Oracle is filling out its product stack for communications with the acquisition of Tekelec, which provides network signaling, policy control and subscriber data management software for mobile data networks. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close in the first half of this year, were not disclosed.
The explosive growth of smartphones and mobile services has put new strains on mobile networks, and Tekelec's products can help providers manage these workloads as well as optimize profits, according to its website.
Oracle plans to roll Tekelec's capabilities into its communications product portfolio and will combine them with products gained through the pending acquisition of network equipment vendor Acme Packet, according to a statement. Read more...
Security software startup Bromium is shipping its first product, a virtualization client that runs any untrusted content inside its very own virtual machine -- a microVM -- protecting the underlying operating system and whatever content is stored on the physical machine from theft and malware infection.
The software, VSentry, is aimed at stopping threats that have never been seen before and so can't be detected by signature-based defenses. It also lets end users access whatever content they want to without risk of infecting their own machines or other machines on corporate networks, the company says.
The software filters applications, Web pages, attachments -- anything that customers define with a rule set -- and automatically runs them in separate microVMs, which are destroyed when users are done with each task. Read more...
President Obama is exploring the option of using his executive authority to get government agencies and critical infrastructure owners to implement better controls for protecting their computer networks.
According to a report by Reuters, the White House is considering the move because of the continuing delay by Congress to pass the Cybersecurity Act bill.
The bill is heavily supported by the White House and is designed to bolster cyber security by giving businesses and government agencies better mechanisms for sharing cyberthreat information. It is sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman (Ind,-CT) and Susan Collins, (R-ME) and several other democratic lawmakers. The bill calls for the creation of an inter-agency council that would work with critical infrastructure owners to develop new voluntary cybersecurity standards.
The act also requires certain government agencies to submit to an annual security certification process and offers liability protection for private companies that get voluntarily certified each year. Read more...
NASA could land humans on the moon and put exploratory rovers on Mars, but in the last three years, the agency just couldn't find a way to build an internal social network that would encourage its employees to collaborate.
Initially launched in early 2009, "SpaceBook" was supposed to be a place where NASA workers could go online anytime to get feedback, learn from others' experiences, collaborate on projects and get to know each other better. But NASA ultimately squashed the effort this June, taking it offline for good.
The problem, says Kevin Jones, a consulting social and organizational strategist with NASA's Marshall and Goddard Spaceflight Centers, was that no one sufficiently explained to users what they could do with SpaceBook to move their collaboration forward. So it languished when users didn't adopt it -- even it was relaunched it with an updated user interface.
That kind of crash-and-burn experience happens in enterprise IT when plans are established without understanding what users want or need. But it doesn't have to be that way for your organization, according to companies that have made internal social networks an integral, thriving part of their employee communications streams. What it takes to make a successful internal social network, they say, is strategic planning, careful follow-through and a willingness to change direction as your users show you how they want to use the tools you're giving them.
We'll share these companies' best tips for getting employees on board with a private social network. But first we'll explore some of the benefits internal social networking can bring.
How organizations are using social networks
Why invest in a company social network in the first place? That's a familiar question for Jonathan Yarmis, principal analyst at The Yarmis Group, which follows social, mobile and cloud technologies.
"Clients ask how can they get value from this and why should they spend money on it when they're not convinced that there is ROI," he says. "But I think it's profoundly important. It allows people to do things with information that they can't do with email. During the course of the day you can ask, 'Who do I know that knows what I need to know?' You can only do this on a social networking platform."
The companies we spoke to have found that their internal social networks provide multiple benefits, including giving employees a stronger voice, helping them pool and share information, and strengthening company culture.
Giving employees a voice
At San Francisco-based Salesforce.com, the social media tsunami known as Facebook got company executives very interested in how such a phenomenon would eventually affect enterprises, says Dave King, the company's director of product marketing. That's how the company developed its Chatter employee social networking application.
Unveiled to customers in June 2010, Chatter was first rolled out internally to Salesforce's 8,000 global employees in the months before the product launch. "We used it ourselves before we offered it to anybody else," King says.
Every Salesforce employee has a Chatter profile and can post questions or comments, share information and collaborate from around the world in real time. "People tell us that instead of hitting a bottleneck, they post an inquiry on Chatter and get an answer," he says. And the platform is searchable, so users can pull up past discussions, data and more.
The social network gives a voice to individual contributors, King says. "In the past it was people in the corner office who had power in a company. But with this, people anywhere in the company can give input that can be influential."
One young developer was fresh in the company and in his free time was building applications for Chatter, King says. Other users saw them, downloaded them and used them. That creativity and success bubbled up to Salesforce's chairman and CEO, Marc Benioff, who invited the young developer to a closed-door leadership session with company executives about innovation. "That 24-year-old junior employee makes this huge impact and now leads one of our Apple iOS development teams."
Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Plantronics launched a pilot of the Jive Social Business Platform in March for 150 beta testers, with plans to roll it out to all 3,500 employees later this year, says Barry Margerum, the company's chief strategy officer. Jive was brought in to modernize communications among employees, deliver a framework for integrated knowledge management and to encourage crowdsourcing the company's informational assets, he says.
"Crowdsourcing information benefits a company by opening up information to everyone," Margerum says. "You find out people are very smart who you didn't know about. That changes things for everybody."
Margerum says Plantronics chose Jive because of its extensive search capabilities and its good integration with desktop applications from other vendors, such as Microsoft, that Plantronics is already running.
"It has a Facebook-like approach," he adds. "It's clearly not 'what I did yesterday' or 'what I did on my vacation.' It's about a news article someone saw or someone asking a question about a particular idea. You might mention that a competitor brought out a new product and ask people what they think about it."
The end result is real-time idea sharing that benefits the company, Margerum says. "You're trying to get a conversation started that's going to elevate this knowledge to everyone in that community. It's sort of like a brainstorming session."
It's still too early to point to specific successes in the company, he says, but participation has been very strong and is showing clear benefits. "Jive is emerging as a frictionless way to share expertise and opinions with the enterprise pool," he says. "It seems to be motivating employees to share more of their knowledge than we've seen before."
Margerum wouldn't disclose how much his company spends on Jive for its employees, but Jive says that pricing for its Jive Social Business Platform for internal corporate use begins at $12 per user per month.
Introducing and reinforcing company culture
At BMC Software in Austin, Texas, internal social networking has been used for a year, with some 7,000 employees creating 965 groups in which they collaborate and share information, said Hollie Castro, senior vice president of administration. The company uses Chatter from Salesforce and has found that it enhances communications with and among employees in several ways, Castro says.
BMC uses Chatter to introduce new employees to the company before they start their first day on the job. Here the company onboards new workers and shares HR information, company procedures and more in a social place where the new employees can ask questions and meet co-workers immediately.
The social networking system gives a "look into the hearts and minds of employees, where they can see a bit about the culture of the company and fellow workers. Especially if you are a work-at-home employee, I think this is really important," Castro says. "We can disseminate messages and hear from the employee base in a much more fluid and transparent way" compared to email and other communications.
The platform also helps workers share best practices inside BMC, she says. "It allows us to have dialogues on a topic from IT to HR benefits, and to support these policies and allow employees to ask questions and get answers."
Finally, it allows employees to follow topics that are relevant to them, rather than the company sending out information randomly. "This is a huge benefit," Castro says. "It's giving us another vehicle for internal communications that is more effective."
Castro wouldn't disclose how much BMC pays for Chatter, but the basic Chatter social networking service is free, while the paid service, which adds features such as workflow tracking and calendar integration, starts at $15 per user per month, according to a Salesforce spokesperson.
Getting employees on board
The success of any social network depends on user engagement. If employees aren't using it, even the most innovative internal network is a failure. Here are a few keys to success.
Start with the easy stuff
One of the lessons Salesforce executives learned, says King, was to do the easy things first to introduce users to the new system. "We started with a high-value process -- global account planning -- that was easy to implement from a change management perspective," he said. "It had been a total pain to deal with previously, then we put it into a Chatter group. It made everyone's lives easier."
Next were other areas that could bring in quick wins with users, he says, including groups where employees could air grievances. Only then did the company begin to look at larger, more ingrained processes that would be harder to implement and take more time to finish. "Where we see internal social networking go wrong is when people start with those tough ones," he says.
Consult users early and often
BMC's Castro says her company started small with a pilot program so that feedback could be collected and an internal buzz could be generated among employees. "We worked with groups of employees around the world to get input," she says. "You learn along the way. One of the reasons we are getting good use by employees is that we really engaged our user groups up front."
Being responsive to employees' feedback -- and flexible enough to try out their ideas -- is vital, King adds. "What kills these things is when people bring in their own new ideas for how to make improvements and they get shut down by executives or legal or HR," he says. "Even when you're not sure, give things a chance. It's important not to manage it at an institutional level too closely. Inevitably what happens is that there are bright spots for users that pop up. You need to bring them in and encourage them."
Explain the benefits; don't make more work
Another key to getting employee buy-in, King says, is to clearly explain to users what they can do and gain by using the social network. "Articulate where the value is and share those best practices, such as sales leaders telling how they sell more using Chatter. By doing this, these tools get adopted by others."
Better yet, make social networking integral to other tasks, advises Ethan McCarty, digital and social strategist at IBM. McCarty says all 400,000 global employees use IBM's homebuilt social networking platform, Connections, which is also sold to customers. "You have to make it part of the work as opposed to a separate thing people do," he says. "If it's not integrated and is an additional task, it becomes a burden and hurts productivity."
Help employees get comfortable with it
McCarty says it's also important to make sure that your employees understand what the expected user etiquette will be under the systems you choose. "That understanding needs to be arrived at mutually and collaboratively" so that users feel comfortable posting their comments and profiles, he says.
IBM has developed a system where less technical users can earn "merit badges" as they gain experience and confidence with the capabilities of Connections, McCarty adds. "You have different groups of people who are going to use it differently. It builds confidence with those users. We want to reward them for their success using the system."
What's still needed in enterprise social networks
So is this technology ready for every business to deploy? Not quite, according to some analysts.
To make social networking a must-have tool for enterprises, those capabilities need to be tightly integrated with the critical enterprise applications that drive businesses, says analyst Yarmis. Right now, the data from each are typically in different silos -- "they don't talk with each other yet." Once that kind of integration truly arrives, he says, it will make these kinds of platforms more important and useful for enterprises.
The time to begin planning for such integration is now. "While you're investing in it right now, it will put you ahead of the game when this is important five to 10 years from now," he says.
Jon Reed, an independent enterprise analyst with JonERP.com, agrees that social networking will be critical for enterprises in the future, but he cautions against getting caught up in all of the hype surrounding it at this early time in its development. One big issue, he says, is that social networking vendors haven't yet solved all their products' shortcomings or filled all their customers' needs.
That will happen in the next year or two, he predicts, as vendors bolster their offerings and provide the critical features that business users want, he explains. "I think that vendors are going to be aggressively trying to pursue things in the end that deliver a lot more value" than is available now, Reed says.
"Right now you're just scratching the surface. We're early in that journey. It's not headed to be Facebook for the enterprise. It's going to be something entirely different."
Apple's OS X Mountain Lion is off to a solid start in its first 48 hours and now powers more than 3% of all Macs, an online advertising network said today.
Chitika, which regularly mines its ad impression data for trends in operating system and browser usage, reported Friday that two days after its introduction, OS X Mountain Lion accounted for 3.2% of all versions of Apple's operating system.
OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, retained the top spot in Chitika's ranking with a 45.5% share, while Lion, or version 10.7, accounted for 35%.
In an email touting its findings, Chitika characterized Mountain Lion's 3.2% as "rather impressive," and predicted that the new OS would "do much better" than its 2011 predecessor, Lion.
Other Web measurement firms have not corroborated Chitika's data. Irish analytics company StatCounter does not break out individual OS X versions and U.S.-based Net Applications does not automatically disclose its daily numbers to the public or the press. Read more...
Nicira is a start-up right out of the Silicon Valley playbook with a $1.26 billion ending, in just five years.
VMware's decision, announced Monday, to buy this network virtualization company will likely be cited as a starring example of why Silicon Valley remains the world's engine of innovation.
The sale has all the classic elements of a Silicon Valley start-up. Whether Nicira can deliver on its promise is now up to VMware, which must make its new technology work with everything else it sells, say analysts. But for the Nicira's founders and investors, their big day has arrived.
Networking virtualization technology is to virtualization what server virtualization was to servers seven or more years ago. It's still new, its market size is still small, but it will grow rapidly because this technology is needed, say analysts. Nicira seemed perfectly timed for it. Read more...
A planned network of regional patent offices and the effects of new legislation are expected to slow the recent proliferation of patent lawsuits between big-name tech companies, Rebecca Blank, U.S. acting secretary of commerce, said on Wednesday.
In recent months, companies including Apple and Samsung have spent hours in court arguing over patent infringement in smartphones. The handheld gadgets have generated several big cases, as have issues such as software patents.
"We clearly have some difficult legal issues right now," Blank told IDG News Service. "The America Invents Act and some of the things we are doing are going to help that; I'm not sure they are going to fully solve some of those issues." Read more...
Flipboard is now available for Android. The app, which aggregates content in a magazine-like format, also integrates content from Google+ and YouTube, a Flipboard blog post said on Friday.
The application can be downloaded from Google's Play store, Amazon's app store for the Kindle and the Barnes & Noble Nook App Store.
In the U.S., Flipboard will come pre-installed on Samsung's Galaxy S III smartphone when purchased from carriers including AT&T. Read more...
Earlier this month, Bing, the other
white meat search engine, revealed its big redesign, which put a heavy emphasis on social search. Today, Microsoft announced the new version of Bing.com is now available to all U.S. users. Nothing has changed between then and now, but if you regularly visit Bing.com to perform searches (ha, right?) then you’ll definitely notice a big difference. The new search interface opts for cleaner search results, a three-column design, and deeper Facebook integration. Read more...
Don't try to friend MaLi Arwood on Facebook. You won't find her there.
You won't find Thomas Chin, either. Or Kariann Goldschmitt. Or Jake Edelstein.
More than 900 million people worldwide check their Facebook accounts at least once a month, but millions more are Facebook holdouts.
They say they don't want Facebook. They insist they don't need Facebook. They say they're living life just fine without the long-forgotten acquaintances that the world's largest social network sometimes resurrects. Read more...
Network and security vendors such as Cisco, Juniper, and Enterasys are lining up at Interop this week with products aimed at easing security admins' BYOD-spawned migraines. Also in the queue: Today's release of Avaya Identity Engines (AIE) 8.0, designed to help organizations better secure and control who can access wired and wireless networks, as well as how they do it.
The move represents the struggling networking company's attempt to broaden its mobile strategy, which has included the Flare Experience -- a videoconferencing product to rival to the Cisco Cius -- followed by a Flare client for the iPad. Read more...
Mac users are nearly three times more likely to be running an early version of the OS X Mountain Lion operating system than PC owners testing Microsoft's Windows 8, the Chitika online ad network said today.
During a week following Mountain Lion's release, its share of the Macs that accessed Chitika's network was a puny 0.06%, or six out of every 10,000 Macs.
But that was nearly three times the percentage of Windows users running Windows 8 who were served an ad in the early days of that operating system's availability. In the same period following the release last September of Windows 8 Developer Preview, just 0.021% of all Windows PCs were powered by that sneak peek. (The number represented 2.1 PCs out of every 10,000 running one Windows flavor or another.) Read more...
As device manufacturers eye the living room as the next great uncharted frontier (with an increasing nervousness about Apple’s impending TV set), they look for any “in” that they already have. Video game consoles provide as good of an entryway to the living room as there is.
We’ve already seen Microsoft expand the Xbox 360 software to include some TV integration, including voice control. Now Sony is preparing to make a similar shift, by transforming the PlayStation Network (PSN) into a full-fledged entertainment suite. To match that change, it will soon be rebranded as the Sony Entertainment Network.
The kicker is, the PlayStation Network is already an entertainment suite. In addition to playing and purchasing games, you can already rent and buy movies, stream music, and watch Netflix and Hulu Plus. Read more...
The subject of personally-owned mobile devices like tablets and smartphones being used on the corporate network is a hot one. I posted about it here, but it's a much wider issue than I covered in that piece. Many companies are concerned about the proliferation of personally-owned devices showing up in the workplace and are now in the process of developing and deploying mobile device policies and technologies to help enforce them.
Most of what's been written to date has been focused on the issue from the company's perspective, or from the perspective of an IT manager. However, I think it's about time that someone went to bat for the end users who own and operate these devices. Since I fall into both categories, I figure I'm qualified.
Deciding to start using a personally-owned mobile device or computer for work purposes or on the corporate network can have some consequences that you've probably never thought about. For instance, let's assume that you carry your Apple iPhone with you to the office and that you attach to a corporate 802.11 wireless network to access the Internet. At my company we have a separate "guest" network for connectivity of this type. Read more...
A key federal agency involved in testing the proposed LightSquared LTE 4G network has concluded that there is no practical way to solve interference between that network and GPS, possibly dealing a crippling blow to the startup carrier's hopes for a terrestrial mobile network.
In a memo released late today, the National Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Executive Committee (PNT ExComm) said the nine federal agencies that make up the body had concluded unanimously that none of LightSquared's proposals would overcome significant interference with GPS (Global Positioning System).
LightSquared last year received a waiver from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) allowing it to operate a terrestrial LTE (Long-Term Evolution) 4G network on frequencies that have until now been devoted to much weaker satellite signals. But the FCC demanded that concerns over interference with GPS be resolved before the network could be launched.
Tests early last year found devastating interference to many GPS devices, so LightSquared modified its proposal. Further testing took place in November, and other tests had been expected to take place soon.
The PNT ExComm has been involved in testing and results analysis at the request of the FCC and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The body is headed by deputy secretaries of Defense and Transportation and represents other federal agencies and departments. It is charged with coordinating federal GPS activities. Read more...