MetaSwitch Forum 2009 - Day 1

Finally getting a chance to post about the MetaSwitch Forum, which kicked off last night. I had some serious PC problems just before flying out, which has impacted my blogging, and I'm making do as best I can. Before updating you on today, I should say that Rich Tehrani got the jump on posting, and he blogged about the reception last night, so if you want to start at the beginning, go here. Rich has been posting regularly since then, so you might want to follow his blog along with mine.

From what I can tell, I'm the only industry analyst here, so I'm keeping myself company. There are a handful of press/media here - Rich, Gary Kim, Carol Wilson, Dough Mohney and Richard Martin (you should tap them as well for their coverage of the forum) - so that's my default crowd to be running with. Aside from us, of course, it's all about the customers, and there are plenty here. It's been great talking them up - you learn so much this way about the little things that go on in their world, and hardly ever turns up in the media.

Overall, it's been great so far. Attendence is up from last year - some 630 all told - and that alone tells you a lot about the support for what they're doing. The sessions today have been about the MetaSwitch roadmap, along with a media/press-only luncheon where we had some quiet time with their senior management team - but that stays off-line.

There have been 2 public news items so far - 1.) the appointment of John Lazar as the overall CEO - up til now, he was sharing the role with Graeme MacArthur; 2.)the addition of Kevin DeNuccio to their Board - he brings solid Tier 1 experience, which may tell you a thing or two about some of their plans. You can read more about these items here and here. Tomorrow will see a slew of press releases from technology partners, along with an important new focus for MetaSwitch.

That's all for now, but here are a few photos and some brief commentary...

Andy Randall in his customary role welcoming us to the forum. He talked about the "No Limits" theme this year, with the message being that operators have many options now for providing services, and they shouldn't limit themselves with legacy telecom thinking.

John Lazar and Graeme MacArthur with the CEO-level view of the market. Very good job connecting the dots between the weak economy and what it means for both carriers and vendors. Also talked about the MetaSwitch culture and why the company is well positioned for growth. They made it clear that MetaSwitch intends to remain independent and to become a true Tier 1 player. A key lever for doing this is their focus on staying customer-centric, and investing heavily in R&D - roughly 30% of revenues, which is pretty impressive.

Anthony Zuiker - WHO is this guy? Wow, what a treat. TV watchers should know him as the creator of CSI, which I didn't realize was so HUGE. Aside from getting a taste of what makes the show so special, his main message what about what calls cross-platform story telling. I see so much of this my everyday work, and it was great to hear someone outside of telecom talk like this. His basic premise is that our behaviors are different today, and nobody simply watches TV any more. People want a more immersive, involved experience - one that they control - not the TV networks. It's not good news for TV as we know - no surprise there. Anthony is basically showing a better way - a new business model that the TV industry needs to adopt. I love what he's doing, and the takeway for MetaSwitch's customers, is that they need to start thinking in these terms as well. MetaSwitch gives them a platform and the tools to create these new communications experiences, and hopefully he'll inspire them to start thinking more outside the box.

Chris Mairs giving his CTO vision, with a key focus on the idea that service providers are experiencing a separation of services from pipes, and it's going to be really hard for them to be good at both. It was great to see him talk about Skype's SILK codec and Google Voice as important disruptors. He presented at eComm last month, where those items were very much part of the landscape. That's less the case with their customer base, but that needs to change, so kudos to MetaSwitch for bringing this into the mix.

Once you've had your fill of keynotes, there's always the beach - Las Vegas style...

Finally, a bit of reality. It's fairly quiet in Las Vegas these days, so the go-go energy isn't what it used to be. Here's a telling example - the sign here sure looks welcoming, but the Welcome Center is empty - literally. It's hard to see this, but in the left corner of the storefront window is a big For Lease sign. Ugh.