Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Holiday Season Arrives

The Team at BackChannel, the Directors Nick, Andy and I would like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a peaceful and blessed New Year.

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Mail Security: Market Growth Stalls in 2009

As we prepare for our end of year reporting and analysis season; some early news is that the BackChannel search engines have identified striking new information on the use of hosted security market.

Over the last few years these services delivered by the likes of market leaders Messagelabs, Postini and MXLogic have seen a 20% CAGR. We now measure overall customer numbers as static.

Despite having seen some of the most valuable/expensive buyouts during recent years; hosted security services are at last starting to feel the pinch.

Messagelabs acquired by Symantec 2008 for $695m
Postini acquired by Google 2007 for $625m
Surfcontrol acquired by Websense 2007 for $400m
Scansafe acquired by Cisco 2009 for $183m 
MXLogic acquired by Macafee 2009 for $140m

A lack of uptake by 'new-new'  customers has impacted sector growth. There also appears to have been a fair amount of churn amongst the existing install base, as vendors price aggressively for service contract renewals, in what has been pretty much a zerosum game in 2009.

Actual individual services amongst major organisations have dropped 1.5% to 2% depending on the geography and level of local competition. The good news for service providers and their investors is that this is mostly due to organisations consolidating their email domains, so installed base of user seats is holding steady.

Fortunately for the acquiring companies it's less of a downturn in the market, more of a stall and we predict that these figures will start to rise in the latter half of 2010 as confidence returns and the vendors switch tactics.  This remains no-brainer technology, economic circumstances don't make it any less so.

In the current climate we believe vendors should be looking at mopping up exercises  - pulling in rogue divisions of large customers that have done their own thing. Consolidating is always a good way for a customer to save money, and a supplier to add value.

If you're interested in pricing for the January 2010 Hosted Mail Security Market Report from BackChannel email for more details.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Digital Britan stumbles at first fence

The UK Governments attempts to breath some life into the countries pretty puny broadband infrastructure looks likely to fall at the first fence as new Digital Britain supremo Stephen Timms looks ready to drop the £6 a year tax" on fixed lines. Timid Timms isn't alone in chickening out of backing a project that would extend highspeed broadband down every village, and rurual community in the country, as the conservatives also worry about voter backlash.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Power of the Pipes

The folks at E&Y have delivered a very good report "The Power of the Pipe" which tells the wider world what we in the industry have known for years - i.e. the companies that own the infrastructure are better long term value than networkless AltNet operators. The UK operation of C&W got a lot of pipes when they brought THUS...

Anyway, pop over to Telecom TV and watch Power of the Pipes Video

The report can be ordered via:

In the USA and other countries where the incumbent PTTs have been able to cling to power they will be able to leverage their infrastructure to deliver intelligent value added applications. In the UK pressure from the regulators is likely to handycap BT. This is because after pressure from OFCOM BT Group has spun out ownership of the infrastructure to BT Openreach, BTs services businesses now have to buy dumb pipes at the same price as their AltNet competitors, which might be good for competition but is yet another kick in the teeth for BTs services businesses.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Matt Bross to leave BT - Big Bear heads home

BT's CTO and CEO of Ignite is to leave BT at the end of July to return to the US and follow other interests. Bross is a popular figure around the industry and is one of those rare things these days - a tech' enthusiast, a champion of the 21CN and more importantantly someone at the heart of BT who is known to have wanted to build bridges, both with BTs peers and other 'new technology' companies. Rumour is that Bross has been increasingly unhappy with the lack of investment in innovation since Verwaayen departed, and the accountants have taken over.

That whole scenario reminds me of the last time BT lost a great CTO, Peter Cochrane; an engineer to his soul and evangelical about the coming explosion in communications, left in 2000. Many felt Peter was sidelined by the Valance/King/Bonfield team as they crashed a previously majestic BT into a pile of debt and confusion. The £30bn($50bn) debt mountain resulted in BT having to sell off assets including BT Cellnet (now O2) and the resulting restructures set the scene for the collapse of Global Services in 2008.

Bross' departure is loss to BT not because he was a great business driver, but because of what he represents; BT has a big old hill to climb as it tries to reposition itself from a traditional telecoms company to a provider of converged networked services, it needs people like Bross to stand up the front and shout "We believe!!!" If BT truly believe, their customers will believe as well.

Industries need their cheer leaders and I'm sure Bross, like Cochrane, will continue to entertain and inform us for years to come it's just a shame BT lets these guys go just when they needed them the most.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

CW to spin-out DEMON Internet

In acquiring THUS, CW got it's hands on a mighty NextGEN network, major MPLS infrastructure and associated high value customer-base, datacentres, a sticky product set, skilled engineering team etc. Essential elements in taking on BT & Verizon in the modern enterprise.

As with any house sale they also got some bits they don't want; where as most of us would have put those on eBay or dropped them off at the tip - reports are coming in that CW management have appointed Rothchild to help them clear out the cupboards. Which almost certainly means Broadband ISP Demon Internet is up for sale. Suggestions of a £75-£80m asking are being floated - a nice 'find' as the daytime presenters would say.

But if history is anything to go by I expect CW to find a lot more value than just the sale price. Those of you with half decent memory will remember Bulldog the CW subsidiary voted as 'Britains worst broadband provider'. After Pluthero and the Energisers got hold of it they sold off Bulldogs customers in a deal that ensured the acquiring company had to lease network from CW in order to serve them.

So, I expect more of the same. Double's all round!

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Rackspace Customers in Bristol

We have been improving the mapping in our Market Intelligence product. Here's a screenshot showing a selection of Rackspace customers in the Gloucester area.
In the software you can drill down and see details on both the customer and the services they buy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

CW Wins £207m National Grid Deal

While BT Global Services is finding it increasingly hard to win major corporate business, CW continue to show that if your focus is outbound, nimble and forward looking  there is still plenty of major projects still out there to be had.  

Hot on the heals of several recent major bid wins; CW today announced that they have been awarded a £207m,  15 year deal to run National Grids core telecommunications infrastructure.  As well as taking over operational management of the existing network CW will undertake design & build the National Grids new NGN based system for the control of electricity distribution.

It's not so long ago that CWs mould breaking (mangling, more like) CEO John Pluthero was being lambasted by all comers for radically downsizing and reorganising the UKs oldest telco, and sending it off on a more energetic modernising agenda - but he has been proved right.  Can BT follow suit? given the size of the problem and economic climate it will be more difficult than if they had done it 3-4 years ago when it really needed addressing.

I've visited the sales floors of both companies lately and whilst one has an air of nervous tension where quarterly job appraisals and voluntary redundancy are the main topic of water-cooler conversation, the other is vibrant, directed and full of people with a sense of purpose.   

And yes, I do know CW are still cutting staff.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

BT Global Services to be broken up

BT is restructuring its struggling Global Services business to focus on three separate areas after its "unacceptable performance" led to the group losing more than £1.3bn.

BT Global Services recorded an operating loss of £134m. It lost £1.2bn due to cost overruns on big contracts with the NHS and Reuters and another £100m on other smaller contracts.

read Karl Flinders Original article...


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Further BT Job Cuts 15,000, this year and more in 2010

Things continue to look gloomy for BT. This mornings announcement seems to have been a bigger surprise than had been expected.

BT suffered a 40% slump in pre-tax profit during the fourth quarter, forcing the firm to slash its dividend and announce plans to axe another 15,000 jobs. Fourth quarter pre-tax profit plunged to £429m from £714m a year ago and by 21% for the full year to £2.08bn.

The firm also reminded us that it had cut 15,000 posts in the last 12 months, 5,000 more than they said they would. This morning they joined Banks & Miners amongst the FTSE's largest fallers.

BT's stated aim is to cut the jobs through natural wastage, non replacement and voluntary redundancy and had no plans for compulsory lay-offs. With some suggestion that it'll be even more agency staff going.

Next Generation Communications platforms, Ethernet-based solutions, unified communications applications, and International Private Leased Circuit (IPLC) are key are to BTs ability to compete at home and abroad. BT cannot afford to fall behind the innovation curve

It seems to me that the right thing to do no matter how painful is to follow C&Ws lead - look at the skills they absolutely must have in their company and organise their people accordingly.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Abovenet Customer Distribution

Following on from my earlier post today here is a nice article on fibre rings and whether the OK Government should invest directly in laying fibre. They mention US based Abovenet's success in the greater London Area after it invested in multi-gig' fibre in he late 90's. I thought I would have a quick look at 1,500 random Abovenet customers. See below...

And whilst they do have a good regional spread the investment has certainly paid off.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

THUS Customerbase: Geographic Distribution

THUS Telecom (whose recent acquisition by C&W went almost un-noticed) were famous for having a strong base of customers in Scotland and the North-West. So here is a picture of our GUI showing their customers in London area plotted on a Google Map.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Nokia N97: Upsetting the Apple Cart.

Nokia have apparently upset a few of their carrier partners by shipping a native Skype client on the new N97 mobile computer, well what did they expect? that Nokia's flagship mobile communications platform was going to leave out a key communications component. People are finding a way to get VoIP on iPhone, I use Fring, it's great, I can chat to people in the message window and if I really need to I can speak/crackle at them free; great for me I have a software developer in Brisbane.

Operators cannot turn back the tide, or squeeze the Genie back into the bottle. Nokia are right to offer it because if they don;t they will lose share to someone who will. If service provider doesn;t want to carry the N95, it's a free country... But one of their competitors will, that's a free market...

I switched to iPhone because my old Communicator lacked features the N97 now has. Though Mac compatibility may remain an issue, I don;t know yet.

Commercially the service providers are right to resist, and try to limit the leakage of voice minutes; they have shareholders and jobs to protect. But, in the longer term they must find a model that accommodates all aspects of ubiquitous and free Wireless Internet.

Maybe it's to charge a small fee for providing high quality long-distance backhaul for mobile VoIP users. Now, I'd pay for that.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Rain Cloud Computing

Having spent a long time in the business of information security I always get nervous when people talk about shared services; having seen poorly configured 'shared' firewalls allow one customer to find themselves on the intranet of another, sniffers installed on shared networks, and numerous less legitimate/benign activities.

The problems usually stem from programmatic errors, logic breakdowns, or misinterpretation of specifications by developers; this is likely to be the problem with Cloud computing for the next few years; it almost certainly what caused the problems experienced recently with GoogleApps.

Should this put you off Cloud computing? Probably not 10 years ago we had all the same problems with websites. It takes a while to learn how this new stuff works.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cisco the latest to announce Dis-employments

The reduction in the build out of new networking infrastructure has led the worlds leading provider of telecommunications hardware,Cisco, to sort of announce a round of redundancies. Around 2,000 staff are to be "restructured out of employment" from the global workforce of about 70,000.

A great company, but perhaps as Scott Adams observes, one that could afford to thin the ranks just a little.

Friday, February 06, 2009

An iPhone Accessory that won;t sell anywhere it snows

I was pleased to see another clean tech (or electric) vehicle manufacturer loving the iPhone it's there in the interior shots just like the Chrysler Peapod. The oddly cute Aptera 2e looks like a Cessna with the wings lopped off and is due to ship later this year, .Maybe, if I lived in Silicon valley I might buy one; except of course the roads there are jammed with big cars and giant trucks, and drivers on PCP.

Back in the 80's I got a lift to work in an ancient Morgan 3 wheeler which spent the entire trip going sideways. with the rear wheel hopping from rut to rut at random intervals.Morgan; No iPhone adaptor, No Wimax, Not great in the Snow... but likely to be around longer than the 2e.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Oh good grief: Digital Britain - Digital Donuts

Per the norm; Despite having been one of the most innovative nations in the introduction of Internet, the Worldwide Web, and Digital Media. Britain's politicians and business leaders still cannot get their 1980's brains around the online world.

Lord Carters main hopes seem to be that consumers will behave online, that BT will roll out broadband to their remaining exchanges a bit faster. That the BBC might get together a small team to look into this digital media stuff. No mention of investing in or supporting the British high tech business sector, or ISPs, or the computer games industry which makes more for UK Plc than the Film industry.

Top marks chaps, a few more kids able to download music and housewives able to order groceries... Yep, that'll see us through!

Banking Crisis: May force Governments to invest in Telco infrastructure

I spend a lot of time with Telcos, ISPs and equipment vendors in the UK and EMEA and their is a constant stream of; Headcount cuts, projects put off, scaled back, '08/'09 capex suspended and no clear visibility into this years budgets.

Problem, inability to raise debt to fund infrastructure. Banks won't/can't lend for all the reasons we hear in the press. Confidence in a banks is linked to their stock price & their market capitalisation, they can't value their assets properly and that effects the amount they can lend, blah, blah, blah... and, that impacts on their attitude towards lending money to Telco, which lost it's low-risk utility status many years ago.

I wondered how bad was it for Banking last year? Well take a look at this...
Not a pretty picture, but interesting.

I wonder how European many countries will follow President Obama down the Keynesian route of the US government investing directly in telecommunications infrastructure, the same way they invested in physical infrastructure in the 1930's. we heard today that the Canadian government will start a programme of investment this year. The question is whether the European governments have the guts to ignore EU rules and directly subsidise the telecoms industry in their home countries - I doubt it, but we live in hope.

Monday, January 26, 2009

A quick guide to the 4G

TelecomTV have done this great intro to 4G. Had my eyes reeling from the three letter acronyms (mostly 4, sometimes 5)

I tried to embed it here but for some reason the blogger app' keeps blocking it so just follow the link

Don't worry you have at least 3 yrs before the standards start to roll out, in which to learn all the acronyms.

Monday, January 19, 2009

BackChannel Website down - Victim of Tiscali vs 186k spat

Not quite Russia vs Ukraine - but rather like those poor freezing souls out in Bulgaria, Tiscali's disagreement over payments and legals, has resulted in a load of innocents disappearing off the Network again with zero notice, and yes that includes us at BackChannel.

186k has a long and troubled relation ship with Tiscali and they have issued this public notice saying that they are migrating to a BT based infrastructure. About time!!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Nortel Networks Files For Chapter 11

More bad new as yet another major telco supplier bites the fiscal dust. Infrastructure equipment vendor Nortel Networks has today moved for Chapter 11 Protection.

Nortel Networks, which faces a $107 million bond interest payment this week, filed for Chapter 11 protection in U.S. liquidation Court in Wilmington, Del., dragged down by a sudden drop in demand for its formerly lucrative voice-only telecom network.

In 2000 Nortel was worth an estimated $250bn.

What more can you say, with Alcatel-Lucent in the deep sticky,. Nokia selling off non-core businesses, and as I type this rumours have just that Chinese "Cisco alike" Huawei may be intersted in buying Nortel , whilst Nortel is a nominally a Canadian company I can't see the American Government smiling on that one. Expect Cisco to enter the fray...

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

As Baltimore goes live, Sprint's Head of 4G talks WiMAX Strategy

Today Sprint's new subsidiary Clearwire went live with their first commercial WiMAX service in the US city of Baltimore, MD. As you know we're big fans of WiMAX here at BackChannel, so it is great to see the technology being rolled out in large metropolitan.

Sprint is the telco part of a consortium which includes Intel and Google that is making a total $12bn invest in WiMAX pioneers Clearwire.

In this podcast Sprint's Vice President of 4G / WiMAX Todd Rowley says that they expect the new service to cover most of the US by the end of 2010. It's a bit cheesy, but once you get past that there is some worthwhile news and views on a technology that will really impact the lives of mobile Internet users.

At the end of December Sprint launched the first Dual 3G/4G modem which will allow mobile users to flip to the new 4G services as they move into areas that are covered by the Clearwire Network. Should I wait a while before getting BT to send me that wireless broadband dongle?