Net & Comm 2004
Wave Issue 0354 03/11/04
February 4 - 6
Organized by Nikkei Business Publications, Inc. at the Nippon Convention center, Net & Comm 2004 is one of the biggest networking events in Japan. Now the highlights and the key presentations:
Linux surges in Japan:
There are two parts to the Linux story: enterprise and embedded. Here at NET&COM the use of Linux as embedded OS has risen significantly. It was estimated that its use in network appliances could be as high as 30%. Even more surprising is Linux in servers. The estimate we got from a Linux business group is:
UNIX – 60%
Which would put Linux rivaling Windows as a server OS. When asked why the response we got was:
Here in Japan there is NTT – like the old AT&T. But on the local level there is NTT East and West – the separated companies. Yet, NTT has many forms which may be either loosely or tightly coupled to the mother ship:
For example, NTT PC Communications is a long haul carrier but it can also sell directly to SOHOs, their target market. They have an InfoSphere product which runs on FTTH service, that is provided by NTT East and West called FLET’s. Thus, a consumer can deal directly with NTT PC Communications or with NTT West to get service. NTTPC Communications is also offering VoIP.
NTT Data already has a home security system and their research is on “Context Awareness Middleware.” The thought began – how can this be integrated with the care of the increasingly elderly population in Japan? Sony Aibo is used as an example of a robot in the home but the implementation would require much more. The scenario given to us, and shown in a top level demo, was the following.
In a home with one elderly person there would be at least one robot helper.
If there is a fire in the home the robot would go for help in the home and assist the elderly occupant.
The software would manage the context and actions of the robot and sensors in the home. Further, the software would also notify other family members not in the home.
When an inquiry is made on the elderly occupant that person could touch the robot in one of two spots. Blue for safe or Red for in trouble.
If for example, the individual fell a patrol robot would assist the network robot. One robot could assess the situation and call for help while the other stayed by.
The robot could take pictures and these could be transmitted on the network or sent to a Mobil phone (shown in the booth.)
PC and Security in Japan:
The show floor was at least 60% network security. At Networker’s last year, Cisco Fellow Fred Baker spoke of the tragedy of the commons and how this is applied to the Internet.
The tragedy of the commons is that everyone uses it, nobody owns it, and nobody is responsible to maintain it. The result is that any problem is someone else’s problem.
Yet, today we have “insurgents” on the Internet that are destroying its openness. No one is safe without a firewall. We all must have virus protection on every machine. Everyone needs a razor wire fence around their “PC homes.”
Japan has led in the world in VoIP deployment. However, this is with Yahoo BB voice and a part of their broadband offering. Calls are free between Yahoo BB users and the long distance service is less expensive.
Oki was promoting enterprise server that combined phone support with enterprise server functionality and Hitachi was presenting its’ SIP: Office phone system. The big draw was that it uses SIP. They were also showing the WIP-5000, a wireless IP phone that works over WLAN. When I asked does it do handoffs between APs the answer was no – something left to a future product. QoS is to be 802.11e compatible – when that is ready.
NTT PC Communications has a VoIP offering which is a box that costs 20,000 Yen. A phone then connects to this box. However, there is no portability to the box, such as what Vonage has. Software in the CO is required to make the NTT PC Communications service work.
FTTH – The Users are missing:
In one of the NTT booths I sought more information about broadband FTTH services. Japan is seen as a leader here. Yet, the subscriber numbers are low. Here are some data points:
There are only 894,000 B FLETs subscribers compared to 10.3m ADSL users. Apparently there are only 300,000 consumers using B FLETs.
The ISPs are struggling to find a use for B FLETs, whose rate can approach 100Mb/s. Two major differences with ADSL are that the upstream bandwidth is symmetrical and that a fixed IP address is assigned. This has value for the business user but questionable for the home user.
Some of the attempts to get more users include:
IBM Showcases Grid Computing:
IBM was showing a conceptual demo of the value of Grid computing. This example had a doctor in need of records across many hospitals. We probed – is this just a directory issue? In response IBM cited:
There is an Open Grid Service Architecture which makes for the sharing of both computational and data resources easier.
Standards efforts are being managed by the Global Grid Forum. This is relatively new and the industry including Intel, HP and Dell are behind this.
We subsequently found that HP has made statements that it will put Grid capabilities in its consumer products including PCs, PDAs and printers.
Polypix Shows Software to Make WinCE PDA into a WLAN Phone:
Polypix a Korean company has developed the WiFi Phone software that makes a PDA a WLAN phone. It supports SIP and H.323. This product is focused on the ISP and telephone operator market. Originally a sale was made to NTT ME but this collapsed when the service was not implemented. Now Samsung is to make a device which will be used by KT on their network and the hot spot service called NESPOT.
Japan is its own case: being developed, with an economy in the dumps and a culture that directly impacts life and the work environment. However, one just cannot use the ADSL attach rates or existence of FTTH as signs of a rosy broadband future.
The move to Linux was best put in one booth conversation bluntly – the state of the economy. A major factor behind Linux adoption is that it is “free.” Yet, such a movement can only happen when the IT staffs are experienced in Linux. Thus, as the expertise base increases there is more confidence in going with Linux. As one individual stated – the Linux movement is just gaining momentum here and it will be a major force in 2 – 3 years.
The combination of an event which has had a strong security focus and the concerns about IT security hit us in the face. There is a message here. While Japan prides itself with its homogenous society, predictability and safety, the Internet had the same expectations.