Take A Cookie

Joe Kraus writes:

“Opportunity creates opportunity”. It’s a big belief of mine. Events are connected in ways that you cannot anticipate. If event A leads to event B which leads to event C, it is rare that you can see directly from A to C. But, without doing A, you never get to C. What does it mean? Take a cookie when they’re passed. Take opportunities when they are presented. You never know where they will lead.

I am another one of those believers in (a) everything’s connected, and (b) everything happens for a good reason, even though one cannot immediately figure it out.

VoIP in the Enterprise

ACM Queue writes about the move to a new PBX architecture:

Moving to IP telephony over a converged network offers several important advantages over the traditional PBX approach, leading vendors to insist that IP telephony is the future and that virtually all PBX systems sold in coming years will use this new architecture.

Using the IP network to link IP-PBX components together gives an enterprise substantial flexibility in how a system can be configured. Remote locations can be incorporated into a single enterprise-wide communication system. Remote workers can have the same communications capabilities as those working in a headquarters facility. This can improve the communication capabilities within an enterprise, while lowering the total cost of system implementation and operation.

Software packages such as databases, SNMP (simple network management protocol) development environments, and Web servers are available on standard platforms. Thus, the communication system vendor can more easily integrate these components with the telephony application in an IP environment. This allows operators of the IP-PBX to use familiar tools (Web browsers, SNMP management interfaces, etc.) to operate the system, resulting in lower administrative costs.

The expectations of reliability for IP-PBXs will drive developments in the reliability and availability of the new architecture. Since an essential component of the new architecture is the IP network, improved diagnostic and network analysis tools will enable the quick diagnosis and repair of network problems impairing voice communications. Since security breaches will be able to disable both voice and data applications, techniques to protect critical business networks from denial-of-service and other attacks will be deployed. IP networks will become more resilient for all applications, not just communications.

Communication systems will take advantage of the new IP-based architecture by scaling larger and reaching farther. Even large enterprises will likely be able to implement a single communication system that ties all their employees together around the world.

Rich collaboration and video communication applications will merge with voice applicationsbecoming as easy to use and ubiquitous as traditional voice communications. Voice quality will no longer be tied to traditional network bandwidths; video room systems will provide stereo sound so listeners can locate talkers by position, improving audibility and liveness.

Audio capabilities will merge into PCs and into other mobile devices. No longer will mobile workers have to carry a tool belt of different communication devices.

We can expect such new capabilities to continue to drive the evolution from traditional PBX solutions to new, full-featured IP PBX models that will change the way businesses communicatedelivering greater productivity, cost savings, and mobility.

Lightweight Business Models

MarcCanter has posted the presentation he will be making at Web2.0. From the session description:

This session will cover two key approaches when developing web-based applications:

The first approach takes a user experience design point of view, looking at the underlying strategic advantages of keeping things simple, smaller, faster, lighter, iterative and flexible.

A second approach to building from an open standards point of view where lots of different developers can all contribute their own modules, functional blocks or components that all work together in a meshed together decentralized environment. By establishing open standards surrounding new kinds of micro-content, the same benefits weve seen from RSS and aggregators (and the blogosphere) – can be applied to people, events, media, reviews or listings.

Enterprise Software Opportunities

Ed Sim blogs about a talk by Chris Thomas, Intel’s EStrategist, on the future of software in the enterprise:

Chris’ view is that we are moving towards a service-oriented world, where enterprises can tap applications and resources on demand and on the fly…As we move into this world of SOAs, there will be tremendous opportunities for software investment as enterprises consolidate, modularlize, and virtualize their data centers. Chris highlighted the 5 buckets or themes that mattered to him:

1. Software and data delivered as services
2. Hardware as a virtualized resource
3. Autonomic data sources (RFID, tags, smart sensors)
4. Occasionally connected usage (Intel’s mobile theme)
5. Services cross firewalls (security)

Chris’ bottom line was that asynchronous XML messages are what makes this service-oriented world possible.

Glimpse of Broadband Wireless Future

Bob Cringely provides a view of a world that is coming to us:

Like many of us, Andrew Greig put a WiFi access point in his house so he could share his broadband Internet connection. But like hardly any of us, Andrew uses his WiFi network for Internet, television, and telephone. He cancelled his telephone line and cable TV service. Then his neighbors dropped-by, saw what Andrew had done, and they cancelled their telephone and cable TV services, too, many of them without having a wired broadband connection of their own. They get their service from Andrew, who added an inline amplifier and put a better antenna in his attic. Now most of Andrew’s neighborhood is watching digital TV with full PVR capability, making unmetered VoIP telephone calls, and downloading data at prodigious rates thanks to shared bandwidth. Is this the future of home communications and entertainment? It could be, five years from now, if Andrew Greig has anything to say about it.

The advantage Andrew Greig has over most of the rest of us is that he works for Starnix, an international Open Source software and services consultancy in Toronto, Canada. Starnix, which deals with huge corporate clients, has the brain power to get running what I described above. And it goes much further than that simple introduction.

Somewhere in Andrew’s house is a hefty Linux server running many applications, including an Asterisk Open Source VoIP software PBX. There is no desktop PC in Andrew’s house. Instead, he runs a Linux thin client on a Sharp Zaurus SL-6000 Linux PDA. Sitting in its cradle on Andrew’s desk at home, the Zaurus (running a special copy of Debian Linux, NOT as shipped by Sharp) connects to a full-size keyboard and VGA display, and runs applications on the server. Another cradle, monitor and keyboard are at Andrew’s office, where he also doesn’t have a PC. Walking around in his house, the Zaurus (equipped with a tri-mode communications card) is a WiFi VoIP phone running through the Asterisk PBX and connecting to the Vonage VoIP network. Walking out of his house, the Zaurus automatically converts to the local mobile phone carrier, though with a data connection that still runs back through Vonage. At Starbucks, it’s a Wifi Vonage phone. At Andrew’s office, it is a WiFi extension to the office Asterisk PBX AND to Andrew’s home PBX. That’s one PDA doing the job of two desktop PCs, a notebook PC, and three telephones.

Yeah, but what about that wireless TV? How does that work? Andrew’s server runs Myth TV, an Open Source digital video recorder application, storing on disk in MPEG-4 format (1.5-2 megabits-per-second) more than 30,000 TV episodes, movies and MP3 music files. “As each new user comes online, I add another TV card to the system so they can watch live TV,” says Andrew, “but since there are only so many episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, nearly everything that isn’t news or sports is typically served from disk with full ability to jump forward or back at will. We’ve reached the point now where the PVR has so much in storage already that it is set to simply record anything that isn’t already on disk.”

Content Platforms

Richard MacManus writes about his platforms for reading and writing web content. “It proves, to me, how far I’ve travelled in the Microcontent world. The Internet is indeed a platform for my reading and writing and there’s no longer just one ‘place’ for it all. So to answer my own question at the beginning of this post – no I’m not worried about distributing my content to different places. I used to be, but not any more. Andrew said that he’s outsourced his memory to the Internet – and I can relate to that. The Internet is where my content lives now.”

TECH TALK: The Network Computer: The World Today

As an idea, the network computer idea has been around with us for us for long. Its first manifestation was in the form of dumb terminals connecting to mainframes. It persisted with the use of the minicomputers. Then, came a paradigm shift with desktop computing all that the users needed was available locally to them. The desktop computers have driven the various cycles of computing since then, resulting in about 700 million users worldwide.

The idea of a computer connected and dependent on a centralised platform came back into vogue with the emergence of the Internet and web browser. Since Sun talked about the network as the computer and Oracles Larry Ellison touted the network computer, not much has changed for the most part, we still continue to buy and use desktop computers.

But there are now a few factors which could finally see the emergence of the network computer.

As a Business Week story put it recently, techs future is increasingly going to be dictated by the users in the developing countries. This is where the next billion users of technology are going to come from. For these users, affordability and simplicity are key requirements. The PC, with its dollar-denominated components, remains expensive for the significant majority of potential users in the developing countries. In addition, even after all these years, the desktop computer remains a complex device to master. For all practical purposes, the PC remains a developed market solution with a limited reach in the top of the pyramid of the developing countries.

The availability of high-speed, always-on communications networks is the second differentiating factor in todays world. Through a mix of broadband and wireless technologies, connectivity is increasingly becoming ubiquitous. Even in countries like India, data networks are pervasive Reliance Infocomm has enveloped hundreds of cities and towns with its CDMA data networks offering speeds of up to 144 Kbps. The telcos and cable operators are responding with the promise of broadband via their networks. Mumbai has started seeing ads promising broadband for as little as Rs 240 ($5) per month. Even though what is really on offer is always-on narrowband (128-256 Kbps) with limits on data downloads, this is a good start.

The third factor which is favourable for network computing is the availability of open-source software. The likes of Google, Yahoo, eBay and Amazon are Internet-scale platforms which have demonstrated the use of open-source software to build a massive digital infrastructure for their services.

So, a mix of a shift in markets and consumer needs, combined with the availability of networks and open-source software, is creating the environment for the (re)-birth of the network computer. Technologys next users in the worlds emerging markets, who so far only had a choice between non-consumption and piracy, will be at the forefront of driving this disruptive innovation, which will eventually make its way into the developed markets also. We are entering a world of service-based computing.

Tomorrow: Service-based Computing

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