Google Fiber – Is it attractive? – An analysis

Google yesterday announced its Google Fiber project for high speed internet connectivity making an entry into the post decade-old broadband era.  Google has been spreading up its wings from being a mere search company. It wants to enter every segment of business which directly impact the end customers. Some say Google is still a search company since majority of the revenues still come from ads in search business, some say it is more Android focused these days, few says that Google has emerged into a hardware company after the launch of its own hardware in Nexus Q and fighting hard to convince netizens that it would also emerge as a Social Media company with tight integration of Google Plus in every aspects of its business.

I am sure Google takes a tough look at the business scenarios before making an entry move to these segments and try hard to achieve a flag bearer in ever segment of business it operates.

The latest such move is the Google Fiber project it announced in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Google Fiber is supposed to provide 1Gbps of bandwidth as Google promised.

Here are some of the interesting points to note about:

1. Users have to pre-register in Google Fiber website for registering for a connection. The charge is 10$. This is an interesting stuff as Google wants to earn in every possible way.

2. If you are registered in Google Fiber website, it does not mean that you will get the fiber installed to your home.  Google Fiber introduced a concept called “Fiberhood” where you convince your neighbors to register for Google Fiber. Google selects the area from where most number of registrations come from.  Well, going by Google brand name, I am sure people will sign up for this (and does not really mind for the 10$ registration fee). Based on a recent study, it is determined that it costs around 650$ to lay a cable to your home. This puts a real hole in the OPEX of the ISP’s. With the Fiberhood, Google hopes  to really cut down this cost to a larger extent.

3. Google has done with laying the fiber throughout the Kansas city.  Google says that it has sought help from utilities dept to use the power poles for the fiiber and AT&T for laying the cable. Brilliant move, but strange. Why should AT&T help Google in this as the product being launched by Google is a tough competitor for AT&T. Leave me a comment if anyone knows what exactly is AT&T’s involvement in this project. Why it should help Google in the first place?

4. The pricing plans are not really competitive to encourage people to move to Google fiber. However you would get better speeds for the same rate that you are currently paying for lesser bandwidth.

5.  For folks who were thinking that Nexus Q is the only hardware device made directly from Google stable, just to let you know that Google also has a DVR device to its credit.

Leave me a comment if you have any thoughts / analysis / comments.

Have a great weekend !

Network Operators at the mercy of MVNO’s?

MVNO’s (Mobile network virtual operator) are entities who do not own the backbone infrastructure of the network, but instead provide the network service by leasing bandwidth’s from bigger operators. MVNO’s are entities who typically provide the service with less charge than the bigger network operators.I have always wondered as to why the network operators provide bandwidth for these so called Mobile Virtual Network Operators who eat up into the revenues and the customer base of the network operator. Recently I have read an article regarding this and here is why Network Operators seek co-operation from MVNO’s:

1)  ARPU (average revenue per user) is a critical element in judging the current financial strength of a network operator and to predict the future growth in terms of profits. In order to maintain a higher ARPU, the network operators are under pressure to maintain the high cost of the monthly plans.  Here is where the MVNO’s help the network operator. MVNO’s lease the bandwidth from the network operator. The customers of MVNO’s does not become a customer of the network operator and hence this helps the bigger network operator to maintain a healthy ARPU and hence make to maintain the momentum of its share price.

2) Since the MVNO’s lease the bandwidth from the network operator, this help to boost the bottom line of the network operator.  Apart from this , the network operators can save some more money on the overhead involved in the customer care operations for MVNO’s since MVNO’s manage their customers.

3) The network operators operating on a nation wide cannot cater to every segment of the society and hence cannot fine-tune the tariff plans for every segment of people. Here is where MVNO’s help the customer by devising plans best suited for the needs of the people. As and when the customer base increases, the MVNO’s would be willing to lease more bandwidth from the network operators and hence this will increase the revenues cum profits for the network operators from this segment of the business.

So, in short, the network operators and their MVNO’s work together for mutual benefits in terms of better revenues/profits as well as better care for the customers who cannot be served by the bigger network operators.

War in the Cloud !

The past one month has seen major news updates from the cloud storage companies – Microsoft, Dropbox, Google. Microsoft has revamped its Skydrive to compete with Dropbox and the likes. In the meantime, Dropbox has been giving major updates to its Cloud storage service. I do like the simplicity of the Dropbox service and have been using it for few months now. Its pretty cool to share photos and pretty much happy with the extra MB’s that i get when any of my invited friends install Dropbox.

Google recently announced Google Drive ( a “long awaited one” though !) for storing contents online and can be accessed from anytime, anywhere and from any device. With the boom in Android community at un-imaginable numbers everyday, Google has a very good chance to be a  front runner in the Cloud Storage race. People who have been using Android version 2.2 and above would have noticed an automatic task running in the background which would automatically upload the photos taken using the mobile phone to its Google+ photos. I would say that was a first step by Google in mobilizing its android platform to pull users into the cloud. For all those who are praising about Apple could, go and check your Google Play Dashboard which pretty much has the data of your Android device in terms of the installed apps etc.

Google drive has an obvious advantages of the branding when compared to the other services esp Dropbox. Dropbox which has been the darling of the cloud storage is facing heat since the launch of Google drive.  It’s going to be a tough challenge for Skydrive unless they make the magic with strong integration to Windows desktop and mobile platform. Hopefully Microsoft gets the much required charm since its Windows 7.5 launch in Lumia.

I obviously do not want to comment on iCloud as these guys are pretty much narrow minded only to Apple and do not want like anyone else to build storage solution using IOS.

From a pricing standpoint, Skydrive seems to be better for lesser storage space. Dropbox looses with both Skydrive and Google Drive in the pricing standpoint.

Photo courtesy: www.labnol.org

For all those who look into the legal aspects of Cloud storage, Dropbox and Microsoft would be your choice as Dropbox treats “your file as yours” whereas Google Drive treats “your files as its own”.   While we are  in the mid of hypes with the cloud storage, has anyone cared about the storage of  company confidential information in any of these cloud storage? Well, people using this cloud storage medium knowingly or unknowingly store the confidential information in the cloud which is against your employers policies.

In short, Google Drive has a fair chance of winning the race in the personal computing space, Skydrive has a potential to grow in the enterprise space (If Microsoft pushes it with strong integration to Windows Desktop and mobile platform). It’s high time for Dropbox to think about pricing strategy if it has a long term vision for the company, else it would most likely get acquired by some of the other bigger entrants in the space. Hence there is no clear single winner in the space. It all depends on the medium of usage and its very purpose.

Future of WEB (Real-Time) Communications !

The web browsers which was once acting as a gateway for your PC to access the World Wide Web has been evolving over a period of time. Today with the evolution of cloud based solutions and real time communication, the browsers have become a powerful platform with tons of intelligence being built into it everyday.

WebRTC is an open source project incorporated to build standardized browser API’s for real time communication. The project is supported by Google, Mozilla and Opera.  The project is being standardized by the IETF and W3C.  WebRTC is an extension of the HTML5 standard. Developers who are writing web application can use these API’s for quickly bringing in additional capabilities in their web applications. Since these API’s are standardized, I think it would help reduce cross-platform portability issues for the application.

How is this WebRTC platform going to help in achieving what I cannot do today?

WebRTC is a universal API platform where real time communication implementors can use them. Say for example, today if you want to use Google video chat from within GMail, you would need to first install the plug-in for the browser before starting to use the service. The installable plug-in implementation would be different for different browsers/OS. In simple terms, WebRTC is going to solve this as the browser API support would be inbuilt in the browser.

Does this mean that any browser that supports WebRTC can become a SIP endpoint?

Absolutely yes!

Google Chrome added WebRTC 1.0  support early January this year. In April, Mozilla firebox have also started providing the basic support to its browser. Microsoft has also started incorporated WebRTC components in Internet Explorer, although there were no official release of IE with inbuilt WebRTC yet.

Here is how the browser layers are being split up to differntiate browser specific implementation,  WebRTC API layer(being used by the browser developers to develop API’s) and the Web layer (used by the Web developers developing app for the browser)

[Picture courtesy: WebRTC.org]

Communication app providers such as Vonage, Nimbus etc are already cheering up for the WebRTC support.

Care to look into the webRTC roadmap? Check out here !

Have more queries, checkout the WebRTC FAQ page

WebRTC 1.0 is now available in Chrome Canary. Hoping to get some hands-on over the weekend.

Questions / thoughts – Leave me a comment.

Are patents killing Innovation?

Are patents killing Innovation? It seems “Yes”. It would be very sad to see a day where irrespective of whether a company is innovative or not, if it has tons of patents – then it can win the race. In Q3 2011, Microsoft has issued licensing fee for every android activation as the android platform uses some of the Microsoft patents. In response to this, Google has issued a notice for collecting licensing fee from Microsoft  to use some of its H.264 video patents that Google has got as a result of the planned takeover of Motorola mobility. Interestingly the amount charged by Google does not seem to be a fair price and hence Microsoft appealed to the European Union and the US Department of Justice. The ITC today has done a preliminary ruling for the case filed by Microsoft where Microsoft XBox360 infringes 5 of Motorola mobility patents. The settlement talks would soon be initiated between Microsoft and Google, to prevent banning of import of Xbox360.

It was earlier debated that the chances of Motorola Mobility winning the case was weak because  these patents were covered under Frand.  With Microsoft already fighting with Google on the patents, the news today that Microsoft has sold 650/925 of its AOL patents to Facebook for 550 million dollar came as a shock to me. These 925 patents were bought by Microsoft for 1.1  Billion dollar from AOL. It’s still not clear as to why these 650 patents seemed to be less interesting to Microsoft in less than 2 weeks.  Is it because Microsoft has to buy all 925 patents from AOL to get the patents that it is really interested in? Is Microsoft sure that it is not violating any of these patents, so that it can be sued back by Facebook?

The “who is suing-who?” part of the tech space is growing at a faster pace than ever. Here is a funny picture of “who is suing-who” that  was going around in facebook a month back.

You can add a few more arrows based on the noises that we heard in the last one month. Pretty clear, right?

With all these big companies having tons of cash in their backyard, they may be able to comfortably face the patent challenge. How about the startups which is looking for every penny for their expansion, but getting sued by these biggies? Is it going to hinder the birth of the next Facebook, Google, Microsoft?  Your thoughts?

Software Defined Networking – The next big networking wave !

Earlier I have blogged on CDN / TIC where the online content is being moved from the servers in content providers network to the networking gears in the service providers network in an aim to achieve higher speeds for content access. In contrary to that, SDN (Software defined networking) specifies a mechanism where the content could still be present in the content provider network, but the users could still achieve higher speeds in terms of accessing the contents if the gears in the network is fine-tuned.

Earlier this week, Google announced about its super secret Networking project powering its inter-data center  communication using SDN for most (all?) of Google’s services – Search, GMail etc. In addition to the brilliant algorithm that Google implements to retrieve the search results quickly, SDN also plays a major role for those magic speeds. Google calls this network as “G-Scale Network” which replaces the traditional routers from the networking giants with routers running Open source softwareOpenFlow.  It take real guts to run the network backbone infrastructure using experimental protocol like OpenFlow.  To take part in the growth of SDN, several OEM (original equipment manufacturers) started introducing the products which can run OpenFlow. The individual companies buying such products can opt for implementing the OpenFlow protocol.

How does OpenFlow work / operate?

Typically in a OpenFlow environment, the control plane will be running on independent servers and the data plane would be   running on the routers. The communication between the control plane and the data plane would be using the OpenFlow protocol.   The servers powering the control plane and equipped with better processors and the software to provide a better performance  when compared to the processors running on the network routers.  In addition to the performance improvement on the control  plane, it also provides better security for the control plane.   Ofcourse, this is at a very early stage and takes time to stabilize. 

Cisco which has been known for making proprietary software for routers have started facing the heat with the introduction of SDN  – which is going to define the networking in the decade to come. HP, IBM, Nicira Netowks, Big Switch Networks have already intoduced products supporting OpenFlow for SDN. To make sure Cisco also participates in the race for the decade defining innovation and does not loss the market share in SDN, Cisco  is planning to introduce SDN hardware in the next 6 months to a year.

Here are some of the key points about the notification from Google during the OpenNetworking summit .

The official agenda for OpenNetworkingSummit has some interesting information. I liked the first few slides from “Big Networks”  from Open Networking Summit 2012.

In my opinion, CDN and SDN would not be competing to win the title for “War of Titans”, but instead they would/should work together for enabling a powerful networking environment.

Also I have a workshop on SDN in mid of May and will be updating the blog with more information as I learn.

Please leave a comment on the question/thoughts.

Mobile Payments – Reloaded !

The retail world has saw quite a lot of new product launches with respect to the mobile payment services in the past few months from Paypal, Google and other few companies.

Paypal recently launched “Paypal Here” where the merchants would be provided with a triangle shaped credit / debit card reader which will fit into the mobile phone headphone jacket. The merchants would need to install the Paypal app for performing transactions with the card reader. Paypal claims that the data between the card reader to the mobile phone’s app will be transmitted in encrypted format and hence there is no way for hackers to hack the data.  What’s significant benefit does this provide to the merchants when compared to the current scenario? Well, perhaps the only thing which i think and what Paypal claims is that you can even take a photo of your credit / debit card to perform the transactions instead of using the card reader. How this is revolutionizing the payment service in the mobile world?   The answer to that is you need not have an NFC enabled smartphone to make payments. But can that be considered as revolutionizing the mobile world? In my opinion – not ! This move by Paypal is a direct attack on SquareUp – which first introduced the mobile payment service using credit /debit card reader. Paypal takes less service charge than SquareUp thereby challenging SquareUp directly on the profits.

Next inline is the Google Wallet from Google where users can do in-store as well as online payments. For in-store payments you need to have a NFC (Near Field Communication)  enabled phone and obviously NFC enabled reader. To me, this looks to be a “cool” way of mobile payment than those used by Paypal (or) Square.  Users do not need to carry their credit / debit cards all the time and hence this is really enriching the mobile experience in the payment space. The service would take sometime to have a stronger footprint since the number of NFC enabled phones are limited as of now.

There is yet another way of mobile payment service being pioneered by a startup called “Seconds” which uses the traditional way of using SMS for payment service. This would help the non-smartphone users to have payment services. I think there has been a talk about using SMS as a payment service for a long time, but do not  know if there way anyone who cared to introduce e-commerce in SMS. The customers have to register their mobile number as well as a credit / debit card to “Seconds“. Customer uses SMS to place an order to a Seconds number of the merchant. Each merchant will get a unique URL for hosting their service in the Seconds platform for performing the transaction.  In my opinion, Seconds looks  like a platform to provide services for “To-Go” restaurants and would be bulky for transactions for any other business – say a retail store and the likes given the amount of work involved in making the transaction.  It’s probably a tough challenge for  Seconds to compete with other biggies in the business.