It’s Wednesday, and I’m in my usual seat (house right, two-thirds of the way back, on the outside aisle) getting ready for morning keynote speeches. I’ll have a post about last night a bit later on (great dinner, great conversation), but for now I’ll concentrate on the keynotes.
There are three presentations scheduled for this morning: John McAdam, President and Chief Executive Officer, F5 Networks; Stefan Öberg, GM and VP, Skype for Business; and a panel on “Reinventing the Data Center” moderated by Art Wittmann, Managing Director, InformationWeek Analytics; and featuring Paul McNab, Vice President, Enterprise & Mid Market Solutions Marketing, Cisco; Dave Stevens, Chief Technology Officer, Brocade Communications Systems, Inc.; David Yen, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Data Center Business Group, Juniper Networks; and Dr. Mark Stuart Day, Chief Scientist, Riverbed Technology.
Lenny Heymann gets things moving again with comments about the conference and expo so far, with special remarks about the number of folks who are blogging and twittering the sessions and events around Interop. I’ve been amazed by the number of folks I’ve seen madly typing away on netbooks of various types, so this is likely to be the most completely-covered Interop ever.
John McAdam is the first speaker, and he’s going to talk about the idea that change inspires innovation, and that it particularly inspires innovation in IT. He begins by going back and looking at the changes around the dotcom boom and bust, Y2K, 9/11, and now the economic troubles. Consolidation is a huge trend now, as is centralization. McAdam also is talking about globalization and the fact that the problems (and innovations) we’re seeing today aren’t limited to any single company or nation.
John McAdam, President and CEO of F5, discusses innovation and change in IT
We’re now seeing a film featuring Facebook as an example of rapid change and rapid innovation in IT. The idea that innovation is part of the core business competency of the organization is starting to be a theme of the presentation — a critical concept since, as we hear, it’s impossible to competely predict where and how change will be driven in the future. IT agility is, McAdams says, the “ace” in the deck for IT managers
UPDATE: 8:56 AM
John has been talking about the cost and scale of change, and is now talking about the dimensions of variance in change. First is user interaction, and all the various ways in which the users can reach the application. Next comes secure access, and the necessity of securing transactions no matter how or where the transactions are begun or completed. The third variance is applications, and the requirements to add, upgrade, and expand the applications operating within an environment. The final variance is data and the ways of coping with growing capacity, new file types, and the requirements of compliance (and compliance verification). In all, it’s a compelling call to recognize that change is huge, and that a unified application and data delivery architecture can be an important tool in dealing with the many dimensions of variance in change and innovation.
UPDATE 9:17 AM
We’re into the panel discussion, now, with Lenny and Art acting as co-moderators. First question is on hardware — what are the essentials to be purchased if a company is starting from scratch, and there’s general agreement that smaller organizations may be able to hold off on servers, but must dive into a solid network infrastructure from day one. This leads into a question of which component to choose for each purpose, and a discussion of standardization and how the process has changed. One of the things we hear from several participants is that standardization is becoming less of a battle for superiority on the part of any single company, and more a collaborative process aimed at finding a reasonable standard.
The battle between product differentiation and standardization, with the former happening early and the latter much later in the life of a technology. It’s interesting to hear the network referred to as the “lossless fabric” of the enterprise. That certainly assumes a level of reliability and certainty that goes beyond mere “five-nines” measurements.
When is technology ready for deployment? Who owns the change? These are questions asked, and the variety of answers is huge. The convergence of concerns between storage and networking teams is seen broadly as a driver for change, and a necessary change for the IT organization.
UPDATE: 10:56 AM
Sorry for the delay — technical difficulties (my battery ran down and the wireless networking was…interesting).
The panel kept going with a statement that I like: “Servers and storage are the stars of the data center, but the network is the foundation.” I may have to use that again, sometime…
There was a lot of discussion about Fiber-channel over Ethernet. This speaks, I think, to the importance of storage in the IT picture, and the critical role of the network in reaching that storage.
The final question to the panel was, “If you had one project to implement this year, based on ROI which project would you choose to move forward?” The responses, in order, were:
- Consolidation (because the power draw savings alone can make the project economically worthwhile)
- Consolidation (because the ROI is begins immediately)
- Consolidation (particularly because you want to pull as much infrastructure as possible out of the branches)
The last great quote from the panel — “Centralize where you can, and distribute where you must.”
Stefan Öberg is the final speaker, and he opens by saying that when he joined Skype in 2005 he didn’t imagine that he would be speaking to a business audience at Interop. He moved on to say that the economy is driving “the consumerization of IT.” Why? Because, he says, the infrastructure is already in place (since most companies already provide laptops with cameras and microphones built-in or attached), and the primary connectivity channel is nearly ubiquitous.
The push to Skype is being driven by the employees, rather than the managers, because the employees are already comfortable using Skype due to their personal use patterns. Employees are becoming used to having choices in platforms and applications — he gives Cisco and Astra-Zeneca as corporate examples.
Stefan says that more and more businesses are trusting the web and a cloud with business information and applications, and that 35% of Skype customers say they’re using Skype for business. Why? Because Skype helps them save money and time, and keep moving ahead in the features and functionality battle.
Stefan points to recent developments as evidence of Skype’s commitment to business users: Skype has released Skype for SIP and Skype for Asterisk applications, and is actively pursuing cooperation and partnerships with PBX vendors and large enterprise customers.
He says that saving money is just the first reason for Skype’s business adoption. Stefan talks about the video capabilities and gives an example from their own development shops: he tells us that in the development facilities in Talinn, Estonia and Prague, the Czech Republic, they have set up constant video stations near the water coolers to facilitate a new form of water cooler conversation among very widely distributed employees. Stefan says that 20% of Skype’s business customers report that they’re using video for business purposes.
He wraps with talk about Skype for mobile phones, saying that the upcoming release of Skype for Blackberry will mean that a Skype client is available for 90% of all smart phones. Stefan then talks about third-party integration, and business needs for integration, security, and support. He says that there is a rapidly growing array of third-party integration tools for Skype, and that Skype is working with customers and vendors to enhance Skype’s security. He also says that Skype is working to get a sales and support channel off the ground so customers can call a local reseller to inquire about problems or get help with installations.