Verizon Gets it Right – “Bye Bye” Land Line Telephone

The FCC says US telephone companies have incurred a 26% increase in the cost of annual maintenance on traditional copper telephone lines over the past 5 years. Verizon makes 25% better margin on wireless phone than “land line” phones. FiOS is making it possible for Verizon to get into the high value video and cable television industry with a next-generation fiber optic infrastructure.

So why would anybody find Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg’s announcement at a Goldman Sachs investor conference that “his company is simply no longer concerned with telephones that are connected with wires” a surprise?

Bye Bye TelephoneWell, there are still many people on the street who believe copper “land Lines” offer better quality, security, and value. There are those who believe it is necessary to continue pumping money into technologies which are expensive to maintain, and offer little additional value to subscribers.

There are those who believe expansion of high performance wireless infrastructure such as LTE (long term evolution) and 4G (4th Generation Wireless) will not meet the needs of individual subscribers in both rural and urban areas.

Of course, they are wrong. Copper lines still fail, and are definitely location sensitive. A person with a heart condition will have a much better chance sending the alarm with a wireless device than a fixed line copper phone, so the more we dig into the copper argument the more it appears folks still are simply reluctant to embrace or endorse change. And change is needed in the United States.

We lag the industrialized world in broadband Internet deployments and availability. LTE/4G/FiOS all support and deliver broadband. Verizon is aggressively moving ahead on all broadband deployments. This includes broadband wireless to rural areas normally not available through either copper or in many cases cable television. In the United States (and most of the world) telephone users are either using low cost mobile phones, or using Internet phones (VoIP) on their home cable TV, or even in many cases wireless Internet connections.

So why is it surprising or concerning to anybody that Verizon is turning its back on their copper infrastructure, and focusing their capital and operational investments on a next-generation of technology? Is it better to spend more money maintaining old copper outside plant infrastructure, or is it better to spend that money reinforcing deployments of high performance wireless infrastructure and fiber optic FiOS technology?

Seidenberg added that “Video is going to be the core product in the fixed-line business.” Yes, thinking of a cable coming into your home as a “telephone line” is no longer an acceptable categorization. The telephone line is gone. Never to return. It is obsolete. We need to delete that from our mental SD chip, and reload with “Wired Humans Version 2.” Cables coming into the home and business are not for telephones, they are for the whole three dimensional concept of communications.

The answer for both the American consumer and for Verizon is clearly to reduce the operational expenses of supporting copper telephone lines, and start forcing the adoption of technologies that are better, cheaper, and offer much more service opportunity (such as high speed Internet access, video/cable TV, additional interactive communications services <such as video conferencing and video telephony>).

Americans need to applaud the courage of Mr. Seidenberg and Verizon to take this aggressive stand on new service and technology delivery.

John Savageau, Long Beach

Nebula Launches – the US Government Gets Cloud Computing Right

If an individual can create a free email account in a matter of minutes, and a small business can create its entire financial system online in a couple minutes, then why must the government spend billions of dollars building (similar) systems that may not be sensitive in nature?

Vivek Kundra, the US Government’s Federal Chief Information Officer, wants to know why the commercial world can take advantage of applications and services available online through software as a service (SaaS) companies and cloud computing companies, while the US Government manages:

  • > 10,679 individual data centers
    • Including 8x GSA data centers
    • 23 Dept of Homeland Security data centers
  • 300 million customers
  • $76 billion annual IT budget
  • $19 billion in IT infrastructure

Vivek Kundra presented these questions, following with a high level briefing on how the US government will leverage cloud computing and modern Platform (PaaS), Infrastructure (IaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) technology to bring the US Government’s IT infrastructure up to world standards, and then exceed those standards to gain leadership in the world’s efficient use of technologies.

And he gets it. The briefing, at NASA Ames Research center, presented a project being managed by NASA Ames to build a model for bringing the US government into the next millennium of information and communications technology. The project, codename “Nebula,” will focus on a number of areas, including:

  • Consolidation of data center infrastructure
  • Development of new technologies such as containerized data centers
  • Massive sharing of compute and data center resource capacity for unclassified government agency use
  • Reduction of carbon footprint through better resource consolidation and reducing number of individual data centers
  • Faster provisioning of SaaS applications throughout government agencies

Kundra gave the example that in normal conditions it takes around 6 months from a user requesting a new application till the time it is delivered, at an annual cost of nearly $2.5 million. With SaaS and cloud computing the same application should take one day to provision, and reduce the annual fees for operating the application to around $800k.

2010 Marks the Beginning

The government, with the Nebula project will use the remainder of 2010 developing and executing pilot cloud-based projects, including deployment of containerized data centers. The prime user interface to these projects will be at apps.gov, which will support government agency users in quickly requesting, approving, and deploying SaaS applications for government agencies.

NIST Definition of Cloud Computing:

Cloud computing is a model for enabling convenient, on-demand network access to a shared pool of configurable computing resources (e.g., networks, servers, storage, applications, and services) that can be rapidly provisioned and released with minimal management effort or service provider interaction. This cloud model promotes availability and is composed of five essential characteristics, three service models, and four deployment models. (National Institue of Standards and Technology/NIST)

Commercial companies will work with the government and Nebula project to certify their applications to meet strict government privacy and data security standards. The general services Administration (GSA) will also work with commercial companies to develop a common standard for government certification. Today, many individual agencies have different set of certification requirements for software and hardware, requiring commercial companies to go through extended and costly certifications to meet the needs of different agencies.

The GSA will work with Nebula to create a single government standard certification which will be a one-stop-shop for commercial companies. Once passing the GSA standard certification, commercial companies will then be able to bid against all other agencies without concern of going through a second, third, or more additional certifications.

Everything mentioned in the briefing leads us to believe the US government, under the leadership of Vivek Kundra, is starting to “get it.” The briefing is available via YouTube (another application listed as being government and cloud friendly), is very well produced, informative, and gives us hope our government, at least within our ICT leadership, is going to aggressively exploit cloud technologies.

By 2011 each government agency will be required to consider virtualization and data center consolidation is all of their IT budget planning. Might be tough, might take a bit of time, but will definitely result in both a stronger government, and a more efficient ICT infrastructure supporting the government.

John Savageau, Long Beach

One Telecom and Business Idea for Ramallah and Palestine

Innovation is a catalyst for change in personal lives, education, how we work, and community life. All are components that may fill a fundamental requirement for continued economic development. In Ramallah there are many challenges to overcome in the journey from the current situation, to being in a competitive pool with other developing and modern countries.

ICT (Information and Communications Technology) development will contribute not only to the education and continued automation of banking, government, and eCommerce, but also to the overall quality of life in cities such as Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, and Jericho.

International organizations and the Palestine government are developing specific plans to bring more network-enabled education resources to the schools. There are efforts to extend both fixed line (fiber optic backbone infrastructure) and wireless communications throughout the city (Ramallah), and as regulatory issues and commercial issues mature, that infrastructure will eventually diffuse down to the individual subscriber level.

The Daily Routine

As Palestine does not have a credible public transportation system, all movement is either done on foot, or by private automobile and commercial Walking in Traffic - Ramallahtaxi. During “rush hour” periods travel is virtually impossible, and the quality of air due to exhaust and lax emission standards makes movement through the city extremely noxious. In addition, as there is considerable debris on the streets due to construction, as well as the reality of narrow streets and limited sidewalk space, travelling to both school and work can be a dangerous process.

Through my own pedestrian movement through the city, it struck me as obvious that Palestine is a prime candidate for future knowledge workers (pending further diffusion of “eLearning” and “eReady” graduates into the work force) to contribute to the workforce through telepresence and telecommuting.

Software developers and non-construction, storefront/restaurant, or factory workers would greatly benefit from not needing to navigate the dangerous and unhealthy streets of cities like Ramallah. ICT is the key to both promoting the development of a knowledge worker industry, as well as greatly improving individual quality of life.

Accepting home work is not always easy due to large families and home distractions, thus satellite work areas may be an additional consideration. Those satellite work areas should include high performance ICT resources, allowing knowledge workers to contribute higher quality and effective time to their companies and professional activities.

Overall Impact of ICT Resource Development in Ramallah

During my time in Ramallah I used Internet access points provided by both the hotel and local consultant’s representative office. The hotel connected through PALTEL, the incumbent monopoly communications provider. The hotel did use wireless, with access points extended throughout the hotel to improve local signal strength. Testing upload and download speeds to a California-based server resulted in good performance of 761Kbps down and 558Kbps up. This was adequate to support all my Internet access needs, as well as IP telephony for calls home.

The consultant used a dedicated link to Israel, with performance that can be considered equal to most access locations within American cities.

While neither of these access points would be considered normal for all of Ramallah or other locations within Palestine, it does indicate the potential for delivery of Internet services within the territory. Companies with an existing ICT presence, planning to open neutral data centers, could with additional investment and support of the government (regulatory issues and licensing) increase the potential for Internet protocol-enabled service delivery which would support far greater opportunities for elearning and telepresence.

The Education System

ICT diffusion into the public education system in Palestine is still low, with only around 30% of university students having good access to computers and Internet. The Ministry of Education and other government agencies Despair in the Daily Commute Routineshould aggressively take advantage of international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and government donors to build a robust network-enabled education capacity.

Visiting refugee camps such as Jenin and Kalandia gives small bits of hope that displaced people do have the attention of organizations such as the United Nations. UN-administered schools will eventually bring additional hope to students who need eLearning and network education to have the basic intellectual tools to enter a modern work force and compete. Having those skills will also increase their potential of eventually leaving the camps, and recovering some quality of life.

Education programs supported and administered by religious groups appear to have a bit better eLearning programs (from discussion with representative from the Ramallah Quaker School). Graudates from those schools will also have better opportunities for international university sponsorships, and likely bring their experience and knowledge back to Palestine at some point.

Jerusalem

There are many commuters who live in Jerusalem and travel to Ramallah each day. The trip is not far geographically, but can take a very long time Border Crossing between Ralamallah and Jerusalemdepending on rush hours, curfews, border closures, or if the Israeli security forces have any extended searches or issues at the checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.

Having a telecommuting-ready industry would greatly improve the quality of life for people who need to commute between the cities, as well as provide another layer of physical safety for commuters (the Ramallah checkpoint has been a frequent area of civil unrest).

Students commuting between Ramallah and East Jerusalem encounter the same difficulty as workers. The following transcript from France24 tells the story of a young lady who travels the route daily.

There they met Zaina Abu Hamdan, an 18-year-old woman from Ramallah who described her daily two-hour commute to her high school in east Jerusalem, which Israel occupied during the 1967 Six Day war and later annexed.

“As I wake up every morning and come here I am nervous, and I am thinking about the humiliations I am going to face,” she said.

Passing through the checkpoint often involves waiting for long periods in packed metal corridors, extended searches and loud orders issued in Hebrew by Israeli conscripts.

“If you are lucky, how long does it take,” Carter asked her.

“Thirty minutes,” she replied.

“And if you are unlucky?”

“Two or three hours.” (France 24)

Clearly eLearning, telecommuting, and telepresence could, and should have a very positive impact on the quality of life for all Palestinians. Israel needs to expedite approval and delivery of computer/wireless/telecom hardware, as well as release of additional wirel4ess frequency that would further support enhanced ICT.

A very difficult and troubled part of the world. However we cannot lose hope, and like a good Internet protocol packet, we need to find ways around obstacles.

John Savageau, from Ramallah, West Bank of Palestine

When the Tanks Rolled We Continued to Drink our Coffee – Ramallah Raid 2007

(01-05) 04:00 PDT Ramallah, West Bank — Israeli troops staged a rare incursion into this city Thursday, bulldozing cars and vegetable stands near the central square as they engaged gunmen and stone-throwing residents in a chaotic two-hour battle that left four Palestinians dead. (LA Times, 5 Jan 2007)

“While the Israeli tanks rolled through our neighborhood, we sat at a sidewalk café and continued to drink our coffee” commented a diner at Thursday night’s Ramadan feast. For the past four nights, most of the Ramallah MosquePalestinians I’ve met on the West Bank have shown a great enthusiasm in engaging me in conversations about Palestine, Ramallah, Israel, and the impression Americans have of the conflict and country.

The gentleman discussing his thoughts and memories of the last incursion Israel made into Palestine, nearly two years ago, was one of fatigue. “We are just tired of the misery this conflict has brought into our lives. We are no longer afraid of Israel, we just want the problems to go away.”

These words attracted several nods from my table and nearby tables, bringing several others into the conversation. One lady described how the house across the street from her home was destroyed by a shell, and it blew the front of her house apart due to the concussion of the explosion. Israeli soldiers would not let her approach the house, as the area was a “security problem.” She was able to return to her home a day later to being rebuilding her life.

“What gives one person the right to destroy the home of another?” asked the lady. Of course I have no answer.

An evening of stories and thoughts of prior conflicts, incursions, the leadership of Arafat, and the current climate of tolerance and desire to get everybody’s lives back on track.

“What is your impression of Palestine, do you think we have hope?”

I took a risk and answered the question by saying “Americans in general hate victims. We don’t like anybody who sits back and waits for others to solve their problems. When I see construction workers on the job at 5 a.m. during my morning jogs; when I see Palestinian software companies popping up doing outsourcing for American companies such as Cisco – and companies in the semi-conductor business, yes I have hope.”

“You are right. I’ve lived and studied in America and that is right. Never really thought of it before. Our leadership is making a mistake. They believe we should tug at the heart strings – which of course won’t work in your country. This story needs to be told.”

During the past four days I have walked the streets of Ramallah, met dozens of people, and had a wonderful time. During the past two days I have encountered two American State Department representatives, both of whom were protected by teams of what appeared to be Blackwater security, or a Blackwater suitable substitute thugs. “The package is 30 seconds out, all is secure…”

And one of my local colleagues asks “why is that guy carrying guns around in my country?”

“I don’t know. Guess they think they are in Long Beach.”

We Really Haven’t a Clue

When I watch Fox news, I get the impression everybody in Ramallah or the West Bank wants to demonstrate against the US, Israel, motherhood and apple pie. Americans think Ramallah is a cauldron of hate, looking for every opportunity to disrupt life as we know it. And we run around the country with armed security forces that are, well, NUTS!

There are four consulate offices near my hotel, and there are Palestinian police protecting the residences – just like in any other country. The local consular officer travels freely throughout Ramallah without concern, as this is a pretty peaceful place. Jogging along the streets you see representative offices from just about any NGO (non-governmental organization) in the world, as well as the United Nations and the World Bank. No Blackwater Security.

How can Americans possibly expect to learn about this ancient and wonderful part of the world when our own leadership acts with such arrogance and elitist actions? The journalists following state department officers in the middle-east must get a small sliver of reality when traveling with the “package.” It appears even the state department officers have convinced themselves this is appropriate behavior.

The Ramadan evening buffet meal over and another walk through the city back to my hotel. It is such a beautiful at night, with a half moon and clear sky, that it would be a sin to ride in a cab or car. Dodged a couple cars as I walked into the street to avoid some construction debris, otherwise the trip was uneventful. No kidnapping attempts, no assaults, and no problems other than I forgot how to say “good evening” in Arabic.

John Savageau, from Ramallah, West Bank of Palestine

Information and Communications Technology in Ramallah

“It’s not about the addressable market today, it is about building a future for my 8 year old daughter,” says Mohammed A, a Ramallah-based consultant in information and communications technology. “The World Bank can provide a lot of great statistics about the state of telecommunications in Ramallah, but if my girl does not have the same access to eLearning and education as an Israeli girl, she won’t have a chance.”

Of course there are a lot of politics and cultural issues involved. Ramallah and the entire territory of Palestine are under Israeli administration, which poses many challenges in receiving approvals for telecom services such as wireless, including frequencies not only for internet providers, but also the mobile phone industry. WiMAX is not allowed (in Israel as well) due to military restrictions, and much of the telecom and computer equipment destined for Ramallah is held up on warehouses on the Israel side awaiting customs clearance and release.

In the education system less than 1/3 of university students have adequate access to basic Internet access or computers, and very few primary and high school students have Internet access or eLearning as part of the curriculum. Government officials admit they had some mistakes in prioritizing educational resources, further reinforcing the obvious issues resulting in education system shortfalls.

And Mohammed’s daughter still has no access to the Internet in school.

In Palestine, everything is controlled by Israel. Many international organizations and groups try to influence Israel’s government to relax restrictions on issues such as mobile frequencies, however Israel has been reticent in responding to international pressure. Why? Oh my, that is a topic that is way beyond the scope of a short blog entry.

But the result is emerging mobile operators such as Wataniya Telecom cannot get final approval from the Israel government to release frequencies in both the 900Mhz and 1800Mhz ranges needed to operate their business. The delays are becoming so costly, Wataniya (a Kuwaiti telecom investment) may need to back out of the project.

At this point all public Internet access is connected through Israel. Independent or private VSAT (satellite) connections are not allowed, nor are direct public fiber connections from Palestine through Jordon or other adjacent countries. The problems are compounded by geographic separation of Palestinian territories such as the Gaza Strip from the West Bank.

And Mohammed’s daughter still has no access to the Internet in school.

Some American and other international companies are developing a soft spot for conditions in Palestine, including Google, Microsoft, Cisco, and the Negroponte Foundation. Those groups are providing both equipment, and training to Palestinians, as well as offering consulting for education programs.

Donor organizations are beginning to dump money and projects into the country (which BTW is ironically a synchronization and control nightmare for the Ministry of Education), and expatriate Palestinians are starting to bring business and opportunity back to the homeland.

Tareq Maaya, CEO of Exalt Technologies (and founder of Ghost Software – the remote access operating system), explained Palestinian software developers are among the best in the world, and there is a good opportunity for Ramallah to become a leader in software outsourcing. In fact, Exalt Technologies is now doing outsourced software development for Cisco, with much of their workload being shifted to Ramallah from development centers in India.

This is good if you are a relatively wealthy Palestinian returnee from Silicon valley, but what about Mohammed’s daughter? How will she bring herself up to the level needed to work at Exalt, if she has no access to the Internet or eLearning resources?

Dr. Sabri Saidam, Advisor to the President on IT and Technical Education, has ideas. He is a politician, well educated, and very savvy on technology. He has a plan on the board to connect all universities via high performance fiber optic cable, and fully integrate both Internet and network education, as well as eLearning into the curriculum.

A passionate man, he is focused on bringing the message of Palestine to the world, evangelizing the need for all nations to support a Palestine that gives hope to the people. He reminds us that “people with hope are productive, happy, and become content with prosperity in life.

Those without hope become frustrated, angry, and need to find a way to express that frustration.”  That is not good for Palestinians, nor anybody else.

The regional troubles of the past 50 years are well known, poorly understood, but always good for a zealous conversation. The rights, wrongs, and realities are all parts of history. History being paid for by 8 year old girls, grasping at hope for a future that brings both peace and prosperity.

Our world is connected through social networks, chats, email, video, and any other activity that can be reduced to binary digits. There is no excuse to deny this connected world to any 8 year old girl, regardless of her nationality, race, or ideology.

Ramallah is getting better every day, but we still need to nurture this city, and every other city around the world in a similar situation.

John Savageau, Ramallah, Palestine

A Nice Evening Walk in Ramallah

Walking along the streets in Ramallah at night is quite an experience. A cross between dodging cars along tight mountain roads in Hong Kong, and avoiding open manhole covers on the sidewalks of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. If you fall into the rhythm, and keep yourself out of harm’s way, the sights, sounds, and climate of Ramallah in September make for a pleasant evening.

In Long Beach you can walk along the streets at night, but passing cars and passing police will reward you with stares or requests for identification. You avoid looking directly into another person’s eyes, particularly if they are of a different race or culture, for fear of confrontation.

In Ramallah you are greeted by everybody you pass on the street, regardless of the fact you are obviously a foreigner, and there is a good probability you do not share their culture or ideology. A smile, a nod of the head, and you pass by without fear.

The city is one of hills and moguls. And like a Beijing of the 90’s, the skyline is dominated by construction and progress. This evening holds a Ramallah Hillsidegentle breeze, and the view of hills and valleys dotted with lights, and life, is very nice. It is good to stand off the side of the road, and look across the valleys towards Jerusalem, with its skyline lighting the distant horizon.

You feel and sense hope. Hope of people who have been through tremendous trouble and pain for the past 40 years. People who are tired of troubles, and want to think of a future that holds the rewards of working hard.

You feel that hope while walking the streets, seeing and hearing the sounds of progress.

Life in the 50s and early 60’s

Imagine getting up early on a Saturday morning in Ramallah, then driving to Beirut for brunch, going to the beach in the early afternoon, having a bite to eat in Tel Aviv, and being home in Ramallah for dinner. No, it is not crazy, it is life in the 50’s. An old man speaks fondly of those days, when life was good, and people of all cultures and ideologies treated each other with tolerance and respect.

The old man tells his grandchildren of a time when fences did not partition the land, checkpoints did not separate villages from each other, and free travel was an entitlement of being alive. The grandchildren listen with awe and envy, as the tales do not seem to have any reality today, in a land of occupation dominated by mistrust among neighbors who have shared the land for a thousand years.

And hope.

On the way back to the hotel you finally pass your first police checkpoint set up within Ramallah. The first thought is “oh my, is there going to be some kind of trouble?” Then a memory comes back of traffic stops in Long Beach you saw the prior weekend, with police stopping every car, checking for alcohol, checking registrations, checking individual backgrounds. Not much different.

A friendly nod by the Ramallah police while walking by, and back to the hotel. A really pleasant walk.

John Savageau, from Ramallah, Palestine

Learning the Real Ramallah

A machine gun pointed at my head, a smug look of contempt from a guard, walls designed to keep me isolated from the outside and under control. I am in prison.

From the outside, life is pretty normal. Citizens laughing in a sidewalk café, driving to the shopping mall, lining up to view a first-run movie. On the trip from the city my driver talks of the outside. He talks of people with hopes, futures, and fulfilling their dreams. At the prison checkpoint the mood changes, and we get a quick briefing on the rules of conduct while transferring to the “inside.”

I am now entering Ramallah. The line going into Ramallah is short – takes about 5 minutes. The line waiting to go out is long, and the driver reveals you can expect to wait about 3 hours to re-enter Israel. Cars with a Palestinian number plate are not allowed outside of the West Bank of Palestine, only Israeli tagged cars are allowed on the outside.

As we pass the border checkpoint our driver slowly turns, and says “welcome to our prison.”

I am an American, What do I know?

All I know of Ramallah is what I hear on the news, or read in the papers. I assume every street corner will have a group of terrorists ready to pull me out of the car and hold me for ransom, or execute me on a tape forwarded to YouTube for global distribution. The media has pumped me up to the point I cower behind slightly shaded windows, fearing what may happen to me if pedestrians see a foreigner in the car, and call ahead to those finding amusement harming me.

But what the heck? The streets of Ramallah are fairly wide, in somewhat good shape (at least compared to Tel Aviv), and everything is under construction. Lots of new buildings, all made with a wonderful stone façade, with designs that rival my own community in Long Beach. Even though we are in the middle of Ramadan, people are working hard at the construction sites, and moving about with purpose.

No visible weapons on the street. No groups of young men spoiling for a fight.

At the hotel I am greeted by security, a guard shakes my hand and says “Welcome to Ramallah.” The desk clerk gives me a warm welcome, and gives a quick overview of the area, and quickly fills in a couple of high-level suggestions on the tradition and culture of Ramadan, which is an important period of the year for Muslims.

Nothing harsh or threatening, just giving me a couple tips of what is happening, and how I can avoid causing myself any personal anxiety over making a social gaff. He was worried about my feelings, not those of Muslims who probably expect me to do something culturally silly.

My first Ramadan Celebration Meal

The hotel prepares a buffet. Muslims have fasted all day, and according to the practice wait until the official sunset to feast. The hotel restaurant area has a large screen display guiding evening prayers, and at the official moment of sunset announces to those present it is time to celebrate.

Lamb, a large variety of food, drinks, a true celebration. Everybody is friendly with everybody else, and even show foreigners like myself much accommodation and warmth.

A Ramallah Sunrise

On the first morning in Ramallah I take a sunrise walk along the hills and moguls of the city. Most of the buildings new. Many vacant lots with the foundations of past homes, lives, families, and a culture disrupted over the past 40 years of “troubles.” Most appear destroyed by human hand. Everybody greets me as I walk along the street, somewhat amused by my interest in the buildings and community, but no cold shoulder or indication I am unwelcome.

A new day, and the beginning of a new challenge. The challenge of making sure my visit to Palestine and Ramallah will bring value. I don’t want to be a burden, a tourist, or an ugly American. I feel the history, the spirit, and depth of a region that does not have a single centimeter of land untouched by humans. I look inside for the strength to bring my experience and knowledge to really smart people, who just need reinforcement of their visions.

We are but a snapshot, a sound bite in time. How do we bring value to an area which has ground every effort throughout history into yet another chronicle of struggle?

We will try

John Savageau, from Ramallah, Palestine

IT Expo West – Wireless Broadband Delivery Heroes

Gregg Nobel loves wireless Internet. He talks about technologies such as MIMO (Multiple-In, Multiple Out) that will help him deliver high speed, broadband Internet services through the northeast with refreshing enthusiasm. Gregg shows feverish dedication to ensuring fellow residents and children of the state have an equal chance to compete with the Koreans, Scandinavians, and Virginians who may currently hold an advantage due to ubiquitous access to high speed broadband Internet.

Is it WiMax that will hold the answer? LTE? 802.11n?

Not important. The important thing is to lay the pipe needed to accomplish his objective of leaving no Massachusettsan, Vermonter, Connecticuter, or New Hampshirite behind in the race for achieving the American dream.

Gregg is the Business Development Manager for GAW (Great Auk Wireless) High-Speed Internet, a wireless infrastructure provider based in Vermont. They not only aggressively deliver high-speed broadband to towns offering a good opportunity for revenues, they also work with local communities and municipalities to bring easy access to high speed Internet to rural communities and areas not easily served by cable or telephone utilities.

US Internet Wireless in Minneapolis has a similar approach. Working with the city, USI Wireless is deploying high speed Internet services from a central location atop the IDS Tower in downtown Minneapolis. As USI Wireless has good line of sight from the tower, it deployed 55x 80 Megabits per second “DragonWave” antenna systems in an omni-directional pattern. Network traffic is backhauled to the 511 Building in downtown Minneapolis, which is a small carrier hotel with around 30 networks present for interconnection.

The city of Minneapolis supports USI Wireless with an arrangement allowing them to access city-owned conduits and access points throughout the city to allow further expansion of their wireless infrastructure. Additional wireless access point

Discussions with the USI Wireless representative at IT Expo West in Los Angeles this week revealed some additional interesting points. While we might believe that wireless access is most attractive to yuppies and higher income demographics, the reality is most of their subscribers are inner-city and under-privileged children from the urban centers in north Minneapolis.

This demographic was reinforced by Rudy Garza, a education and community services advocate from South Gate (an urban center in S.E. Los Angeles). Mr. Garza agreed that having wireless broadband access within an under privileged community can only help give kids one more tool that may push them over the fence post on the side of a more productive life than otherwise probable without Internet access.

MIMO-AntennaHow it is done

There are several competing standards for wireless network access. The most common, 802.11n (WiFi), is most well known as being the type wireless access point most people are now putting into their homes and offices. 802.11n wireless access points incorporate internal MOSI (Multiple out, Single In) antennas, allowing the wireless device to transmit several different wireless signals, and the end user devices will be able to choose the most optimal signal from those transmitted from the access point.

802.11n does support MIMO (Multiple In, Multiple Out) signaling, however today most end user devices are not set up with multiple antennas. Today 802.11n access points can easily transmit at bandwidths up to 70Mbps up to around 300ft. From that point the signal begins to degrade, and access speeds will drop.

With full MIMO deployment 802.11n will support single capacity streams of up to 600Mbps per access device.

In a city deployment using 802.11n you can easily expect to support around 150 users with reasonable internet access speeds, although not at bandwidth adequate to handle applications like television and high speed video. The answer is with correct city funding, or subscriber fees, more antennas and access point can be deployed to increase the amount of bandwidth available for each end device, as well as extend coverage to more locations. However the bottom line with 802.11n is you still have some level of limitation on distance and the number of supportable subscribers.

WiMAX

WiMAX is an alternative to WiFi, although in general much more expensive. Many networks are considering deployment of WiMAX, which also can take advantage of MIMO. The most well known networks in the US using WiMAX are those deployed by Sprint and Clearwire (now merged). Both have extensive networks, and in the case of Sprint the deployment is supported through use of their existing cellular towers, and high capacity fiber optic lines for backhaul of wireless internet traffic to Sprint’s central offices.

LTEa and 4G

Other than Sprint, in the US most carriers are considering a phased deployment of LTEa (Long Term Evolution – advanced) and 4G (4th Generation Wireless) throughout their existing cellular networks. Most of these companies are currently using the cellular EV-DO (Evolution – Data Optimized), which will be supplemented and then replaced by more powerful LTEa and 4G wireless systems.

LTEa will allow for 100Mbps in individual devices which are moving or mobile, and up to 1Gbps for stationary devices. When the LTEa/4G networks are fully deployed, nearly any device which can access a wireless network may be able to use the new wireless standard. LTEa/4G can take full advantage of MIMO, and further allow end user devices to aggregate bandwidth being transmitted from multiple antennas, and antenna sources. Devices will also become available with multiple antennas embedded in the device, such as telephone handsets built with multiple antennas within the handset.

Perhaps the most exicting thing about further development of MIMO, LTEa/4G, more powerful WiFi, and even WiMAX, is that the bandwidth and access speeds will soon be high enough to support everything from HD-TV to high performance Internet access, regardless if in a city or rural environment.

In the Meantime…

It will take until 2015 for companies such as Verizon to fully deploy their next generation wireless networks. In the meantime we will still look to companies like GAW and USI Wireless to continue bringing broadband Internet access to both the countryside, as well as inner-city areas. We need to support their efforts, and efforts of those like GAW and USI Wireless who are working to deliver network access in the towns of Iowa, New Mexico, the south side of Chicago, or any other place our fellow citizens need network access.

John Savageau, Long Beach

A Really Smart GRID

The National Energy Technology Lab (NETL) estimates the US loses anywhere between $119 and $188 billion each year due to power losses and power interruptions and quality issues (such as brown outs). In 2000 the cost of a one hour power outage in Chicago cost the Board of Trade nearly $20 trillion (NETL) in trades. And the stories of financial loss due to power outages go on and on.

Clearly, the value and cost of power is critical to our existence as a nation. Nearly everything we do is dependent on some level of electricity for support – whether it be for cooking, lighting, entertainment, work – we cannot live without electricity.

Only problem is we are still working on an electrical distribution system in the US designed in the 1940s and 50s. We, as a nation, need to invest in a next generation of electrical distribution systems. And those systems will need a lot of intelligence. The electrical GRID must become really smart.

What is a Smarter GRID?

Getting to the Smart GRID will take time. It is possible the US electrical does not have much time, as power requirements continue to grow, the GRID continues to age, and fossil fuel electrical plants continue to contribute to pollution and potentially greenhouse gases and global warming.

As the next generations Smart GRID requires several years of development before it is ready for deployment, we need to take some interim measures to bridge the time gap between the existing electrical GRID and delivery of a Smart GRID.

The Smarter GRID acknowledges the existing US electrical distribution system. Dozens of utility providers around the country providing energy from a variety of sources, including oil, coal, hydro, solar, nuclear, and wind.

The Smarter GRID uses the existing electrical GRID, and existing technologies to reinforce the GRID’s ability to operate effectively with the following characteristics provided by the Department of Energy:

  • Ensuring its (the electrical GRID) reliability to degrees never before possible
  • Maintaining its affordability
  • Reinforcing our global competitiveness
  • Fully accommodating renewable and traditional energy sources
  • Potentially reducing our carbon footprint
  • Introducing advancements and efficiencies yet to be envisioned

An analogy might be the development of web services. In the 1990s the “web” supported simple hypertext protocol with utilities such as “LINX,” a text-based browser, and “Gopher,” a rudimentary search engine. Both did technically the same job as modern web applications, and did bridge the gap between pure command lines and the graphical interfaces common today.

The Smart GRID of the Future

The Internet analogy is not bad, as it is the basis of the next generation of smart grids. With the IP address capacity of Internet Protocol ver. 6 (IPv6) Internet address space will be large enough to accommodate nearly anything produced that uses electricity. At some point in the future, the electrical GRID will be a communications media, and every device connected to the electrical GRID will have an IPv6 identifier such as 2001:db8:85a3::8a2e:370:7334.

Refrigerators, televisions, air conditioners – anything that consumes electricity will be part of a system designed to make the most efficient use of our devices. We will also add external and alternative energy sources to both the national GRID and individual communities and houses to further reinforce the electrical service we all need to ensure our way of life, security, and national economic and defense interests.

Try to imagine an electrical system that is able to:

  • Automatically turn devices on and off as needed to eliminate wasted energy consumption
  • Automatically load balances electrical distribution to accommodate peaks
  • Have visual management systems down to the house level to show users how much energy they are consuming at any point in time, as well as give recommendations for electrical devices within the house which can be shuit off (an example might be a battery charger on a mobile phone – if the “smart” manager identifies the battery as being fully charged, the system may automatically shut off the outlet until an actual draw is required)
  • Add energy “storage” devices to local areas and the GRID to save energy which may be lost due to loss of sunlight, damage to distribution systems, or other reasons. This stored energy is made available on demand during peak hours to supplement the main GRID
  • During periods of power outage, stored and renewable energy sources within the house or community can provide temporary and essential power to emergency services, and basic energy requirements, even if the community is isolated from the main electrical GRID
  • Save you money on your bill by using intelligence to eliminate wasted energy and energy leaks
  • Inherently “green,” as it strives to supplement fossil fuel and nuclear power generation with renewable energy sources such as wind, hydro, and solar energy –as well as reducing individual energy consumption

Role of the Internet in the Smart GRID

Using a combination of wireless systems, fiber optic backbones, Ethernet over Power, and satellite, all segments of the electrical system can be managed with software applications that are Internet-friendly (yes, the Dept of Energy does understand the need for security).

The DOE uses an example of the ATM to explain the interoperability of private systems using a common architecture. CitiBank, the Bank of America, Wells Fargo, HSBC, Barclays – all are independent banking systems, but all are able to share information and even distribute money to holders of cards from any association member, such as Star network.

The Smart GRID will use similar applications running over the Internet Protocol to share management, distribution, fault, and also billing settlements between electrical systems and private renewable energy sources.

The five main technologies used within the Smart GRID include:

  • Integrated communications, connecting components to open architecture for real-time information and control, allowing every part of the grid to both ‘talk’ and ‘listen’
  • Sensing and measurement technologies, to support faster and more accurate response such as remote monitoring, time-of-use pricing and demand-side management
  • Advanced components, to apply the latest research in superconductivity, storage, power electronics and diagnostics
  • Advanced control methods, to monitor essential components, enabling rapid diagnosis and precise solutions appropriate to any event
  • Improved interfaces and decision support, to amplify human decision-making, transforming grid operators and managers quite literally into visionaries when it come to seeing into their systems
    (the SMART GRID: an introduction <U.S. Department of Energy>)

While this is understandably a 1000 word superficial introduction to Smart GRIDs, the idea of an energy efficient, self-healing, interconnected, flexible, and intelligent manager of electricity is exciting. We all want to reduce our carbon footprint, we all want to save money, and we all want to ensure we have power when we want it. In the short term we can aggressively support developing structure and efficiency within the existing “Smarter GRID.”

In the longer term we have an obligation to both ourselves and future generations to develop a really, really Smart GRID that will reduce our carbon production, and ensure future generations do not lose billions of dollars from the economy every time our aging power system sneezes.

John Savageau, Long Beach

Clearing the Air on Cloud Services – Cloud User ’09 Conference in San Diego

Cloud interoperability and security drove passionate discussions among presenters and attendees at Cloud User ’09 in San Diego this week. A very good mix of professionals representing equipment vendors, cloud service providers, cloud software and systems developers, government, and the media rolled up sleeves, put egos aside, and drilled into issues that are impeding broad acceptance of cloud services.

The conference, sponsored by MarcusEvans, brought a lot of really interesting perspectives to the issues surrounding cloud provisioning, regulatory concerns, marketing, and the technology of cloud. The objective – determine a course of action in the cloud community to promote and provide confidence needed for the general information and communications (ICT) community to adopt cloud services.

Igor Edelman, representing a financial services company which is an early adopter of cloud computing (he’d prefer to keep the company confidential, however I can say I am a customer!), discussed his security concerns.

  • Where does your data actually reside? It is not enough for a financial institution to know data exists, it is critical they know exactly where it resides. This is a major roadblock in the financial community using cloud resources on a public or shared platform.
  • What additional measures can they takes?
  • Data encryption?
  • Dedicated network capacity?
  • Dedicated storage?

Cloud does free up valuable CAPEX and OPEX resources, and his company is using this as further justification to develop their enterprise cloud architecture.

Tim Crawford, from Vivo and Stanford University IT Operations gave a very good general introduction to issues concerning all potential cloud users, including misconceptions of what cloud is and can do for a company. One item Tim highlighted was the impact Internet will have on broad cloud adoption. However the majority of his presentation centered on cloud service interoperability.

To successfully integrate cloud capacity and resources over both the Internet and allow for potential migration of data, Crawford emphasized the need for “greater cross vendor integration, development of common cloud interface APIs, and development of cross-platform migration tools.” While this is a problem today, it is also an opportunity for companies to emerge and solve the cloud platform interoperability problem.

Finally, Crawford walked the audience through a very detailed roadmap on the process a company or organization should go through in planning, executing, and operating their cloud strategy. You can reach Tim at tim.crawford@vivoinc.com for more information on his cloud strategy visions.

Dell and IBM both walked through their roadmaps for cloud computing, with additional focus on the need for a thorough understanding of the benefits and shortfalls of cloud technologies. Riz Amanuddin from IBM outlined his vision of implementing cloud within an organization by walking through the main steps, which include:

  • Planning and preparing for cloud implementation
  • Testing and deploying cloud services through a scaled approach
  • Start with a couple non-critical projects
  • Open on-demand access to power users who can potentially benefit from having project driven capacity
  • Extend and evolve the platform as testing is passed, confidence is gained, and applications are made “cloud-friendly”

Riz also mentioned each organization should prepare an image library of cloud application templates, allowing users to quickly load applications, add resources, and discontinue individual instances of applications and resource when the requirement expires.

When preparing the organization’s cloud strategy, IT managers and planners consider:

  • Security (including ISO 27,000 security compliance)
  • Application and network latency
  • Application and network availability
  • Legal and regulatory compliance issues (HIPAA, Sarbanes-Oxley, etc)
  • System backup and recovery
  • Image and application licensing
  • VM sizing and planning
  • Storage requirements
  • The human element (training, ownership of cloud resources, organizational issues)

All fairly common sense business items, but all important to the success of any cloud (or other business) project.

Surendra Reddy from Yahoo gave a great presentation on Yahoo’s “Lessons Learned” in implementing Yahoo’s internal cloud. Surendra also walked through a very detailed process organization’s need to consider prior to doing their own internal cloud migration. Reddy provided very good statistics on the cost of internal cloud provisioning, and the cost of operating both cloud and dedicated application services within large data centers.

Both Surendra and James Urquhart (Cisco Systems) noted that cloud provisioning within the enterprise or organization should be through a common provisioning portal, with strong accounting and security. This is needed to ensure the IT group can properly account for who is accessing or initiating cloud applications, as well as supporting internal charge backs for ensuring good management of resources.

The topic of cloud’s impact on the environment came up during the data center and facility presentation (mine!), sparking a heated discussion on the value of green designs in both facility construction and deployment, as well as managing ICT resources. The panel went through Cap and Trade, alternative energy, proper use of mechanical and electrical design within the data center, as well as reviewing the concept behind metrics such as the Uptime Institute’s PUE (Power Utilization Effectiveness).

Many other topics discussed, many good debates and questions from a distinguished audience and group of attendees from all over North America and Europe. It was very interesting to hear different perspectives from Canadians and Europeans, as we are normally exposed to American thought leadership.

Bottom line, there are many, many very good people working hard on cloud issues. We know cloud and virtualization is here to stay, and the burden of producing a high quality, acceptable product is on the vendors, integrators, consultants, and thought leaders. This is complicated stuff, representing a major leap in technology, globalization, and business or organizational process. It is also a lot of fun!

 

John Savageau, Long Beach

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