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Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Is API Regulation the Future of Information Security?

Recently, I listened in on an IEEE-SA sponsored roundtable at the RSA Conference in San Francisco on April 22, 2015. Karen McCabe, IEEE-SA senior director, Technology Policy and International Affairs, lead a discussion on whether Application Programming Interface (API) regulation is necessary for the future of information security. Participants were Bret Hartman, VP and CTO, Security Business Group, Cisco Systems, Inc.; Cooper Quintin, staff technologist, Electronic Frontier Foundation; Monique Morrow, CTO, evangelist, New Frontiers Development and Engineering, Cisco Systems, Inc.; Hadi Narhari, chief security architect, NVIDIA; Rob Zazueta, Director Platform Strategy, Mashery (Intel); Matt McLarty, VP, The API Academy, CA Technologies; and moderator Kimball Brown, Independent Technology Consultant.

What is an Application Programmable Interface (API)? In its native form, APIs are building blocks for developers to construct programs. APIs often come in the form of a library that includes specifications for routines, data structures, object classes and variables. In other cases an API is simply a specification of remote calls exposed to the API consumers (for example, JSON and REST). These APIs are used primarily for many of the virtualized functions/service programs we are seeing on the market today. Think of a remote controlled robot on a manufacturing floor, a virtual network function in a switch or your favorite application on your cell phone that accesses the sensor on your wrist that monitors your heart or on a macroscopic scale, the billions of devices that are forecasted to exist via the Internet Of Things (IoT) and the programs to control them. All of these programs will rely on APIs in their development. Imagine if a rogue hacker tried to manipulate these programs via accessible APIs to cause harm? There lies the issue. How can this be avoided? What is the state of protection now? And where does this responsibility lie?

The panel agreed that there needs to be more education given to developers on building security into their initial designs, possibly implementing an attack tree or use case security framework from which to build. This framework should be transparent to the consumer because this structure should not impede on the go-to-market strategies that affect the bottom line. Although the panel agreed that this would be a good idea, because there are so many types of APIs, there is no standard way to implement this. As for IoT, the development environment is not like a static information technology environment where the attack points are relatively predictable. IoT environments, in many cases, will be mobile, personal and limited in memory space for which traditional security measures cannot be used. The threat model will have to be redefined, which has yet to happen. Once one is established this model should be communicated to developers as well as consumers.

Panel member also discussed a universal consortium establishing standards and if this would help the problem? The answer was a little but it would not fully address the problem, because the market pace and demand will be too fast for standardization groups to react. One thought was to develop an emerging new API platform with proper hooks and external partners buying into the model. This thought spurred an interesting conversation dealing with the integrity of the partners in the joint venture. How credible are they? This led quickly into the examples of Target, Snapchat and J.P Morgan/Chase where the weak link was the integrity of the partner and not necessarily the flaw of an API, underscoring that business partners having a stake in the level of security that is needed. This led to an interesting discussion concerning Person Area Networks (PAN) where the person becomes the API. Would a developer, consumer or human PAN bill of rights help? Again a “one-size-fits-all” constitution would be tough because every person has his or her own view of what personal security means? It would be hard for a government or business to enforce such a constitution. Businesses do not want regulation to hinder innovation or sales.

The discussion concluded with the final question of how APIs will look in 10 years? All panelists agreed that presently APIs are in a single-user mode and need to move toward a distributed model. Higher levels of SDKs need to be implemented. APIs should have a different paradigm for deployment such that devices, services and systems govern themselves. For example, applications should automatically inform the API what it can and cannot do during processes. For IoT, this method will allow better integration between devices, reduce human regulation policies and thus optimize security.
     Dennis Ward


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Arris-PACE: Consolidation, Set-top Box Domination and Tax Avoidance

Arris (USA) has agreed to acquire Pace (UK) for $2.1 billion. According to Arris the key benefits of the deal are to accelerate growth and to improve finances. The growth part is driven by the enhanced international presence and the large-scale entry in to the satellite TV market. The finance part is driven by accretive earnings and corporate taxes.

SP video is still a top five CxO top-of-mind but it’s number five; they still need a compelling video offering to complete a competitive bundle. The driving issue is access to content not number of channels. Ask 100 random people what’s the problem with TV and no one will say resolution. Sorry 4K TV manufacturers. IP video, like IP voice, is just packets, albeit a lot of packets. The impact of video delivery to all devices on all networks is much more interesting to ponder.

With the Arris-Pace deal we have the Number 1 and Number 2 global providers of set-top boxes (STB) combining. If this deal goes through the combined company will have almost 60 percent market share in Cable STBs and 44 percent of the IPTV market. The next vendor, Cisco, will have 10 percent and 15 percent of these markets, respectively. It appears Arris is intent of being the dominant provider of STBs globally.

Set-top boxes have been and continue to be a tough market to sell to. The service providers constantly demand price concessions while at the same time demanding new features. No surprise gross margins are challenging. Cisco realized this late after buying Scientific Atlanta and adopted a “high-end” STB only strategy. As I predicted two years ago this was doomed since high volume is required in this type of market. Simply put, there’s not much of a difference in semiconductor content of a low-end and a high-end STB. Those participating in the low-end, high-volume market thus have a substantial price advantage at the high-end lower volume market because they are receiving substantial volume pricing from all silicon vendors.

Beyond challenging margins, the STB market is facing technical and architectural disruptions. The traditional functionality of the STB is being repositioned between the residential gateway and the cloud, TV manufacturers want a piece of this too, and over-the-top services continue to exert pressure on the legacy linear TV functionality as well. Arris will receive some immediate near-term benefit of entry into the satellite market and will increase its international presence. The value in the long term is less clear as the set-top as we know it is in a state of flux.

On the finance side the deal is accretive: “an increase by natural growth or by gradual external addition: growth in size or extent.” According to the press release the new Arris will be based be “incorporated” in the UK but based in Suwanee GA, USA. Transactions of this ilk, where the acquirer reincorporates to the target country, are not new. You can’t fault U.S. companies from wanting to avoid excessive U.S. corporate taxes. The fundamental of micro economics encourage this.

So, I see marginal long-term strategic benefit in the set-top box area that’s outweighed by the broader portfolio synergies and financial tax gains.
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Nokia-ALU Merger: Can the New European Force Race to the Wireless Top?

Following a trend I predicted in March 2015 (Intense market transformation and consolidation will be among the key 2015 wireless market features) Nokia recently announced it bought the French networking supplier Alcatel-Lucent in a deal valued at $17bn (€15.6bn). The combined company will be called Nokia Corporation, headquartered in Finland, with Rajeev Suri, continuing to serve as CEO.

The company’s goal is to “create the foundation of seamless connectivity for people and things.” Nokia plans to establish a €100m fund to invest in Internet of things startups in France following the closure of the deal, which is expected toward the end of the 2015, that is if there are no serious delays.

Alcatel-Lucent propelled by its successful growth in core networking and routing, was ranked No. 2 in edge routers in 2014 behind Cisco. The new Nokia will definitely take advantage of that position as this core networking unit will add a large percentage to the company’s total revenue. In addition, Alcatel-Lucent has managed to put together a serious wireless partner “ecosystem”, especially for metro and small cell requirements.

Alcatel-Lucent is also poised to capitalize and lead on new technologies such as 5G as the company is exploring a new air interface on the Filtered OFDM, and its strategic small cell partnership  with Qualcomm could be possibly expanded to enhance its future radio access portfolio.
Complementing this ecosystem is Nokia’s Flexizone and Flexi Radio, which covers macro and small cell layer in addition to virtualization, as the company has virtualized most of its core, RAN, as well as delving into NFV alternatives. Nokia also brings strategic partnerships with Dragonwave (mobile backhaul) and Juniper Networks (IP/routing) to the table.
However, the companies do face obstacles common in all mergers. The difficult points in this deal will be staff and product harmonization, especially related to existing customers. The company will have to deal with issues such as orchestration of product overlaps, multiple business partners (internal and external), LTE customers’ relations, and common management across USA, Europe and China. All of which could shake up the global market for quite some time.

Competitors, naturally, are digesting the impact of this gigantic deal but also realize that to stay competitive they will need to adjust their strategies as well as introduce new products as more intensive competition is anticipated across all sectors. Historically, Ericsson is used to that pressure, but this case is definitely unique and more challenging; NokAlu is expected to become a global leader in ultra-broadband, IP networking and cloud applications, has raised this competitive bar.

Investors should closely follow the new company’s milestones and stock as undoubtedly there will be many upturns and downturns before the company stabilizes. The core networking segment is a high-margin, strong performing one that should add and increase the value of NokAlu’s stock. Today, if we benchmark Nokia and Ericsson’s stock, there has not been much volatility during the past year, but there is a respectful gap in the value per share. But this merger could be a game changer.

Once the merger and its accompanying issues have been address and processes, policies staff, etc., are integrated, Nokia will be strongly positioned with a highly efficient and complete end-to end portfolio across all sectors to capture 5G global contracts. With 5G expected to be multidimensional very few vendors with innovative product portfolios will be able to comply and implement providers’ demands but with this merger Nokia will.

    Elias Aranvantino

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Alcatel-Lucent Raises the Broadband CPE Bar

Announces a new ONT with advanced Wi-Fi and ties in Motive to streamline smart home deployments.

On April 20, 2015, Alcatel-Lucent announced its new broadband residential gateway the 7368 Intelligent Service Access Manager (ISAM) optical network terminal (ONT). The 7368 incorporates dual-band Wi-Fi (802.11ac/n on 5GHz and 802.11b/g/n on 2.4GHz) with enhanced signal strength (Up to 500mW) to deliver better in-home coverage.

Aside from the awkward product name, it addresses a real issue in the broadband and specifically the gigabit industry: namely, delivering gigabit speeds beyond the threshold of the home. In the early days of broadband consumers’ connections from their PC to the CPE devices was greater than the broadband access connection (10 Mbps feeding 1.5 Mbps). With the deployment of gigabit networks (or more accurately “up to a gigabit networks”) the reverse was true, with 802.11n feeding 300 Mbps to the gigabit access link. Alcatel-Lucent has evened out this equation.

The images provided by Alcatel-Lucent showed the new product as a wall-mount device. Aside from looking sleek this has a number of nontechnical barriers to adoption. The big one being home decor aesthetics. Based on a limited sample, my wife, adding anything to precious wall space is a nontrivial exercise. Plus, any device added to a home has to cope with the issues of batteries (power) and backhaul. It would seem that a management interface on a smart-phone, tablet or any existing screen would be more suitable for whole home management.

The second part of the announcement was the incorporation of Motive™ customer experience management solution. ONT Easy Start” streamlines the ONT activation process and performs service orchestration between the Motive care applications and network element managers. This too solves a real business issue of gigabit deployments by reducing the time and cost of activating each subscriber.

The addition of Motive to the total offering is noteworthy. It’s always great to see large companies integrate solutions from separate product lines and business units to offer a greater solution that solves real business issues. 

Alcatel-Lucent has raised the bar in the broadband CPE market. They’ve matched the in-home speeds with the access network, improved in-home Wi-Fi coverage and simplified deployment of gigabit services to the residential market. The company solved real service provider business problems with innovative technologies.

To discuss the implications of this and other issues in the broadband access space on your company and product strategies contact ACG ( to schedule a briefing.

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Juniper Networks: Converged Supercore, an ACG HotSeat

Paul Obsitnik, vice president of service provider product marketing at Juniper Networks, and Ray Mota, CEO of ACG Research, discuss Juniper’s Converged Supercore announcement, which includes new custom silicon, updates to the PTX Series router and expanded SDN capabilities. Juniper has positioned itself as a thought leader in the service provider routing space, not only by addressing higher capacity requirements, but by also focusing on automation and SDN programmability to enable networks to be more agile and risk adverse. Listen to how the MX and PTX Series together change the router landscape by addressing service router requirements in the edge and transit router requirements in the core, as well as how customers can maximize cost optimization and service delivery.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent: Which Should Buy Which?

Seeking Alpha reported that Nokia confirmed it is in talks to acquire all or part of Alcatel-Lucent and it is no surprise the companies are quibbling over valuation. Alcatel-Lucent has gone through some tough times and appears to be executing well on its Shift plan. Arguably, they are undervalued but investors are waiting for more tangible results, which will indicate that the plan is working. Current shareholders and employees can sense this positive momentum and are remiss to “sell-out” before the results of their hard work and commitment are fully realized. 

Consolidation in the equipment market is not unexpected. Communication service providers are consolidating too and are getting bigger. When this occurs large equipment providers tend to consolidate as well as they have fewer large customers and need economies of scale to be successful. This is truly a zero-sum game. Either you get 70 percent of the business, 30 percent as a second, keep the first one honest, source or you get zero percent. With the inherent complexities of SDN, NFV and virtualization, particularly in multi-vendor integration, it may be years before the “second’ source is even added.

Driving this buyout could be Huawei. The company is disrupting the entire global telecommunication equipment market. The industry has been aware of the company's “grey area” business practices such as outright appropriating technology and intellectual property to giving eNodeBs away for free, with customers just paying the yearly maintenance fees (with a bonus of dozens of undocumented back doors). Although this is disturbing to the industry what really is of concern is Huawei’s huge product portfolio, their ability to throw “armies” at initiatives and their ability to take a long-term view to market (and global) domination.

The big issue for either Nokia or Alcatel-Lucent is who is going to compete with Huawei? Communication networks are a fundamental asset to nation states. They drive economic development, entertainment, education, national security, etc. Perhaps it’s time all governments treat them as national assets.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

De-Risking Your Investment: An ACG HotSeat Video

Now more than ever, carriers are faced with difficult decisions about their architecture. And visibility, into servers and into traffic, is one aspect that is preventing them from successful monitoring, deploying, and de-risking of their services and identifying where their problems are. Andy Huckridge, Director of Service Provider Solutions, Gigamon, and Ray Mota, CEO, ACG Research, discuss Gigamon’s strategy, market impact, and vision and how Gigamon can help carriers de-risk their investments. Andy reviews technologies, IP Voice, Voice over IMS, and Voice over Wi-Fi and Voice for LTE and discusses monitoring infrastructure, such as a visibility fabric, as well as delves into present mode of operation and the existing impact on networks. 

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Monday, April 6, 2015

Business Case for Open Data Center Architecture in Enterprise Private Cloud

Dr. Michael Kennedy analyzed the transition costs from state-of-the-art switching infrastructure to elastic and agile infrastructure that enables private enterprise cloud for a medium-sized enterprise data center. The Juniper Networks’ open data center infrastructure architecture was compared to a proprietary programmable architecture that requires simultaneous investment in a centralized controller and application-aware switch combination. The proprietary architecture requires parallel operation of the existing switching equipment and the new application-aware switches until all applications are moved to the new switches. This is a multiple-year effort for most enterprises. In contrast, the open architecture does not require any change in the existing infrastructure base. The study found that the open architecture provides full asset protection; the proprietary architecture destroys 88 percent of the value of the original switching investment in the first year of the transition period.

Click to download ACG’s Juniper Business Case for Open DC Architecture.

What is your best route to the cloud?

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