I went to the Interop 2010 conference in New York City, for the day, on Wednesday, October 20th.
I’m not Interop material. I’m not someone running a data center or a network, nor am I someone paying the bills for one. I’ve mostly not been on the computer operations side of the fence. Still, I like to keep up. I like to have educated opinions on technology. It’s fun to see what this world is up to. I also hope, one day, to make business decisions about these things.
I went to the keynote presentation, with speakers James Whitehurst, President and CEO, Red Hat, Ben Gibson, Vice President Data Center/Virtualization, Cisco, Dirk Gates, Chief Executive Officer and Founder, Xirrus.
Aside from getting what the presenters are trying to tell me, I like to see what the presentations tell me about the industry, the subtext, the background. So I noticed that the speakers were very polished. They looked at the audience, they moved around the stage, they owned the space; they were in control of their shiny pretty presentations. They were sincere, compelling and enthusiastic. The slides were colorful, with attractive graphics and the right amount of text for a presentation. I’m not slamming the presenters, not at all. It’s just interesting to note that what I call “big tech” and Silicon Valley in general is very media savvy. The presenters move and talk like actors, like performers. And the place is beautiful.
Then I looked for the passion, what you might call the hype, the evangelism, the “next big thing”. Tech has always had a messianic flavor to it. It’s always been about…..wandering around in the wilderness, lost in the darkness, ignorant, and, then magically, because of a new thing, coming into the light. It’s about being saved. And this evangelism isn’t about glamorous stuff. I remember the zeal about structured programming and relational databases, which is about a non glamorous as you can get!
The hype in the keynotes was a little more subdued this year, probably due to the economy. Still, there were the obligatory “laws” referenced, such as Moore’s law, generally used to reference how fast computing power is growing (definition: the number of transistors that can be placed on a circuit doubles every two years – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moore%27s_law)
My favorite “law” was from Dirk Gates, Amara’s Law – “We tend to overestimate the effect a technology has in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” Interesting.
The new tropes, cloud computing and virtualization, were referenced. Here’s a definition of cloud computing from Wikipedia – “Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices on demand, like the electricity grid” – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing/. There is still a fight over the definition over at Wikipedia, but it basically means that the computer hardware and software that you need to do stuff is somewhere else, rather than being under your desk or in the computer room downstairs. You access it when you need it, on the cloud. If you store some files on a Microsoft Skydrive (http://explore.live.com/windows-live-skydrive-access-anywhere), you are accessing the cloud.
Virtualization is more fun. From Wikipedia, “Virtualization is the creation of a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, such as an operating system, a server, a storage device or network resources.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtualization. What this means is that a program runs on a machine that pretends to be another machine, it’s “virtual”. There are technical reasons why you do this, but it’s still fun to think about – interesting that something so important could be all pretend!
Dirk Gates’ presentation was a bit more technical, though still accessible. He spoke about developing an enterprise class wireless network, not the usual mix of wired and wireless components. This is like the wireless network you might have in your home, but bigger, more robust, “on steroids”, as I would say. My favorite comment from him – “it’s not your father’s access points!” I felt old – my father doesn’t know about access points! Dirk also had a demo, which was pretty swell.
I went to a couple of the free talks, which were good, though they tended to be on the salesy side. My favorite salesy talk was the presentation on Microsoft’s CRM, customer relationship management system, something you use to manage sales and customer support. It makes sense that it was my favorite, as the product is geared to business functions rather than operations.
I went to one talk that was part of the paid content (came free with my ticket) – Key Issues in Wireless and Mobile, with Paul DeBeasi, Research Vice President, Gartner, Alex Wolfe, Editor In Chief, InformationWeek.com, Michael Brandenburg, Technical Editor, TechTarget, Inc, and Craig Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group. The presenters addressed issues such as device management, security, wireless 4G (super fast), the threat and promise of mobile applications….all kinds of issues.
Per the panel, there is a gradual migration away from the ubiquitous Blackberry phone to a multitude of phones, such as the iPhone and Android phones. Instead of being satisfied with the traditional “my way or the highway” approaches of wireless operations, employees want what they want. If the company won’t buy it, no small number of them will bring it in themselves. They bring in their own phones, or they want the company to buy them what they want. They want to put fun apps on their phones, such as the ubiquitous Angry Birds, which I talked about it on a previous blog entry.
From my perspective, mobile devices are becoming a person’s “everything”, a thing for work communication, personal communication, work pastimes and fun pastimes, including games, videos and music. It makes sense that fun would be included, when what you use for work blends into the rest of your life. And people are more resistant to have the company’s wireless department tell them what to do. I recognize the significant issues with managing a wireless network, but I thought there was an interesting subtext among some of the presenters and the audience, on wanting it like the old days, when people did what IT told them to do. One member of the audience asked, rather plaintively, if he could convince people at his company to use the new Microsoft OS smartphone, rather than an iPhone, as it has a touch screen, like the iPhone. The argument is that Microsoft OS devices provide more tools for wireless management. The panel was not optimistic that he could do this.
As always, the expo area was gorgeous. The booths were colorful, eye catching, futuristic. When people want to sell you expensive products in tech land, this sort of thing happens. I enjoyed walking around.
I’ll conclude with saying that I scored the best swag! At the ScriptLogic booth (http://www.scriptlogic.com/) I got a token for a tee shirt, a monkey, and I won a drawing for an American Express Gift Card!