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.

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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.

Crowdfunding – Paving way for entrepreneurs !

Crowdfunding as the name stands is a mechanism to fund your project / product from the crowd. The crowd can be your friends , family or people who are interested in your project. Crowdfunding has gained momentum in the past few months and in each US President has signed the JOBS Act (Jumpstart our Business Startups) to officially consider Crowdfunding as a legal way of raising money for your start-ups.

Prior to the bill being passed in the senate. there were no legal means of raising money for your startup in the form of Crowdfunding. The founders always need to approach the angel investors for the funds to start the basic operations of their startups.   The first question from *most* of the angel investor is to demo a prototype of the product to be demonstrated. At this stage,  most of the startups would just have a business idea in mind and would not have a prototype available. This resulted in funding issues for the startups and most of the entrepreneurs with the business idea were not able to implement the idea.

To energize these entrepreneurs and to encourage the culture of entrepreneurship, Crowdfunding would be the best way to kick start your startup from just having a business idea to have a prototype model of your idea. Once the prototype is available. the entrepreneurs can approach the angel investors / venture capitalists for funding the implementation of the product.

The investors who provide the money for building the prototype / product can get their returns in the following ways

– Equity in the company

– Percentage of the revenue / profit for a fixed duration of time.

– For very small investors, a copy of the product to be available for free when they are available.

The amount of money an investor can invest through Crowdfunding is limited to 5% of their annual income if the income is less than 100k $ and 10% if the income level is greater than 100k$. This is to protect the money of the inexperienced shareholders. A total of 1M $ can be raised through Crowdfunding per year. These companies need not report their financial data if they have less than 1000 investors (which was earlier set to 500 investors)

There are a whole bunch of websites offering a platform for launching the crowdfunding for your product – a few familiar ones are Kickstarter.com and Indiegogo.com

The obvious disadvantages would be where the Crowdfunded money is not being utilized for the product prototype / model building, but being looted. There is a 90 day time available for the US government to identify the loopholes with the Crowdfunding and finding ways to fix them.

These Crowdfunding websites / Crowdfunded companies has to make sure that the progress of the project has to be provided to all the investors – small or big.  In short, the modified JOBS acts certainly looks to be a way in boosting some of the struggling startups wanting to raise money.

Content Delivery Network, Transparent Internet Caching – Concerns ?

Earlier this week. I blogged on CDN, TIC (transparent internet caching) and how it works. Today I got a chance to attend a workshop on CDN and got to learn a little more details on CDN.  From now on in the rest of the post, I will refer to companies like Akamai who cache the data from content providers as “TIC providers”.

Few points to be noted in addition to what I have already mentioned earlier (The below comment is based on my understanding about CDN  from quick workshop today. Please feel free to correct me by leaving a comment)

– The  TIC Providers aka- companies like Akamai who manage data center throughout the world do not need to have an agreement with the content provider for caching the static content from the providers. Wow ! That’s a big plus for all these content providers like Youtube, Hulu which will be benefited by the caching being done by companies like Akamai without even being paid a penny.

– The content providers if needed can have an agreement to place their own servers in the data center of the TIC providers. The content providers  can negotiate with the TIC and / or service providers to provide preference for the content from the content provider than with the rest of the traffic. They can specify the quality of service parameters as a part of their agreement. But wouldn’t this violate the whole concept of  Net-neutrality where equal preference should be given to traffic for every content provider? This still seems to be an open ended question for the CDN implemention.

– Assume a case where the content provider does not have its own servers in the data center of the “TIC prvovider”. In this case, if a user tries to access a content , the content will be delivered by the cached content from the TIC data center.  ie.. for example – if we try to access a content from say Google, we might end up with being the content delivered from a non-Google server. Should we start talking about security issues here (or) may be not since the data integrity is supposed to be taken care by the “TIC provider”.

– There is a new standard being developed called CDNi (CDN Interconnect) which is a standard whereby different content providers can interact through standard means for delivering the content.

Project Glass : A product or a service platform?

Google today officially announced the testing of its “Augmented reality” Project Glass in their Google+ Page.

Here is official video from Google !

A pretty cool stuff from the brightest minds at Google. Lots of thinking have been instrumental in bringing the project to reality. Its sure a project from Google (which has been struggling to compete with Facebook and Apple) which carries a big “Wow” factor. Having said that, the question that needs to answered is

–  Can “Project Glass” be called a “Product Glass”?

– How would the “Project Glass” stand from a practical standpoint?

– Should Apple now consider that it has a competition to its fine manufacturing skills?

– Should Facebook seriously start thinking that “Project Glass” would seriously books Google’s social presence?

Here is my brief opinion to the above questions:

This seems to be yet another “attempt” of creating a product by merging all the existing Google services. Excellent! The success and failure of the “Project Glass” would largely be dependent on the convenience of the user. As a user, It would not be that comfortable in having some data (text/image/video) blocking your vision, which means you would most probably be using this when you are not in a busy zone.  I could not think of an use-case (apart from arguing that you need not take out your phone from your pocket) where it can provide any extra functionality that cannot be provided by your mobile phone. Do you?

For the “Wow” factor – If i am to choose an option(s) for which I would most probably use the “Glass”, it would be for “taking picture” and for “maps” probably. Also note that you would still require your mobile phone for doing all this crazy stuff with your “Glass”. I would be better off using my mobile phone to do the rest of the stuff advertised in the video.  Well, the other stuffs are pretty cool as well.

Should Apple start thinking Google as a competitor in Hardware? Probably not. Apple is still the leader in this space, unless Google hits back hard with the “to-be-born products” lined up as a part of its Motorola acquisition.

Should Facebook consider Google as a competitor in the social media space? That’s a clear “No” atleast for now. Although Larry claims that Google plus is a long term bet (which surely is “yes”) and that the growth momentum is pretty good than expected.

The above comment about Google might make you think that I am an “anti-Google” guy, which of course is not the case.

Google luck to Google for getting “Project Glass” to reality !!!