5 Tech Companies to Watch in 2015

There are so many companies I meet with who have interesting stories to tell so I spent some time putting together a list of those worthy of recognition. I hope you find this interesting and have a great 2015.

Talari T5000 pictured below

Talari Networks is all about revolutionizing WAN economics or in less marketing speak, they are disrupting the MPLS monopoly. Wait, I am still talking in marketing terms. Let’s try again. Talari Networks allows companies to use the networks they have already such as cable and DSL to bypass the need for individual high-quality and expensive connections such as MPLS. They basically benefit from the arbitrage between traditional broadband and MPLS for companies with at least three locations looking to spend a little money to save a lot.

Buying the company’s boxes can set you back as little as four-thousand dollars for each one but can provide a rapid ROI while also boosting QoS. By monitoring the network continuously, decisions can be made on the fly to allocate various connections to the traffic which makes the most sense. Web surfing can be low priority while voice and video can rise to the top of the heap. In all, a very slick solution. I found it interesting that Talari found DSL and cable can outperform MPLS in some cases.

Kevin Gavin has been the company spokesperson for ShoreTel for many years and I met with him at Talari, his “new” company. He says he sees lots of similarities to the PBX market when he joined ShoreTel in the early days.

One other point worth noting – for the same spend, VARs can now sell more equipment at the expense of service providers.

Polycom is a huge video and voice player but over the last few years a number of cloud-based startups have been gunning for them. Expect the company to continue fighting back with a slew of new services and business models. I had a long talk with Jim Kruger and Maurizio Capuzzo at the company about how they are spending more on R&D and will also focus on getting higher levels of user utilization of products already in the field. Finally, they think WebRTC will be good for business as more video will be used as a result. Expect to see Polycom in 2015 positioned as the collaboration company focusing on voice, video and content as a service.

Airtight Networks is an important company – as it is likely involved in providing the WiFi in the stores and banks you use but you may not have heard of them. I’m impressed with their solutions which add security to WiFi – either guest or internal. Their wireless intrusion prevention system can overlay on other hardware from companies like Aruba. They also have standalone boxes and cloud-based solutions.

By working with them you can ensure you don’t have to manually deal with WiFi AP security configuration at all your locations. I spoke with Ksenia Coffman and Hermant Chasker who told me organizations with over 100 locations really can’t rely on manual security solutions. In fact, companies with certain transaction volume have to pass audits by credit card companies and government compliance such as HIPAA and PCI are other areas where Airtight can assist. Typically, the branch manager of an Airtight customer takes the device out of the box and plugs in the Ethernet cable and is all set. There is an instructional video as well to help out.

In our meeting they told me about a thief that robbed a store and was found because the system was able to pull up the MAC address of the suspect’s smartphone. Having said that, there is a wall between the analytics and security sides of the solutions. Analytics keeps a hash of the MAC address while security keeps the MAC address. This allows customers to remain anonymous but still, a store can tell how many people visit a location each day, week etc. They can further use the analytics to measure the impact of an ad campaign on new customer foot traffic. They can also use it to determine if a menu is turning off potential diners. For instance, if many people spend a few minutes at the front of the store looking at the menu but then leave, it could be a sign that the bacon flavored ice cream craze may have come to an end. smiley-laughing

Another idea one of the company’s customers had which I thought was smart was to provide free WiFi to customers in exchange for a tweet mention or FaceBook like.

A few months back the company released the C-65 (pictured)which brings intrusion detection to the world of IoT and 802.11ac.

Imagine Communications may be one of the more disruptive companies that doesn’t get talked about enough. Communications carriers are becoming software telcos powered by SDN and NFV running on OTS computers in part to take on WhatsApp/Facebook and other OTT competitors. But the video distribution market is behind this curve. Charlie Vogt who has been a frequent ITEXPO keynote speaker in factcharlie_vogt_col2.jpg left GENBAND some time back to head Imagine as CEO. In a meeting with him at NAB he seemed to be confidently executing on his strategic vision.

The video industry is changing rapidly thanks to time-shifting, on-demand and mobile devices. This in-turn affects the whole broadcast chain. The typical broadcast studio has lots of big iron with blinking lights – roughly analogous to mainframes or perhaps carrier class switches – a Class 4/5 perhaps is more like it. While the cable companies have moved to standardized IT and SDN, these companies haven’t made the change.

Imagine thinks the market needs to move to virtualized networks, software defined architecture; networks and workflows which would allow the players to move a lot faster. Moreover, the end-game is all IP multiscreen, multiplatform distribution. Or, succinctly, sort-of what telecom went through a decade-and-a-half ago.

The company has put together a staggering list of acquisitions and spin-offs – too voluminous to go into here. The goal is to build a major company which provides all the needs of video production and distribution companies. They say they want to be open and encourage interoperability – which is good news because they are a much larger player in this market than GENBAND was competing with Alcatel-Lucent, Cisco, Ericsson, Huawei and others.

Going forward, we can expect Imagine Communications to help the video industry transition to SDN, virtualization, OTS hardware, open source and more. It will be interesting to see how this market changes… Also, how long it takes to fully transition, who the new entrants will be, what sorts of new consolidation ideas will take hold and much more. Stay tuned.

Mavatar Technologies Inc is a mobile commerce engine which ties into many different back-end ecommerce sites. Moreover it takes into account discounts by enabling you to get a final price quickly. It further lets you compare products via a quick button press. This is great because it works across stores. In the “detail compare” mode you get to factor in shipping, tax, etc. Mobile shopping is taking off and Mavatar is positioned well. I spoke with Susan Akbarpour about the company many months back and at the time it seemed like it was on fire. I’m surprised they haven’t generated more buzz lately.  This is especially true around the holidays where mobile shopping is all the rage. Download it free for yourself (iOS) to try it. It seems very useful.

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