Start-ups to Watch in 2009
With the upcoming shift to UC being an application enabler instead of a standalone application, the way we secure and manage UC needs to be different.
With the financial markets crumbling around us, it's easy to think there's no start-up activity to watch. In general, I think that's true, but here's a few start ups I think are worth watching in 2009. Some of these vendors may not have shown up on my interesting start ups a couple of years ago, but with the upcoming shift to UC being an application enabler instead of a standalone application, the way we secure and manage UC does need to be different.Xangati It's hard to imagine getting excited about a network management vendor in 2009. However, Xangati's stuff is pretty cool. The company came to market as the product that can help IT departments do "rapid problem identification" and reduce the overall time of troubleshooting. The focus on problem identification is unique and the right spot to focus on, as my research shows that 90% of the problem-solving process is just finding the problem. Xangati's most recent initiative is maybe the most interesting thing to happen to network management since the MoM. The company is applying concepts from the Web2.0 world like streaming, collaboration and user-generated content to bring network and application management into this century. The traditional frameworks from the likes of HP and IBM are old, archaic systems that need a total facelift to be useful.
As the shift to communication-enabled applications and business process continues, the ability to isolate problems becomes critical. Many of the processes that will be "CEBPed" will be fully automated to reduce the impact of human delay. Downtime for processes that are communications enabled must be kept to an absolute minimum, making a tool like Xangati an important part of any company's UC strategy.
Redshift Networks Similar to Xangati, that can be considered management 2.0, Redshift can be considered VoIP security 2.0. The first wave of VoIP security vendors focused on securing voice-related things (I know, you're thinking, no kidding). However, many of the voice threats like extension stealing, eavesdropping, etc. just aren't at the top of people's minds right now. Redshift's focus is actually on UC security, not just VoIP security, and it aims to secure all of the elements of UC. Again, the opportunity for Redshift lies in the transition to CEBP. I was talking with a nurse at a hospital where messages from the patient monitoring systems are automatically sent to her mobile device instead of the old "observe and react" method (gotta love healthcare like that!). The nurse can also use the phones to send messages to doctors, find out presence info, etc. Security of these channels of communications is obviously extremely important, creating some unique differentiation from Redshift over its competitors such as Sipera and VoIPShield. UC security is an area of CEBP that I hear very little of, partially because securing "UC" itself may not seem that important. However, the applications and business processes that will depend on UC are at risk without the proper security in place.
DiVitas Networks If you've read some of my previous blogs you'll know that I'm a big advocate of mobile unified communications, more so than desktop based UC. DiVitas takes the concept of "FMC" and moves it past just voice. The DiVitas vision is actually to remove the "F" in FMC and just focus on delivering UC applications to a mobile device and have the wired phone removed completely -- not across the whole organization but to those workers that are predominantly mobile. While this may seem somewhat radical to some, the fact is the usage of the corporate desk phone continues to shrink. Because of this, DiVitas has focused on creating seamless roaming across wireless networks (cellular and WiFi), and I would characterize the company as being more of an "MMC" vendor than "FMC". There are a few things I like about the DiVitas solution. First, unlike buying this from a carrier, the enterprise is free to use whichever service provider they would like. The problem with the carrier based solution is that not all mobile operators work in all areas, so an in house solution would still allow workers to choose their own service provider. Second, the interface is the best mobile UC interface I've seen to date. It's an intuitive interface and gives workers access to the UC stuff that actually matters -- voice, email, presence, chat, etc., rather than focusing specifically on voice.
With mobile UC being a major area of focus for the industry in 2009, DiVitas should be in a great spot to capitalize on this trend.
Arista Networks No, this isn't the former record label with top talent such as the Bay City Rollers, Suzie Quatro and David Cassidy, but the network company formerly known as Arastra. (As a sidebar, for you young readers, old guys like myself, Fred and Eric used to listen to these big plastic disks called records. Kind of like a CD but bigger and they got scratched up a lot).
Now, one might look at Arista and wonder why the industry needs another network vendor. In fact, in many ways, that's my thought. Over the past few years the networking industry has gone from having a whole bunch of companies that matter, to really only three. Cisco has the bulk of the business, HP ProCurve meets the needs of the value buyers and Foundry has the mindshare with the high end. Force10 has been competing with Foundry now and has established themselves as a mainstay, and Juniper is also making a run at the high end.
So, under normal circumstances, there's no way I would have listed Arista as an interesting start up. What makes them interesting though is the fact that former Cisco executive Jayshree Ullal is now running the show. You can say a lot of things both good and bad about Jayshree (I won't say them here!) but she knows networking. Arista is focusing on building network products specifically for cloud computing in mind, which is an interesting idea, but that opportunity hasn't fully presented itself to the networking industry yet and the company vision may be a little too far out in front (especially in this economy).
We'll see if Jayshree can create at a startup like she was able to do at Cisco. It's a different environment, different competitive landscape, but there's always a small amount of market available to companies with a product that is truly differentiated. All network eyes will be on Jayshree in 2009.
Other ones I considered were Dexterra (mobile applications), Woven (another network vendor but Jayshree-less) and LifeSize (Telepresence vendor). I'm sure you all have your own ideas and I'd love to see them in the discussion section.With the upcoming shift to UC being an application enabler instead of a standalone application, the way we secure and manage UC needs to be different.