my Microsoft Exchange skill sets again!
- Ed

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Cisco introduces a new partner level

It is the first time in 10 years or so that Cisco has changed the partner levels. It used to be:
Gold, Silver, Premier, Registered - with only the Gold, Silver and Premier actually requiring the registered partner to pass exams and meet certification requirements.
Well, they have introduced the new partner level as Select and it is below Premier and above the generic Registered (pretty much anyone can become a Registered Partner). So now there are five levels which go like:
Gold, Silver, Premier, Select and Registered. The new Select Partner level is specifically targeted at the partners going after the SMB market. It is also the only partner level where all the requirements can be fullfilled by one person (they can be both the Account Manager and Engineer) meaning there are going to be a whole lot of one man shops opening up soon.
I don't know what impact this is going to have on the Premier partner groups yet but my initial feeling is that I don't really like it. Gold and Silver are far enough removed that this isn't much of a factor for them but the Premier status has much more requirements and specializations but doesn't appear to be that much more value in Cisco's positioning as of now. Guess we will have to wait and see if they plan any changes in that.
- Ed

MVP awards - some bad news

I just found out that Scot Mehl and Doug Spindler did not get renewed for their MVP's from Microsoft. I have to be frank and say that I am amazed they did not get renewed. Scot runs the Tri-Valley Network User's Group (TVNUG) and gives a ton of time to make stuff happen from the user group level.
As for Doug not getting it - I am speechless. Doug is a legend in the user group community of IT Professionals. He single handily does more for the IT Pro user groups in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond then anyone I have meet or heard of in my many years of being involved in user groups myself. I think Microsoft has made a HUGE mistake. Perhaps they are just tired of hearing from Doug about issues they fail to address year after year after year. Perhaps it has finally gotten personal? Who knows. Either way, I can't not help but express my true disappointment that Doug is no longer an MVP. Pacific IT Professionals will be worse off because of it.
- Ed

Thoughts on Microsoft's vs Cisco's efforts in Unified Communications

Well, one of the cool things I got to do while up at the Microsoft MVP Summit was sneak over to the UC presentations going on about OCS 2007. Microsoft is up to some interesting stuff (Shell Oil seems to be really interested) but I am frustrated with Microsoft's lack of understanding on some fundamentals in the market they are trying to enter. Especially when compared to what Cisco is doing today - and has been doing for several years.
1. Lack of a reasonable QoS story. Effectively MS is telling folks QoS doesn't matter. While they have some interesting ideas behind some this they have completely failed to see the bigger issue with QoS. Sometimes Voice and their new wide band codec aren't the most important thing on the network - sometimes EDI or Credit Card transactions or Citrix traffic is far more important as a line of business application. QoS helps in making sure the performance and reliability are what the business actually want. To top it all off, the developers for Vista and Longhorn Server's networking stack did a HUGE amount of working in QoS. They even have a great new QoS solution called QWAVE that they could leverage but it seems the business units aren't talking to each other at all.
2. Client only SIP solution! I know they plan on "fixing" this but honestly, to not have a SIP Trunk solution working already is nuts. They are automatically dependant on existing SIP Gateways out there like...jeez Cisco's?!? or Nortel (snicker) or Avaya (please!). It is a "half" solution at best. Fun to test trial in a lab - nothing you would run your business on full time, it just isn't there.
3. Requirements to upgrade all your MS infrastructure (or close to it) to gain the benefits of UC. Cisco's solution today can work with all your existing platforms so your investment isn't wasted on upgrading other systems in addition to spending money to get UC. They have to have a backward support story or they are going to have serious issues.
4. A real lack of partner community building tools and reporting engines around the product. Real enterprise companies need reports on call volume, who called and how much it is costing them and those tools aren't really there in the way most folks are used to having them in the industry.
5. No call center solution. This one is huge. Even the small environments we support have a small amount of call queuing and call flow control. Often small businesses run their own support and sales groups and that really requires a robust small call center solution. On the larger scale enterprise market this is a requirement and not an option. Perhaps Microsoft plans to use a third party solution but I don't see anything as seasoned as what Cisco has today.
6. Lack of options in handset for clients. This doesn't seem like a big deal until you actually spend some time dealing with clients and their specific needs. Even Cisco until recently has had issues in this area.

All this being said, I must admit I am very excited and interested in what Microsoft is doing. As we all know, after the third release they typically have something pretty cool. Get ready to see more Microsoft partners and Cisco partners going head to head on UC deals. Things are going to get heated in the coming months.
- Ed

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Microsoft MVP Summit starts Monday

Well, this is my second year going. Hopefully I will be able to hear in depth what Microsoft has planned in the Unified Communications, Networking and Security spaces. This year Scot Mehl is going along with Doug Spindlier and hopeful I will see Mike Pennacchi also. With any luck I will run into a few folks from the last one and such.
Anyway, I will post some interesting info on stuff we are allowed to publish and hint around the rest.
- Ed

Friday, February 23, 2007

Cisco CME DST change

For all those folks running Cisco CallManager Express your life is relatively easy to do the Daylight Saving Time correction required. All you have to do on your router is:
clock summer-time PDT recurring 2 sun mar 02:00 1 sun nov 02:00

of course, this is assuming you are on Pacific Standard Time and you already have configured:
clock timezone PST -8

It is useful if you are using a public NTP site (with permission) to get UTC so you have an accurate time source. Take a look at:
It is a list of NTP servers that are stratum 2 and it lists the acceptable use requirements also.

Oh, if you have newer IOS releases don't be surprised to see the command revert back to:
clock summer-time PDT recurring
Seems that Cisco made the adjustment in 12.4(9)T or so - you can get the details at cisco's website

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Cisco and Apple - what is going on?

Ok, this is strictly a personal observation and it has no merit in the technical sense.
Why is Steve Jobs' so stubborn? Cisco is a $175+ Billion company and Apple is at best a $80 Billion company - I guess that doesn't matter to much but I think the perception is that Cisco is MUCH bigger then Apple. Cisco is NOT known for suing anyone, if anything, it takes a lot to get them to sue you. The last big lawsuit I remember is Cisco suing Huawei and they settled that out of court which only re-enforces my point.
I think Apple has missed a huge opportunity to get on board with what Cisco is doing in the home networking space. It is not like they are tied to an operating system at all. Their products are deployed on about every OS out there due to Cisco non-stop acquisitions. If anything, Cisco has become more *nix friendly in the last few years.
Who else would be better to have a loose partnership with then Cisco for the Apple folks? I fail to see why Apple refused to license something that was so obviously in the licensing domain of Cisco. I am starting to think that a lot of the "free" as in free beer folks are right on trademark, copyright and other issues.
- Ed

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Cisco acquires IronPort

Happy New Year - its the year of the boar!
OK, I understand that Cisco wants to build a nice ecosystem around NAC and the service offering it can provide but I think it is a mistake to pick up some of the technology that could have built a better partner ecosystem rather then this approach. Cisco and IronPort seems to be an OK match but not a great one. Considering how many good player are out there in the Anti-Spam, Anti-Phishing marketing I think this was a short sighted purchase.
Well, Cisco seems to be on the buying spree again - lets hope it doesn't turn into a hog...
- Ed