Cisco C-Scape 2008 - Day 2

Well, Day 2 is done, and so is C-Scape 2008. I really enjoyed attending, and feel lucky to be part of the scaled down group that was there in person. The overall content was quite good, and Cisco really seems to be trying hard to stay close to the analysts and listen to our thoughts on their direction.

As mentioned yesterday, a lot of the focus was on how Cisco is transforming itself into a "next generation" company (am still not sure what that term means any more) rather than how they're going to change the world around them. That said, their new tag line makes it pretty clear that's the end game - "Cisco - Best in the world. Best for the world." Got that? A bit of a throwback to GM in the 1950's, but you get the idea. If all this technology carries the day, it will be Cisco's world, and we'll just be living in it. Hey, they've got $27 billion in the bank and a lot of desperate companies at their feet, so anything is possible, right?

Am being a bit facetious here, and Cisco is being every bit as careful and pragamatic as the rest of us. I found many of the sessions down to earth, and Cisco seems very conscious of getting their house in order and focused on helping their customers leverage IT to get themselves through both good times and bad. Day 2 continued the mix of sunny keynotes and hands-on breakouts about their various business lines.

What strikes me overall is the breadth of their market coverage. Having recently been at Avaya's analyst event, it was interesting to see them talk about scaling down their business focus from some 27 lines of business to 3. Cisco was talking about managing 26 priorities - i.e. growth opportunities - so they're certainly not putting all their eggs in one basket. I highly doubt many analysts in the room - if any - can possibly be up to speed on all 26 priorities, which makes Cisco a difficult company to fully understand. Maybe it's that way by design, but listening to their top execs, you come away thinking there really is a grand plan here, and it's all under control. Sure hope so.





I'll leave you with a few photos from today...

Rob Lloyd talking about Cisco 3.0 and what this means for how they will transform the relationships they have with their customers. Pretty forward-thinking ideas here, and if executed well, will serve as best practices for others to follow.

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Art Hair, CTO of Disney - very interesting presentation about the realities of making movies in the digital age and how important networks are to the process. Never thought about film-making this way, and Disney really is a great showcase for Cisco in the sense that film is the most collaborative of all art forms, and collaboration is Cisco's driving mantra now.

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Charles Stucki updating us during the Telepresence breakout. Did you know that Cisco is doing over 4,000 meetings a week using Telepresence? That's got to be adding up to some serious savings in travel costs.

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The best for last - final session was an open-ended Q&A/fireside chat with John Chambers. I think he enjoyed this as much as we did.

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Next Stop - Cisco C-Scape, San Jose

On Monday I'm on my way to San Jose for Cisco's 2008 C-Scape analyst conference. This will probably be my last trip for the year, and as it gets colder here by the day, San Jose isn't such a bad place to be.

I was there last year, and given the current economic climate, I suspect things will be more scaled-back next week. Cisco is being very practical and encouraging analysts to participate virtually, and we all know they have the tools to make that a viable option. The gods must like me, and I feel lucky to be going in person, and will do my best to share the highlights via my blog.

If you happen to be in San Jose next week and want to meet for a drink, I won't be hard to find!


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Avaya Canada Analyst Day

Yesterday I attended Avaya Canada's analyst day here in Toronto. I participated last year, and it was good to gauge their progress since then. The local analyst community is pretty small, so it was a very friendly session.

For most of us, the main attraction was meeeting the new head of Avaya Canada, Gerard Baglieri. For what it's worth, he goes by the title VP/GM, so I really can't say CEO. Maybe Avaya's culture is more egalitarian than most, and maybe it's just a Canadian thing. Anyhow, Gerard is from NY, and during my 1:1 session, he strikes me as being very capable and focused, so don't let his title fool you.

I attended Avaya's global analyst event a few back in Boston, and for those of us who were there, most of yesterday was familiar territory. As such, I don't have much news to report, other than the fact that Avaya Canada seems very well aligned with the corporate storyline.

They did address some of the structural differences and dynamics of the domestic market, and how their plans to expand the channels up here will be more challenging. The difficulty with Canada is that the SMB market is more heavily skewed towards the very low end of the scale, and these businesses are often not a good fit for Avaya's offerings. Of course all vendors face that problem here, but it's fair to say Avaya will have to be more aggressive in Canada than the U.S. to achieve their stated target of driving 85% of their sales through channels within the next 3 years. Gerard has a tall order ahead, and time will tell.

We saw a variety of presentations throughout the day, and they all reinforced the core themes we saw in Boston - namely, Avaya feels they are ready now to become the #1 player, the company is now very focused on two main markets - Unified Communications and Contact Centers, and the overall business strategy is to become more channel-centric.

I elaborated on this further in my Boston post and elsewhere, and will say again that there's a good story here. Yesterday's session had both analysts and media, so there was some public coverage in the trades. I can steer you to one of these if you care to read more.

To wrap up, here are a few photos from yesterday...

Gerard Baglieri

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Todd Abbott - he presented in Boston - was nice to see him come up to Toronto for this

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Amir Hameed talking about contact centers

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Colleague Ronald Gruia from Frost checking out the bat-phone, with a bit of a halo around him. He's special, but not that special! :-) He just happened to be standing close to the overhead light, although it sure looks like he's radiating brilliance....

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Microsoft Canada Analyst Day

I spent most of today attending Microsoft Canada's analyst day here in Toronto. It was led by Sean Seaton and his team, and they sure covered a lot of ground. Sean is the Director of their Communications Sector, and just about everything they talked about was of interest to me.

Today Microsoft touches every facet of communications, and the opening vision statement sums it up pretty well: "to create experiences that combine the magic of software with the power of Internet services across a world of devices."

That covers pretty much everything, and Microsoft is working very hard to straddle the worlds of software and the Web - while at the same time, steering very clear of anything to do with hardware.

We saw a series of presentations covering desktop applications, Windows Live 3, mobility, the workplace, entertainment, and Mediaroom. On its own, each of these is very interesting, but together you have tip your hat to Microsoft for being so strong in so many places.

To me, though, the strongest story was the service provider market, where they really are becoming an important player. I'd say that was the core focus for most of us in the room, so we were a pretty attentive audience. I've seen much of this before in their Telco 2.0 presentations, and written about it in some of my Service Provider Views columns.

I'm going to leave it at that for now, but will touch on many of their service provider themes in my next column, which should run on Friday. So, you'll have to come back to hear the rest of the story.

Oh - kudos also to High Road Communications for pulling this event together and hosting it at their downtown offices. They always do a good job and I'd say Microsoft is being well served by them.

Aside from this, we had a recurring distraction running all day wondering if the BCE privatization deal was going to fall apart. It was a very ugly day, as the stock fell 34% in value, driven by concerns over a negative opinion by KPMG regarding BCE's ability to meet the solvency requirements for the deal. Canada's financial sector hasn't been shaken to it core like the U.S., but the magnitude of this deal is enough to undermine confidence in our entire telecom sector. That's another post in itself, but I'll hold off until the dust settles around BCE. Phew.


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Calliflower Premium Launched

Regular readers will know that I've followed Ottawa-based Iotum for a long time, and have some news to pass on for their latest incarnation, Calliflower. This is a Web 2.0-style platform that's trying to bring more intelligence and value to audio conferencing.

At the recent Under the Radar event, Calliflower had two announcements of note. First is their integration with the iPhone. This is good news for two reasons. First, it exposes Calliflower to a huge market of tech-savvy consumers, some of whom will no doubt find this service of great value. Second, since Calliflower is mainly a business application, it makes the iPhone more relevant to the enterprise market - SMBs as well - and that's a big market that Apple very much wants to crack.

Secondly, Calliflower launched its Premium service, which comes with a modest monthly fee that will be attractive to power users, especially those doing international conference calls. I believe that companies like Calliflower/Iotum need fee-based offerings to survive long term, and it's great to them do this. The introductory pricing is $50 per month for two organizers, and with this you get file sharing, and local inbound dialing for North America and 4 other countries, plus the use of Voxbone's iNum global area code (883). You can read more about it in the press release here.

There's a lot of Web 2.0 here, and you can imagine how much more engaging these calls can be, layering file sharing and IM on top of the audio service. Plus, with the flat monthly fee, the per minute dialing charges are eliminated, making conferencing much more affordable for regular users - as well as attractive to everyone else who thinks that conference calling is expensive.

Oh - if you're keen, and are among the first 400 to sign up before November 30, Calliflower will add a 3rd organizer at no extra cost.

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