Friday, July 06, 2007

Corporate Espionage

I've gotten suspected of corporate espionage more than a few times. Today was another example, when a rep from Occam Networks got suspicious. Previously, two different VoIP Session Border Controller (SBC) vendors on the same day suspected me, even though my company is on the partner page for one of them.

Somehow the questions I ask equipment vendors must trigger some sense of self-defense. I imagine Why is he asking these things? Is he trying to scope out our product for some competitor? I'll bet he's working for that startup who did the press release last week...

In reality, I do ask very detailed, specific questions. I ask about exact capabilities, about recommended configurations, and sometimes about features they don't have yet, but know they want to have them.

My company is intentionally independent of vendors; we are a firm of professional consulting engineers for telecommunications and other computing systems. We're not here to shill for equipment -- we're here to make systems that actually work. I don't get paid if my customers buy some equipment -- I really only get paid if their system works.

If I'm designing or building a service for somebody, I have to know about its actual capabilities: what it really can do, and what its limits are.

Normal folks who work in IT shops, unfortunately, aren't quite so picky. And so they can end up buying equipment before they know precisely how it will be configured, and whether it has the features they'll need. It's my job, when they hire me, to avoid this fate.

I don't like being suspected of spying. Today, I asked the guy, "are you sharing anything that's confidental, that needs to be protected?" He said he wasn't, and made a RTFM-jab claiming that the information he shared was already on the data sheets available on the web site. It's not, Occam. Your data sheets are full of buzzwords and promises -- not detailed capabilities and limitations.

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