There has been a lot of buzz of a new concept emerging in the network community– software defined networking (SDN). SDN is glamorized as the network’s latest push towards a more streamlined and cost-efficient solution compared to the physical infrastructure currently dominating the floors of IT departments. Promoters are trumpeting this advancement as an innovation marvel; much like virtualization was to servers. In fact, a key component of SDN is bringing networks to a virtual environment. Despite the hype of SDN giving it much notability, many are still confused about the underlying concept of SDN, the possible complications, and the business value of having an SDN network. Visit Info-Tech’s solution set Prepare for Software Defined Networking (SDN) to guide you through fact and fiction.

SDN is essentially a network architecture where the management, mapping, and control of traffic flow is removed from network devices, and centralized in the network. This separation is said to increase performance, network visibility, and simplicity given it is constructed correctly. However, given SDN’s infancy, a sufficient number of use cases and proof-of-concepts have yet to emerge in the SDN space, leaving organizations wondering if there is any revenue generating or cost saving opportunities. How can they make a sound decision on SDN? It may be too early to make a final decision, but they can start crafting the case and investigate the early movers in the SDN space.

Be prepared to see a shift in networking paradigms because of SDN: hardware to software, physical to virtual, propriety to commodity. Naturally, this will throw off traditional networking staff from their game. But, do not worry, current SDN solutions are still in “Version 1” and future versions may see solutions become friendlier to traditional network practices and concepts. With the attention it is getting from the media and established network leaders, SDN technologies will likely (and hopefully) evolve to mainstream deployment states.

Realize SDN is here. Understand where it came from and how it can help your business. Remember to wait for the SDN space to settle and mature before implementing SDN in your organization. After all, you wouldn’t want your child driving your multi-million dollar car.

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It’s a pretty safe bet that Meraki wants to lay a big wet kiss on Cisco right about now. The networking giant is laying out $1.2 billion in cash for the young cloud networking (primarily wireless) company, and that’s a pretty big deal for a 6 year old company with a $100 million annual run rate. Cisco announced the deal to analysts last night and followed up with a conference call this morning. It’s safe to say that the kiss is being reciprocated — Cisco is pretty jacked about the acquisition, too.

Image source: TechCrunch

During the conference call, Rob Soderbery, senior vice president of Cisco’s Enterprise Networking Group, repeatedly mentioned Meraki’s positioning in the mid-market. Cisco desperately wants and needs to offer a cloud-managed WLAN solution, but hasn’t had much success breaking into that space on its own. Cisco also recognizes that margins on the software side and the recurring revenue model of cloud services are where it needs to move.

While the price tag is hard to wrap your head around, this is clearly a strategic purchase for Cisco. It was emphasized on the conference call that this is not an opportunistic acquisition, but a longer-term strategic acquisition. For Cisco, the move is multi-faceted — get a recurring revenue cloud managed solution, get into higher margin software, and offer a viable mid-market solution to grow share in the fastest growing segment of the market. For Meraki, it’s $1.2 billion — need I say more?

For Meraki’s current customers, it’ll be business as usual for the next 6 months or so. For new buyers, uncertainty will likely hinder Meraki’s growth for 6-12 months. Based on Info-Tech’s Wireless LAN Vendor Landscape published earlier this year, this could be a match made in heaven.

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During the second day of its Customer Collaboration Conference in Boston, Cisco continued to outline its product strategy for incumbent and upcoming contact center solutions. The focus of the second day was on next-generation contact center architecture and intelligent agent routing solutions. Although skills-based routing has been a mainstay of the contact center for years, Cisco’s “precision routing” engine gives call center managers granular controls over every aspect of skills routing. For example, managers can define complex custom rules to route calls to the most qualified agent under a variety of user-defined scenarios. They also demonstrated the capability to tie agent training features, like product questionnaires, directly into the routing engine, partially eliminating the need to manually enter or update proficiency levels for each agent.

In its vision for customer collaboration, Cisco identified four key pillars for ongoing product innovation: social media, mobile applications, visual (video), and virtualization. These four pillars align with trends uncovered in recent Info-Tech reports on customer service management (for example, see Info-Tech’s Vendor Landscape Plus: Customer Service Management Platforms). According to Cisco, future call center products will also focus on a range of deployment models (particularly hosted solutions).

Read about day one of Cisco’s Customer Collaboration Conference.

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Man with headset and laptopThe first day of Cisco’s Customer Collaboration Conference in Boston has been an enlightening experience about the communication giant’s plans for the contact center and collaboration spaces. Company representatives showed the firm’s strategy in several major areas, with an emphasis on tightening integration between contact center products and other areas of the company’s business (including unified communications products like WebEx). Cisco was also quick to tout its market share gains in enterprise voice relative to incumbent industry leader, Avaya.

Of particular interest was Cisco’s demonstration of contact center social media capabilities – Info-Tech’s research has repeatedly shown that customer service is the domain most likely to realize value from leveraging social media. Firms that incorporate social channels into their customer service strategy are over 20% more likely to realize their social media goals than those that do not. Contact centers are on the forefront of providing customer service, so Cisco’s move to incorporate social channels into upcoming solutions is a step in the right direction. The firm also displayed capabilities for using mobile devices and location-based capabilities to improve customer service delivery. Industry analysts heard from customers and partners of Cisco contact center solutions, who praised the value of consolidating service operations using Cisco’s cloud infrastructure and service applications.

Read about day two of Cisco’s Customer Collaboration Conference.

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Blade ServerBaking a cake and cooking a stir fry are two tasks that have many similarities, but the key to successful execution for each is very different. When baking a cake, it’s all about precise measurements and combinations, whereas when making a stir fry you can pretty much put together any ingredients that you like. Selecting a blade server is like baking a cake. It’s not always a matter of what you like best, but rather how the blade fits with the rest of the existing infrastructure ingredients.

Blade server adoption has been rapidly increasing because of the multiple benefits that blades provide. Blade servers reduce server costs and are ideal for consolidation and virtualization, particularly where space is at a premium. Info-Tech found that when it comes to selection, blade buyers rank consolidation enablement, reduction in management complexity, and reducing physical space requirements as critically important. However, when it comes to a successful blade purchase, the key differentiators come not from the blades themselves, but from the systems they plug into. Before making any purchasing decisions, know how the blade will fit into the existing infrastructure.

Info-Tech’s recent Vendor Landscape: Blade Systems evaluated seven top vendors. So let’s cut to the chase – who came out a cut above the rest? Well, no big surprise that the large vendors HP, IBM, Dell, and Cisco all slide comfortably into the Champion category. While each vendor has different strengths, overall these products offer the most balanced blades and most developed management platforms. Dell also takes home the Value award with the most comprehensive product offering at the most affordable price. Hitachi Data Systems are relatively new entrants to the blade market; their tight engineering and logical portioning feature win them the Trendsetter award.

For more information, please see Vendor Landscape: Blade Systems.

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