Dec 12

Djeek.com forum revamped

A human error took down the Djeek.com website last sunday. Luckily Bluehost.com provides good backup facilities and allowed me to easily recreate the website without any content getting lost.

I greapped the opportunity to recreate the Forums section of Djeek.com. Please check it out and start some discussions or give comments on what you think of the website.

Goto Djeek.com forum at http://forum.djeek.com/

 

brgds

Djeek

Dec 09

Martini Video: Anytime, Anywhere, Any Place and Any Device

Videoconferencing has been used since the end of last millenium. In the early days it was an expensive technology that could be only used over ISDN and in a business environment.

The first wave in growth and usage and adoption has been since the usage op IP technology, making video flexible and raising the quality.

We are now in the midst of the second wave. Better processing power build into codecs, pc, and mobile devices is leading to HD 720p/1080p quality and running these technologies over wifi, internet and making it very flexible to use. The codecs are better resistant to jitter, latency and packetloss giving a better experience anytime, anywhere, any place and now even on any device. Since march this year when apple released the iPad2 (with camera’s) and Samsung the Galaxy tab, video is really taking off and adoption is really imminent.

People can now join conferences from remote locations like via wifi:

  • home
  • airport
  • hotel
  • meeting rooms (even when the unit is unavailable)

with technologies like 3G and the upcoming LTE (4G), users can really communicate everywhere as long as there is some kind of network connection. An Extension on voice and video is presence so someone can indicate if they want to be reached, since you cannot and want to be disturbed 24 hours a day, or only for certain people.

Business Market

Are all the technologies the same? No definitely not, videoconferencing is far from being a standard in the marketplace although several standards do exist. Adhering to standards promises to provide interoperability against the lowest amount of cost and gives flexibility in vendor choice and does not lead to limitations that the other end needs to have the same device or client.

Call Control and Signaling
Standards used in the videoconferencing are H.323 (proven, gets outdated) and SIP for signaling. Note that SIP is actually not a real standard, it provides interoperability between old kinds of vendors but only very a very small subset of features and true interoperability between different platforms must be vendors must be tested and supported on both ends.

Media
Media in video are devices in audio and video. Common audio codecs used are for example G.711 and G.722. Video codecs commonly seen are H.263, H.264.

Presentation sharing

Standards for presentation sharing in the video world are H.239 for H.323 communications and BFCP for SIP

These codecs are now supported as well already on mobile devices and tablets, through the use of applications like Dinsk, Vippie video as written on in last december 2010 post on Djeek.com. Recent additions the Mirial Clearsea (acquired by Lifesize/Logitech), Polycom, Radvision Scopia and other business vendors are expected to follow on short notice. Cisco has even developed a specific table device called the Cius to support, similar to the Apple methodology having full control over both hardware and software.

This market is rapidly evolving and new technologies are developed on a daily based and new endpoints, software solutions and tablets are brought out on a day by day basis. One standard to follow is the H.265 codec, a follow up standard of the H.264 which will offer estimated 25-50% reduction in bandwidth, this is expected to become official in September 2012. Very important for the adoption of video, since wide spread usage will increase the bandwidth appetite of a global deployment. This is not so much a problem for consumers and home usage, but it is a bottleneck for wide spread corporate usage. Many companies are afraid to let video go and be used widespread, since they cannot support full usage and are late in adapting the network infrastructure and bandwidth requirements.

Consumer Market

On the consumer side introduction of new technologies has gone at an even greater pace, where we seen Apple, Google, FaceTime, Skype, MSN, Yahoo and many more getting a great amount of users in a tremendous short timeframe. All these solution have generally one thing in common, they are closed user group with their own proprietary technologies that cannot interoperate with other solutions. A thing they have been doing is created access to their own technologies across different platforms (Mac OS, Windows and Android to name the most important pc and mobile platforms, Blackberry is loosing ground and Nokia has chosen for Windows Mobile).

Apple FaceTime

Apple has developed their own protocol FaceTime, which runs only on Apple devices but across all type of devices ranging from iPod, iPhone 4(S) and Mac OS (MacBooks and iMac). Apple is having a massive success with their devices and they have made FaceTime incredible simple to use, connect it logically to someones phone number or email address (or both) and if you have multiple devices you can even choice on what device you want to pick up the call. A big drawback of Apple is that you cannot communicate with other PC platforms or mobile devices. They do market FaceTime actively and are a large promoter of using video.  It is so easy I even you use it with my 71 year old father and we use it when goes on vacation and shows where he is. Our kids love it as well and always join the videoconference with grandpa does FaceTime. A previous blogpost has been dedicated to this topic before. 

Android

The Android platform is open to any solution and other vendors can run their video applications on this platform. Android has been created by Google and Google recent leased their Google+ application and also their multi party Hangout functionality. Google is big promoter of the VP8 codec. Even though VP8 is an open, free to use codec, it is not yet supported by a wide audience outside Google.

Skype

Skype has a vast amount of users and has used a peer to peer technology, initially dedicated for free voice calls, video has been added to this platform. It has one the widest amount of registered users and also a large amount of active users. Some small Skype gateways are available that can transcode to standards based H.323 or SIP endpoints, but currently these gateways are not widely market proven or reliable. Skype has had big recent developments, since FaceBook started using their technology to enable video for Facebook users and Microsoft has bought the company.

By buying Skype, Microsoft can start combining and integrating their consumer (Skype) and business Lync 2010 video products. They will have to combine two proprietary technologies, the peer to peer model of Skype and encrypted codecs and the RtVideo and RtAudio codecs used within Lync 2010. Lync has a massive adoption rate and integrates very well other popular business tools like Exchange/Outlook and Sharepoint.  A couple of blogpost are dedicated to Lync previous to this one. Microsoft has big dominance in the corporate marketing place with windows, office, exchange, sharepoint, ocs/lync. Even though they have closed model and it is expensive to include 3rd parties on other technologies, it is possible to transcode different protocols (i.e. Polycom, Cisco/Tandberg, Lifesize and Radvision) and make third party calls with standards based technologies .

One thing is certain and that video is rising on a massive scale. Companies trying to avoid video, will be behind on the market and will create a competitive disadvantage for themselves if they don’t follow the trend and enable the use of video, adoption and adapt their business processes and use of video within their corporate culture. School leavers these days expect these technologies to be present at there working space and concepts like the new way of working.  Please get in contact with the right partners to join you in the journey and help you create a proper roadmap.

 

 

May 05

Office365 public beta released, are you ready for the cloud?

Via my employer Orange Business Services I already had an Office365 beta user account from december 2010. Building on the great experience I have been dying to write about the great functionality, easy of use and flexibility, not to mention the user friendlyness. Microsoft has year of experience on building practical interfaces and has many methods on getting a solid understanding on requested user functionality. Yes it is more expensive than Google Apps, but it like comparing a Porsche to a Chinese car manufacturer. Both can drive, but do you want to be seen in the chinese car?

Now beginning april the public beta has been released opening the trial to the public, with a massive amount of tenants created each day. I’ll be writing on my testing and demoing experience with my own tenant with 25 users.

Office 365 is the next release of BPOS, consisting of the 2007 familie, exchange, sharepoint and OCSR2. O365 has the latest releases of server products in a cloud offering with per user flexibility:

  • Exchange 2010
  • Sharepoint 2010
  • Lync 2010
  • Ofice 2010 Professional Plus

Microsoft has split their offering into several target groups

  • SME (small medium enterprises 1-150 users)
  • Enterprise offering
  • Educational
  • Federal (US specific)

For the enterprise market there are two main service offerings,

  • E-plan (full offering)
  • K-plan (kiosk workers)

Each plan has several options, coming from E1 to E4, where the basic E1 is already very rich in functionality, including a 25GB mailbox with exchange sufficient for the average corporate.

Major improvements of Office365 compared to BPOS:

  • Federated Identities
  • Hybrid design, mix in the cloud with on-premise solutions
  • 2FA (two facor authentication)
  • Rich co-existence and migration co-existence
  • Flexible co-existence

Special attention should be given to proper planning before migrating towards Office365.

  • Connectivity is currently only possible via the internet
  • Client requirements should be checked and a baseline should be made compared to existing environment
  • Federated identities and ADFSv2
  • Existing Active directory structure and health to be ready for directory synchronisation
  • Regulatory requirements
  • Assurance
  • Network and technical security readiness
  • Migration

With these new possibilities a typical scenario could be Exchange en Sharepoint Online and Lync Hosted (on-premise). A company might want to keep Lync on premise because the online option does not support pbx replace, or full conferencing options. So if voice and lync need to be combined then integration via SIP trunking needs to be done. The same is the case for integrating video solutions like Cisco/Tandberg, Polycom, Lifesize, Vidyo or Radvision. You can also wonder if you want quality for your executives and sales people or be reliant on the congested internet for drop sensitive multi media traffic. Don’t be penny wise and pound fulish here. Bad experience leads to non usage, resulting in a bad business case, less travel reduction and limited collaboration possibilities. This is waste of time, resources and money. Where 2010 was the year of cost reduction, 2011 is the year of agility and transformation.

So now the public beta has arrived, you can sign-up here Office 365 beta signup for free and get access for 6 months.
The admin console has links to numerous content like the community, wiki’s, deployment guides, beta service descriptions etc. There is so much information documents, technet articles and content that everything is availible to prepare youself for going towards the cloud. But are you ready for the cloud?

A proper assesment has to be done to detemine your cloud readiness, from a technical, connectivity, security, regulatory and organisational perspective. This is not trivial exercise. Support from externals could be most helpfull here, they can help you guide you and make a cloud migration roadmap. So it’s not just is the cloud ready for you (which it is with this release), but definetely is your organizational also ready for the cloud?

More information on Office 365 can be found here:

A view on the user perspective:

Office 365 user portal

 

Admin Portal, the portal for cloud flexibility:

Office365 admin portal

 

 

Apr 18

Deploying SIP trunking and Enterprise benefits

Companies are constantly looking to save cost and optimize their environment. An area within organizations where almost can be saved is the space of voice and PBX. Tradionally the governance within Multi National Customers has been at the local site that was responsible for its legacy TDM PBX and had contracts with a Local ISP, like KPN, Belgacom, Swisscom, Verizon or China Telecom. These times are changing, customers cannot maintain there legacy PBX anymore because the vendor does not support it anymore, no one has the knowledge or EBay ran out of stock. The risk is just too high to stay with a legacy solution. Imagine for example the Legal consequences if there is fatal accident on your site, because emergency services could not be contacted in time.

I don’t see a lot of organizations do a one on one to replace their TDM PBX for just an IP PBX equivalent. Today customers also have a Unified Communications vision, or at least they should. This cannot be build in one day, but at least a clear roadmap has to build with a definition on what functionality should be build including presence, voice, softphones, room and desktop video and audionfonferencing integrations including end to end quality of service.

Global customers are generally looking at following vendors to build their UC vision with:
Microsoft Lync
Cisco Unified Callmanager (UCM)
Avaya Aura
Alcatel OXE

and not to forget the former Nortel, which was acquired by Avaya, which customers are currently phasing out.
Also special notice should be given in selecting the right service provider to support you in this field since it is a long way to realize the UC vision without an experienced partner.

In this blog i’ll cover the use of trunking with your global voice service provider. Tradional ways of connecting include amongst others: ISDN, TDM, CPS and IP Trunking via H.323. Recently the whole market went to IP Trunking via SIP. You have take care in selecting a service provider that certifies and supports your IP PBX platform, because SIP is not a standard and its implementation varies vendor by vendor.

Carefully think about a global architecture and where you want to connect your SIP trunks (usually where your IP PBX is, or where you want to deploy this). Note that the voice world is highly regulated country per country and especially inbound voice (DID numbers) is something you have to pay attention to. On outbound voice there is a lot of savings to be reached since this is usually the cash cow of the local incumbant and i’ve seen cases where 75% cost savings could be reached on tariffs or even higher if you would transfer your voip traffic over your MPLS network with no variable charges.

Microsoft has stirred up the game with their introduction of Microsoft Lync, they promote SIP Trunking for voice (PBX replace) and their audioconferencing features, for which you need to collect the traffic that can also be terminated via the same SIP trunk.

Voice can be a strong enabler of reaching your UC roadmap, since it can generate savings to tranfer your environment and connect your UC solution to the outside voiceworld. Make sure you addres the right voice quality to your users base otherwise helpdesks get a lot complaints and your transformation proces might get an early stop, since business support is lost in the beginning.
An additional benefit of this transformation proces is that governance can be centralized and less local support is needed and this will bring an additional cost benefit.

 

Apr 15

IPAD2 revolution in the household

Ordered on the 25th of march and this week I received my IPad2, i’ve got the wifi only version since i can use the public hotspot function on my iphone4.

I especially waited for the second generation because i wanted the videoconferencing functionality. Ofcourse perfectly simple to use FaceTime funtionality with my iPhone and another iPad. We have even videoconferenced to standard SIP Tandberg videoconferencing equipment using the Clearsea App. It had good quality, if i have some more time, i’ll make some screenshots and upload them. Now i’m writing this blog on the iPad itself, using the WordPress app for the iPad.

I could migrate all my settings from my iPhone and upload the photo’s, music en apps settings from iPhone. Apple is really good at this stuff. Almost no time needed to set this up. Microsoft can really learn from things like this and here you see the difference that Apple takes control of everything.

In general i’m very pleased with the way certain apps look, for example Google Earth looks very good and is very easy to navigate. If you are interested there is definitely more to come and i’ll make some reviews on this.

Mar 02

iPad 2 released today by Apple

Today on march the 2nd Apple has announced the new version of the iPad.

I have a waited with buying the Ipad 1 because it missed the camera’s (front and back facing).  Waiting time is now over, the iPad 2 lived up to the promise and more (again).

Take a look at the Ipad 2 promotion video here

It’s about time Apple releases their proprietary Facetime implementation to the broader to the ITU in public license so Videoconferencing vendors can make their videoterminals and telepresence systems compatible with the Apple video technology. There is a real customer demand for this, since many executives buy an iPad and also want this do videoconference with this system when they are on the go.

 

Here are some highlights of the new Ipad 2:

  • 33% thinner
  • new A5 dual core processer
  • front- and back facing camera’s
  • new iOS 4.3 release with new features
  • new apps launched, that include movi editing on the iPad
  • connect your iPad to your TV to mirror your iPad image on your TV screen
  • specifically designed smart cover (watch the clip for this)

Pricing would seem to be equal to the iPad1, which price is immediately lowered. If I look at the stats, it is not a question if am buying this new iPad, but more how quickly can I get my hands on this one and which model?

You can take a look at the detailed techical specs and pricing plans here.

If you get your hands on one, please sharre your experience.

Here some good live video’s from Engadget people on the media event, playing around. Showing how fast it is and demonstrating facetime on the Ipad.  It’s looking very good.



Feb 22

Microsoft Lync 2010 – PBX replace or not?

I have a written a short piece on the introduction of Lync 2010 back in november 2010. Microsoft has set an ambitious and aggressive target for itself by marketing Lync as “PBX replace”.  Question is after 4 months: Is this strategy succeeding?

I believe it is too early to tell, but at least it is getting a lot of customer attention. Today most customers have not deployed softphones on the desktop yet, or at least not a global scale. Most of the customers are still on legacy PBX’s or are struggling to make the transition to IP Telephone. Usually this already involves changing a global network archtecture, implementing Quality of Services on the WAN, but definitely also on the LAN and into the datacenters where you would want to host your call servers. These activities seem complex, time consuming and CAPEX intensive. Also voice and telephone has to move from a decentralized governance model to a central governance model, this is a very difficult and time consuming process. At the same voice and networking teams have to get aligned since voice will be an application, and a very important one. Very sensitive to drops, latency and jitter, usually this involves more stringend requirements to the existing network than people are used to today. Organizations lack the proper monitoring tools to troubleshoot and do capacity management.

So today we live in the era of Unified Communications, people like to have one interface that does presence, voice, video, conferencing and application sharing. If people don’t have a softphone installed why not upgrade my existing Microsoft Office Communicator Client (MOC2007R2) and now i have the features that I was lacking to do enterprise voice (Call Admission Control, Survivable Branch Appliance, etc.). Why should I replace my old PBX, for fixed phones? Let’s just give employees a Lync client and a quality headset!

Is Lync practical for all user groups? I would say no. Groups of users that would rather have a solution from an existing telephony provider like Alcatel, Avaya or Cisco are:

  • Call Center employees
  • Secretaries (yes Lync has an attendant console, but is this practical for this user group?)
  • Conference Rooms, Hazard area’s and Elevators also might be a bit more difficult even thought you have a growing selection of phone.

So will Lync will be able to replace  a PBX for a certain amount of user groups, initially mainly within a pure office environment like the services area’s. I believe the majority of users will have a mix between an IPT environment and Lync for softphones, because it has such a nice presence integration with Outlook/Exchange and has a familiar interface. Something a CIO does not like to do is change the appearance of the desktop towards the end-user. This will give organisations some challenges. Do we want:

  1. Single number reach for Lync and the fixed phone?
  2. Just voice integration (via a SIP trunk) that a Lync client can call a fixed phone but with seperate dial plans
  3. voicemail integration
  4. ect.

A big advantage of using Lync is that you can use a global voice carrier that can SIP trunk with Lync and thus a large user group can be reached instantaneously and cost savings can be made fast, opposed to optimizing country per country often not reaching the scale to reach volume.

All I can recommend to users is to first make a proper design, do a proof of concept, followed by a pilot with a group of end-users. This will allow you to get experience on the technology, support processes to troubleshoot voice from a desktop environment (not trivial) and a centralized architecture and make a proper voice routing design. Organizations that deploy Lync to quickly will face the same or even more difficulties of traditional IPT roll-outs.

Wait for Office 365?

Some customers want to wait with deploying Lync 2010 on-premise. They are waiting for the next BPOS release, called Office 365. This will include Lync 2010, but in initial releases “Dial Tone” will not be included. When it will, expect only certain countries can utilize this voice capabilities, since there is a lot of regulation on carrier voice and a Telecom Provider should have the appropriate licenses so why should Microsoft have that as well? So if you like Lync 2010, it would be best to test it on-premise and not rely on a cloud roadmap.

Feb 19

Challenges in your Cloud Roadmap and how to overcome!

Cloud Computing, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS), IaaS, PaaS are all former names of what just was called Application Service Providing. Lots of buzzwords that score high on the Gartner Hypecycle.

Customers all seems to want to join the hype, being part of the Cloud. Today there are so many terms where in everybodies mind the same term has a different meaning or different terms mean the same. You need to reference marketresearchers (Gartner, Forrester, Ovum, IDC, etc) to get a common understanding on what we exactly mean.

I like the three core fundamentals of cloud computing by Forrester as noted in link above:

  • A standardized IT capability or service
  • Pay per use or metered consumption
  • Self-service deployment

Connecting to your Cloud

hybrid cloud

copyright Jako Boonekamp

I like to make a differentiation between 3 types of Cloud Computing:

  • Private Cloud
  • Public Cloud
  • Hybrid Cloud

A private cloud is often referred to when using a private network (i.e. MPLS) to go to a cloud provider (single or multi-tenant). This is the closest to outtasking or outsourcing today and already done on a wide scale.

A public cloud is actually the same but then uses the internet as a transport medium (with appliation security of IPsec).

A hybrid cloud is the combination of both. Actually I would say it is the best of both worlds. You have the security, performance and QoS when you are in the office and you have maximum flexibility when you are working from home or a roaming user.

Sometimes it is a goal by itself to go into the Cloud. IT managers don’t even look at the advantages or disadvantages anymore. Going to the cloud would then be identical to going to a public cloud.

Perceived Advantages of going towards the cloud

  • Price
  • Scalability
  • Rapid Deployment
  • Pay Per Use
  • Often limited or no start up fees
  • Limited or no CAPEX

Disadvantages

  • Generic and Multi-Tenant service
  • Little or no customization possible
  • Limitied monitoring or reporting capabilities
  • SLA’s may not fit the business need
  • Sensitivity or Regulatory challenges of Data Storage
  • Audit-ability
  • Inability to integrate multiple vendors in one solution (no best-of-breed capability)

Implementing Cloud solutions

It is not uncommon that people see many obstacles in going to the cloud:

  • Security => ask for the right certifications of your cloud provider (ISO27001 and SAS70)
  • Quality of Service => use a private way of connecting to your cloud provider, so can you can control performance
  • internet capacity &  peering => it is not uncommon that destinations cannot be reached via the internet (cause internet ISP’s lack certain routes in their routingtables, try and fix this when you don’t have direct contact with this ISP’s.

How to overcome the obstacles?

Organizations need to change to adapt cloud computing. This cannot be done instantaneously, but has to occur in a step by step way.

Less critical appliations first

Start with some applications that are not that critical or time sensitive, i.e. email for certain group of users that are less dependent on this (i.e. factory workers)

Hybrid Cloud support migrating in a low risk pace

When migrating towards cloud services from a multi-tenant cloud provider, it is ideal if you could migrate at you own pace. Not having to redirect all you traffic towards the internet directly, but connect the way you prefer at the time you want.

Any Time, Any Place, Any Where, Any Connectivity

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