Friday, December 21, 2007

Top 10 tech trends likely to make waves in 2008

It is quite a task to predict what the New Year has in store for us. My friend Radhika Nallayam at CIOL and I, present you a list of technology trends likely to make waves in 2008.

1. Greening of IT

Data centers of today are witnessing very high power consumption and cooling requirements. Skyrocketing energy consumption surely poses a challenge to the environment. Besides this, the hazardous effect of e-waste is also a major environmental concern in today’s IT sector. (It is estimated that more than 800 million PCs will be replaced during 2007 and 2012)

As a result, the IT world has started realizing the need for ‘greening of IT’ to minimize the harmful effects of energy expulsion from IT operations and data centers. (Green Data Center report from Symantec Corp. states that nearly three-fourths of respondents of the survey stated they have interest in adopting a strategic green data center initiative).

The ‘green IT’ movement has already succeeded in creating environmental responsibility among major IT vendors across the globe.

2. Is 2008 going to be the year of Linux?

It’s been years since we started talking about the ‘year of Linux’. Finally, good news for open source buffs? Well, we really can’t predict that. But, there is a hope that the coming time could be a real turning point in the history of open source, making 2008 the year of Linux on desktop. Though Linux will not be a direct replacement for Windows, we are definitely going to see a major increase in the number of end-users adopting Linux.

PC giant Dell, at the beginning of this year, gave us a positive sign by introducing Linux computers. A number of other vendors are also betting high on Linux. Ubuntu has already received recognition among mobile users and server market. Linux Desktop, though gradually, is gaining momentum. At this point in time, we can only wait and watch the game!

3. Will Vista be the OS to own?

When Microsoft launched Vista, Gartner’s analysts suggested ignoring the new operating system until 2008 and not to rush into upgrading. So, it’s time for us to rethink. Lots of users are still waiting for the first service pack to arrive before upgrading from Windows XP. And, hopefully, SP1 is likely to arrive in the beginning of 2008.

Vista definitely offers some advanced security feature and more polished interface. But due to some concerns related to application compatibility and more hardware requirements, consumers, till now, were reluctant to switch to Vista.

However, some recent surveys show that a lot of companies are now willing to upgrade to Vista. Microsoft expects Vista to be accountable for 85 percent of operating system sales in fiscal 2008 compared with 15 percent for Windows XP. Majority of the consumers will, sooner or later, have to migrate to Vista. Well, that could be in 2008.

4. IPTV sees big surge in popularity

IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) is already in spotlight. It has opened up new possibilities for consumers, service providers and content providers. From a mere technology concept, IPTV has completed the first stage and has become a real service. In some countries, it is almost in the mass-market stage. IPTV is considered to be one of the most highly visible services to emerge as part of the development of next-generation networks (NGN).

There are many more questions to be answered pertaining to the business model, pricing, packaging and the technology itself. But, the coming year is definitely going to see more developments in the IPTV space.

One thing worth mentioning, which may prove to be crucial for IPTV to reach its market potential, is the devlopments of standards for IPTV. The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) recently announced the first set of global standards for IPTV. So, there are definitely some good news for us. And, no doubt , as long as the demand for high-quality personalized content exists among the consumers, IPTV will not struggle to reach new horizons.

5. Will 802.11n arrive?

The 802.11n, the latest in the set of WLAN standards, comes with truly high speeds i.e. 4-5 times faster than 802.11g and fifty times faster than .11b! It also offers better operating distance comparing to the current wireless networks. Wow! This is really something the enterprises would love to invest in.

There is no doubt that 802.11n is well positioned to redefine wireless networking. But, would the new standard finally arrive in 2008? Ratification of the new standards is been delayed for quite a long time now and the users are really keen to see the faster version of Wi-Fi, without any more delay.

However, experts predict that ratification won’t happen overnight and it’s going to take some more time. Though some Wi-Fi vendors( Cisco, Aruba, Trapeze) have already launched 802.11n products, technology installations may happen only in the middle of 2008.

6. Short-range wireless technologies that will create a buzz

Short-range wireless technology is not just about Bluetooth anymore. New entrants like High-speed Bluetooth, Wireless USB and ZigBee are getting traction too. Demand for high data transfer rates has increased over the years with the increase in video and audio content on portable devices like mobile phones, laptops as well as on multimedia projectors and television sets.

Though high-speed Bluetooth is in its primary stage of development, it is expected to be 100 times faster than the current technology. This next-generation Bluetooth will hopefully hit the market in 2008.

Wireless USB is targeting 1Gbps throughput. Vendors have already introduced wireless USB hubs, adapters and laptops in the market. However, wide adoption of the technology depends on how soon it is going to be embedded into digital cameras, camcoders, MP3 players etc.

ZigBee is the wireless connection used by sensors and control devices. It is expected to find traction in commercial building automation in 2008.

7. No end in sight for high-definition (HD) war

Is the war between Blu-ray and HD DVD high-definition video formats never ending? Well, there, definitely, is an end. But that may not be in 2008 Analysts in the industry predict that the high-definition war may last for another year and a few months. There is a strong market position for both the standards currently and this makes it difficult to predict the winner.

Meanwhile, there has been no improvement in the sales of both the technologies this year as consumers still feel both Blu-ray and HD DVD are expensive.

On the other hand, Toshiba recently introduced comparatively low priced HD DVD players. This initiative definitely poses a challenge for Blu-Ray companies. To cope with this, they will have to cut down the hardware prices of Blu-ray. If that happens, the war will continue for some more time.

8. Shift from magnetic to solid-state hard drives

At present, the market is dominated by magnetic hard drives. But the future seems to be of solid-state hard drives as magnetic hard drives have limited data transfer speed. Solid-state hard drives are based on flash memory and is much faster memory solution. They also have advantages such as low noise and low power consumption. High pricing is the primary hindering factor for solid-state hard drives to become mainstream.

As long as the demand for high-quality personalized content exists among the consumers, IPTV will not struggle to reach new horizons.

Major players like Seagate are betting high on solid-state technology and have plans to offer it next year. Solid-state hard discs are likely to be more popular in the laptop market. If prices fall down, we can see a slow shift happening from magnetic to solid-state hard drives in 2008.

9. Is 2008 going to be a banner year for wireless?

We no more worry about the clutter of wires. Offices have gone wireless. Cities are going wireless. All portable devices have embedded wireless technologies. We are moving fast towards a ‘wire-free’ world. So, 2008, beyond doubt, is going to see much more technology developments.

Though the ‘wireless’ world won’t be a true reality so soon, the need for seamless mobility and freedom is surely going to drive more wireless technology advancements.

The upcoming 802.11n will redefine enterprise networking in the coming year. Fixed Mobile Convergence (FMC) will tie fixed and mobile networks to deliver enhanced user experience. 2008 is expected to be the year of Mobile WiMax as well. Above all these, 2008 will probably witness open access to all networks, which in turn will open up more opportunities.

10. The ‘iPhone mania’ to continue

iPhone rates as the most memorable new product for 2007. Yes, it literally shook the mobile phone world in 2007. Now, doubtlessly, companies would love to follow Apple’s path by introducing similar products. So, 2008 is certainly going to see mobile phones with more and more web services and multimedia functionalities integrated into it. So, 2008 could very well be a year of ‘iPhone-like’ products from Apple’s rivals.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Kodiak brings PTT conferencing, group SMS to India

US-based Kodiak Networks is in the business of voice-based VAS for mobile networks. It has a large presence in Bangalore ~200 full-time employees, with a total global workforce of 260. All R&D, testing and customer support are handled out of India.

Kodiak's worldwide growth and application adoption puts a spotlight on this region for innovation and business success. The demand for wireless voice services continues to grow globally, but especially in this region.

According to Dr. Giridhar Boray, Country Manager - India, Kodiak Networks, three major operators have deployed the Kodiak Connected Portfolio [Idea, Airtel and Tata], and that Kodiak will continue to announce new applications geared toward business users and consumers.

He said that operators faced a common trend worldwide -- increasing subscriber growth and declining revenues. Hence, the operators are now looking at VAS. Push-to-talk (PTT), as a solution, is becoming popular in the USA. An example is Nextel, which grew out of Fleetcall, has evolved into cellular.

Dr. Boray said: "Initially, all operators were waiting for 3G, but they could not wait. They wanted PTT in 2G, with migration into 3G." Delving into history, he pointed out that AllTell, a CDMA operator and Kodiak's first customer, agreed to trial PTT product in 2002. Kodiak's customer base has swelled to 16 globally, since!

Dr Boray said: "In PTT, you need to have a dedicated button and a speaker. Our solution goes into the voice channel." He explained that for 2G PTT, the industry adopted two approaches -- PTT on the voice channel or PTT on the data channel.

Some of Kodiak's competitors reportedly introduced PTT on data channel. India's Tata Teleservices was the first to use PTT, but the service was discontinued after some time. Dr. Boray also added that for using PTT, the US government mandates that any service that is put on to the network can be legally intercepted or tapped as a matter of national security.

Kodiak's next big customer was AT&T Wireless, which tested its PTT solutions. A lot of its customers in the US are regional operators, who have roaming agreements with the bigger operators, which also helped Kodiak.

AT&T Wireless was also able to drive handset vendors to use PTT via Kodiak's solutions. "Right now, 45+ handset models carry our solutions," added Dr. Boray. "These include Blackberry, LG, Samsung, Nokia, Motorola, ZTE, etc."

Conferencing, group SMS trials in India
India hosts Kodiak's development center. He mentioned TRAI's statement on PTT that, PTT is legal as operators are able to meet the ADC requirements, plus all regulatory requirements related to voice, such as lawful interception. "They did not say that PTT on data channel was incorrect. To do that, you would need to first build the infrastructure," he added. Kodiak's solutions work on both GSM and CDMA standards.

Kodiak has now evolved PTT into two-way conferencing. As an example, on the Airtel Blackberry, users can select up to six people and do conferencing. Dr. Boray said: "We also have the application on the SIM card as AVS (advanced voice services). From our side, you can conference with up to 30 users, but operators generally allow the selection of up to five to six users from your contacts list."

Kodiak will be offering conferencing as well as group SMS with Airtel. "Only one SMS goes to the server, which distributes it," he said. "Group SMS, conferencing, etc., should be helpful during emergencies."

Touching on Kodiak's partnership with Airtel, Dr. Boray said: "Airtel started over six months back as a market trial. It is offering the services to some corporates, but only on postpaid. We will be extending it over prepaid as well over the next few months." As for the charges, he said that the customers would probably get deducted as per the existing and applicable NLD and ILD call charges.

Kodiak is also trialing the service with Idea in New Delhi. The next trial is with Tata Teleservices over BREW-enabled handsets. Kodiak offers applications for BREW.

Dr. Boray added: "We also want to enter into the prepaid coverage. Prepaid is widely used in enterprises as well." Besides these three -- Airtel, Idea and Tata -- Kodiak is in discussions with some other operators as well. Kodiak also offers voice SMS, which it is not pushing hard enough for the moment. Kodiak's India chief said that the enterprises may find value in this application.

PTT rollout with JMCC in China in Q1-08
Kodiak has also announced the first commercial PTT deployment in China for China Mobile's Jiangsu Mobile Communications Co. (JMCC). Its target are corporate users with an emphasis on transportation, municipalities, and retail segments. The PTT subscribers will be billed a monthly service charge (bundled service offering).

The initial launch will include Nokia Symbian GSM handsets. According to Dr. Boray, the roll-out is scheduled for Q1-2008. "JMCC is a big operator. This win will also help us get into the other provinces of China as well," he added.

The Kodiak PTT voice-based solution provides superior mobile coverage compared to previously trialed data/GPRS solutions. It is the only solution with QoS resulting in best-in-class reliability and speed for JMCC customers. Also, Kodiak PTT provides users with a convenient alternative to trunked radio (one handset provides function of both a radio and a mobile phone).

Some of Kodiak PTT's unique features include: real-time presence and availability indicators; quick group calling up to 10 group members; convert to cellular (upgrade a one-way PTT call to a two-way cellular call); PTT/GSM call waiting; permission-based contact management; and contact alerts.

Dr. Boray added: "Lot of IM features are also making their way into PTT. Our focus is on group communications."

Continued growth in 2008
To add to Kodiak's PTT success in 2008, eight new PTT handsets are likely to be announced in the first half of the year. Significant PTT customers in three regions are likely to be announced as well. Finally, 2008 will also see two Open OS, downloadable PTT client versions announcements with commercial customers.

Research firm In-Stat believes that the number of PTT global subscribers will grow to 67.8 million by the end of 2009. PTT/PoC has an opportunity to reach non-traditional business and consumer (especially youth) markets. One-third of In-Stat respondents would consider switching carriers in order to be able to use PTT/PoC.

According to a Wintergreen Research report from September 2007, there were 45.6mn PTT subscribers in 2006 and 64mn in mid 2007. This is likely to reach 340mn by 2013. The PTT subscriber revenue of $1.2bn in 2006 is also likely to reach $16.7 billion in 2013.

Multi-generation platform support
Kodiak's solutions are built on the Kodiak RTX platform, which will support the converged IMS network architecture with a software upgrade.

Kodiak RTX is a multi-generation platform that spans 2G and 3G network technologies, and extends services to social networks and IM communities. Kodiak IMS applications also leverage the Kodiak IMS Client framework.

10GbE Blade architectures suitable for next-gen data centers

What are some of the critical customer challenges today? For starters, server and storage sprawl increases operational complexity and reduces business predictability. Next, uncontrolled growth has resulted in lack of: space, power and CRAC capacity.

However, it seems that Blade server architectures can alleviate most of data center resource issues. In this context, if customers consolidate, can the network infrastructure optimally sustain the increased workload? And more importantly, what network technology would make sense for the environment?

I recently managed to speak with Adam Mendoza, Senior Manager, OS Alliances, NetApp, and Joel Reich, GM & Sr. Director, SAN/iSAN Business Unit, NetApp.

They attempted to answer these tricky customer pain points, and also touched upon how end-to-end 10GbE Blade architectures could lower IT infrastructure costs, prevent data center equipment sprawl, and help implement consolidation and virtualization.

For the record, recently, members of -- BLADE Network Technologies Inc. (BLADE), a leading provider of network switching infrastructure for blade servers; Chelsio Communications (Chelsio), a leading provider of 10GbE network interface cards for servers and storage; and Network Appliance Inc. (NetApp), a leading provider of storage and data management solutions -- completed a collaborative study through!

The study demonstrated that blade servers equipped with embedded 10 Gigabit Ethernet (10GbE) networking can support large-scale business applications at near wire-speeds in consolidated blade server architectures using NetApp Ethernet and IP networked storage.

The study, conducted on the IBM BladeCenter platform, found that by supporting multiple protocols, workloads and integrated data management across a 10GbE network, customers can protect their investment, lower IT infrastructure costs, prevent data center equipment sprawl, and implement consolidation and virtualization without sacrificing flexibility. Here's an image that shows this!

Virtualization a powerful trend
Even though virtualization has been doing the rounds for a couple of years now, it has not exactly reached where it should. On the uptake of virtualization by enterprises, Reich said: "What we've seen is probably for virtualization that VMWare is dominant. There's lot of hype around it.

"In reality, virtualization the most important and powerful trend. It is the real big wave of open system computing replacing maniframe applications. People have become smart and got very good at separating hype from real benefit of technology. Virtualization is not quite there as people are using it to consolidate servers, etc., that are running tier 1 applications."

Reich added that people were having big success in consolidating on virtualization in diverse tier 3 applications hosted on Wintel servers. Also, some tier 2 applications were getting consolidated as well. According to him, applications that don't drive critical revenue or manufacturing process would be the tier 3 applications. Tier 2 applications would include small data warehouses, etc.

He explained: "What's going on now is, lot of the introduction of virtualization was in tier 3 applications. It was opportunistic! Customers didn't have to put in lot of architechture thought into tier 3 and tier 2 apps, but they need to do in tier 1 apps. People also need to see what their data centers need to look like, especially when they move to virtualized environment. Silos are purpose-built spaces dedicated to an application in a data center. You need to have specific skill sets to manage those silos."'s work
Commenting on's work, Mendoza, said: "Effectively, when we first became involved with Blade, the intent was to collectively provide solutions end-to-end. NetApp's one of the few storage companies involved. We came up with a concept of characterizing what business critical applications form across multiple protocols. We need to have all different companies and groups collaborate and get the right experts involved. gave us the environment and advantage."

As for the survey itself, they said: "We interviewed over 25 companies -- end users from Fortune 500 and channel partners, VARs, etc. We asked -- if we do this project, what are the things they would want to gain out of it?"

The findings were clear. First, this infrastructure could provide very good performance in this kind of consolidated environment. Second -- there has to be a comparison. "We are comparing networking components of 10GigE agianst fiber channel and utilizing different communications protocols," added Mendoza.

Scoring big with 10GbE
Over the last two yrs, 10GbE, customers have been saying that it is an interesting technology, but they didnt see applicability yet. There's also virtualization. So, if customers bring all this together, where will their bottlenecks be?

Adding the next layer of data management perspective, one of the main concerns of consolidation of this hype would be -- what about data protection, DR implementation, etc.? In this respect, NetApp brings the best kind of software that can handle all of those.

Reich added: "We have over 1,500 blade servers at our North Carolina facility. We learned how to manage that many servers. We take applications, data sets, etc., of blade servers, and save them on to the storage network. When concept customers or development teams say that they need something, we can provide that. We have already had the experience of large-scale dynamic environments. At the end of day, this is all applying to what customers want to see. We are collaborating to provide that to customers."

Another important result of the 10GbE has been an increase in the throughput. Mendoza said they provided the results of running these tests. "We did studies across iSCSI, fiber channel, etc. We are better than 2X in our implementation across 10GE."

So, what can be done to get servers consolidated? How can the data center equipment sprawl be reduced? Reich added: "In virtualization implementations, now, we are talking about a single housing that contains 14 servers. If you start virtualizaing over these 14 servers, you get one footprint. Space wise -- 14 servers come into a 3x2 space. In this manner, we reduced server sprawl, network sprawl and storage sprawl." This also has implications as far as power, cooling, etc., are concerned.

As for the 10GbE aspect, Reich said: "In many cases of a virtualized environment, its important to ask -- what's the new data center that I build will look like? People are also looking for information about how the network infrastructure should look like. Their reason: Ethernet is important as a storage interconnect, and that's because most data centers have two networks -- fiber channel or Ethernet."

So, if you can build something that's going to be ready in two years, can a data center be built that only has one type of network? Both, Reich and Mendoza accept that there's much more work to be do as users really need this kind of information.

"This is just the first step. It is such an important topic that there's a very great need for information," Reich said.

Mendoza added: "Our solution can simplify fabric topology in today's datacenters without compromising reliability? The big question that customers have is: why do we need multiple networks? Fabric refers to the network."

He said: "Part of the reason is simplicity and also economic. The way blade centers are built, you can add different connections to a blade center. The standard configuration of a blade center is the Ethernet. The economic considerations are: you can spend lot less money on blade center infrastructure. The Ethernet is the basic offering. That's part of the reason why, we focused on the 10GbE (Ethernet) from a cost standpoint."

Customers are said to be gaining confidence from the results of the solution development collaboration through! Virtualization is the next killer application. It would allow a mixed nature of I/O and CPU utilization, add in standard data protection functions, top it off with application and guest OS management, etc. Customers have also indicated that they have deployed upward of 40 guest OS instances on a single server.

It must be noted that Blade server architectures require the same administrative processes: install, configure, customize, manage, optimize, etc. However, consolidation requires whole new approaches to where the data resides and the speed of access -- both in bandwidth and best practices. The 10GbE Blade architectures are the next-generation data center and are ready for business critical implementations.