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Archive for November, 2006

Is Avaya closing the Gap?

Posted by tggokul on November 30, 2006

I had written a couple of blogs earlier ( link here and here) about the growing competition between Cisco and Avaya in the Unified Communication space. What struck me as odd before and I had briefly touched upon in this my earlier blog, was that Avaya has been doing this for a much longer time than Cisco or Microsoft, yet when you talk about this space, there is more visibility for SONA ( Service Oriented Network Architecture) from Cisco or Office Communication Server (from Microsoft). Avaya has been literally invisible in this segment.

Looks like the kids there in Avaya have realized it as well ( man, I should have been their marketing VP 🙂 ). Martyn Lambert, VP, Product and Services Marketing in one of the announcements has been quoted as saying

Avaya has had UC for a long time, from the early days of voice mail integration through to modular messaging and the like. So we’ve been looking at what the market has done and what competitors have done, and looking at  where we were and deciding how should we respond to the way the market has moved. [The recent] announcements were a part of that overall strategy.

They have restructured the company as well to cater to the different needs of customers in the UC space. This is a very good start. Avaya sure has a distinct advantage over Cisco in the sense most of the enterprises run on the incumbent Avaya switches and moving over to Cisco ( to take advantage of IP technology) is not mandatory and they can stick with Avaya (for the same IP technology) at a lesser price. Now the real challenge for Avaya is to convince customers that they are in par with Cisco if not better in the IP space.  I believe this would be the reason why they have partnered with Juniper.

Whatever the case might be, fact of the matter is Avaya is on the move and ready to reclaim lost ground.

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Cisco Security Compliance

Posted by tggokul on November 29, 2006

As promised, my review of the Cisco ComplianceZone event.

The Cisco Compliance meet I attended yesterday was very well organized to say the least. The presentations were well scheduled, in the sense, one presentation led to another. It was like a well written story unfolding right in front of us. Good job guys, you sure did not disppoint us 🙂

First, what was the agenda of this meet? To put it in a nutshell “Security compliance” is the buzz word in ITS companies, BPOs etc globally and has added importance here in India ( largely due to security thefts, privacy information leaks etc). So what is this ‘compliance’ all about and what are the Cisco product Suite that caters to these needs. These were the questions answered in the conference.

From what I understand , Security compliance is a triangle with the three vertices being “People, Processes and Technology’ each of the presentations reflected every one of these vertices. The first two presentations were about the Importance of Compliance from a Business perspective (presented by the NandKumar Saravade, Director of Cyber Security and Compliance,NASSCOM) and the processes that need to be followed to reach there (presented by Vijay, Sr. Manager, Risk Advisory Services, KPMG).  These were related to the ‘Processes’ part of the triangle.

The next one was the Technology angle and undoubtedly my favourite. This was presented by people from Cisco (Ravi Khanchandani,Regional Manager System Engineering and Jatin Sachdeva, Information Security Consultant) and it was a combinaiton of Powerpoint and demos. It was very smartly done. They talked ( and demoed) about the different products from Cisco that enables security thus helping in compliance when you look at it in a bigger context. There were four products that caught my attention

Network Admission Control Server : When a user is trying to get into a network (LAN) this NAC server quarantines the user and runs a few tests on the System he is trying to connect and once the system has been cleared of Viruses/Security compromise programs, it is allowed to enter the network. The policies ( as to what programs need to be checked or allowed on the System) can be set dynamically.

SSL VPN Solutions : Cisco Secure Desktop : This is for mobile users or users who log in from untrusted locations ( like home/cyber cafe etc). When you login to the VPN server, the user is asked to download the Cisco Secure Desktop which is a mini desktop on top of your existing OS. Policies can be set that people who use this desktop cannot move files from/to the office network. I was very impressed with this easy solution to prevent data theft and related privacy concerns.

Cisco Security Agent : This is a piece of software running on the user’s System and based on policies will allow running/installing of certain programs, block/quarantine viruses is the case arises.

MARS Dashboard(Monitoring,Analysis and Response System) : This can monitor nodes in the network (need not be a Cisco device) and helps the administrator make calls on whether there are any non-compliance issues in any of the nodes that is being monitored. If there are any real-time attacks, MARS has the flexibility to correct the problem if possible or worst case scenario isolate the device.

So if you look at all the above products, Cisco has got security covered at different levels 1) End user. 2) Network level 3)Authorization level and 4) Monitoring level. This, they say, when combined would give you the most comprehensive data security for an enterprise dealing with sensitive data. Each of the above products generate enough reports for easy understanding of the problem and take corrective measures if need be. Cool,right?

The ‘People’ angle was covered in subsequent presentations with emphasis on Cisco Services and a case study on how Cisco India went ahead with a ISO27001 certifications and what were the key learnings from that exercise.

It was a good meeting to attend and though I was not too interested in the compliance part (SOX,ISO blah blah blah), the security product display was a good learning experience.  If this conference comes to your city, make it a point to attend it. It sure would be worth your time.

Posted in Cisco | 1 Comment »

National Skills Registry

Posted by tggokul on November 29, 2006

Some of you folks might be aware of the National Skills Registry and if you are, skip this blog. This is old news for you. The rest continue reading.

The National Skills Registry is an initiative by NASSCOM (The National Association of Software and Services Companies the Indian chamber of Commerce that serves as an interface to the Indian Software industry) . The reasoning behind this intiative as explained by the website

One of the major concerns that global clients at present have is that the personal and private information of their citizens is being handled by persons employed by Indian IT industry and that IT industry does not know them well. The Indian industry has met this concern by engaging third party entities to conduct background check of persons selected to be employed in the IT industry. The practice of background check is quite expensive. Whenever employee moves from one employer to the other within the industry, every next employer spends time and effort on the same background check again that is a wasteful expense. Further, employers do not have time and wherewithal to counter check the quality of back ground check done by back ground checking agency.  In order to reduce the time and effort in conducting the back ground check and to meet these limitations in the back ground checking process, industry has approached NASSCOM and it has taken the lead by creating “National Skill Registry” i.e. NSR.

So as part of this, what NASSCOM has done is, they have employed the services of NSDL (National Securities Depository Limited, a company promoted by institutions of national stature which are responsible for economic development of the country.) to create a database of background check information of personal, academic and employment details of individuals employed / to be employed  in the IT and ITeS industry. Every individual registered in NSR will be identified uniquely by fingerprints. The database will also have the photograph of the person.

The companies driving this are some big names like HCL,Wipro and the likes of 24/7, Scope (BPOs). So this has got some good names backing it.  So what as an individual you would need to do is pay a nominal registration fee and an even nominal annual fee. The only thing annoying is I need to go to a certain location for fingerprinting/handing over the money etc. I hope the lines are not long. But once I am done with this, I am in the system.  Soon we can see Resumes with NSR number 🙂

Overall, a good initiative. Let’s see whether it works.

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Bid Adieu

Posted by tggokul on November 28, 2006

Ah ah, you guys almost thought I was going to stop writing blogs, didn’t you? Anyway if you are looking to change jobs, make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Read this Adieu mail sent by Brandon to the top dogs at Microsoft. Now, THESE are the right reasons to quit.

I thought Microsoft is that kind of a company who would have asked him to stay on and do what he wishes to do, looks like my perception of them is wrong. But in their defense, they probably never got to read it fully considering how big it is.

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Let them Retire in Peace

Posted by tggokul on November 28, 2006

I am back from the Cisco ComplianceZone roadshow. Very interesting and a well managed show. It’s kind of late and I shall blog about this more tomorrow.

During the course of the program, I got a chance to network ( ah, I ‘networked’ in a Cisco meeting. ) with couple of people from Cisco ( they actually are from the Security team) and though they were more into the data side of things and were not too aware of Unified Communication product suite, they did make a few observations. We were talking about VoIP security threat in general and one of them remarked that PSTN can be reliable and all, but it is so crappy with its closed architecture, rigidity etc and the risks we face in IP are tradeoffs for the flexibility it provides us.

Am hearing a lot of trash talking these days directed at PSTN and I am not too happy with that. Hey, go ahead praise IP as much, I will second it; but let’s leave the PSTN alone. We owe that much to them. In this ‘What have you done for me lately’ world, we seem to forget that it was this network that helped sustain civilization the last so many decades. Yes it is outdated, not in sync with the current world, they are annoying; but then how are they any different from the older generation ( I mean people)?. They refuse to change, they believe their values are right and the next generation is always wrong. It is not like we hate the old generation for that. Let us give the same respect to PSTN. Let them retire and die in peace.

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Always Low Prices

Posted by tggokul on November 27, 2006

You read it here first. I am hearing unconfirmed rumours that Indian Communications Provider Airtel (Bharti) has signed a deal with Walmart to expand Walmart’s operations in India as well.  Indian laws do not allow oversees retail companies to open in India and this is way of circumventing the law by a foreign company to support their global delivery chain. ( by buying products from a local company)

I have a very high regard for Bharti since their services rock big time. They are my broadband, landline and mobile service provider and I rarely have any kind of problems service related or otherwise. They are one of the firsts to bring new innovative applications to my landline or mobile phone (CRBT or Caller Ringback Tone, Missed Call Alerts to name a few). And ofcourse any sane person would agree that  Walmart was long due in India. The mom-pop stores will be decimated, but hey it is all about globalization. Unified Communications from Airtel and Unified shopping experience from Walmart, quite a combination, won’t you say?

Welcome Walmart. We are looking forward to Low Prices everyday.

Posted in General | 1 Comment »

Way to go Cisco!

Posted by tggokul on November 25, 2006

Throughout history there are have been individuals/group of individuals who have made the world a better place for the ensuing generations and I am going to make a very contentious statement here. If I were to make such a list, Cisco would rank in the top three. They surely have ‘changed the way we live, work, learn,play and communicate’. I would assume when Thomas Friedman (of New York Times) talked about how the World has become flat, he gave due credit to Cisco and how its pioneering ways helped in achieving it.

And they are just warming up. A report by WhatPC talks about the direction Cisco is going and it looks like the next generation networks is very much in the works. Avaya and Juniper have joined hands to combat this giant and the ultimate winner in this battle is going to be the consumer . We are going to see communications redefined in ways that can’t even be comprehended at this time. To alter Charles Dickens ‘This is the best of times and this IS the best of times’.

On a personal front, my current assignment requires my involvement in the Cisco’s Unified Communication space and I sincerely believe that this is the place to be in now.

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Black Friday for All

Posted by tggokul on November 24, 2006

I am not happy. The four years I was in US, I  looked forward to Black Friday (the day after thanksgiving) to get some good deals ( I used to go wanting to get something and then ended up getting something which I didn’t need to begin with). Now that I am back in Chennai, I am kind of missing all this.

I can’t believe this. Experts are talking about how the world is shrinking and you can do the same thing across the globe and you are telling me I can’t take part in Black Friday? Why can’t I have online Black Friday where I can go to web sites of Circuit City and Best Buy and get the same experience/price as the people who waited 6 hours in the line and went through mayhem to get the items they wanted. If this was enabled, we can prevent the long lines and everybody gets a chance ( and not just the losers who stay up at all night and screw it up for lazy guys like me who end up in the morning at 9.00 A.M

To simulate the same experience this is what I would like to see.  We should make ‘Black Friday ‘ an online game ( say like Delta force and more like Grand Theft Auto) Instead of the ‘enemy’ we will have the fellow buyers. I want to shove, push, grab and get to the aisle where my items are kept. I should be able to collarborate with other guys to come up with strategy to get the products I want. It is all about team work.  And then I checkout the stuff I bought. Simple and cool, isn’t it. I want to experience everything sitting at my console at home. Then I will show you who the boss is. I can shove better with my mouse than with my hands.

Gaming companies. Come on, do this. I am sure this would be a major hit. This would be one hell of a Black Friday.

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Get me this for Christmas, please

Posted by tggokul on November 24, 2006

Check out this cool mobile pc from Sony. It just weighs over a pound and looks pretty slick.

Do you realize now why I wrote Its a Sony?

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Cisco ComplianceZone Roadshow

Posted by tggokul on November 23, 2006

The Cisco ComplianceZone roadshow is coming to Chennai on 28th of this month and I am looking forward to it. From what I see from the brochures, this program is going to concentrate on security issues in general and compliance requirements for ITS companies. I am attending this for more the former than for the latter.

There are going to be some keynote speakers from Cisco and I am hoping ( I might be setting up myself for some disappointment) they will talk about VoIP security considering how much it has been in the news  lately. There is also going to be a demo by the Cisco guys and my guess is that Demo might be more to do with the compliance part rather than addressing security issues. 

And not to forget, it certainly gives me an opportunity to network with some smart guys. There is a good chance I might get to meet a lot of new people (and not the usual guys I bump into in these kind of conferences) since this is a relatively new seminar happening here.

Check in here after 28th to get more information.

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