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August 29, 2013

Brandofino Offers Insight into Latest Tech for ITEXPO

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Technology continues to be an important part of our lives. As consumers, we help shape trends based upon what we will use, what we want and the speed in which we become dissatisfied with the latest innovation. Technology companies try to stay ahead of these trends by giving us the products and services we want and those we are willing to support with our hard-earned dollars.

Looking at current innovations and ahead to those just over the horizon, there is much activity taking place that offers significant promise for the market. To get the inside scoop from industry experts in light of this week’s ITEXPO event taking place in Las Vegas, TMCnet decided to seek out the expertise of one, Mike Brandofino, executive vice president of video and unified communications for AVI-SPL (News - Alert).

Much of the technology craze has focused on the possibility of wearable technology. In a sense, consumers have been wearing technology since the invention of the pocket watch. But never in history have we had access to so many mobile options that can do so much more than we could envision even 10 years ago. 

Image via Shutterstock

Brandofino offers his insight, “Interestingly where we see wearable technology popping up is in relation to the rising cost of healthcare. Companies are leveraging devices like Nike’s fuel band and JawBone Up. These devices combined what we call gamification help with companies’ efforts to get their workforce healthier to lower medical costs. By making it a competition between groups to see who can take the most steps in a day or spend the most number of minutes exercising, they are helping employees get in shape and putting them into a cost bracket with medical insurance.”

For service providers seeking a sustainable place in the market, the “build it and they will come” mentality is no longer feasible, according to Brandofino. Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is changing the service provider landscape as it offers the ability to spin up a new virtual router in just minutes, without the CAPEX spend or physical installation. A similar thing is happening in the software space as hardware vendors are faced with the challenge by SaaS (News - Alert) and other cloud-based solutions that threaten their share of the market.

According to Brandofino, however, the challenge may not be as threatening as we believe. “I would caution that just because software versions of technology are available, abandoning purpose built appliances may not always be the best decision. The cost of purchasing, installing and maintaining a high availability Virtual Server environment is not trivial. In addition, we have seen that the processing power required by some technologies lends itself to purpose built appliances. So I would say that I am happy about the trend and cautiously optimistic that we will be able to leverage the scale and flexibility that software-based solutions provide across a good percentage of applications.”

In addition to the shift in the way we use information, there are also new opportunities in communications. The emergence of WebRTC has created a variety of new communications vendors seeking to change the way we stay connected. Brandofino believes WebRTC is another evolution and tool we will leverage to advance to the next level. It will have an impact on the market, while also supporting new applications. In all, he doesn’t believe it will upset the demand for business grade video in the near future. As a key user, he does have a vested interest in this direction.

“The majority of my team is spread around the world. I could not operate and manage without video communications,” said Brandofino. “I actually do more video calls per week than I do audio calls - from our weekly executive committee meetings to sales pipeline meetings and even board meetings. We have seen video go from a ‘nice to have’ to a critical communication tool and the only way we can efficiently manage our offices worldwide.”

This level of communications is an asset in the corporate environment, but can it also be a risk when the government wants to listen in? The recent monitoring revelations surrounding the NSA have had a number of individuals and corporate leaders on edge, fearful of whether or not their corporate secrets were actually secret. The telecom industry as a whole has dealt with this reality for years, although it may not be as game changing as social media.

The opportunity to stay instantly connected on a number of different platforms is no longer new, but companies are still evaluating the best way to leverage these channels for their benefit. While AVI-SPL relies on social media to communicate with customers, manufacturers and industry press and analysts, the main goal is the two-way conversation. It is also an effective tool for recruiting new talent and to interact with current employees.

“Social Media seems to have given everyone an expectation of immediate information whenever they want it,” said Brandofino.  “This does create a challenge when customers are looking for similar capability in a service model. The processes and infrastructure is really built on a ‘first in first out’ basis with a consistent flow and escalation process. We are constantly looking for ways to create easier and more diverse ways to support our customers. An example of this is our use e-sign, which eliminates the need to have a PO sent to a customer prior for work to be done. Our field engineers have an electronic version that can be e-signed by the customer eliminating delays in getting work done.”

Mobility plays a key part in this evolution as well. Consumers and professionals everywhere stay more connected on the go, while maintaining access to key applications and even the corporate network regardless of location. To support this movement, a number of companies have adopted a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategy to provide support through lower costs, but also enabling the flexibility users want.

Said Brandofino, “BYOD is one of the best examples of the consumerization of IT. The IT organization can no longer just say no to connecting devices to their corporate environment. This drives challenges with integrating them into collaborative meetings, security and managing all these disparate devices. This has required us to bring a different level of expertise into our organization to design solutions capable of supporting this new technology requirement. We have also invested in designing solutions that help our customers scale by leveraging our cloud services so adding new devices becomes easier.”

Whether BYOD is a focus for the enterprise or not, a number of devices play an important role in productivity for key leaders like Brandofino. He uses his iPhone (News - Alert) to stay connected and check work e-mail, while the laptop is still his primary application tool for analyzing spreadsheets and creating documents and presentations. As to whether or not the battle will continue to rage between Apple (News - Alert) and Samsung, Brandofino believes there are still strong players in the mix that will contribute to the overall outcome. The ultimate winner may not be Apple or Samsung.

As for the impact of the cloud, Brandofino finds it funny that we seemed to have just discovered the cloud when he has seen the technology evolve over the years, simply taking on different names. “While the current cloud services are more flexible and varied, the basic reason for leveraging it remains the same and that is customers no longer want to spend the CAPEX dollars or maintain a staff to support the varied applications they need to run their businesses,” he shared. “This drive to OPEX (News - Alert) solutions is the reason we invested in develop our own cloud based video and digital media solutions. We see customers looking to us to have the expertise and solutions that they can simply plug into and scale as needed.”

As for the recent tech innovation promising to have the greatest impact, Brandofino turns to Carbon Nanotube Fibers, because this technology can impact everything from batteries and circuit technology to construction techniques. As for what he hopes to accomplish at ITEXPO, Brandofino hopes to learn how companies are handling the transitioned to integrated solutions and what technologies can help facilitate it.

Edited by Alisen Downey
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