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Deeper analysis of VoIP

Archive for May, 2007

Don’t Blame VoIP

Posted by tggokul on May 29, 2007

Garrett Smith has a great post on how bad deployments screw up VoIP and how it could have easily been avoided had the customer ( in this case Scott Pinkerton) just done a few things before the actual deployment.

Seriously people, it is not Nuclear Physics ( or is it? The Scott Pinkerton dude actually works with the Nuclear scientists!!!!). Get a UAT system. You most probably are spending quite achunk on this deployment anyways and a few UAT systems will definitely not hurt. It will help you in future installations as well. The sad thing in all this is that when things do not work because of the inadequacies of the customer, they quickly point out that VoIP is not reliable!!!.

Just like Java. People are quick to point out that Java is slow without even understanding that it is not Java’s mistake that one jackass decided to put a certain thread to sleep for 1s inadvertently. Trust me the technologies are all fine. It is usually the implementors who get it wrong!!!


Posted in VoIP/IMS | 1 Comment »

Nortel joins the cast of Sopranos???

Posted by tggokul on May 24, 2007

A must read by Tom Keating as to how Nortel strong-armed one of their former subsidiary (Blade Network Technologies) into returning Fonality’s open-source Asterisk Based PBX solution.

Has all the intrigue of a Robert Ludlum novel. And you all thought technologists were boring.Didn’t you?

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Blogging from Singapore

Posted by tggokul on May 22, 2007

I am in Singapore right now and though it is the first time I am visiting here, I somehow get the feeling that I have already been here before. That might be due to the fact, this place reminds me so much of Tampa ( Florida) and Singaporeans surely are more North America than Asian.

It is not like I have to praise Singapore’s efficient system, trust me, it took 5 minutes from the time I landed in Singapore to get a local SIM and services to dial to India. The calling card I bought was from a local Telecom Provider StarHub and international call rate to India was as low as 18 cents per minute( Singaporean cent). The apartment I am staying has still not be wired for Internet access, but when I turned on the wireless in my laptop, it detected atleast 15 wireless networks!!! Looks like my apartment complex has got some tech savvy people!!

Still have not explored the city and it might be this weekend before I do that.

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

International Travel

Posted by tggokul on May 19, 2007

I am travelling to Singapore for atleast three weeks ( and maybe more). It is mostly official ( though I fully intend to enjoy the hospitality and tourist attractions of Singapore).

I hope to post regularly here, but there is always the likelihood that I might get mesmerised in the awesome massages and forget to blog 🙂 Blogging will be light for a few days. Catch you all soon.

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VoIP Supply provides Network Assessment

Posted by tggokul on May 17, 2007

Garrett Smith gave me a heads up on the latest professional services coming out of VoIP Supply. It involves assessment and evaluation of VoIP networks.

Trust me, this is a definite blessing for small businesses who struggle to find out why their network is not as good as others. There are a lot of these tools, but am certain that VoIP supply’s service would be more accurate based on their track record. They have been offering expertise in almost all areas in VoIP and am positive that it will pay huge dividends to companies that use them.

Jon Arnold expresses similar sentiments on this service.

Posted in VoIP/IMS | 1 Comment »

Alcatel Buys NetDevices

Posted by tggokul on May 16, 2007

Alcatel has decided to buy out Netdevices,a developer of services gateway products for enterprise branch networks ,based out of  Sunnyvale, California.

NetDevices delivers a market recognized, innovative and flexible enterprise networking platform known as a Unified Service Gateway which is designed to reduce the cost and complexity of managing branch office networks. NetDevices was founded in 2003 and has 45 employees located in Sunnyvale and Bangalore, India. The press release is attached below

Paris, May 14, 2007 – Alcatel-Lucent (Euronext Paris and NYSE: ALU) today announced a definitive agreement to acquire privately held NetDevices, a developer of services gateway products for enterprise branch networks, based in Sunnyvale, California. NetDevices delivers a market recognized, innovative and flexible enterprise networking platform known as a Unified Service Gateway which is designed to reduce the cost and complexity of managing branch office networks. NetDevices was founded in 2003 and has 45 employees located in Sunnyvale and Bangalore, India.

“Today’s enterprises are looking for ways to transform their businesses through the deployment of networks and services that enable their employees to work more efficiently, and their customers to receive a higher level of satisfaction,” said Hubert de Pesquidoux, President of Alcatel-Lucent’s enterprise activities. “Enterprises are quickly evolving to a converged communications infrastructure of data, voice, and security services running with high reliability and serviceability. Traditional architectures lack the flexibility and programmability to deploy these new converged infrastructures in a cost-effective way. A fresh approach based on the innovative enterprise platform from NetDevices combined with our core strengths of voice and switching helps to deliver best in class enterprise networks.”

“NetDevices’ services gateways bring all required services for a branch office in a unified package, dramatically reducing the network complexity for enterprise customers and small medium business. I am very excited that by joining forces with Alcatel-Lucent, we can enhance the benefits of NetDevices’ solutions to our customers and create new opportunities for our partners,” said Seenu Banda, founder and CEO of NetDevices. “Alcatel-Lucent provides an ideal partnership with its global sales, service, and the development capabilities. With this agreement, NetDevices joins Alcatel-Lucent to complement its end to end solutions, and to pursue our goal of delivering innovative products to a large set of customers worldwide.”

Upon close of the transaction, the NetDevices team and products will be integrated into Alcatel-Lucent’s Enterprise Business Group, reporting into Tom Burns, president of Alcatel-Lucent’s Enterprise Solutions activities.

The acquisition is subject to various standard closing conditions, including applicable regulatory approvals, and is expected to close in the second quarter of Alcatel-Lucent’s fiscal year 2007. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Posted in General | 2 Comments »

Talk About Irony!!

Posted by tggokul on May 15, 2007

As most of you are aware a lot of sniffing tools, NMS ( Network Management Solutions) tools, Legal Intercept/Barge Solutions use the concept of SPAN port. For people who are unfamiliar with this, let us say there is a device connected to a switch. You configure another port in that switch to replicate all the packets going through the other port. So any packets going to that device will also go to this spanned port. If you connect any of your sniffer programs into the other port, you will see all the details going to device 1.

You probably would know that most of the calls you make to a call-center are recorded (I am sure most of you would have heard the ‘This call is being monitored for Quality/Training purposes). In a IP based contact center the above mentioned SPAN port mechanism is used to record the calls. So lets say, that one agent sitting with an ip phone is talking to you. The conversations you are having with him is sent as packets to the Recorder application that is connected to this SPAN port.

In a conventional contact center, agents will all reside in a single location and their ip phones will be in the LAN connected to a switch. So it is very easy to SPAN these ip phones and get the conversation. But then with the advent of IP contact centers you get the flexibility of mobility. So for all you might care, the agent can take a call sitting in his house with broadband connection. In that event he would not be in the same switch as the Recording application. So what do you do in that case?

If you know the architecture of a typical IPT ( IP telephony) or IPCC setup, Voice Gateways (Media Gateways) provide the link between the TDM and the IP world. So as a customer you would be dialing from a normal PSTN/mobile phone and the packet conversion happens at the Media Gateway level. So in the above case where a customer is talking to an agent who is sitting at home, irrespective of where he is located, the packets have to traverse through the Voice Gateway which always resides at the central location. So these contact centers span the Voice Gateway port and record the conversations from that port.

This solution is not too accurate for the following reason. The RTP packets flow from the Media Gateway to the agent phone through WAN and the packets that are recorded at the central site need not have have been delivered to the agent phone. Needless to say, this solution is at best ,passable. So the agent/customer might actually think that the call’s quality is miserable, whereas the recording solution would not give any indication to that (QoS is another issue. There is forward/reverse MoS which will address the issue I am talking about, but that is a conversation for another day, another time).

Though the solution is not accurate, you get atleast some kind of data. And how is that possible? Because you have a voice gateway. And why do you have a voice gateway? Because you have TDM integration. What if the world that we are all envisioning, the land of IP actually becomes true? There won’t be Voice Gateways. Most recording solutions will fail. In fact any application using the concept of SPAN ports shall fail. Most NMS solutions will fail, CALEA would die!!! That is the irony I am talking about. If not for TDM being in existence today, most of the IP solutions would be a goner!!!

Forget next generation networks where everything is in IP. Think of today’s world where a customer reaches a contact center through IP rather than through TDM. For example he clicks on the web page link that lets him call into a IP contact center which has mobile agents. In this call flow, there is no way the RTP packets can be traced in today’s solutions.

There are a couple of workarounds for these. Use of a Media Proxy ( i.e any call goes through the Media Proxy). Not very efficient. The only real way to fix this would be to have the intelligence on the agent phone and then ftp the data from the endpoints to the central server. This was actually how the initial logger solutions worked but were phased out because the TDM guys did not like to have the control at the agent desktop level. Talk about irony again.

Anyway, my point is a lot of solutions that exist today cater to a hybrid model ( who expect the TDM world to survive for sometime). Fact of the matter is ,the world is not yet ready for pure IP!!!

Posted in VoIP/IMS | 5 Comments »

Hacking Citibank’s Virtual Keyboard

Posted by tggokul on May 14, 2007

I have been using Citibank’s virtual keyboard for  last three and half years sometime now and have always been skeptical that this would actually make my transactions secure. A security researcher in India has vindicated my beliefs. I am by no standards a smart hacker, but even I knew that if you can run any of the ‘N’ number of applications that can decode the string in the textbox, you can get the password for that account.

Let me explain how the virtual keyboard works. Every time you type in your account number, a virtual keyboard is presented that lets you click the digits of your password. These digits go in an encrypted form to the textbox that is present in that screen. And when you press enter you are allowed to login.

My friend and I have actually tried out an application which just essentially requires you to just point your mouse to that textbox and voila you get the actual password. So trust me, we knew this was pretty insecure, but we didn’t care since I knew the hackers wouldn’t be too interested in my bank account considering I don’t own a whole lot 🙂

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Six Months Later…

Posted by tggokul on May 10, 2007

It is exactly six months since I started blogging ( Boy, it feels like six years). Though I started blogging as a hobby, at the end of the first week I set certain goals.

1) Write atleast one meaningful post a day : I have done that for than 90% of the times and other than weekends or hectic times ,I have managed to do that.
2) Network around the blog : This was one of the primary goals I had set. Get to know quite a few like minded people because of the blog. I think I have done fairly well on this count. Proto.in coverage was an instant hit and I met a lot of smart guys.
3) Though I did not set it as a goal, one of the pleasant results has been that I have ended up reading more and staying in touch with the latest developments.
4)Getting a chance to guest blog in smithonvoip has been an added bonus.

I did not set Technorati rankings/hits per day as my goals because I don’t see the relevance of these since I don’t intend to make money out of my posts as of now.( I might consider that at a later stage).

Anyway, thanks to each one of you who visit my site and keep providing key inputs to make this blog a better place. Keep them comments coming 🙂

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Investors spooked by Cisco’s Third Quarter Results

Posted by tggokul on May 9, 2007

Though Cisco’s fiscal third-quarter profit surged by 34 percent, its stock fell down in after hours trading because of weakness in Cisco’s core areas of business.

The fear among investors stems from the fact that there is a slowdown in orders from US businesses, even though the sales in the other regions grew at a double digit rate. The fear is understandable considering that the first three months, US enterprise business grew at a rapid pace at 20%, but hence after has dwindled down to single digit growth. Obviously, the investors are at a loss to categorize this downturn as a temporary one or as a start of a huge deceleration.

It usually takes three quarters to predict a behaviour and since only the last two quarters have been bad in this segment for Cisco, we have to wait for another quarter before passing judgements. Also, I personally don’t think it is a big deal, because Cisco is making huge inroads in the other markets and they would more than comfortably make up for the lost ground.

But then, it is always good to be strong in your home turf before winning over foreign lands 🙂

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