Women in VoIP Series: The ISDN Goddess

June 2, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Continuing with my Women in VoIP Series, I’d like to introduce you all to Helen Robison (in case you haven’t heard of her before, whom I’m sure you have!). Helen works as the Director of Product Development for Clarus Systems, Inc., and has been working in the telecommunications industry for over 20 years, VoIP for 10. You may also know of her as the “ISDN Goddess.”

What is your VoIP industry history?

After finishing university with a degree in chemical engineering, I experimented with different careers in academia, medicine, etc. such that my parents feared I was in danger of becoming a professional student. Under their suggestion to “get a job,” I accepted an assembly language programming job at a startup company that manufactured telecom equipment for small service providers. Several startups later, I had become a PSTN protocol expert (e.g. T1 / E1 ISDN BRI and PRI) working on a fiber optic network solution to upgrade the telephony infrastructure for the newly-unified Germany where ISDN was the only economic option.

In 1994, an opportunity arose for me to join Cisco Systems where my VoIP journey began several years later. Cisco was very attracted to my service provider network and software development experience. My official indoctrination to VoIP was in 1998, as a senior software development engineer working on the Cisco access router software which terminated Internet data and modem voice calls from the PSTN ISDN network and sent them over IP. The newly-created Cisco Access BU decided to create a voice gateway – terminating human voice calls from the PSTN and sending them over IP. My expertise in ISDN Q.931 proved useful as part of the development team since the VoIP H.225 protocol is essentially ISDN Q.931 over IP.

I very much enjoyed working with my male coworkers. Many of them in customer support would seek me out to leverage my ISDN and voice expertise. I still remember the thrill of receiving a call from one developer noting he was calling me for the first time over VoIP using the software I’d help create.

In 2000, I moved from software development to technical marketing in service provider solutions engineering. During this period, I worked on service provider solutions such as transit VoIP, and hosted or managed business voice with the Cisco Unified Communications Manager (CUCM). I also began critical work investigating issues around voice quality in complex hybrid PSTN – IP networks.

It’s amazing to think back now how the industry used to only consider delay and jitter, ignoring causes of echo and the need to design networks for minimal packet loss. I wrote technical papers and magazine articles, gave a lot (too many!) talks, and applied for several patents.

Before departing Cisco recently to join Clarus Systems as director of product management, I was product manager for a service provider solution for intercompany TelePresence – an immersive, ultra-ultra high quality voice and video IP-based service between different enterprises.

What is it like working as a woman in the VoIP world?

During my tenure in VoIP, I have seen perhaps one woman to every 20 men working in this market, and have often been in meetings where I was the only women in a room of 50 to 100 men. At times, there have been some personality conflicts which may have been gender related, but for the most part I viewed my male colleagues as a band of brothers. Occasionally, I would feel left out of “boys’ night out” events. On the whole, I believe that many of these VoIP colleagues would have welcomed more women into the fray.

In fact, I built up so much mutual respect with my co-workers that I was affectionately given the moniker of “ISDN Goddess.” Since I was helping many of the sales engineers with customer issues, they started addressing their emails to me with “Dear ISDN Goddess, can you help…?” It was flattering at meetings and trade shows to have both male and female colleagues come up to me and comment how they always wanted to meet the “ISDN Goddess” in person.

What are some of your networking/marketing methods?

Trade shows have always been a good source of networking but social networking sites, many of which are integrating VoIP or related technologies, are emerging as well. I can recall many times at a trade show being mistaken for the trade show coordinator when in fact I was the sole domain expert. ‚ÄėBooth babes’ aside, I was always of the mindset that, to be taken seriously as a thought leader, it was always important to dress like a professional and not go too trendy. It is key to pay attention to your appearance so you are perceived and respected for your knowledge and expertise.

How is it working with men in VoIP?

Being a woman in a male-dominated industry has not given me any special advantages, especially as a single parent with a teenager. I always admired Cisco’s telecommuting program because the company respected the fact that you have lives outside of the work walls and were in tune to the need to work specific hours from whatever location.

I remember once presenting to our global sales force at a meeting in Amsterdam where I was the only women presenting a session on VoIP and related quality and traffic issues. I had the highest rated talk with the most valuable information – I am proud of that achievement. I was later asked to give the same talk to Tier1 service provider customers and my session was extended from one to four hours due to the intense interest. That experience demonstrated to me that Cisco had the confidence too in me — not as a woman in an all male forum — but as an expert with domain knowledge.

What do you see for the future of women in VoIP?

In product management, especially related to voice service management, it is rare that women hold these positions and sometimes it is challenging to gain thought leadership and credibility due to industry preconceptions over specific roles. In fact, I fell right into such a situation. I was at a hospital and saw a woman in a white lab coat and didn’t look at her badge. I assumed she was a nurse but in fact was the doctor. I apologized profusely and vowed not to make that assumption in the future for anyone.

In terms of the future of women in VoIP, I see it more broadly as the future of women in collaboration technology. VoIP has evolved into an integrated part of multimedia IP that encompasses voice, video, data and an overall collaborative experience empowered by unified communications. Today, we use what were VoIP deployments for IP-based voice, instant messaging, or multimedia calls utilizing presence information. Given the enormous potential in this emerging technology, the market should encourage more women to get involved. I hope that my tenure in VoIP will serve as an inspiration for other women to become more involved in technology overall. To any woman considering entering this field, I’d say; “Come on in, the water is fine!”

Go On Take the Money and Run!!!!

Wooo!!! Wooo!!! Wooo!!!

These are the classic lyrics from Take the Money and Run by the Steve Miller Band. Again, with me, it all goes back to a “bad jam.”

Often times this statement is the mantra and raison d’√™tre for so many of my counterparts across the country who are in sales.

How many times have you had work done on your house, bought a new car or home, bought a new personal computer, or purchased some new audio/visual components for your family room or home theatre? We’ve all been there, right? Now how many times has the contractor or salesperson who sold you the goods or services called you back and checked if you are satisfied with your purchase? Off the top of my head I cannot think of any of my representatives with whom I’ve done business with over the years that have ever called me to check on my satisfaction. If I was not happy with something, usually I have to call them.

In other words, these folks took the money and ran!

For a person is sales, I would argue it all comes down to your mindset. I usually “plead the fifth.” Not the Fifth Amendment; the “fifth call.”

I will be calling you back a minimum of five times over the next 1-3 weeks after the sale to make sure of the following and provide this information:

  • Your order is shipping and to provide you with tracking
  • Your order was received with the correct product, complete, in-tact, and undamaged from shipping
  • To verify if you have all data sheets, install guides and related links to successfully deploy
  • To get your feedback on the deployment as to further my knowledge of the product and provide you with additional support if necessary
  • To thank you for doing business with my company and reiterate my availability and desire to help you in the future

For those of you in sales, consider the benefits of what I just shared with you the next time you stuff your pocket and wave bye-bye.

For those of you dissatisfied with your current suppliers of any service or goods, ask yourself who asks you this question? How can I help you today and tomorrow?

Give me a call at extension 1992 or write me an e-mail at [email protected]. It would be my pleasure.

IPCS Word(s) of the Day: Half Duplex

Half Duplex = This is an audio convention. A half-duplex system provides for communication in both directions, but only one direction at a time (not simultaneously). Typically, once a party begins receiving a signal, it must wait for the transmitter to stop transmitting, before replying. IP Cameras will either support Half Duplex (One Way) or Full Duplex (Two Way) audio capabilities.

Microsoft in the IP Surveillance House

May 30, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Microsoft’s sales force amping up IP surveillance pitch

Just finished reading Michael Fickes article on Microsoft’s sales force’s adjusted stance on the company’s global security department. What does that mean? Well it means the global security department is about to be put to work. It looks like Microsoft talked with¬†local, state and federal agencies about Microsoft’s products, the G.S.O.C’s. What’s a G.S.O.C? Well its Microsoft’s Global Security Operations Centers…GSOC’s just sounds so much cooler.

What Happens at a GSOC?

They are state-of-the-art centers that manage video surveillance and access control systems. They lock and unlock doors, they can dispatch security officers and vehicles, and they can host emergency operations teams.


Women in VoIP: The Series

I’m always reading about the lack of women in technology and science and the VoIP world in general.¬† Stacy Higginbotham at GIGAOM does a great job covering technology in general, and brought up a great point in regards to a New York Times article about the decline of women in technology past the age of 30.

I must say, in the world of VoIP blogging, I come across very few women.¬† At VoIP Supply there are probably only a handful of women, and only one on the sales floor.¬† This is not the fault of the company that I work for or human resources, it’s a trend spread across the whole industry.¬† But it is getting better.¬† Many of my girl friends are engineers, project managers, doctors, researchers, etc.¬† We are all still under the age of 30, but most of them intend to continue their career path, no matter what family life or stresses come their way.

I decided to go on a mission to find women in the VoIP phone systems world, and write a blog promoting the women in this industry.¬† Some are in marketing, some are in technology, and some are even CEOs.¬† The response I have received has been overwhelming and wonderful.¬† Much more than I thought I would receive from a few little questions and a pitch on Facebook!¬† Because of the numerous responses, I’m going to feature this as a blog series, explaining the triumphs and challenges these women have experienced in the VoIP world, and what they see for the future.¬† Get ready; these are some very busy, intelligent and engaging ladies!

As for my own experiences?¬† So far being a woman hasn’t made a smidgen of a difference.¬† The difference comes in how knowledgeable you are in the field, much like any industry.¬† So every day is a continual exploration of the VoIP world, and the people that live and work in it.

My first featured lady of VoIP is Lisa Jones; Chief Eyemail Officer at EyeMail Inc. Ms. Jones has been working in VoIP since 2004 and resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

How did you become interested/introduced to VoIP?

I became interested in VOIP by default. I was interested in creating an Internet-based product that could combine the Internet with email, but to add an audio, video element. I honestly wanted to create a revolutionary product, so that when the time came for me to be honored, it would be in the memory of my mother, Gladys D. Jones. I wanted to give back for all that she had given to me. I realized that if I could create a next level email product, now known as EyeMail, I could change the course of email communications and honor my commitment to my mother. This was accomplished without a technical background, but with 4.5 years of hard work, sleepless nights, and developers from all over the world. My company is now in negotiations with some of the world’s leading brands.

How does EyeMail use VoIP Technologies?

EyeMail represents the state of the art next generation of email, delivering personalized audio and/or video communications directly to the email inbox. EyeMail delivers at 4-15k in size, no attachments, no downloads and is completely virus free, inclusive of a click to call feature. The patent-pending EyeMail technology integrates VOIP technologies in delivering cutting edge email marketing and communication solutions for our clients. Our clients include Fortune 500 brands and medium and small businesses which we help to develop their online communications.

What is it like working as a woman in the VoIP world?

It is a quite a fast and exciting time, as we all rely on various segments of technology as a part of our daily existence. It is also most exciting and fulfilling to be women seeing an evolution of new technology expand. I am also excited because I have the opportunity to pave the way for others, and to serve as a mentor and to let them know they can achieve in the technology arena, with faith, persistence, calculated risks and bold moves. Additionally, I am not a developer or a coder, but if you have a vision and the knowledge of business, you can surround yourself with the right technology resources to help fulfill your goals.

What are some of your networking/marketing methods?

Some of my key marketing methods include using the EyeMail product to introduce products and services, directly via email. We send out personalized audio email communications that include a call to call feature to increase our response rates. As the average person, is not looking for their email to talk to them, this gives us a very competitive marketing advantage.

How is it working with men in VoIP?

As a woman trailblazer, you may experience moments where your contribution is not valued, acknowledged or recognized, you may even feel taken advantage of in some situations, but as a trailblazer you have to keep your eye on the prize, and press forward. In any business industry, you will have challenges and success, and working in the VOIP is no different. I think you have to be very careful as to who you may choose to partner with in particular ventures with your VOIP business. My best advice is to ensure your technology platform is protected, remember to request NDAs to be signed where applicable and keep pressing forward. Once your business is making significant strides, you will be very well respected by all.

What do you see for the future of women in VoIP?

I think the future for women in VOIP is going to be revolutionary. I believe we will start to see more young adults in the VOIP area, taking technology to the next level. As women, we can focus on so many aspects at any given moment to execute, and with VOIP it leads to a world of possibilities. Additionally, I believe we will see more women businesses seeking national certification with the Women Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC). This certification will empower women business in technology and various business industries to seek to do more business with corporate America, as diversity and inclusion are key business drivers.

Thirdlane PBX Provides Easy Asterisk Management

May 29, 2008 by Arthur Miller

Can’t find the right Asterisk-based solution? Don’t have the expertise to manage an open-source phone system?

Thirdlane PBX, an Asterisk management tool, requires no Linux or Asterisk experience to manage and install.

  • Ease of Installation.PBX Manager is a Webmin module and can be installed in minutes without requiring any database or web server software. PBX Manager Installation or upgrade is just a matter of pointing at a URL and clicking install button.
  • Ease of operation. No special knowledge of Linux or Asterisk is required for the operation, so the management functions can be performed by regular staff. PBX Manager Permission’s system can be used for limiting users’ access to the system features as required.
  • Extendability. PBX Manager is shipped with a set of sample configuration files and a script repository for the common PBX functions. You may extend the included script repository with your own scripts taking advantage of the full power of Asterisk.
  • Ease of support.Use of Webmin as a platform for PBX Manager facilitates remote technical support. This is particularly important for the system integrators deploying Asterisk and PBX Manager for geographically distributed clients.

Thirdlane PBX 6.0 unlocks additional features typically found in other Asterisk management tools such as Trixbox.

  • Auto-provisioning
  • CRM Integration
  • Cluster Management
  • Enhanced Conference Configuration Management

Read the full press release here: https://www.thirdlane.com/news/press-releases/20080514

Sony, Axis, Bosch Playing Nice?

IP Surveillance Standards just around the corner

It was recently announced that¬†three¬†heavyweights (Sony, Axis, and Bosch) of the IP surveillance world will be working together to standardize an interface for all network video products. As you may or may not know there is currently no such standard. With Sony’s history of being a proprietary monger I must say I am quite shocked that they would agree to this. Everything they have ever touched is SONY ONLY. “In Sony we trust,” if you will. Well this is no longer at least when it comes to interfacing standards in the IP security and surveillance world.

So, what does it mean to not have standards? Well it means that without any standards for determining how IP network cameras talk to video encoders and recording software it can be difficult to get products from different manufacturers to communicate. Yes of course¬†I know there are always workarounds, but wouldn’t it be nice to simply plug and play? Of course it would!

What they’re most likely looking to do is deliver a new standard of specs for video streaming, locating IP devices, and intelligence metadata, amongst others, with the end result being greater interoperability for network video products. Which would make everyones life a lot easier.

This would give the end user the ability to choose from different manufacturers…sweet. Sony = sweet? Yep, I said it. In pushing forward with a consensus on standards, it should open the market up a bit more and give both home and corporate users more choices.

Most importantly the three companies will set up an open forum for all groups to participate in discussions about guidelines and a framework for the standard. This framework will be released next fall.

IPCS Word(s) of the Day: Full Duplex

Full Duplex = A full-duplex system allows communication in both direction, and unlike half-duplex, allows this to happen simultaneously. Land-line telephone networks are full-duplex since they allow both callers to speak and be heard at the same time.  A good analogy for a full-duplex system would be a two-lane road with one lane for each direction.

iLocus Global VoIP Market 2008 Report Highlights

May 28, 2008 by Garrett Smith

Research firm iLocus recently released their Global VoIP Market 2008 report, which details their analysis of various VoIP market segments.

I received the executive summary today from a colleague, which contained a few snippets that got my attention. According to their report:

SIP Trunking has gained significant traction over the last 18 months. As of April 2008, there were over 5 million end users connected to SIP trunks. SIP trunking service revenues are forecast to touch $180 million during 2008 worldwide. By 2012 it is expected to be a $5 billion / year market.

I agree that the market for SIP trunking is gaining significant traction. I’d love to see a report on the breakdown of market share amongst SIP trunking providers.

In the US, Cable companies are leading the deployments. That however is likely to change with the Voice-over-Fiber offerings from AT&T (and possibly from Verizon in the near future). We expect AT&T to become the market leader in the segment over time. Verizon could have scalability issues due to its use of Open Source telephony platform for VoIP service.

I don’t think the dominance of fiber is a foregone conclusion. It is certainly an excellent pipe over which to provide voice services, given the amount of bandwidth it offers. I am still waiting for WiMax to shake out, and curious to see what happens when the mobile providers start to roll out some decent mobile data services.

Most telcos and switch vendors are working to get their Voice 2.0 (Communications Aware Mashups) developer programs in place. On one hand the availability of high level APIs such as the Web Services APIs opens up application development to hundreds of thousands of web developers. On the other, those developers who invest substantial amounts of money into their applications prefer to go direct to the end user, utilizing Open Source telephony platforms.

This is where telephony will be “bringing Sexy back”. I agree wholeheartedly.

Ad supported telephony is the new rage. There are ad agencies and enablers in the market that let a VoIP provider monetize the traffic through ads. It is interesting to note that the traditional telecom switch vendors are also starting to develop capability for ad supported telephony offerings. Some vendors are ready to support service providers that decide to adopt this type of model. Their application servers are able to mix existing and new services with advertising. Ad supported telephony is yet to be proven but there are various media oriented telephony companies in the field.

I’m not sold on this. I think that ad supported anything…long term…is going to be less viable. For things like 411 and enhanced services, I might be willing to tolerate some voice ads. For basic dialtone….I’m just not having it.

Estimated 1.18 trillion minutes of VoIP traffic was carried by service providers worldwide in 2007. That represents a 35% increase over 2006 VoIP traffic. Of these minutes, 286.3 billion was local call volume, 815.2 billion was national long distance (NLD) call volume, and 81.4 billion was the international long distance (ILD) call volume.

That’s a lot of minutes.

In the enterprise segment, an estimated 11.4 million desktop IP phones were shipped in 2007, thereby generating revenues of about $1.13 billion worldwide. Cisco leads the market having shipped 4.9 million desktop IP phones accounting for 43.8% market share worldwide. Cisco’s lead is followed by Avaya at number two and Nortel at number three.

Wish I could see some reporting on what percentage, overall, of those 4.9 million Cisco phones went into production on a Cisco platform. It would not surprise me to learn that 15% or more of Cisco’s phones sold in 2007 are being used in conjunction with a standards based SIP OSS derived platform or hosted service platform.

Enterprise VoIP gateway ports shipment in 2007 touched 14.8 million, and the revenues touched $500 million. Cisco took market share of 72.9%. Motorola emerged as the leader in 2007 for the ATA market. In 2007 vendors shipped a total of about 6.79 million ATAs to the business segment, thereby generating revenue of $314.2 million.

That’s a lot of ATAs. That’s an impressive number given the shakeout in 2007 amongst residential VoIP service providers in the US market. Motorola seems like the preferred CPE vendor amongst many cable operators….I’m guessing a lot of these ATAs were sold in conjunction with voice services from cable providers like Comcast.

In 2007 vendors shipped a total of about 6.9 million pure IP PBX end user licenses, thereby generating revenue of $678.5 million. These figures exclude hybrid systems. From 2007 onwards we started tracking pure IP PBX system only. Cisco (market share 60.5%) dominated the pure IP PBX market in 2007.

I assume here they are tracking “tier 1” vendors like Cisco, Avaya and Nortel. It would be very difficult to determine the number of end users serviced by OSS telephony platforms in 2007.