Erik Linask : Convergence Corner
Erik Linask

SIP Trunks and Whaaaat???...Gateways...but not SBCs?

Back in March, I wrote a blog about the PSTN sunset. But in reality legacy technologies are still in use.  I know this since...

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Waiting on the Channel

Whether it is TPX CEO Richard Jalkut or other channel executives, providers are impatiently waiting on the channel to jump off...

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Solving the Data Analytics Skills Gap

Data analytics is doing absolutely amazing things for companies... Recently, Vodafone worked with a venture-backed company Celonis to improve efficiency. The results...

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Don't Judge the Microsoft Surface Pro by its Reviews

Disclosure: we use an iPad Pro and iPhone and a Microsoft Surface Book on a daily basis so you can see we...

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Fax Still Going Strong

Last week, I had the pleasure to meet with most of our Japanese fax customers in Tokyo.  Fax, like many PSTN...

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2 Blockbuster Deals

The VADs (value added distributors) are feeling the pinch of the growth of cloud, SAAS, SD-WAN, managed services - amid the...

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The Accordion Channel Strategy

An Accordion is a musical instrument that is stretched and squeezed while the piano like keys are played. A better analogy...

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Southwest to Test In-flight WiFi

February 11, 2009

The growing trend in communications, as we all know, whether personal or business, is toward mobility. Mobile handsets (including those with WiFi connectivity options) are being introduced regularly that challenge the limits of carrier networks with applications and features, laptop sales outnumber desktop PCs, and the mobile broadband market it thriving. And of course there's the iPod Touch, which offers purely WiFi connectivity. What it all means is that users are expecting to be able to connect to network services anywhere, at any time, on any device -- there's the old catchphrase that was used to promote UC from the very beginning.   Those connectivity options now include in-flight WiFi, which has already been introduced on many flights by American Airlines and Delta, and United Airlines is also reportedly readying to introduce the service.   Now, Southwest Airlines is preparing to join that group, as it test its new aircraft-to-satellite technology on one plane, with three additional planes on track to be outfitted next month. According to the airline, travelers will be able to use the service at no cost using their choice of WiFi-enabled devices during the test period.
Southwest is a low-cost airline, so the question now is whether they will charge for the service once it receives FCC approval -- and if so, how much. Currently, it boasts the mantra that, "At Southwest Airlines, fees don't fly," and they don't charge for the first two checked bags (within size and weight limits) or ticket changes. It will be interesting to see if that holds true with the WiFi service.   Still, what the new service means is that travelers will be able to stay in contact and continue to work on flights. Obviously, the transmission rates won't match what we're used to at home or in the office, but, at least on American, Greg Galitzine tells me the speed is surprisingly good. Of course, that may be a result of AA charging for its service, which likely dissuades at least some potential users from connecting.   The question is, is there really a demand for in-flight WiFi? Well, if you rely on email as your primary means of communication in a busy work environment, it is without a benefit to be able to stay on top of those emails while in transit. I'm not sure of the viability of more bandwidth-intensive applications, but those, too, will be usable as the technology evolves. If nothing else, Southwest is making its case to travelers who might otherwise pay a higher fare on other airlines without WiFi once it rolls out the service on a wider scale.

Daytona 500 - MWR Boasts New Satellite Communications for NASCAR Opener

February 10, 2009

When 43 drivers line up for the official start of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season at Saturday's 51st Daytona 500, the Michael Waltrip Racing team will be using a new satellite communications system from Spacenet
Most of the communications systems -- whether wireline or some form of wireless -- I write about focus on the more traditional enterprise and SMB environment, but there is a whole market for the mobile communications space, for which satellite-based solutions are ideal.   Of course, for any business, its communications system is the heart of its operation, and nowhere is this more true than during the several hours between the white and checkered flags. Michael Waltrip Racing has deployed Spacenet's Connexstar Performance series, a portable satellite solution, to support its communications needs, which extends from the track to its engineering teams in Charlotte, North Carolina. The system was designed by Orbital Enterprises, an expert in both fixed and mobile satellite communications.   Read more on the MWR's Spacenet deployment here.   "In the NASCAR world, speed and performance is everything," said Michael Waltrip Racing Director of Information Technologies Patrick Hughes.  "Shaving seconds off the clock can make the difference between winning and losing,"   Hughes said the team explored several options, but settled on Spacenet because of its service guarantees, which exceeded those of any competitor. MWR hopes that its new communications network will allow it to react more quickly, resulting, in a fast start to a long race season.   If you don't think a split second can make a difference, think again. Just ask Kurt Busch (.002 seconds behind Ricky Craven in 2003), Kyle Busch (.005 behind Jamie McMurray in Daytona in 2007), or Jeff Gordon (.006 behind Kevin Harvick in Atlanta in 2001). In fact, four of the 14 closest finishes in NASCAR history have come in races run in Daytona.   MWR's David Reutimann, driving the #00 Aaron's Toyota, starts 18th Sunday, and teammate Michael Waltrip (co-owner and MWR Chairman), in his #55 NAPA Toyota, starts 34th.    Still, even with the new Spacenet communications solution, the pair faces a daunting challenge, as they look to overtake pole sitter Martin Truex Jr., as well as the Hendrick Motorsports team, which starts all four of its drivers among the top 12 spots: Hendrick newcomer Mark Martin (2), three-time defending Cup champion Jimmie Johnson (6), Jeff Gordon (9), and Dale Earnhardt Jr. (12).

  All eyes will be on the Hendrick drivers and other favorites, and I'm not sure even the best communications system can make up for pure driver talent ahead of MWR in the starting grid. But, Waltrip does have three checkered flags at the Daytona International Speedway to his credit, including two Daytona 500 wins, in 2001 and 2003. Regardless, I can't wait for what are known as, "The most famous words in motorsports" to be called out Saturday: "Gentlemen, start your engines!"


Laptops for Teachers in Estonia

February 9, 2009

The economic crisis facing the U.S. today is by no means a localized phenomenon -- it is a turbulence felt across the globe. However, the trend towards mobility, which is also evident in North America, also extends to the corners of the globe. How are they related?   Well, as many here in the U.S. have already experienced, teachers in Estonia are now facing a salary freeze. In fact, according to Tõnis Lukas, the Minister of Education and Research of Estonia, the Ministry is facing a 7% budget cut this year. Despite that, a proposal is on the table that would offer some level of compensation by providing laptops for the educators, according to a report in the Baltic Business News.   Some, like Hille Eek, Director of the Viimsi school, argue that laptops are a luxury, and that, at least among Viimsi teachers, each has a PC at home and access to one on school premises.    However, if you consider the added convenience and mobility laptops provide, along with ever-lower price tags -- it's no coincidence that laptop sales outnumber desktops today -- the argument can easily be made that they offer significant improvements in productivity.    According to Andres Ammas, director of Haapsalu Gümnaasium, "Nowadays a laptop is like blackboard and chalk used to be."   It's an interesting proposition. Without question, teachers' ability to work without being tied to a desk or having to constantly transfer files between PCs would be significantly enhanced. On the other hand, despite the low cost of laptops today, the proposition would, nevertheless, present a budgetary dilemma. But the potential productivity gains have to be weighed against the cost.    My take: the benefits outweigh the financial burden, both for the educators and the students. I can't imagine working without a laptop these days, and though it may be an extreme case, my mother, who teaches in Estonia, is able to connect to her school's network from Connecticut when visiting, able to develop lesson plans and communicate with students and colleagues.   For a small nation, but one that has been in the immersed in the communications space for several years now, it is the obvious choice in a world that is becoming more mobile by the day.  

Can Google Translate?

February 6, 2009

If you're multilingual, you can easily translate between the languages in which you're fluent but, as a writer, I often find it useful to have a resource for translation, for effect, or simply for clarification. Sometimes, it's a case of translating a single word, which is pretty easy using any one of the language-to-language dictionaries available.   But, what about phrases, entire sentences, or even paragraphs? I've actually received a number of foreign language press releases, in fact, which I would like to be able to translate.   Well, it's hardly surprising that Google has built out its own Web-based service, Google Translate (currently in its Beta phase), which now supports 41 languages. Google has developed its own "statistical translation system" between any two pairs of supported languages.   The statistical machine translation system, according to Google, is different from the typical rules-based translation systems that require significant definition of vocabularies and grammar rules. According to Google, its software is fed "billions of words of text, both monolingual text in the target language, and aligned text consisting of examples of human translations between the languages, and then apply statistical learning techniques to build a translation model."   Google says it has achieved "very good results" using this model.   I'm not so sure a translation model that doesn't incorporate complex rules can produce consistent results.   Google has recently added Estonian to its list of supported languages, so I decided to have a look with some simple sentences.   Estonian: Sinine on sinu taevas, kallis Eesti kodumaa. My translation: Blue is your sky, my dear Estonian homeland. Google: The blue sky is yours, for my own baby.   Estonian: Ma tahaksin kodus olla, kus õunapuud õitsevad. My translation: I would like to be home, where the apple trees blossom. Google: I would like to be at home, where the trees are blossoming.   Estonian: Musta lehma saba on kirju lehma taga. My translation: The black cow's tail is behind the (multi)colored cow's tail. Google: Black tail of a cow is a cow behind letters.   Estonian: Mu arvuti on parandusel. My translation: My computer is being repaired. Google: My computer is a correction.

ITEXPO East 2009, What a Week for the VoIP Industry

February 5, 2009

What a week it's been! I just got home from ITEXPO, and had some time to reflect on the show during my trip home.    After filming close to 50 videos during the past three days, the overwhelming impression I was left with as I left the Miami Beach Convention Center was that, having come to Miami with some level of uncertainty about what was to come, nearly all of the exhibitors and sponsors at the show left with a sense of overwhelming success. Take a look a images from the show to see what I mean.   In particular, the CALA region was well represented - a comment made to me more than once. Of course, knowing the growing interest in VoIP in the region, that comes as no surprise. But, more importantly, the success of the show -- underscored by a group of attendees still in a session at Ingate's SIP Trunking Workshop as I left (see picture below) -- serves as notice to the entire communications industry that the struggling economy is not something to fear, but to leverage. 

  Attendance at the show was great but, more importantly, the quality of the attendees was what stood out for the exhibitors I spoke with. As Allworx' Chris Talbot told me, the tire kickers stayed home, leaving a show filled with people truly interested in finding solutions that will help them grow their businesses in a cost-effective, practical way. For Allworx, he also said it was a fantastic event that brought significant business opportunities -- more than they could have expected.   I also had a chance to chat with SIP Print's Don Palmer and Jon Fuld back at the hotel after the show. They, too, were overwhelmed with the amount of real business they conducted at the show. In fact, in addition to signing up for the next ITEXPO, SIP Print is also going to sponsor a Call Recording community on TMCnet.    SIP Print, by they way, won a Best of Show award for Most Innovative Product, for its SIP call recording appliance. In addition to offering an SMB solution, it has now built out that offering in an enterprise-class version, and is working on a service provider version for the near future.   Allworx won an award for Best SMB Solution. For the complete list of winners, check out Greg Galitzine's blog entry.   And of course, to cap the show off, we gave away a new Jeep as the end of the show. Rich Tehrani was quick to post a picture of the winner, Frank Schirrmeister the director of product marketing at Synopsys. Here are a few more.

I've got a lot more to talk about from the show tomorrow, but for now, thanks to everyone that attended ITEXPO this week and helped make the show a resounding success. As Greg wrote, "See you in Los Angeles!"

The VoIP Industry Speaks at ITEXPO... more videos

February 3, 2009

What a day at ITEXPO.  I didn't have a chance to attend any of the conference sessions, but I spent the day interviewing various industry experts on the show floor.  The list of interviewees reads like a who's who of the IP Communications space and, as you might expect, they had some great insight as to what's going on in the industry, and why that has all resulted in a turnout for our show that reinforces the strength of the industry, even in this trying economy.

Today's list: TI, Fujitsu, VoltDelta, Digium, TelcoBridges, Grandstream, Orecx, Interactive Intelligence, IPitomy, Ingate, and Allworx.    It's safe to say whatever you're looking for in the way of communications solutions, you can find it from these companies.   But what was truly refreshing about talking with industry experts from all corners of the industry is that the level of appreciation they exhibited for the commitment of the audience that showed up for the show in this economy.

ITEXPO - It's On!

February 2, 2009

The exhibit floor has finally come together, the lights are on, and the doors are open. There's quite a buzz from people looking to get the latest scoop on IP Communications technology. I've had a short break between videos - NET Quintum is up next - so I took the opportunity to snap a few quick shots of the excitement.   Also don't forget to check out all my videos from the show. Here's what's been posted so far:   Peter Weyant, Interlink John Porter, Camrivox Alan Percy, AudioCodes John Drolet, Aastra John Hart & Charles Studt, IntelePeer David Byrd, Broadvox   There are many more to come, so check back regularly.
The crowd gathered, waiting for the doors to open...

Citel's booth became an instant hit.

Digium|Asterisk World

Someone is going home with the Jeep in the middle.

First ITEXPO East 2009 Videos Online

February 2, 2009

Well, I'm watching the show floor come together -- that's always an exciting part of the last few hours before the exhibit hall opens. If you want a peek at the exhibit hall before 5:45pm, you can see it in the background of my first two videos from this morning, with Interlink's Peter Weyant, and Camrivox's John Porter.   Weyant discussed two key elements of Interlink's current strategy. The first is a name change vis   vis a partnership with Network Dynamics, which also adds a key new element to its solution -- service and deployment. This means that, not only can Global Convergence offer a best of breed, multivendor solution, but it can now also provide service and set-up as well.   Porter talked about the need to provider Outlook integration with Camrivox's Flexor CTI, as well as its integration into CRM solutions, including and NetSuite.   And, as I've been writing this (I had to stop to chat with Digium's Tristan Degenhardt about the latest release of Switchvox, version 4.0), there's been an addition to the videos: my chat with Alan Percy, AudioCodes' Director of Market Development, is also online now.   If you've been following my series of Webinars with Alan -- you can find them here -- you know that AudioCodes has been focused on the benefits of SIP-based communications and the variety of ways it can be applied. The latest Webinar, in partnership with, focused on SIP Trunking, and specifically how to cut communications costs without a complete forklift.   Anyway, I've got Jon Doyle from Communigate up next, but check out the all the videos from ITEXPO at TMCnet Videos.

Syspine's ITEXPO VoIP Offer: Buy One, Get Two Free, including Microsoft Response Point

February 1, 2009

We know the economy is impacting the communications space, despite its seeming immunity for a period. Earnings numbers are down -- rather significantly for most ­-- and customers are simply being extremely cautious with how the spend their dollars.   Even though IP Communications offers significant cost savings, in a space as crowded as this is, vendors have to go the extra mile to drive attention to their solutions and away from their competition.   Syspine is literally going that extra mile, traveling to Miami to exhibit at ITEXPO this week to show its DOS A50 base server, which provides a complete telephony solution for up to 50 IP 310 endpoints and as many as 8 PSTN lines for backup or to connect existing legacy endpoints.   The Syspine solution is powered by Microsoft Response Point -- which is a Platinum Sponsor of ITEXPO -- offers all of the popular elements of an IP Communications solution: unified messaging, SIP Trunking support, voice mail, auto attendant, speech recognition and text to speech conversion, Outlook integration, and much more. Basically, it provides the cost savings of VoIP (and SIP Trunking), the convenience and productivity enhancements from UC, and the added benefit of being built on a solution designed to integrate with Microsoft applications, including the inherent features, like voice recognition.   Voice recognition, in fact, is among the primary features of Response Point, allowing the Syspine VoIP phone system to accurately recognize most spoken words, ensuring simplified calling by merely picking up a handset, pressing the Response Point button, and saying the recipient's name.  It's that simple. The Syspine platform looks up the number in your company directory or your Outlook address book and dials.    Through March, Syspine is adding an additional bonus -- anyone buying a Syspine DOS A50 will get two free IP phones to start their network.    To find out more about Syspine, Response Point, how VoIP can save your business precious dollars while improving your communications capabilities, and for more about this offer, visit Syspine at booth #929 in the exhibit hall.

Motorola, Super Bowl, ITEXPO

February 1, 2009

The big day is finally here -- for football fans worldwide, and especially Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals fans. We're only hours away from the opening kickoff at Super Bowl XLIII, and all week, the media has been abuzz with features on the NFL's season finale (ok, the Pro Bowl is yet to come, but who really watches that?).    Even late last night, as I finally went to sleep after a long day of preparations for ITEXPO East 2009, which itself kicks off tomorrow morning at 8:00 from Miami, a mere two hours or so from tonight's Super Bowl, I fell asleep to various TV shows discussing the big game.   The point is, this is one of the single biggest media events of the year, and the NFL certainly would have been remiss to consider that when choosing its wireless supplier for the event. So, it's not all that surprising that it again chose Motorola to provider end-to-end WiFi coverage. Not only has Motorola been the NFL's vendor of choice for three years running, but it has a wealth of experience to draw upon as it provides reliable, high-speed wireless connectivity from more than 4,000 media members covering the game.   The temporary nature of the deployment, combined with the high user density and network traffic congestion, not to mention the critical nature of the communications network, all make for as demanding a deployment scenario as one can imagine.   Motorola overcomes these challenges, enabling access in several official Super Bowl venues, including team hotels, the Super Bowl Media Center, Raymond James Stadium, and more, using a combination of its Motorola RFS6000 wireless switches, AP300 access ports, AP5131 mesh-enabled access points, and Motorola AirDefense Solutions wireless security sensors. The solution offers not only the network speed and reliability media covering the Super Bowl require, but also the security that is required for any network solution.   So, as the Steelers and Cardinals prepare to do battle this evening, we're here at the Miami Beach Convention Center getting ready for ITEXPO, which, as I said, opens first thing tomorrow morning. The Motorola deployment is significant because it speaks to just the kinds of wireless technologies that will be on display on the exhibit hall floor (along with their wired counterparts and everything else that creates an IP Communications solution), accompanied by conference sessions on the latest wireless technologies at 4G Wireless Evolution, which a collocated with ITEXPO.   It may not be "the" Super Bowl, but ITEXPO promises to be the Super Bowl of the IP Communications industry. The winners will be those who attend. See you tomorrow.