Happy 2009 - Consolidate Through Acquisitions

So, with all the news of budgets being slashed and people being made redundant in their droves (a kind of ancient farming vehicle) is it appropriate to wish you all a belated happy new year?

If the IT vendor world is anything to go by, then yes. While the likes of Sun, Dell and others may be reducing staffing count at a rate of knots, at the same time, the merger and acquisition game has started in full swing, a bit like Andy Murray’s tennis season. My old mate Trapeze Networks (a WLAN company that was acquired by a cable company!) has gone on the acquisition trail itself, taking in Newbury Networks, a provider of location and tracking technology. So you will be able to register exactly who is hacking into your WLAN to steal free Internet access (who wants your data?) and exactly where they are doing it from and, er, still do sod all about it. Probably…

Meantime, another client of mine, Force 10 Networks has announced a merger with the Carrier Ethernet guys (a bit like a carrier pigeon but slightly faster) Turin Networks, which kind of looks like an alternative rival to the finally completed Brocade (SAN) and Foundry Networks merger. It seems that it’s all about consolidating the data centre with the backhaul/last mile access. Maybe we will finally get an affordable giant Ethernet network that replaces the traditional LAN/WAN combo.

Or maybe not. But, if not, don’t worry – interestingly enough, most of the products and vendors I’m working with at the moment are designed to enable you to extract every last drop of performance and application availability without spending any more on infrastructure (other than a few grand on the boxes themselves). The reality is that it’s still more cost-effective to make more of what you already have, whether it’s WAN bandwidth, storage or whatever. You just need to be smarter in the way you use it. I get stories all the time of companies splashing out serious £££s on 10Meg WAN links and beyond, then find they are using maybe 20% of the bandwidth, but the apps that ran badly before, still are. Guys, have you heard of “latency”?

And, talking of latency and applications that hate it, could 2009 finally be the year of Video Conferencing? Fans of Liverpool FC (not me) will be familiar with the “this is the year of…” syndrome, and I think I read my first “this is the year of video conferencing” headline back in around 1994. Or was it 1894? Either way, this year should be the year of video conferencing, if folks really want to save time, money and the planet (allegedly). So, I wanted to conf with one of my mates at a vendor client of mine, but he’s flying to Helsinki today. I’m waiting to catch up with a guy from the test equipment vendor Spirent, but I have to wait until he flies back from the Far East. Strangely enough, I can’t recall the last time I went on a flight that wasn’t teeming with people. Actually I can – January 2000, Heathrow to Washington DC…

So, 2009 – year of the survival instinct maybe, which may or may not included increased Video Conferencing, but should definitely feature optimising. Speculate to consolidate…

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Improving collaboration – the multi-media way False dawns there may have been over the arrival of video conferencing as ‘this year’s big thing’ in business communications. Yet improved technology and the unprecedented need for businesses to cut operating costs without compromising effectiveness in today’s credit crunch have come together to make a much more credible commercial case for video conferencing than ever before. Yet in looking to improve the organisation’s internal and third party communications, why stop there? The need to communicate more efficiently and cost-effectively applies to everyone, both internally and between businesses. Greater bandwidth has opened up opportunities for other established communications tools such as web-based and multi-media collaboration, enabling staff to share and work on spreadsheets, presentations and other documents in real time. And, valuable as it is, this doesn’t mean you have to have access to video in order to work together virtually. Upfront costs can be minimised through the use of Software as a Service (SaaS) options. And, with the ability to measure RoI when using collaboration services, the decision as to when to meet in person or go ‘virtual’ is no longer just a judgment call but can be based on a more accurate assessment of the cost - in terms of both time and associated environmental impact through a reduced carbon footprint. And, by the way, it will also reduce the strain on hard-pressed managers and other employees traveling relentlessly from meeting to meeting. Now there’s a thing: a true win/win investment.