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What I Learned At Interop

Network Computing has had a long and fruitful relationship with Syracuse University. Dave Molta, who was at various times my professor, colleague and boss, brought Network Computing to the university about 15 years ago. We still have close ties. I teach a graduate course in network security, and we provide opportunities to graduate students to come to Interop and immerse themselves in the state of our industry. This year, Harshit Kapoor, a grad student in the Telecommunications and Network Management program, attended Interop and wrote a summary of the show, provided below. Looks like Harshit had a pretty busy day.

Red Hat CEO and President Jim Whitehurst gave the opening keynote. He discussed the role of cloud computing and how it would affect IT in the coming years. He said cloud computing was different from the formal IT business model and built totally for customers, whether inside or outside the business. He was followed by Ben Gibson from Cisco's Virtualization & Data Center unit. Gibson discussed the need for IT companies to cooperate and create a marketplace of integrated cloud products. Finally, Dirk I. Gates, CEO of WLAN vendor Xirrus, discussed the advantages of WLAN. He noted that wireless technology faced a lot of challenges before becoming broadly adopted in the enterprise. Gates said that these days, wireless is poised to replace wired networks. He claimed that WLANs are more secure than wired networks and offer 99.999 percent reliability.

Then, Howard Marks, founder and chief scientist of deepstorage.net spoke on "Converged and Virtual I/O: Networking the 21st Century Data Center." He discussed how IT has used virtualization to reduce the  number of servers in the data center, but the proliferation of separate storage, data, management and VMotion networks can make the data center more complex. He noted that while 10GbE could provide the bandwidth, it wouldn't solve all problems because spanning tree enables only one path and limits the core to two switches. To solve this, he suggested using Layer 2 multi-path for more paths and a mesh structure for more devices to utilize.

In another session on social networking and security concerns, Ben Rothke said to "Blame the players, not the game," because social network security problems are more of a human issue than a technology issue. He said security awareness was the most important thing. He noted that EU countries have taken information security seriously for a long time and that security training programs are an effective way to improve end-user awareness. He also stressed that organization have to adopt policies and strategies on the use of social networks.

Barb Goldworm, President & Chief Analyst at FOCUS, presented a primer on the various terminologies and technologies in virtualization. Goldworm pointed out that normal server utilization is only 8 percent whereas virtualized server utilization is 80 percent. The primary driver for virtualization is shifting from server virtualization to Disaster Recovery. Because virtualization abstracts away from hardware, enterprises can achieve a number of economic benefits from server and desktop consolidation. Goldworm discussed different types of virtualization such as network virtualization (VLANs, VSANs, virtual NICs, and virtual WWNs), storage virtualization (host, network device) and system and software virtualization (server, desktop and application virtualization). Virtualization also allows automated policy-based management.

A wireless and mobility panel further discussed key issues in the market. Panelists included Michael Brandenburg, Technical Editor, TechTarget; Craig Mathias, Principal, Farpoint Group; and Alex Wolfe, Editor in Chief, InformationWeek.com. The panel focused on five issues: poor governance, which leads to a lack of decision making and poor communication; lack of mobility strategies, which lead to insufficient usage and support policies; security issues such as device theft and loss of information; information leakage via Wi-Fi eavesdropping and failure to purge data and poor device management systems, in which organizations lack a single or universal management system for heterogeneous collections of phones and platforms.

The panel recommended that users need to understand the capabilities and features of mobile devices. They also recommended a common platform that supports 'write once, deploy anywhere' capabilities. Finally, they encouraged IT to develop security policies, information policies and user policies to tackle issues in the wireless and mobile domains.

Jim Metzler, Vice President, Ashton Metzler & Associates, described the goals and characteristics of cloud computing as well as the challenges created by cloud computing. He outlined key characteristics of cloud computing, including the centralization of IT resources and virtualization of IT resources, as well as the simplification and automation of IT services.  He was of the opinion that a cloud network has to support the goals of cloud computing, such as improved agility and lower costs. He also discussed challenges in cloud networking, such as WAN performance and cost. He noted that cost, scalability and virtualization management are also challenges within the data center.

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