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My Post at Network Computing

Posted by tggokul on July 11, 2009

Network computing in its latest edition has  my post on something that is very close to my heart . What is really unified communication and what aspects of unified communication is relevant in today’s world. My U2C manifesto.

Have a read and let me know what you think

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Posted in Cisco, Voice 2.0, VoIP/IMS, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

Who has the better SIP?

Posted by tggokul on June 3, 2009

I was having some internal discussions when one of my bosses told me that he heard from one of his acquantaince who works for company X that their SIP implementation is light years ahead of their competitions. That ticked me off.

I hear similar claims from lot of the big companies like Avaya/Cisco/Nortel  and it never ceases to amaze me their lack of understanding especially when it comes to SIP. SIP now no more is a techie’s delight. It has become a marketing weapon and claims on who has got the better SIP seems to be the order of the day rather than a prudent discussion on what can SIP do for the world. And yes I am disappointed that SIP is today being misused like this.

Anybody saying that their SIP is better is like me saying the electricity I have in my house is better than my neighbor’s!!! It is that ridiculous. What matters are the devices that “electricity” powers. SIP is the same, the greatness lies in the seamless effort taken for the devices which it empowers to communicate with.

For an open standard like SIP, greatness is measured by how many devices your stack has interoped with and the track record of Cisco/Avaya are dismal. If I were to pick a good SIP stack it would be openSIP. They outclass everybody else wrt to interop and they are by far the best when it comes to performance They were earlier called openSER and at that time when I used them they could do I think a million calls in BHCA!!!!! Oh, did I mention they are open source?

This is my grouse. We have been communicating donkey years (TDM included) and nobody really cared what the underlying signalling protocol was. Why is there a new found respect for SIP (which is just another signaling protocol) and why are these companies fighting over this? What this essentially shows is that innovation has come to a grinding halt and there is nothing else the top companies are able to boast about. Hence they are harping on something as mundane as “we have the better SIP”.

Anyway, SIP is old and so retro 🙂 and the techies have moved to other things.  Perfect example HD VoIP. They use SIP as well. In fact I read an interesting thought by Pulver that  these HD devices should be identified by the SIP URI. You don’t see him talking about SIP per se. Reason is SIP in essence is just a platform and historically users never care about platform. They care about what they can experience or the solutions that these platforms power.

Any discussion on superior SIP according to me is meaningless and shows the lack of thought leadership in the companies that run these kinds of campaigns.

Posted in Cisco, VoIP/IMS | 3 Comments »

A Next Gen Contact Center

Posted by tggokul on April 22, 2009

I am back after travelling for two weeks within the US and most of my time was spent at iQor, a BPO customer (outbound collections) of my current employer. My guys have been involved in some of the  work there within iQor, and they were raving about the vision and goals of iQor. Well, as the saying goes you can take Gokul away from technology, but never take the technologist away from Gokul 🙂 And so, I planned a visit to see what these guys were upto.

Even before I  got to know the different technology initiatives iQor was working on, what intrigued me the most was the fact that a BPO was actually investing so much time and money in innovation. The typical BPOs I have been dealing with for the last few years have always looked at vendors ( could be the product vendors like Avaya/Cisco/Nortel, or at SIs like ourselves) to guide them on technology and in fact they have gone to the extent of saying that they are not interested in technology at all and all they care about is being insulated from the obsolescence of the technology. But not iQor.Their technology team pushes whatever platform they are working on to the hilt and then develop applications on top of that would make more sense to their business and eventually be cost effective. So if they faced a problem in the solution provided by the product vendor, what do they do? Develop customized applications!!

I can’t write too much about their applications since that is proprietary information. But for example, since they are an outbound collections BPO, predictive dialing is most crucial to their business and they have developed an algorithm internally that will enhance productivity of the agents. They have simplified the agent desktops ( IP Blue phone with screen pop) and what the agent sees is most optimal to increase his/her productivity.

On the contact center platform front, they have written applications that will help dramatically in MAC (move/add changes). When you are talking the size of iQor agents (close to 7000), it is a support nightmare if the removal/addition/reskilling etc has to be done manually. iQor has developed an interface that ensures that human errors are minimal. Automation of processes are key in all of iQor’s initiatives and that mantra holds good in the platform as well.

There is a push to use open source in all of their technologies (including enterprise applications like HR/finance) to make operations much more cost effective. Virtualization of applications is critical since not only does it reduce cost but also ensures “free seating” in the real sense of the word. An agent is the same agent irrespective he is in India/US/Philippines and isn’t that one of the very premise of Unified Communication? A real Unified Contact center in some sense. Oh btw, no surprises, agents login via biometrics 🙂

I for one believe once iQor fully implements these solutions, it should try packaging these solutions to other BPOs as well. Reference sites are always a big challenge for product companies. But when you have solutions that are tried and tested in a 7000 seat contact center, you don’t have worry about your solution’s performance!!!

I won’t be surprised if product vendors start looking at these solutions and start adding them to their product suite. Sooner or later all BPOs are going to have a need for those features that iQor needed in the past, and the product vendors need to be cognizant of that. Technology is a big chunk of BPOs cost and every attempt to improve performance of these technologies at the same cost would only help these BPOs. iQor just did that on their own and it is only fair to say they run the next gen contact center in more ways than one!!!

Posted in Cisco, General, VoIP/IMS, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

IP world v/s Green?

Posted by tggokul on February 4, 2009

With the whole world talking about greener devices/Applications, I am kind of wondering whether people who evangalized “IP” as a platform for communication kept this in mind. Let me tell you why this thought.

I don’t see one single Message Packet either in SIP/H323/MGCP that will enable the server to switch off the endpoints when they are not active. Isn’t that weird? Now lets say that as a monitoring application, I find out that an IP Phone ( could be using any of the above signalling protocols) has not been used (maybe in a conference room) for “x” days, shouldn’t I have the option to switch it off remotely? Shouldn’t there be a protocol that supports this action?

At a much larger level, is there a “Green” protocol at all? Maybe a protocol that will exchange power consumption data between the server/endpoint that will enable an administrator to make informed decisions.

I am seeing something equivalent to a GMS ( Green Monitoring System) similar to an NMS (Network Monitoring System) that would exchange power related data and the adminstrator could take decisions based on that. The devices under control could be anything from a tubelight to a washing machine. It is just not communication devices that are becoming smarter. Consumer electonics are equally there as well.

The need of the hour is to create one such protocol. Not sure whether anybody is working on that.

Posted in Cisco, General, VoIP/IMS | 5 Comments »

Where Cisco needs to get it right.

Posted by tggokul on July 8, 2008

When you just think that Cisco has almost got it right and is slowly moving from a product based company to a more solution oriented company, they come up with something called CUAE (Cisco Unified Application Environment). Ok, it has been around for sometime but my experiences are pretty recent.

Trust me when I say, they have the right idea but serious introspection needs to be done on the end result. Let me explain for guys not familiar with CUAE. With Cisco betting big on the Unified Communication space, it was a logical step for them to develop an application development environment to build and deploy unified communication applications rapidly. Good thought, you would say. This CUAE is an application server that would be deployed in production and the deployed applications could enrich the UC suite.

I remember the days when we use to write applications on the Cisco IP Phones using standard XML and sometimes J2ME. So we were thrilled to hear about CUAE. We we started installing it, and it was a nightmare. There are two kinds of people ( differentiated by their skill set) in the Cisco world. NCE or Network Consultation Engineers whose primary responsibility would be to install and deploy the network elements and the ACEs, the application consultation engineers who would write applications on top of it.

The installation of the CUAE is so difficult an ACE would not be able to do it on his own and would require the help of an NCE. That is a flaw right there. A person should be able to install the environment he needs to use. Now think about it, lets say that an end customer would require some UC applications delivered very fast. The ACEs would write the applications, but to deploy it would require an NCE. Which pretty much means the partner company that is writing these applications need to have Network skills as well, which is pretty bizzarre. The cost would be high and the very premise of low cost/quick deployment model goes for a toss.

We are trying to get a database access plugin to work for the last three days and we just haven’t been able to do it.There are no trouble shooting documents/help forums available and needless to say, I am very disappointed with CUAE. This is how disappointed I am, I am in half a mind to throw this off and get back to XML programming. That is how bad it is.

It is not very often you see Cisco/bad in the same line, but CUAE seems to fit that bill very nicely.

Posted in Cisco | 1 Comment »

Who is going to buyout Avaya?

Posted by tggokul on June 11, 2008

By now, the storm of Lou stepping down as CEO has passed over. Yet the question still remains. What is going to happen to Avaya that was bought over by SilverLake partners just over a year ago.

I have been hearing from different sources that top guys ( one was even close to Lou) are being let go and this would only mean that Avaya is going to be sold to the topmost bidder. Either as a whole entity or after splitting them into different entities.

Interestingly though, there are two names that are being floated as possible buyers. One is Cisco ( is there any deal in the world, where their name is not flouted?) and the other is very surprisingly Nuance. I can understand why Cisco’s name is prominent. The interim CEO who is taking over from Lou is none other than Charles Giancarlo, a prominent ex-Ciscoian. 

Nuance is trying to enter the PBX/ACD world to further stabilize their speech market and this would be a logical step. Microsoft and upto some extent IBM are developing Speech engines and the only way for Nuance to continue their stranglehold would be to enter the PBX sector as well.Nortel seemed a little interested a year ago, but with their current state of affairs would not be brave enough to venture in this.

One thing is sure. The face of Avaya would change in the next couple of months.

Posted in Cisco, VoIP/IMS | 2 Comments »

Contact Center gone wrong?

Posted by tggokul on February 19, 2008

I had a broadband outage this weekend and I called up Bharti Airtel’s customer service. I was met with an IVR which calmly collected all my information. ( Account Number/Problem Description etc). I was pleasantly surprised that I was going to have my problem recorded by the IVR itself and I did not have to go to an agent.

My assumption was that the case would be recorded by the IVR and a complaint would be raised and an complaint id would be smsed to my mobile phone. I couldn’t be happier. That would save me time to talk to an agent. But then the worst happened. After the IVR collected all the details, I was asked to wait in queue to be transferred to an agent. I still thought it was fair enough; maybe the telcos need me to talk to the agent for auditing purposes.

So I wait and I am put on to an agent. The agent asks me the SAME questions the IVR asked. So I ask the agent, I just entered these details in the IVR, don’t you have a screen pop of these. And he says ‘No’. So what is the point of me spending my time on the IVR? So I register my complaint with the Agent on my broadband outage and also registered another complaint that their IVR/ACD integration sucked.

The good guys from Airtel called me the next day and wanted to know what the problem was. I started of asking whether they were employees from Airtel or just some bozo from an outsourced call center. I don’t want to be talking to another agent who has no clue what an IVR/ACD is. So he assures me that he is proficient on these and asked me again what the problem was.

I told how skewed his IVR application was ( Btw, my call was also dropped on the IVR 2-3 times when I was in the queue) and this is not the way an IVR needs to be written and surely not the way an ACD integrates with the IVR. I asked him what was the ACD/IVR they were using and he said Nortel. I asked him to inform his higher ups to move to better platforms 🙂 Maybe Cisco 🙂

If you are an Airtel executive reading this post, make sure that the IVR applications are written well. If you want call completion on IVR to be maximised, atleast give us consumers a chance to complete it. I am never going to access your IVR for bill information. I will do it online. The only reason I will call into your IVR is for complaints, and since you already have menus for that, why can’t you integrate it properly?

I would be more than willing to help you if you get in touch with me.

Posted in Cisco, General, Voice 2.0 | 1 Comment »

It is about the Consumers, Stupid!!!

Posted by tggokul on February 19, 2008

I was watching the India-Srilanka cricket match when there was an ad break. I normally would have switched channels, but the remote was not there with me and so had to watch the ads.

For the first time in my life, I actually saw an ad by Cisco touting its “Human Networks”. This got me thinking. Why in the world would a Networking company want to announce itself to the general consumers? Why would Cisco want to be consumer facing? Let’s say Cisco’s next big bet is on Unified Communication. Still, they would need to target the enterprises and not the end consumer.

They are not going IPO. So it cannot be a marketing ploy. Why would Cisco want to get into the public eye? I have some views. But I would like to hear yours , please.

Posted in Cisco | 1 Comment »

Presenting at Proto.in 2008

Posted by tggokul on January 10, 2008

Regular readers of my blog would know that I have the highest regard for Proto.in and the vision it stands for.  I have had the privilege of covering both the editions so far. In fact I have very fond memories of the first one. We captured the entire event on an N91 and that shot this blog to fame. That was the first time I saw the importance on video and understood why the Peter D. Csathy’s of the world have bet big on video.

And now I have been asked to be one of the speakers in this very event. Check out the other speakers and you would know why I am thrilled to be presenting. My session is on the Future of enterprise communication. Unified Communication would sure be a part of that. I would try to answer the question as to are there really any unified communications products in the market? Cisco changing its call manager to Unified Communication Manager, is that a marketing ploy or is it relaly a UC product?

VoIP ain’t UC!!! This is my pet peeve and I will touch upon that as well.I also plan to broach a subject which might be not be taken too kindly by my audience( product companies). Products don’t sell, solutions do. System integrators are the one who bring value to the platform. Applications on the platform drive sales. Your product is just a platform. When a company like Cisco focusses on business driven applications, you should know where the value lies. They made their network their platform. What will yours be?

This is just a sample of what I plan to talk about. Vijay calls me “controversial” but trust me , he ain’t seen nothing yet 🙂 If you are planning to be at Proto.in, leave a note here and we will catch up.

Posted in Cisco, PROTO | 4 Comments »

Open IOS??

Posted by tggokul on December 13, 2007

I can’t believe what I just read now. Is Cisco really serious about opening up IOS? Is Don Procter insane?

I think this is just a gimmick to counter the move of Juniper who went ahead and opened their OS. The main reason why I think they won’t do so is security. Internet infrastructure is too serious to be opened up to geeks who could bring down our systems. Serious questions will be raised by consumers.

What do you think?

Posted in Cisco | 1 Comment »