People with Passion

November 27, 2012

by Steven Madick, Nexus Senior Director of Applications Engineering

I recently attended a technical conference and got into a rather animated conversation with another attendee regarding the problems she was having with her network.  After a few minutes, she kept trying to position herself so that she could see my name badge.  After she finally succeeded, she said, “Gee.  I’m surprised!  I thought you were a sales person.”

“Why”, I responded, “just because I’m passionate about what I do?”

“I guess so,” she said.  “I haven’t met many Sr. Directors of Engineering that cared so much about helping people.”

I thought that was a big compliment.  But it wasn’t a compliment that was just for me.  It was a compliment for the entire Pre-Sales Engineering team at Nexus.

Many companies believe that their biggest differentiator is their people.  We believe that as well.  But at Nexus, we go one step further.  It’s not just the people, it’s the people married to our best in class processes and procedures, an organizational structure designed to provide the best service to our customers, the latest tools, and lots of on-going training.

The People

We spend a lot of time at Nexus making sure that we find the “right” people.  In Presales Engineering, that’s doubly important.

Presales Engineers need to have a unique blend of technical training and expertise, business savvy, and a passion for ensuring that every solution we design and sell meets the needs of our customers’ businesses for today and tomorrow.  But that’s not all.  One of the unique traits we look for when hiring a Presales Engineer, is their willingness to share information and mentor other members of the Nexus team or customer.  We look for people who take pride in helping others – with technical issues and with business problems.  And, we want our people to be involved and active in their communities as well. We thrive at Nexus as we approach 100 Presales Engineers who all are committed to team!

The Processes

Our processes are designed to ensure that our engineers have the support they need, when they need it.  Whether it is to check a bill of materials against an original design or track a project from design through implementation.  Nexus makes sure that Presales Engineers can solve customer problems with solutions that work, backed by processes that don’t get in the way of getting things done.

The Organization

One of the things we’re proudest of at Nexus is that our Presales Engineers are just that – Presales Engineers.  They have one job, planning and design, and we believe that they do that job very well.  Additionally, each engineer is assigned to specific customers and prospects.  That means they’ll take the time to get to know their customer’s business from top to bottom before suggesting a solution.

The Tools

Whether it is the significant investments in network design software, social media applications, Business Video, untethered access to information or traditional infrastructure, Nexus is hyperfocused on providing our Presales Engineers the tools needed to build great customer solutions.  Our tools enable Nexus Presales Engineers to collaborate with our customers and other members of the Nexus team more effectively and design solutions that help our customers become more efficient – and profitable.

The Training

Training is how we keep our engineers fresh.  We don’t have a “Unified Communications” specialist, or a “Security” specialist.  Instead, we encourage our engineers to attain certifications from any or all of our partners’ technologies.  This helps them meet the Nexus goal of providing solutions, not selling technology to our customers, and ensures that there are a variety of career path options for them as they grow as individuals and members of the Nexus team.

The Presales Engineering team at Nexus is a passionate bunch.  We love to solve problems and collaborate with our customers and other members of the Nexus team, succeed.  But we couldn’t do it without the processes, organization, tools, and training that enable us to connect, collaborate, and create solutions that work.


Shane’s Touchscreen Keeps Him In Touch – With Everyone!

September 22, 2012

For our Director of Managed Services, Shane Roberts, everything he does – at work, or at home – revolves around communication – email, instant messaging (IM), text messaging, and the telephone.  Shane is what many might call a communications “power user”.  He looks at the things that a technology will allow him to do, then figures out how to modify the technology to fit his needs. 

I wanted to understand some of the techniques and tools that Shane uses to stay on top of things – and still get some sleep.  So, I decided to follow him around for a day.  Here’s what I learned.

6:30 a.m.:  Shane arrives at the office.  And while he’s downloading his email on his laptop, he’s scanning today’s news on his iPad.  Shane likes the article he’s found on Cisco’s Nexus switch in the Wall Street Journal, so he shares it with colleagues and customers directly from his iPad.  And, because Shane has “favorites” set up on his iPad email, he’s already responded to important customer or company email last night before he went to bed.  Now, all he has to do is scan through what’s left, and respond only to messages that need his immediate attention.

7:00 a.m.:  Shane checks his iPad calendar for the day and realizes that he’s got a full day ahead.  A customer call, an onsite customer meeting, a company conference call, and the Nexus Open House.

To prepare for the customer call and meeting, Shane takes a quick look at each company’s web site.  What’s been happening?  Have they announced a new product or service?  Has the company won any awards or have the products or services been mentioned in a newspaper or journal?

8:00 a.m.:  Time to check in with the sales teams for the customer call and meeting.  Shane uses his company IP phone to do two short video calls.  Is there anything that he needs to know beforehand?

8:30 a.m.:  Shane’s first customer call.  Shane uses his laptop, IP Phone and Nexus’ Cisco Unified Communication Manager to share his desktop and a short presentation.  I’m intrigued by the Bluetooth headset that Shane is using.   With it, he can connect to, and switch between, his IP phones (Shane has two), laptop, iPhone and iPad with a single click.  It makes me wonder if he’s actually listening to me during our telephone conversations, or if he is switching over to speak with someone else on another device.  Hmmm….

10:00 a.m.:  It’s time to run down the hall for the customer onsite.  Instead of loading up his laptop, IP phone, cell phone, pen, and paper like I do, Shane just grabs his iPad.  He uses Microsoft’s OneNote to take notes in the meeting.  When he gets back to his office, he’ll just sync up his iPad to transfer the notes to his laptop.

Shane needs some files that are only on his laptop during the meeting.  Does he panic?  No way.  He merely invokes the remote desktop app that he has on his iPad and accesses the files.  I discover that Shane’s remote desktop app can access his laptop using our VPN and the Internet as well as the company wireless LAN.

I’d been noticing that Shane’s laptop never seemed to leave his office – yet he was still getting work done on the road and at home.  Now I know how he does it!

11:30 a.m.:  Lunch, but there’s no time to go out.   Why that sneaky Shane!  He has a flat panel TV installed in his office with a Sling Box.  He’s catching up on the last episode of Sons of Anarchy while he gets a quick bite.  Now I know how I can watch some Ryder Cup matches in a couple of weeks!

While Shane is watching – and eating – he’s also doing his expense report.  How?  Using Concur, he merely takes a picture of his receipts with his iPad, then forwards them in a message to Finance.  Cool!

12:00 p.m.:  Time for the company conference call.  It’s a long one.  During the call, one of our important customers calls Shane on his second IP phone.  Shane uses his slick wireless headset to switch over to the customer, answer his question, then return to the conference call.  No one even knew he was gone!

1:30 p.m.:  Open house duty for Shane.  Customers come by the booth and ask for status on their tickets.  Shane whips out his trusty iPad and gives them updates from his Salesforce.com app.  In between, he sends some quick IMs using his iPAD’s Cisco Jabber client.  That’s when I notice something odd.  When I open another app on my iPad from the Jabber client, I get disconnected from our Unified Communications Manager.  Shane doesn’t.  What’s going on here?

Shane’s been up to something again.  He has done a “jailbreak” on his iPad.  His iPad, unlike the standard one, can run multiple apps concurrently.  Shane can switch from video or voice to Salesforce, to OneNote seamlessly.  What a timesaver!  I think Shane might have another iPad to work on very soon – MINE!

6:00 p.m.:  It’s been a long day.  Shane faced some tough questions today, and everyone seemed to want to speak with him at once.  While I was grabbing a beverage, I look around and Shane isn’t around.  Hmmmm…  I head back to his office, and there he is.  Hey!  What’s that on his dual wide screen monitors?  That looks like Need for Speed Hot Pursuit!  It IS! 

Shane’s in his office relaxing from a stressful day.  O.k., but, I’m still wondering how he got the Xbox 360 in here without anyone knowing about it!

6:30 p.m.:  Shane’s out the door – with his iPad. 

So what did I learn during my day with Shane?  That there are lots of ways to use communications and other technologies to help us get things done.  And, that taking a break and having a little fun during the day, only helps to make us happier and more productive.

For Shane, his iPad is the hub that keeps him connected to all of his devices, applications, and most importantly to his customers and colleagues, friends and family.  Shane’s iPad touchscreen definitely keeps him in touch – with everyone!


Time-Out for Wounded Warriors

September 20, 2012

– by Denise Marlborough, Director of Marketing

Nexus Charity Golf NorCal 2012On Thursday, September 13th, Nexus sponsored the Third Annual NorCal Charity Golf Tournament at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, California.  All proceeds from the tourney, more than $10,000, were donated to the Wounded Warrior Project.  The Wounded Warrior Project provides programs and services to severely injured service members during the time between active duty and transition to civilian life.

Although the tournament was held for a serious cause, the more than fifty customers and Nexus employees and business partners (Cisco, EMC, VMware, Ironport, NEC, Intelepeer, Isilon, and Glue Networks) enjoyed a great day, great golf, great people, and great fun.   There were prizes for the winners of the flighted four-person scramble, putting and chipping contests (with plastic practice balls no less!), closest to the pin and longest drive competitions, and lots of cold beverages to keep players happy and refreshed.

Winners included Foursome 1B: Steve Benvenuto, Sean Bhola, Mike McFall, Troy Treto and Foursome 16A: Anthony Gomes, Rhonda Gomes, Bob Christiansen, and Dave Fry. Congratulations, all!

Golf was followed by a Technology Fair and silent auction for sports memorabilia, trips, golf equipment, and other desirable items.  Everyone went home with something – even if it was just the memory of a very special day that helped some very special people.  (To refresh that memory, check out photos from the event at our Facebook page: facebook.com/nexusisinc )

Our sincere thanks go to everyone who helped make the event a success – our employees from the Northern California office, our business partners who sponsored holes and provided prizes, and our customers who gave generously of their time and money.   We hope to see all of you again next year!


Reduced CapEx Isn’t the Only Reason Our Customers Love Nexus Connected Collaboration

September 11, 2012

– by Mike Heiman, VP of Engineering

One of the services that is becoming very popular with our customers is our hosted collaboration service – Nexus Connected Collaboration (NCC).  The service is based on the Cisco collaboration suite and integrates voice, video, web conferencing, messaging, mobility, and customer care.  It also includes our next generation wide area network (WAN) service – Nexus Connected Next Generation WAN.  Nexus Connected Next Generation WAN automates more than 50 network management functions, allowing companies to provision remote teleworkers, branches, and retail offices world-wide.

Nexus Connected CollaborationMany of our existing customers chose NCC as a way to expand their existing premise-based Cisco collaboration solution to new sites without spending precious capital dollars.  However, once they began to use the service, they realized that NCC provides much more than just a way to conserve their capital.  The NCC solution is not new technology – it’s a new consumption model.  It also:

  • Gave their businesses greater flexibility – With NCC, our customers were able to integrate remote staffers and contractors as well as personnel and sites secured through corporate acquisitions quickly and easily.   Instead of weeks or even months of planning, design, and implementation, our customers can add new users in just minutes.
  • Saved money– Using NCC, our customers didn’t have to overprovision existing systems to accommodate growth.  Instead, they pay only for the services they use, when and where they need them.  Additionally, NCC removes the need for additional maintenance contracts and the time-consuming process of software upgrades.  Keeping things running and up-to-date is our job!
  • Enabled IT staff to be more productive – Our customers love the fact that their staff can now concentrate on deploying new technologies that will differentiate them from their competitors, not the mundane tasks of deploying and provisioning basic voice, data, and web services.  Using NCC’s management interface, adding users is a snap – and a task that is easily handled by customer service or administrative personnel.

Finally, our customers like the way that Nexus Connected Next Generation WAN (which uses military-grade encryption and has a full Public Key Infrastructure with automated certificate maintenance) combines with NCC to extend corporate collaboration services to trusted third parties (suppliers, contractors, customers) without supplying them with access to internal systems. 

Both new customers and existing on-premise customers are finding value in the fact that the same Nexus deployment and managed services teams are supporting them regardless of solution model.  NCC is fast becoming one of our most popular service offerings.  It’s easy to deploy, saves money, is secure, and, most importantly, provides our customers with the flexibility they need to grow.


Leveraging Technologies in Poison Control Centers

September 7, 2012

Nexus Connected Healthcare– by Kathleen Gaffney, Healthcare Transformation Specialist, Nexus Connected Healthcare

The poison control system, an established network covering the United States, is in place to reduce poison-related morbidity, mortality, and hospital admissions.  Poison Control Centers (PCC) receive calls from the public and healthcare facilities for toxicological consultation after a suspected poisoning or overdose has occurred. The PCCs are staffed by pharmacists, physicians, medical toxicology specialists and nurses with specialized clinical toxicology training and operate 24 hours a day, every day of the year.  For every dollar spent on poison control, at least $7 is saved in public health care costs due to instant intervention and effective use of resources, often by preventing unnecessary and costly visits to the emergency room.   PCCs are state and federally funded but funds have been cut significantly making it more important that the PCCs operate as efficiently and productively as possible. 

PCCs currently perform most of their duties through the use of telemedicine – which in the majority of cases means a telephone.  Typically, PCCs provide the following services:

  • Poisoning triage and treatment to the public
  • Poisoning triage, consultations and medical recommendations to ED physicians and emergency medical transport personnel
  • Toxicological consultation after and medical recommendations to rural healthcare facilities and medically underserved regions
  • Toxicological services to non-healthcare organizations such as correctional institutions, cruise ships, etc.
  • Input and advice regarding hazardous materials toxicity and management to the state’s emergency management agencies
  • Analyzes calls in real-time for trends and events that might be of public health significance (e.g. food poisoning, terrorism, product recalls)
  • Public health services during disasters (with adaptation to workflows)
  • Perform patient “follow‐ups” and/or home management of poisoning services
  • Consultation services to patients (e.g. counseling and information for drug and other exposures during pregnancy and lactation)
  • Training site for pharmacy students, nurses, EMS/paramedic students, and physicians and residents in emergency medicine, pediatrics, family practice and other specialties
  • Increase public awareness, education and prevention services to the public of common toxic substances, specifically as they relate to young children
  • Poisoning triage, treatment, education, and prevention services for animals

In the near future, PCCs will provide many of these services via technology.  Easy to implement and cost-effective use of technology will include connecting with the public through text messaging, Twitter and Facebook or publishing Podcasts on YouTube to share health content with the general public.  Clinical toxicologists’ collaboration with physicians and emergency medical personnel will take place via desktop sharing and web conferencing.  The use of emerging telemedicine technologies that leverage audio and videoconferencing within poison centers will enhance the ability of the clinical toxicologists to deliver services to their patients.  For example, PCCs may use a telemedicine kiosk or cart that supports visual clinical toxicologists/patient encounters through the use of telepresence, remote-controlled point-of-care camera, FDA approved medical devices and an EMR.   Many organizations currently utilizing telemedicine are considering a model that is internet based.  This would allow PCCs to work with doctors and patients from any location utilizing any computer or similar device. 

All of these technologies will help PCCs achieve the primary goal of improving access to care while lowering the overall cost of care.


What will drive “the cloud”? OpenStack!

September 4, 2012

– by Mike Heiman, VP of Engineering

Like most of you, I’ve been reading a lot about OpenStack lately.  For an initiative that is just over two years old, it has gained considerable momentum and industry support.  OpenStack membership has grown from founders NASA and Rackspace to include AT&T, Canonical, Cisco Systems, Cloudscaling, Dell, HP, IBM, MorphLabs, Nebula, NetApp, Red Hat, and SUSE.  It’s expected that in October, VMware, Intel and NEC will be added, making OpenStack a very powerful rival to competitive implementations touted by Amazon (Web Services) and Citrix (CloudStack).

However, most of my reading just left me wondering.  Why are all of these companies so eager to be part of the OpenStack foundation?  What will OpenStack mean to the companies that provide cloud services (both public and private) and to the companies that will use them?  In other words, why should we care about OpenStack?  Our engineering staff here at Nexus was happy to fill me in.  Here’s what they told me.

  • OpenStack is a framework for managing virtualized computing, storage, and networking resources in a multi-vendor environment – an essential capability for delivering cost-effective, high-availability, cloud-based applications and services.
  • OpenStack is not a virtualization engine like VMware or Citrix, it’s the glue that ties everything together.
  • Vendors like those listed above will package the OpenStack components.  (Compute for managing large networks of virtual machines; Storage includes object and block storage for use with servers and applications; Networking that provides pluggable, scalable API-drive network and IP management; Dashboard which gives administrators and users a graphical interface to access, provision and automated cloud-based resources; and Shared Services that include Identity and Image Services that span the Compute, Storage and Networking components.)  They’ll add their own “secret sauce” to the common stacks, making it easier and more cost-effective for them to provide cloud-based services.  (End user companies probably won’t utilize raw OpenStack components.)
  • OpenStack will allow companies who provide cloud-based services (public or private) to operate and manage very large, multi-vendor, virtualized environments – cost-effectively.  They can choose “best of breed” components from a variety of vendors, yet manage them as a single, consistent “whole”.  Something that is very hard, if not impossible to do today without the common APIs that are included in OpenStack.
  • Companies that are using or plan to use cloud-based services will be able to choose from a variety of services that can accommodate the mobile worker, are more cost-effective than traditional premise-based server implementations, and deliver the speed, flexibility, and accessibility they need to compete.

After listening to our staff, it was clear to me that all of the buzz about OpenStack was warranted.  That’s why Nexus is listed a participating company in OpenStack, and our engineers and architects are contributing code to the project itself.  We firmly believe that open standards and platforms like Linux and Apache fueled the explosion of the internet of today. In our opinion, OpenStack is becoming the open platform that the next generation of Cloud Computing will be built on, driving the industries growth and our growth with it.


Mitigating the Risk of Compressed Timelines

August 28, 2012

– by Dale Hardy, VP of Professional Services

Driving home from a customer meeting this afternoon, it occurred to me that more and more, it seems that nearly every project we do for our customers has a very short timeline or compressed schedule.  Once a company decides to move forward and implement a technology that will help them expand market share, reduce costs, or improve the productivity of their personnel, they want to reap those benefits right away.

When implementing technologies for our customers that touch nearly every area within their business like Unified Communications, data center automation, storage networking, or security, we think it’s important for our customers to understand the potential risks of a compressed implementation schedule (that go along with the rewards).  Short timelines often rely on everything going “just right,” and as we all know, there is a very good chance that something can likely go wrong.

Project success is much more predictable along with risk avoidance when there is sufficient allowance in the schedule for discovery, planning and testing. When time is short, we collaborate with our customers to assess the potential risks inherent with compressed timelines.  Then, we to put together a joint action plan that balances the business’ needs against the risks we’ve identified.  For some customers, that might mean that we meet the target dates for critical locations, departments, or applications while slightly delaying deployments to non-mission critical areas.  For others, it might mean deploying the solution to all locations, but limiting non-essential system functionality to ensure system stability.  In any case, we believe that the most important thing we can do for our customers is to meet their implementation schedule needs without disrupting their business. 

We think our honest approach is the best one for our customers and their businesses, and they do too.  We recently received letters from three customers who thanked us for “doing the impossible” – meeting implementation schedules that even they believed couldn’t be met.  In reality, nothing can displace thorough project discovery and planning; however, our team was committed to  exceed our customers’ expectations while mitigating the risk inherent within compressed timelines.


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