This is an out and out advert for mobile VoIP services. If you haven’t already noticed I am in Helsinki at the moment.
My phone won’t pick up a mobile service. Bit irritating but not the end of the world. I dropped my wife an email letting her know I missed her already but she was probably not going to hear from me and not to worry.
The WiFi is great here, everywhere in the hotel and in the conference room. I’ve been able to carry on working. Then hey presto I remembered I had my Timico mobile client on my Samsung Galaxy S4.
I called home. The call quality was crystal clear. Had a nice chat with Anne and was reassured that everything was ok.
Not only did the call cost nothing, or worst case a local UK call charge, but the quality was much better than a cellular call would have been.
Only problem now is the two hour time shift & coordinating calls when we are both around and available.
Just had a bit of a Royal visit from the Duke of Kent. He came over specially for a butchers’ because he’d heard of our growth/work with apprentices/new datacentre/NOC/awards etc etc etc.
I was a bit disappointed to see that his car didn’t have a flag. The last time I came across the Duke was at the Farnborough Air Show where I was his guest for lunch. At the time I was on the Exec of the Parliamentary Space Committee. Lunch was on the roof of the Society of British Aerospace Companies pavilion – the spot where the Harrier jump jet used to bow to.
I was there with a group of British and French MPs – members of their respective Parliamentary interest groups. We had an extremely informative and enjoyable afternoon at the end of which we all piled into the Jaguar courtesy cars to go back to the bus for onward ferrying to Westminster. All that is except me. There was no room!
“No problem” said an able assistant. He whipped the flag off the Duke of Kent’s Bentley and drove me to the bus himself. All of which is why I was disappointed the flag wasn’t to be seen anywhere. I guess the Bentley will be knocking on a bit now and his 7 series will be far more comfortable…
We held the first #bloggade at the Timico datacentre in Newark yesterday. A bloggade is as you may know the collective noun for a group of bloggers.
This first event was highly successful covering a range of blog related subjects:
1 The type of infrastructure used to host blogs (led by Timico hosting tech guru Michael Green) followrd by a guided tour of the Tiico NOC and datacenre.
2 A lengthy discussion on Search Engine Optimisation for your blog conducted by @phil_kelsey of Spiral Media and @mattdrussell of WebbHostingBuzz.
3 A general discussion about plug ins and which ones worked for people.
There was a great level of audience participation and a definite interest in holding another event, sometime in the run up to Christmas perhaps.
For a bit of fun we decided to have a go and see if we could get #bloggade to trend on twitter. Despite our intensive efforts it didn’t seem to be working. Then one of the bloggers suggested that if we tweeted that members of the currently in the news boy band “One Direction” had turned uo for #bloggade it might go viral. We did this and at the latest count have had a grand total of two retweets from (pre-pubescent?) OD fans. 🙂
Gotta say I’d never heard of em before this week!!!
Big thanks to all who came especially @mattdrussell whose original idea this was together with @phil_kelsey @jangles and @AndrewGrill for their major contributions.
All in all considering we organised this from scratch to execution in 4 weeks I have to say it was a great success.
Catch ya later.
PS this post was typed by thumb on my Galaxy s4 en route to a customer meeting in London. I’d be amazed if the formatting is spot on – I’ll make any necessary adjustments when I get back to laptop land.
Tom Moores is a new starter at Timico. He is a market specialist in cloud hosting and part of a wave of investment we are making in this space. It’s a pleasure to meet people who are driven to succeed and I look forward to working with Tom.
You will notice that Tom is holding the Network Operations guitar. Every now and again when I have a visitor to my office I take a picture of them with the guitar. Usually they can’t play it.
Tom can play the guitar. Looks like he is putting some soul into that song:)
Nine days ago one of our customers dropped me an email saying he had read in the London financial news vehicle City AM about our appointment of Colin Bell as Director of Hosting and Cloud services. “Seems like a high level good recruit!” was his specific comment.
That customer, as the customer always is of course, right. Colin’s pedigree is as EMEA Sales Director for Rackspace and subsequently as Managing Director of business-critical managed hosting provider NetBenefit.
It’s really important if you want to succeed in business to be one of the best in your market. That means you have to have top people. It’s a joy to work with Colin and clearly he is already making an impact if customers are sending me emails patting us on the back.
Other than to say it’s nice to know we are able to attract more top talent into the business I’m not going to gush on any more about this. You will be able to see the effects of his appointment in the months and years ahead (on our march to global domination nyahahahahahahahaaaaa).
I will say that Colin likes motorbikes and keeps bees. People do business with people, not automatons. Drop me a line if you want to meet Colin or buy some hosting services (or a copy of my book:) ). Copy of press release here.
Last week we integrated the Redwood brand into Timico. Redwood was a specialist Unified Communications business we acquired last year.
There are two different ways of integrating another business. You can do it well or you can do it badly. There are also two different speeds. I recall that Cisco, a company that has made many acquisitions in its time, has a defined process with dedicated teams to do the job. On day one they change the acquired brand to Cisco and then there are well rehearsed steps over a period of three months or so until all aspects of the old brand are erased. No doubt a few people get erased at the same time although companies like Cisco are known to buy small technology businesses just to acquire the talent.
It’s no different in our game really. We bought Redwood for a combination of channel to market and the talent of their people. However the nature of our business is different to a product manufacturer such as Cisco. Our customers largely buy services from us and they buy them on a recurring basis. Every month. The other thing to note is that the services they buy from us are by and large mission critical to their business.
We love all our customers. They pay our wages. We do our best to keep them happy so that they want to keep on paying our wages. The last thing we want to do is upset them. Now in the networking game the time of greatest risk is when something changes. A small config change here can have big ramifications there. A kind of butterfly effect for business. So we want to be very careful when we make changes.
The same applies when you change a brand. When integrating company not only are you changing the look of a business but you are potentially changing the way it feels to do business with you. People don’t like change so you have to do it carefully.
When integrating Redwood we want Redwood’s customers to feel as if things are working just as well as they were in the good old days when they were dealing with Redwood as opposed to this new company called Timico that they might never have heard of. We might in our ever so optimistic dreams dare to hope that Redwood customers will think things are even better than they were before though we would settle for them thinking things were just same. “Name change? Oh ok that’s fine” is the reaction we want.
What we don’t want is “What’s gone wrong with my bill. Why have you charged me twice? Where has Fred gone? Fred always used to sort out my problem. It was never like this when it was Redwood”.
That’s why we like to take time over the integration of an acquisition. We want to make sure it goes well. The telecommunications industry abounds with stories of market consolidation and company acquisitions that have gone wrong. We love it actually because it generates churn in a company’s customer base and someone else’s churn is our sales opportunity. I even heard of one highly acquisitive business whose business plan assumed a 30% churn in customers post acquisition. That’s not how we like to work.
If my memory serves me right we have bought seven companies in nearly ten years of doing business. We have learnt a few lessons along the way but our general principle is that we want to build a business of real value to all our stakeholders. That means real value to shareholders, staff and of course customers. We want to keep every single customer. That’s a difficult objective in a highly competitive market where competitors sometimes not only drop their pants to win a deal but run naked down a customer’s drive shouting “I won’t put my clothes back on until you give me the business”.
I’m pleased to say the integration of Redwood has gone very well. Customers have had time to get used to the idea and all were contacted well in advance to let them know about the new name. It’s felt like business as usual throughout the whole process.
That isn’t to say there wasn’t a huge amount of work going on in the background. Integration of CRM and billing systems for example. Lots of testing before D Day. We had a few IT glitches along the way but nothing that was customer affecting and the team worked really hard to get it all sorted.
Funnily enough when I asked the one of the Redwood team how it went the answer was “boringly not much to say really.” That’s a great answer. The right answer.
Winning new customers is just about the hardest thing to do in our game. It’s a lot easier to sell to someone with who you already have a trusted relationship. Now Redwood Timico Unified Communications has a whole new existing customer base to sell to. Customers who already trust Timico with their mission critical services. Exciting really. Welcome aboard guys. We appreciate you and value your contribution 🙂
PS sorry if I come across very emulsional there. It happens sometimes 🙂
What can you write about a garage forecourt? They aren’t particularly attractive places, stuck as they usually are, at the side of busy main roads with lots of cars rushing by. Their canopies can be useful for keeping you dry when filling up in the winter though look out if it is windy and the rain gets horizontal.
Inside the goods in the shop are expensive but I guess that is how most of the profits are made and I don’t really begrudge them that. Occasionally I will buy a lottery ticket though I seldom have even a single number come up. It’s a mug’s game. Some people pin their hopes on winning. You see them buying ten quids worth in one go. One ticket/ten tickets. it makes no difference.
Usually these days a garage is the only place where you can buy coal or logs. These items take up a fair bit of space which garages normally have going spare. It’s a lot cheaper to go to the coal merchant but that does require foresight and planning. I could also get it delivered but that would require a coal bunker which we ain’t got.
Garages these days can be a source of excellent coffee. Coffee Nation guarantees a good cuppa at just the right temperature to drink straight away. I normally have to let my tea cool down a bit if I’m making it myself. I would think the temperature bit from machine made coffee comes from a paranoia about being sued by people scalded by carelessness with their hot drink. An American export.
You might be wondering where all this is going. It’s reasonable. To wonder. But I haven’t finished rambling yet.
Garages often have carwashes attached to the side of them, usually just after the place you pull in for air and water. It’s been some years since I used one of these carwashes. I use a hand carwash staffed by hard working Eastern Europeans. They do a much better job that is worth paying the little bit extra that it costs.
And finally our first child was born on a Boxing Day. The following day the only place open that could sell me flowers was a garage. They were starting to show their age but the woman in the garage picked out the best from the whole shop and made me a beautiful bouquet for very little money.
The attached PDF forecourt magazine is a page out of this month’s edition of Forecourt Trader. I have a very eclectic taste in reading material. Have a read. It’s all about problems garages face when their phone lines go down. Timico has lots of customers in the garage forecourt game (I’m talking hundreds if not thousands of retails sites). The broadband service that runs over the copper phone line is crucial to retail businesses because it carries their credit card transaction data. When the broadband goes down the garage is going to have big problems, as the article shows.
Our retail customers can get around this with a mobile backup solution. It’s called Mobile Access Management and runs over 3G within the same secure MPLS environment as the fixed line connection. If you own retail sites where the broadband line is mission critical you should be talking to us.
We are the champions. Yay. Last night Timico together with VoIP infrastructure partners Genband triumphed winning the Global Telecoms Business Award for Innovation. In the telecoms world this doesn’t come any better. Folk had flown in from all over the world although because everyone was in a penguin suit the only way you could tell was from their faces. Had everyone been wearing national costume it would have been interesting:)
The event took place at the Park Lane Hotel. If you’ve never been it’s worth a visit. Terrific venue, especially when you win. Champagne corks popped and a wonderful time was had by all.
Our award was for our Unified Communications Solution / mobility for business. This is our SIP service with Android and iPhone clients. If you haven’t tried it it is definitely worth a go. More details here.
The only downside to last night was that they didn’t give you time to do a speech. However because I can write what I like on this blog I thought I’d do it here instead:
“It is a great honour to receive this Award on behalf of Timico in front of such a large and distinguished audience. I’m not going to say much but there are a few thank yous I do need to make. First of all thanks to all the staff at Timico. Couldn’t have done it without you and I’m just sorry that it isn’t practical for everyone to be here up on the stage and to drink Genband’s champagne in this lovely art deco ballroom.
Then of course there are Genband themselves whose technology has made it all possible and who are great supporters of the trefor.net Xmas bash every year (12th Dec 2013 – make a note in your diaries now). I’m really pleased to be here with David Hiscock the Genband VP for EMEA who is a very good guy.
Next up are mum and dad and my Aunty Mair who has been in hospital but is hopefully now on the full road to recovery. Thanks mum and dad for everything you have done for me. Looking for ward to seeing you in the summer.
I also promised the kids I’d give them a mention so hello to Tom, Hannah, Joe and John. Don’t stay up too late now and make sure you do your homework.
And finally I can’t come up on this stage without saving the biggest thank you of all to my wife Anne who has had to put up with me for 25 years come this August. This trophy is for you although I’m sorry we can’t keep it on the mantelpiece because it will have to go with all the other silverware in the display cabinet in reception in Newark.
None of it is really silver but I’m sure you know what I mean. It’s all high quality crystalware or perspex or some similar material that looks very nice when lit up on display. It is getting quite crammed mind but hey. We don’t want to stop winning awards do we?
I think that’s it. I’ve covered everyone. Oh no and thanks to Global Telecoms Business for being such a great publication and for putting on this wonderful evening. This award makes all the hard work and effort worthwhile.
So thanks again and hope to see you all next year.”
There we go. That would have been my speech. Short and sweet eh? The photo below is of me (on the right) with David Hiscock (left) was taken by Debbie Rowe of Global Telecoms Business. If you click on it you get another photo showing Debbie herself taking the photo of me and Dave.
Great Launch event for Timico’s Virtual Datacentre last night at the Ice Tank in Covent Garden. There is a lot to say about this but I’m somewhat strapped for time today so I thought in the meantime I’d just share this video of the barmen setting up their cocktails before the guests arrived. You know it makes sense.
There is quite a lot going on generally at the moment including tension building up with the Snooper’s Charter (I refuse to call it by it’s real name, partly because I can never remember it and also partly because people are more likely to know what I’m talking about when I call it the snooper’s charter) in the run up to the Queen’s Speech.
I leave you with an invitation to click on the header photo. It’s the modern day equivalent of the whole school photo where one kid runs around the back and appears in the shot twice. On this occasion we have used the panaorama feature on the Samsung Galaxy S3 to create a very artistic effect:)
Thanks to all who came along to make the evening a great success and to Suzie Hodges for the camera shot:)
There are two phrases that I thought I’d banned from this blog some time ago: “cloud” and “smart phone”. “Smart phone” is still banned but I’ve had to reluctantly use “cloud” as it is in such common usage and any replacement term is longer than the word cloud itself (phone is the replacement term for smart phone which makes the latter a non starter).
A search for cloud on trefor.net brings up lots of posts that discuss it one way or another. Although it’s been a trendy topic for a while now it’s amazing how many businesses don’t use the cloud. For example Microsoft reckon that 85% of businesses don’t yet virtualise their server infrastructure. Also the market for dedicated servers is still very much all about solid bits of metal and hard drives.
This means that despite the term cloud feeling almost so old it’s about time we got a new one (cf “Unified Communications” replacing “VoIP for Business”1) there is still a huge amount of mileage left in the market. It is still very much emerging.
With that in mind I’m having a bit of a Timico bash in London next week where we will be talking about cloud services for UK based organisations
– It’s about a revolution in how IT infrastructure is produced, consumed and maintained
– It’s about the need for UK data centre sovereignty
– It’s about the importance of quality connectivity to hosted virtualised infrastructure
To add some pizzaz to the evening I’ve got Joe Baguley, CTO of VMware coming along to do a bit of a talk. Joe is a top banana when it comes to talking about cloud infrastructure. His talk is entitled “Container Ships, Kittens, Chickens & Coffee Shops”. You know it makes sense. We will also be chatting about what Timico is doing with VMware.
The party is at a super cool venue called the Ice Tank (pun intended) in Covent Garden. Because I’m a good guy I have some tickets reserved for blog readers. The event starts at 6.30 on Tuesday 23rd April – that’s next Tuesday. If you want to come along let me know here. There’s also more info about the gig here.
Please only come along if this is of genuine interest. I don’t want any time wasters, costermongers, itinerant salesmen, rear admirals, unemployed actors or general low life:). Most of the attendees will be IT Directors/CIOs etc. Attendees will also be able to trial Timico Virtual Data Centre services FOC for their businesses.
1 also feels as if it’s about time we found a replacement phrase for UC.
April is normally associated with rain so I’m having a bit of a cloudy1 month. Other than the services we host ourselves in our own private cloud Timico uses three main external cloud based services: ServiceNow, Salesforce.com and OneSource. I guess we also access tools on remote portals for BT Wholesale and Openreach which could at a push be categorised as “cloud” based services. I also personally use Eventbrite when I organise industry bashes such as the trefor.net Xmas party and my industry dinner debates.
Trefor.net also uses the whole suite of Google services and in order of level of use I also have Microsoft/Skydrive and Dropbox accounts. I also have an Apple ID but it doesn’t get used much.
I tend to mix work and play – I only have one laptop which gets used for both.
What I am interested in though is how you, dear reader, use the cloud for work. Are you on Google Apps or Office365? What other cloud services do you use and what is your experience of using them. Do you have problems with outages? How do you get around these problems?
Have you taken the plunge and gone totally cloud based? What size of business are you? My impressions are that it is easy for small businesses to go into the cloud and for very large companies the business case is compelling but not so easy for those in the middle. Is this right? Does the global nature of the cloud give you a problem in your line of business?
Answers either on a postcard stating point of view or by leaving a comment.
1 Of course it’s not meant to be bloomin’ freezing but I’m sorry I have no control over that – if any of you do then for goodness sake get on and sort it 🙂
I learnt all I needed to know about Ethernet over FTTC broadband from this supercool infographic over at Timico. Supercool infographics are all the rage these days and this one is right up there – our graphic designer John Heritage is the master of his trade and boy do the product managers know their stuff.
Ethernet over FTTC is over twice as fast as EFM, almost half the cost and half the lead time to install. Now that’s what I call a deal.
Affordable uncontended bandwidth for the business that wants to get into in the cloud. Available now to 36% of UK businesses (1.1m premises), 54% by March 2014 and from all good Timico outlets near you. You know it makes sense.
T’s & C’s apply: Ethernet over FTTC requires a new telephone line to be provided without any other service enabled on the line. Charges for this are not included as part of the Ethernet over FTTC product. 13 working day lead time does not include the time to install a new telephone line. Bandwidth is dependent on line conditions and distance from cabinet. Price differences calculated by the difference in price quoted for a 5Mbps Etherent over FTTC and EFM service based on a 12 month contract. Sources www.btwholesale.com and www.openreach.com. I should be in advertising. I used font size 4 for a laugh here. I’ve been thinking about doing a spoof advert for some time since listening to an ad on the radio whilst driving along – there seem to be more T’s and C’s than actual advert. In this case there isn’t anything contentious but I thought I’d do the really small font for a laugh anyway. If you’ve magnified this small print so that it is large enough so see you can check out the infographic again here.
I’m ploughing through some awards entries at the moment. Urgh its like wading through treacle especially if you are entering multiple categories. The problem is that they all have similar judging criteria designed to produce submissions from multiple entrants that must look fairly similar – “We bend over backwards to provide our customers with great service” etc.
There is even one criterion within a VoIP category that asks whether we support dial up! And you get about 350 words to cover:
Price and value for money
Differentiation from competitors
Level of customer care
Value Added Services
Scope of service
Network and technology strengths
Service reach and capacity
Flexibility and scalability
Reliability and levels of service
Entry level broadband package etc etc etc
It’s a challenge especially when most ISPs in the UK sell the same bland commoditised services (except for top B2B operators like Timico of course – we wrap ours up in funky business grade bundles with 24×7 support and throw in innovation, flexibility, security, scalability and all the rest of it – comes naturally, it’s in the DNA 🙂 )
So, bearing in mind this is Friday (TGI) and Friday is competition day I’m going to come up with an innovative competition that you can all enter. Also the prize this time is not just a fabulous Timico Megamug with terrific velvety smooth writing Timico pen. This time I’m going to throw in a box of teabags (brand TBC but it will be English breakfast – whatever is on offer in Tesco).
Gap while I try and think of a competition>
Ok got it.
All I need you to do is tell me why you deserve to win and what you would do with the prize. Get entering.
PS there are no judging criteria – write what you like, I’ll pick the winner I like.
PPS I like the idea of having a trefor.net Awards Night. Worth giving some thought to.
I had a meeting with some guys yesterday afternoon to discuss their use of Microsoft Lync in different businesses. More of that anon but one thing that stuck in my mind was a quote by Paul Hardy of Informa:
“Voicemail is for the dead”
He is right. Why use voicemail then you have so many other direct means of communication. My daughter hates voicemail because it means she has to call up to retrieve it. We have been trained never to leave her voicemails. Instead I usually resort to sending an sms or more likely an IM on Facebook. She usually then replies with her availability. I do find it funny that I have to schedule telephone calls with my daughter buy hey, we all have busy lives:)
We don’t let our customer care teams at Timico have voicemail – customers need to speak to someone, not a mailbox.
As I write I have remembered I need to change my own mobile voicemail from the “vacation alert” it currently has. I am no longer on holiday you see 🙂 . Might think about switching it off…
I find it profitable to sit around the development teams. Someone always says “hey Tref come and see this”. On this occasion it was a couple of Fortigate100D firewalls.
Now the cynics amongst you will say so what? A firewall? What’s so interesting about that? I realise that there can be few readers of this blog of that disposition and those that are have probably only stumbled upon it by accident, never to return.
I also realise that it’s not quite the same as saying “hey Tref come and see this Cisco CRS-3 322 Tbps router”. Well we don’t have such a beast at Timico, yet (although it is is surely just a question of time before we need routers of that capacity, Cisco or otherwise). It’s unlikely that the Cisco CRS-3 would have been lying around the lab anyway as it takes up three racks and no doubt a DC hall full of power.
In fact the FortiGate100D is not a particularly high spec firewall at least compared with what you can get. It is however more than adequate for the job it is lined up for which is a network refresh of one of our customer’s MPLS implementations.
It is in the lab being set up and tested prior to roll-out sometime over the next few weeks. These things don’t want rushing, they want careful planning. That’s probably the single biggest difference between us as an ISP now and when we first started off with just a few hundred ADSL customer and a few Ethernet connections. Planning and project management is a far bigger proportion of the network engineering job now that the straight setting up of the noughts and ones. It’s a discipline that leads to fewer tears later on and I’m all for cutting down on the time spent weeping by engineers.
These particular firewalls are destined for separate London locations on our core network. Once in they won’t see the light of day for a few more years. TTFN.
PS thanks to that fine person Gareth Bryan for this snippet.
The cake baking season at Timico is back in full swing, this time with a record ten entries for the Timico Business team bakeoff. Anyone who thinks I have a great job would be absolutely right. It isn’t easy though. With ten entries to plough through it takes a certain calibre of individual to complete the judging.
It’s also a very high pressure job. After all the entrants have put a lot of effort into the competition and it behoves us to come up with a fair and transparent decision. On this occasion four judges including yours truly, Ops Director Calum Malcolm, Marketing Director Neil Armstrong and assistant director of reception management Shannon Walker came up with an unanimous winner which was a delicious chocolate cake baked by Telephone Sales Manager Gemma Jones.
That’s me in the pic congratulating Gemma. Portions of the cake are being sold off this afternoon with proceeds going to Comic Relief which I think is coming up soon. Congratulations to Gemma and a huge thank you to everyone else who took part. They were all great cakes and it was a shame there could only be one winner.
Timico is ITSPAs finalist in Best Business ITSP (Corporate) category. I am of course uber excited. This is the Award we won at last year’s ITSPAs. I recall our product manager Gemma being worried that having been given the expensive piece of crystal to look after for the evening she might lose it in the mist (not a typo for midst) of the celebrations. Good bit of news to have on your first day back off holiday innit?
Awards night is at the House of Commons Members Dining Room on 6th March hosted by MP Julian Huppert. If we win I’ll tell you about it:) If you’re going come and say hello.
France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Poland, USA, Mexico, Hungary, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan, Liverpool.
They are all places where we have customers. During our monthly Exec meeting yesterday a Singapore customer was discussed which made me think of totting up all the other places we have installations.
It’s quite a cool list and quite took me by surprise. We are a business with global reach. Most of them represent locations of overseas offices of UK based organisations that we supply services to – broadband, SIP, MPLS connectivity, phone systems, that kind of thing.
I slipped in Liverpool for a laugh. That’s not overseas. It’s on Merseyside – top left on the map for you Southerners. It’s where our engineers depart from when sailing to see these customers. Big port etc.
Strikes me it’s about time a certain CTO made a tour of duty to visit all these locations, just to make sure everything is ok 🙂
Inset photo is of a bunch of Timico engineers gazing wistfully back at the shoreline of Liverpool as they depart Blighty on a trip over the water.
Big platforms such as Google (Drive), Apple (iCloud) and latterly Microsoft (SkyDrive) are driving customers towards cloud services. The move to use these resources is almost certainly inevitable, for the consumer. The constraints are largely down to cost and privacy concerns. For the business user replace the word “privacy” with “security”.
I buy into the future. I have almost universal connectivity, at a price. I also have a growing amount of data being stored on my laptop. My data is currently backed up to two external hard drives, one at home and one in the office. The time is fast approaching where the laptop will run out of hard drive space. It is only a year old so I’m not going to replace it just to get a bigger hard drive.
It’s getting close to decision time on a cloud based strategy.
Here at Timico’s Newark datacentre we have just expanded our main VMware cluster with a couple more Cisco UCS B200 blade servers (see earlier post ). The cluster is now running at a whooping 242Ghz of Compute power with 767.51GB of RAM! Impressive ou quoi?
It’s a bit mind blowing if your experience with buying computers is based on time spent in PC World staring at specifications trying to decide whether to pay the extra few quid for 2GB more RAM and a slightly faster processor.
This is just one of the many virtualisation clusters needed to run an ISP and another step forward in Timico’s P2V campaign – onwards and upwards. In fact it’s onwards and downwards when it comes to things like data storage space colocation rackspace, power and of course cost. On the back of this work we have just been able to cancel two cages in Docklands datacentres which will save us £100k a year. That’s significant. That’s half a million quid over five years – that’s very significant.
Virtualisation is allowing us to better manage and control our systems so we can always provide the best possible performance to the services we offer. If you’re a Timico customer you may have noticed the improved performance on services such as hosted web and email. This is because these services have been virtualised with the accompanying improvement in performance.
Gimme a shout if you want to chat more about this or to come and see it in action for yourself. Info courtesy of that fine engineer John Milner again :)) (sorry if this is embarrassing John but you are a good guy 🙂 ). Check out the Enterprise Private cloud page at Timico.
We have a BlackBerry 10 and have put it through some rudimentary comparisons with the Samsung Galaxy S3 and iPhone 4s1. The iPhone5 may perform differently but I don’t think it hugely matters as the comparisons are not particularly scientific.
BlackBerry10 79 seconds
Samsung Galaxy S3 26 seconds
Galaxy S3 wins hands down but reality is that most people keep their phones on 24×7 and the BlackBerry has to perform a handshake with the BlackBerry Enterprise server so it is no wonder it takes longer. This test is therefore probably not hugely relevant but seeing as we had done it I’m not going to waste the info.
At this point the iPhone4s left the room and we continued testing:
The BlackBerry10 is supposed to major on speed of web access and this would appear to be the case. We tested the BB10 versus the SGS3 on two websites. Initially we chose a random site europafastenings.co.uk – speciality fasteners and screws – you know it makes sense. Both devices loaded this site in around 6 seconds though there is a lot of room for error in the measurement with this method – clicking on start buttons on timers and also trying to ensure that both of us did it simultaneously on two devices.
We moved on to html5test.com which gave us a reading as to the speed of our web access – at least for html5. For good measure we also threw in Google chrome running on my laptop.
Samsung Galaxy S3 390
Chrome on Windows7 448
Higher is better here so at first glance, and with only a small set of comparison points BB10 is, as it claims to be, a fast device for accessing tinterweb.
Couple of videos for your delight and delectation. Firstly Timico Engineer Dean Asher talking about his first impressions of the BB10 which are very good.
The second vid is Dean showing off BlackBerry Flow which does seem to have some very nifty features in allowing you to switch between applications.
All in all the BlackBerry10 is likely to be a device that corporate IT managers can give to their staff that won’t make them complain about its functionality. To a large extent it is going to be all about the timely availability of apps. Time will tell whether the BB10 turns around RIM’s fortunes but it looks like it could give them a sporting chance.
1 I couldn’t find an iPhone5 around the office and not being an Apple fan I don’t care if someone comes along whinging saying that the iPhone5 is much better than the iPhone4s. iPhone5 sales are disappointing the markets anyway and it’s no wonder I couldn’t find anyone with one 😉
Many of you will know Fearghas McKay as a solid hard working lad who is thoroughly dependable and very knowledgeable about his subject. Such is his commitment to his job that he often works through the night at home and then turns up for a full day in the office the next day.
All this hard work does eventually take its toll. I mischievously filmed the lad sleeping like a baby at UKNOF24 held at Timico yesterday. Poor old Fearghas completely missed Jesse Sowell of MIT’s retrospective on the WCIT meeting. Ah well. Lucky for him he wasn’t snoring when I was filming.
I gave out some wonderful Timico Megamugs at UKNOF but I do have a few left and seeing as it’s Friday afternoon I’m going to have a caption competition. Lets have some suggestions for captions to accompany this video.
Pleased to tell you that as of today, Timico, NewNet and PowerNet have been listed on Visa Europe’s website as having a PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant network.
Check it out here.
Our PCI compliance project began in mid-July and all paperwork and network scan was sent to Visa Europe on 14 November. The team met pretty much every other week since July, sometimes for all day workshops, to tackle this project. It’s a great credit to everyone that the project was completed in such a short space of time. I’m sure they will all agree, it wasn’t easy.
The cross disciplinary team was lead by Leslie Young and comprised Nick Luckcuck, Ian Christian, Will Curtis, Faye Hemingway, Dean Bruce, Tom Grace, Jared Moore and Calum Malcolm.
Anyone out there needing a PCI compliant network should check us out. Press release with more spiel here.
I’ll do another post to cover the type of work we had to do to achieve compliance.
UKNOF24 is being held at Timico in Newark on Thursday 17th January. People trying to book accommodation will already have found out that there is an agricultural equipment show called LAMMA on at the Newark Showground. Great if you like tractors (which I do) but a nuisance if you are coming to UKNOF24.
If you are coming by car you need some local advice re how to avoid the traffic which will be heavy with farmers heading to the showground.
Coming from Lincoln Heading for Newark turn off the A46 at the Brough turning around 2 or three miles before Newark. You can find your way the back way through Stapleford Wood and Coddington to our offices that way.
Coming up or down the A1 turn off at the Coddington exit and turn right towards Newark. Lamma traffic will be turning left. This is one exit after the main Newark turning (the one with the railway station signposted) heading South – so the one before it heading North (obv).
Coming from Nottingham turn off at the first roundabout at the end of the new dualled bit of the A46 and head in on the B6166 to Newark (this is the old Roman Fosse Way fwiw). Avoiding the A46 bypass will save you a lot of time.
Cars should come and park at the actual data centre which is secure and where there will be more space. The address is
Timico Data Centre
Brunel Business Park
Newark NG24 2AG
It has a different access road to the HQ building though you can access both buildings on foot from each other. The gate is a secure one but someone should be keeping an eye open to let you in.
For those catching the train the data centre is about a 10 min walk South from Newark Northgate – there is a footpath along the side of the track. The walk from Newark Castle is a bit longer. If I were youI’d call a taxi.
Newark Taxi 01636 705200 – book in advance when you know what time your train gets in.
Any questions just ask. See you for the curry.
I’d plan to get in early if I were you as some of our staff members got caught up in horrendous traffic on hte way in this morning.
Yesterday I wrote about our new mobile VoIP App for the iPhone. This included a link to a press release issued by Genband, our VoIP infrastructure partner.
That release covered more than just the mobile VoIP iPhone App. It is a bit of an overall solution release but an important bit covers our acquisition of the Genband S3 Session Border Controller.
The SBC has been a bit of a controversial beast in the world of purist VoIP engineering. It’s purpose is to manage VoIP sessions across different networks. In its earliest incarnation it was used to convert VoIP signalling from the old H323 video conferencing protocol (also used for just voice in older VoIP services) to the more modern and up and coming SIP (Session Initiation Protocol) or perhaps to a variant of MGCP (Media Gateway Control Protocol). As a “border controller” it also grew in functionality as a device used to manage the security of a network.
The conceptual problem of the SBC amongst the early VoIP pioneers was that it operated as a “back to back user agent”. In other words it effectively terminated a signalling stream on input and started it up again on output. This meant that in the “open internet” it would not necessarily be possible to trace a VoIP signalling packet from end to end as you might be able to do with other non-voice packets using tools such as tracert, the outcome being that it would be harder to debug problematic services.
This was at a time when the theory stated that all VoIP calls would be free heralding the end of the telco and paid phone calls as we know it. This Utopian scenario was underwritten by companies such as Skype who appeared to offer free phone calls to all. Of course to be confirmed and adopted by the general scientific base, theories need proving in practice and even the virulently successful Skype ended up demonstrating that it has to pay for its infrastructure somehow by starting to charge for some of its services.
The growth of the VoIP market1 has also stimulated the growth of a VoIP security sector. There was initially an element of playing on the fears of people entering uncharted technical territories. The fact that VoIP is designed to operate on the DNS based internet2 and functions in a similar way to email and web browsing opens up opportunities for fraudulent activity in the same way that we have become accustomed to such happenings in our general web use. Email SPAM is replaced with VoIP SPIT (computer generated SPAM for Internet Telephony bombarding the world with automated sales messages). The use of a crawler ploughing through blocks of IP addresses looking for open networks to penetrate is replaced with a search for exposed network based iPBXs that can be exploited for financial gain.
There are many precautions that can be taken to remove vulnerabilities from a VoIP network but if you are serious at security you will want to use a Session Border controller.
A VoIP network, at least if it is to be usable by business, needs managing to maintain its quality and reliability and the SBC plays an integral role in this. The SBC today, far from being the object of criticism of the VoIP network engineer, is the demesne of the grown up Internet Telephony Service Provider. Think of it as a super security tool that secures your network and cements the quality of the service it supports.
Looking at it parochially I’ve been wanting an SBC “to play with” for years, ever since we started our hosted VoIP service. We put a lot of effort into the management of security of our VoIP users but the Genband S3 SBC, covered in the press release, allows us to take this to new heights.
The Genband S3 effectively acts as a VoIP firewall. It manages network access using real-time and aggregated admission control policies. It can, for example, spot and prevent the SPIT attacks referred to earlier. It will also help Timico as a service provider to control the quality of the VoIP service with capabilities such as the automatic monitoring of network bandwidth rates and capacity.
From Timico’s perspective as a voice carrier the Genband S3 will allow us to hook up with many more interconnect partners because as a border controller it allows us to manage interoperability with different carrier’s kit. The SBC will also provide us with the flexibility to fine tune routes based on both cost effectiveness and quality. For example if a specific route begins to suffer from poor call completion rates the S3 will detect this and intelligently reroute traffic to that destination via a different interconnect partner. The S3 is also hugely compatible with our Genband A2 VoIP platform and will scale to 25,000 concurrent calls that effectively supports a subscriber base of over 250,000 users.
The S3 is relatively new to Genband. It came with the acquisition of NexTone, one of the market’s original and leading SBC vendors. This has brought with it a maturity and pedigree of user base that is not only reflected in its functionality but will quickly help Timico cement our position as one of the leading VoIP providers to the business market. Bit of marketing blurb there but it is actually based on solid engineering principles.
If anyone wants to chat more about our new S3 SBC drop me a line, call or hook up with me via @tref on Twitter.
1 note there will come a time when we don’t talk about it as a VoIP market. It won’t be long before we have to simply describe the world as a communications market which contains a subset known as the old fashioned telecommunications network as championed by the ITU (another story in itself).
2 It still doesn’t fully merge with the domain name system as this would rely on every ISP supporting VoIP on its DNS servers. The principle of domain based routing is still the same for VoIP as for regular web traffic.
I started to look at mobile VoIP clients a good 8 or 9 years ago. At the time the handsets were near enough useless – battery life was rubbish and the processors lacked the oomph to properly run a SIP user agent.
The advent of the modern day smart phone has changed all this, together with years of development effort put in to improve the soft clients themselves.
Now, most of us have a VoIP client on our phone – almost certainly Skype, maybe 3CX, Bria or Eyebeam. I stopped counting the number of low cost VoIP calling services that you might use as the target for the mobile VoIP client.
Many desktop VoIP clients are not supported on mobile. So if you use MSN or Facebook or Google+ or Lync even their mobile clients almost certainly do not support voice but are just used for presence and Instant Messaging.
The dwindling list of vendors of Unified Comms equipment offer their own mobile VoIP clients, which necessarily have better functionality than those I’ve just mentioned from the major platforms. Ask Avaya or Mitel about it and they will proudly show off their solution. These vendor specific solutions usually use a third party soft client tailored to their specific need. Bria from Counterpath is one and MobileMax is another.
I am very proud to announce that Timico has introduced its own mobile VoIP client . There are some clear differentiators from the generic soft phones mentioned earlier and used with hosted solutions.
First of all the user’s account is tied to the employer’s VoIP subscription, so the desktop extension and DDI is the same as the mobile. The user interface is also similar to that of the soft client running on the desktop and is controlled using the same familiar portal. Mobile users can not only speak and do video calls with other users of the network, but are able the see the availability of others
There is more to the technology that goes in to making a successful mobile VoIP client than is at first apparent. A little technology primer might serve a useful purpose here. When you speak into a telephone you are using an analogue broadcast service, i.e. your voice. In order to get to the telephone at the far end this analogue signal is converted into data packets (i.e. digitised) and then transmitted using computer networking technology, in our case Internet Protocol and the layers of networking technologies that come under its umbrella.
The sent packets have to traverse a number of hurdles in the guise of different networks and routers before arriving at their intended destination (next door, Australia – anywhere connected to the internet). Voice is very time sensitive. You really notice the difference if there is a delay between the person at the other end speaking and you hearing it, and vice versa. Slow or poor quality hops in the network can affect the quality of the user experience.
Use of mobile networks for VoIP transmission comes with its own specific issues. 3G is a notoriously latency ridden data service and a number of mobile operators actually block VoIP services (although they are far from transparent in their approach to this). It is too early to assess the practical usability of 4G because there is only one service provider in the market and that network will be only lightly used. The issue of cost of bandwidth over a mobile carrier network has also historically made VoIP impracticable in many cases.
WiFi is the sensible alternative. Although even WiFi comes with its own issues with Ethernet style best efforts transmission. Packets that collide with other packets don’t arrive at their destination. The busier the local WiFi network, the more likely you are to suffer from poor quality voice.
In practical terms this is likely to mean if you are sitting in an office with many hot desks where WiFi is the principal means of connecting to corporate resources, then that network is likely to become congested. This congestion may not be particularly noticeable to laptop users just doing emails or general web use.
A congested WiFi network that is ok for most uses might not be good for VoIP. In an office environment this can be engineered around, by creating more cells/hotspots each with fewer users. At home there is far less likely to be a problem although VoIP packets in this scenario are more likely to be using the open internet for transmission.
A VoIP phone is actually a computer that looks like a phone. Fortunately the lost packet compensation and packet processing techniques used in modern mobile VoIP clients (smart phones/computers) are able to overcome many “noisy” environmental scenarios, or at least go a long way towards mitigating their effects.
Timico’s announcement today comes after some time working with partners (Genband) to develop the soft-client. The app is available on the Apple App Store to existing (and new!) Timico VoIP customers and is a piece of cake to install – use of our Mobile Endpoint Provisioning (MEP) portal means all the user has to do is enter a username and password and they are up and running.
The MEP is worth further mention. With the MEP comes the ability to change mobile client settings on-the-fly which provides the Timico operations team with a critical tool for managing your mobile VoIP solution in near real time. There are over 200+ settings that the MEP controls, including default codec selection, NAT traversal settings and the keep-alive timer value.
There are often deployments where we might initially need to make adjustments to these settings to suit the environment in which you use the service. We can do this transparently and without requiring interaction with the end-users.
Another feature to our service that is designed to provide the optimum user experience is our Client QOS notification. The mobile client analyses the RTCP statistics in real time. Should these stats fall below predefined thresholds then the user will receive a notification informing them of ‘network quality issues’.
I’ve been around polling some of the early users and got the following comments:
“I’ve ditched my deskphone and now just use the iPhone app”
“Connects very quickly”
“I was sat in Starbucks in Canada and used it to call the office”
I’m sure that I will have previously mentioned that last year we won the ITSPA Award for the best Enterprise Unified Comms service. This mobile client adds nicely to that existing feature-rich service set. It’s going to be a terrific tool for people who need to make calls out of the office but don’t want to pay extortionate roaming charges or use their own phones.
Because the VoIP service is tied to their company’s business account then all calls just appear on the standard monthly bill. Calls to other internal VoIP users are of course free.
So there we have it. The mobile VoIP client has finally come into the world of reliable, serious business strength communications. If you want to try the service check it out here . Press release yurr1.
Tomorrow I’m off to the Varsity match at Twickers with some lads and, I believe, a lass. Megamug Prize Competition number 3 is simple. What will the combined total of the scores of Oxford and Cambridge be at the end of the game.
In keeping with the rules laid down by my drinking buddies in the Tower in Lincoln when we watch internationals the nearest guess wins but not if the score is higher than your guess. In other words if you guess 33 points and the total is 34 then a person picking 40 points would be the winner. Also if the number has already been used you can’t have it. Entries close at kick-off. My game, my rules.