What is your Social Media Strategy?

Did you know that:

  • 78% of 18-34 year olds
  • 71% of 35-44 year olds
  • 59% of 45-54 year olds

…have either a Facebook or MySpace account?

 

Did you know that:

  • Average number of tweets per hour is 1.3 million
  • 3.5 billion pieces of content shared each week on Facebook
  • 35 million Facebook users update their status each day

 

Your customers are talking…

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…the question is…are you listening?

 

TBL is developing a professional services engagement process to assist our customers in assessing what their clients are saying right now, developing a plan to identify and address public feedback, and create strategies to utilize social mediums to drive new sales and better customer loyalty.

We’re looking for a few clients to start down this journey. Drop me an email if you think you might be interested.

July TBL Lunch & Learn – Business Video: Not Just for Teleconferencing

Join us for lunch to learn more about how business video is no longer just for teleconferencing, but becoming an integral part of day-to-day operations. In fact, your employees are already using it!  TBL’s Patrick Tredway will lead the discussion and allow you the chance to ask questions.  PLUS, NO POWERPOINT PRESENTATION!

Click here to attend our July Lunch & Learn

Dates/Locations:

Virginia Beach, VA – July 20th – Ruth’s Chris
Richmond, VA – July 21st– Hondo’s

Topics:

  • What is video going to do to my network?
  • Why video has historically NOT been successful.
  • Examples of how companies are embracing video.
  • How video can provide your company a competitive advantage.

Who should attend:
Anyone interested in business video and how it affects your IT infrastructure. 

Save your spot! Register now!

About Patrick:

Patrick Tredway is TBL’s Collaboration Practice Lead and Account Engineer. He is a CCIE Voice certified engineer and has been working with Cisco Unified Communications since 2002. In addition, Patrick is a co-owner of TBL Networks and a fully licensed pilot .

About TBL Networks:

TBL Networks, 2010 Cisco Collaboration Partner of the Year and certified VMware Enterprise Solutions Provider partner, provides our customers a wide range of advanced technology solutions, with a focus on Unified Communications, Virtualization and Storage.

Cisco Expands UC Virtualization Support

Stand back….this is a pretty big announcement!  As of June 7, 2011 Cisco began support for some Collaboration (formerly Unified Communications) applications running in a virtual environment on hardware other than their own Unified Computing System (UCS). The is the first in hopefully many steps to come in widening support for benefits we often realize with typical desktop and server applications running on a VMware hypervisor. The details are as follows.

 

Cisco is pleased to announce expanded virtualization of Cisco Unified Communications starting Jun 7, 2011.

On Jun 7 Cisco will add two additional virtualized UC offers. Customers will then have three deployment options:

1. UC on UCS – Tested Reference Configurations

2. UC on UCS – Specs-based VMware hardware support

3. HP and IBM – Specs-based VMware hardware support

Phase 1 support begins Jun 7, 2011 and should include the following (see www.cisco.com/go/uc-virtualized for final products and versions supported):

– Cisco Unified Communications Manager 8.0.2+ and 8.5.1

– Cisco Unified Communications Manager – Session Management Edition 8.5.1

– Cisco Unified Communications Management Suite

– Cisco Unity Connection 8.0.2+ and 8.5.1

– Cisco Unity 7.0.2+ (with Fiber Channel SAN only)

– Cisco Unified Contact Center Express and IP IVR 8.5.1

Support for additional products and versions will phase in over rest of CY11.

Specs-based VMware hardware support adds the following

– UC Compute support for UCS, HP, IBM servers on VMware’s hardware compatibility list and running Intel Xeon 5600 / 7500 family CPUs

– UC Network support for 1Gb through 10Gb NIC, CNA, HBA and Cisco VIC adapters that are supported by above servers

– UC Storage support for DAS, SAN (Fiber Channel, iSCSI, FCoE) and NAS (NFS).

– More co-resident UC VMs per physical server if more powerful CPUs are used

– Note that UC / non-UC / 3rd-party co-residency is still not supported.

– Note that hardware oversubscription is still not supported by UC.

– No changes to VMware product, version or feature support by UC

 

This most certainly gives us far more agility for the manner in which we deploy these applications. More info to come as I get it…

Fun with Cisco – Tablets, Streaming and TelePresence

There are many great things about working for TBL Networks (e.g.  TBL’s very liberal cocoa policy).  In addition, as 2010 Collaboration Partner of the Year for Cisco’s East Area, I receive the opportunity to use and experience cutting-edge technology as it is released.  Below are some examples.

Cisco Cius

As the trend continues towards tablets (nearly 9 million tablets in use at small and midsize businesses in the U.S), Cisco has entered the market with the Cisco Cius. As the first business tablet for mobile collaboration,  the Android powered tablet brings the mobility of a tablet with the collaborative power of  Cisco, including Cisco Quad, Presence, IM and integrated, one-click access to WebEx Meeting Center.

Recently, TBL’s Cameron Corbin was photographed with tablet.  In addition, Cameron also got the chance to ride hoverboard and pet a unicorn.  Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of that … yet.

TBL Networks Cisco Cius

Cisco TelePresence System 1100

I have always wondered if there would be a day when I would think, “The future is here.”  I had pinned my hopes on Dippin Dots giving me a specific date, but thanks to Cisco, I can safely say that the future has arrived.

The Cisco TelePresence System 1100 allows you to have the intimacy of a face-to-face meeting without the difficulty and cost of travel.  Perhaps most importantly, you can finally reenact your favorite scene from Star Trek in the comfort of your own office.

Cisco Show and Share

Cisco Show and Share is a webcasting and video sharing application that helps enterprise organizations create highly secure video communities to share ideas and expertise.

In addition to using the video for internal purposes, you can also use Show and Share to broadcast your video live to external viewers.  Recently, TBL Networks streamed a live performance from Harley Stagner and the 46ers on the May 5th edition of Ask Harley using Show and Share.

In the video below, you can see the performance being watched via TBL’s live stream.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6JVB-l09Ncs&feature=channel_video_title

End to end virtual network security with the Cisco Nexus VSG

So I’ve been spending a lot of time in our lab with the Cisco Nexus Virtual Security Gateway. I have come to the conclusion that it rocks! Finally, the virtual infrastructure is no longer treated as a second class citizen when it comes to securing network traffic between virtual machines. We are at a point now with the Cisco VSG that we can have robust Cisco infrastructure, including security, from the upstream physical network to the virtual network.

The Cisco Nexus VSG builds upon the Nexus 1000v distributed virtual switch and communicates with the Virtual Ethernet Modules in the Nexus 1000v to provide a very robust security policy engine that can perform granular filtering and matching on a number of parameters. For example:

  • Network (ip address, port number, etc.)
  • VM (VM Name, Installed OS Name, Cluster, Host, Zone)

Yep, that’s right, I said VM. Since the Cisco VSG integrates with the vSphere API’s and vCenter, you can filter on items like a virtual machine name or partial name, installed OS, cluster, etc. This is very powerful. I no longer have to rely on network and IP rules alone to filter traffic between virtual machines. This is a more intelligent approach to filtering that really highlights the synergies that Cisco and VMware have established. Best of all, once it is set up everything is managed from a single Cisco Virtual Network Management Center (VNMC) instance. This web-based management tool let’s you manage multiple Virtual Security Gateway instances. Let’s look at a simple example of how easy it is to perform traffic filtering in the virtual infrastructure with the Cisco VSG.

Topology and Components:

  • vSphere 4.1 Enterprise Plus Host Servers
  • Cisco VNMC VM
  • Cisco Nexus 1000v Infrastructure
  • Cisco VSG Infrastructure
  • tenanta-srv1 VM
  • tenanta-srv2 VM
  • tenantb-srv1 VM
  • tenantb-srv2 VM

The goal of this configuration is to allow the following communication flows:

  • tenanta-srv1 and tenanta-srv2 should communicate
  • tenantb-srv1 and tenantb-srv2 should communicate
  • The Tenant A servers(tenanta-srv1 and tenanta-srv2) should not be able to communicate with the Tenant B servers (tenantb-srv1 and tenantb-srv2)
  • Anyone else should be able to communicate with both the Tenant A and Tenant B servers
  • There is a further caveat that the Tenant A and Tenant B servers are both on the same subnet (don’t worry these servers belong to the same company Winking smile )

Below are the network settings:

  • tenanta-srv1 VM – 10.91.41.200
  • tenanta-srv2 VM – 10.91.41.201
  • tenantb-srv1 VM – 10.91.41.202
  • tenantb-srv2 VM – 10.91.41.203
  • a client with another ip address

Here are the general steps for setting up this scenario once the Cisco VSG infrastructure is in place:

  • Create a tenant
  • Assign the VSG to the tenant
  • Create a zone each for the Tenant A and Tenant B servers (these zones match VM’s with names that contain “tenanta” and “tenantb” respectively)
  • Create a firewall policy for the VSG
  • Create a policy set that includes the policy
  • Bind the policy set to the VSG
  • Bind the tenant to a port-profile so that any VM that is on that port-profile is filtered with the policy rules

Below are the screenshots of the results after the VSG was configured.

These are the only rules that are required for the communication flows.

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Here is what the port-profile looks like on the Nexus 1000v. Notice the org and vn-service entries. This means that this port profile is VSG aware.

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The ICMP traffic from the Tenant A Servers.

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The ICMP traffic from the Tenant B Servers (same result as the Tenant A servers. Only one is shown here.)

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Finally the results from the external client

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As you can see, we achieved our goal with just three filtering rules. Also, we were able to leverage VM name filtering instead of IP filtering which allowed us to filter on the same subnet without resorting to naming each IP address or different port numbers. Very cool! The Cisco VSG is capable of many complex configurations combining both networking categories (ip, port number, etc.) and VM categories. This was just a quick example of what can be done. As always, if you have any questions or would like to see a live demo feel free to contact me.

Snow Days and Cisco UC

As a kid, there were few events more exciting than a Snow Day. Growing up in Virginia Beach, true snow storms were rare, but fortunately for me, the bar for defining “snow” was set very low. An outbreak of dandruff in the school administration could easily prompt a school closing, allowing the adults to focus their energy on urgent winter weather matters; namely, raiding the grocery store for bread and milk. (Why do people instinctively hoard milk when snow arrives? If I am trapped in my house, I am going to start making my own cheese on Day Three?)

Unfortunately, as an adult, the responsibilities of the office do not stop when storms begin. You need the ability to productively conduct your business and reach your customers and clients, who in turn need be able to reach you.

The severity of a recent Richmond snowstorm (three-to-five inches of snow, which in Southern measurement equates to three-to-five feet) necessitated the evacuation of TBL Worldwide Headquarters. As a good soldier, I was willing to forgo my normal Snow Day routine (The Godfather I and II and several seasonal Sam Adams) to remain at the office and risk life and limb for the company. Then I received the following email:

“Go home! We all have laptops, VPN access, WebEx and cell phones with SNR should you need to continue any work.”

With this message, I was freed from the bonds of the office and business casual pants. Arriving at home, I decided to demonstrate my productivity by documenting how I can use Cisco Unified Communications while still enjoying my Snow Day routine.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Using Cisco AnyConnect VPN, I can securely access all my email, corporate network and CRM (e.g. Salesforce.com) from the comfort of home. In addition, AnyConnect would securely guard my Godfather themed web searches for the day. For instance, did you know that Gianni Russo, the actor who portrayed Carlo Rizzi, has fathered 11 children with 10 different women and has an eponymous line of wine? I was able to obtain that urgent information while maintaining top-level security.

If my laptop decides to have its own Snow Day, it is not a problem, as AnyConnect is available for iPhone and BlackBerry. I can securely access my email, network and CRM info via my Smartphone.

Cisco WebEx

Traveling for business is never fun, but it can be exceptionally difficult during the winter, as your schedule is tied to the whims of Mother Nature. Despite being trapped on my couch with an Old Fezziwig Ale, I could still meet with my clients via Cisco WebEx. Cisco WebEx allows me to make presentations, in addition to capabilities such as document sharing and presentation recording. If the participants have access to webcams, we can see each other face to face. And, of course, if my laptop catches a cold from the snow, I can use Cisco WebEx on my Smartphone.

Single Number Reach (SNR)

Utilizing Cisco Unified Mobility, I don’t have to worry if my clients have my cell phone number, or rush to change my voicemail message. Single Number Reach (SNR) allows me to provide one phone number with no additional complications.
SNR is more than call forwarding. Whereas call forwarding could result with my client leaving a message on my personal voicemail, SNR allows the client to leave a message in my work voicemail. When I return my client’s call, SNR presents my office number, even if I am using my personal cell phone.

With the power of Cisco Unified Communications, Snow Days are no longer an impediment to productivity. And that is an offer that I can’t refuse.

Death toll for Cisco Unity?

With the upcoming release of Unity Connection 8.5 from Cisco, a number of questions are brought to light. A single feature in this release, in my opinion, marks the end of our need for Unity. It is with a heavy heart and many fond memories that I’ll watch her sail into the sunset.

This feature is coined ‘Single Inbox’ though we all know it as a unified inbox. Prior to release 8.5, the only way to manage voicemails stored on a Connection server was by use of an IMAP connection. (a finicky IMAP connection I might add seeing as it wouldn’t work from mobile phones and really any device or application outside of Outlook)

Using WebDav for Exchange 2003 or EWS for Exchange 2007 or 2010, a user can now see and manage voicemails from their exchange mailbox exactly like Unity UM provides.

Now the key here is that Unity had only provided this functionality at some higher costs and risks. Not only did Unity require a schema update to install, it has been plagued by permissions and cohabitation issues from the beginning. Now, to be clear, none of these issues are product or development problems. Actually it couldn’t be further from that. Jeff Lindborg and his team have consistently developed some of the best well crafted products and management tools I’ve ever seen.

In fact, nearly all issues are self inflicted. Think about it, with Unity UM, the active directory, exchange, windows server, or the security teams all have the ability to ‘affect’ Unity by way of it’s many dependancies.

With Unity Connection’s new release it now has caught up with all Unity features and is provided through an hardened appliance which removes nearly all of the dependencies mentioned above.

…and the migration ain’t that bad either. Cisco deserves an atta’ boy on this one.

This Kind of Leverage Does Not Come Around Very Often

The exciting and also the maddening thing about working in the technology business is the frenetic pace of change and the rapidity with which new technology is introduced and then delivered to market. What technology is impactful for my business and what is merely interesting? I think a lot technology “innovation” falls in the latter category and may be nice to have in the organization some day…when I get around to it. However over the course of technology-time, there are a few product introductions that impel a business executive or technology leader to stop and consider whether this new technology represents an inflection in the market and/or a potential point of differentiation for my business. The CIUS introduced by Cisco may be one of those potential points of differentiation. http://www.cisco.com/en/US/products/ps11156/index.html?POSITION=SEM&COUNTRY_SITE=us&CAMPAIGN=HN&CREATIVE=Cius&REFERRING_SITE=Google&KEYWORD=cisco+cius

I don’t think the CIUS by itself is the point of differentiation for business. Rather, I think that it ties together multiple, strategic yet disparate technology initiatives into a rare “ah-ha!” moment for businesses is what makes the CIUS more than worth a look. While we are just getting the specs on CIUS (and we at TBL are scrambling to get one into our lab) on paper and through demonstrations, it looks like the glue that may bind several I/T investments together. The CIUS can be your desktop, your office, your phone, and your telepresence essentially in a device of similar size and demensions of an iPad. Designed for business, the CIUS will connect via any wireless protocol and also via carrier 3G and 4G networks. If I have a mobile workforce, if I have Cisco Unified Communications, if I am thinking about virtual desktops, if I am considering private cloud as means for service delivery for my business, then I just found a device that can serve as the “catcher” for most any technology I care to pitch to my end user community. One other cool thought about this device as a “desktop” of choice for the truly productive worker in 2011 and beyond – through VMware, I can provide secure, encrypted connectivity for the CIUS user without stressing or without having to use current remote access infrastructure. I can certainly leverage my current VPN infrastructure, but what if I want to get out of the remote access business and leverage the VMware tools instead? That might be cool. What if I was looking to have to refresh 500 laptops for salesman who log hundreds if not thousands of calls into my PC help desk for access, virus, and application issues? What if their “laptop” was a virtual image presented to a CIUS instead of a costly, support-heavy traditional device? And what if the CIUS could also give them high definition video capability? What is this device could “dock” and also be their desk phone? What if there were apps and connections I could write that delivered secure connections into my customized salesforce.com protal? This is starting to get pretty interesting. And the really cool part is that all the investments I made in Cisco UC, VMware, and Cloud Computing just got more valuable through a better access device.

I think this is where I am supposed to come up with an analogy to illustrate the fact that the CIUS leverages up most any investment you have made to your communications and applications infrastructure over the past 5 years…but one escapes me right now, so I will post a good one when it pops in my head, probably over the weekend cutting the grass.