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I did not register soon enough to get into the MGM Grand itself, so I am staying at a Hiltonat the other end of the Las Vegas strip, but am able to hop on the "Monorail" to get to the MGM,just in time for the breakfast and first welcome session.
This conference has a familiar set up: six keynote sessions, 62 break-out sessions, and fourtown hall meetings. Thanks to electronic survey devices on the seats, speakers were able to gatherreal-time demographics. A large portion of attendees, including myself, are attending this conference for theirfirst time. Here's my recap of the first three keynote sessions:
The Future of Infrastructure and Operations: The Engine of Cloud Computing
How much do companies spend just to keep current? As much as 70 percent! The speaker noted thatthe best companies can get this down to 10 to 30 percent, leaving the rest of the IT budget to facilitate transformation. He predicts that companies are transforming their data centers fromsprawled servers to virtualization, towards a fully automated, service-oriented, real-time infrastructure.
Whereas the original motivation for IT virtualization was to reduce costs, companies now recognizethat they greatly improve agility, the ability to rapidly provision resources for new workloads, and that this will then lead to opportunites for alternative sourcing, such as cloud computing.
The operating system is becoming commoditized, focusing attention instead to a new concept: the"Meta OS". VMware's Virtual Data Center and Microsoft's Azure Fabric Controller are just two examples.Currently, analysts estimate only about 12 percent of x86 workloads are running virtualized, but thatthis could be over 50 percent by 2012.In this same time frame, year 2012, storage Terabytes is expected to increase 6.5x fold, and WAN bandwidthgrowing 35 percent per year.
Virtualization is not just for business applications. There are opportunities to eliminate the mostcostly part of any business: the Personal Computer, poster child of the skyrocketing costs of the client/server movement. Remote hosting of applications, streaming of applications,software as a service (SaaS) and virtual machines for the desktop can greatly reduce costs of customizedPC images and help desk support.
Cloud computing not only reduces per costs per use, but provides a lower barrier of entry and somemuch needed elasticity.Draw a line anywhere along the application-to-hardware software/hardware stack, and you can define acloud computing platform/service. About 65 percent of the attendees surveyed indicated that they were already doing something with CloudComputing, or were planning to in the next four years.
To help get there, the speaker felt that Value-added Resellers (VAR) and System Integrators (SI) wouldevolve into "service brokers", providing Small and Medium sized Businesses (SMB) "one throat to choke" in mixedmultisourced operations. The term "multisource" caught me a bit off-guard, referring to having someworkloads run internally (insourced) while other workloads run out on the Cloud (outsourced). Largerenterprises might have a "Dynamic Sourcing Team", a set of key employees serving as decision makers, employing both business and IT skills to determine the best sourcing for each application workload.
What are the biggest obstacles to getting there? The speaker felt it was the IT staff. People and cultureare the most difficult to change. The second are lack of appropriate metrics. Here were the survey resultsof the attendees:
41 percent had metrics for infrastructure economic attributes
49 percent had metrics for qualities of service (QoS)
12 percent had metrics to measure agility, speed of resource provisioning
The Data Center Scenario: Planning for the Future
This second keynote had two analyst "co-presenters". The focus was on the importance of having a documented Data Center strategy and architecture. Unfortunately, most Data Centers "happen on their own", with a majoroverhaul every 5 to 10 years. The speakers presented some "best practices" for driving this effort.
The first issue was to identify tiers of criticality, similar to those by the[Uptime Institute]. In their example, the most criticalworkloads would have perhaps recovery point objectives (RPO) of zero, and recover time objectives of lessthan 15 minutes. This is achievable using synchronous mirroring with fully automation to handle the failover.
The second issue was to recognize that many applications were designed for local area networks (LAN), butmany companies have distributed processing over a wide area network (WAN). Latency over these longer distancescan kill distributed performance of these applications.
The third issue was that different countries offer different levels of security, privacy and law enforcement.Canada and Ireland, for example, had the lowest risk, countries like India had medium risk, and countries likeChina and Russia had the highest risk, based on these factors.
The speakers suggested the following best practices:
Get a better understanding of the costs involved in providing IT services
Centralize applications that are not affected by latency, but regionalize those that are affected toremote locations to minimize distance delays.
Work towards a "lights out" data center facility, with operations personnel physically separated fromdata center facilities.
For the unfortunate few that are trying to stretch out more life from their existing aging data centers,the speakers offered this advice:
Build only what you need
Decommission orphaned servers and storage, which can be 1 to 12 percent of your operations
Target for replacement any hardware over five years old, not just to reduce maintenance costs, butalso to get more energy-efficient equipment.
Consider moving test workloads, and as much as half of your web servers, off UPS and onto the nativeelectricity grid. In the event of an outage, this reduces UPS consumption.
Implement power-capping and load-shedding, especially during peak times.
Enacting these changes can significantly improve the bottom line. Archaic data centers, those typically over 10 years old with power usage effectiveness (PUE) over 3.0 can cost over twice as much as a moreefficient data center. To learn more about PUE as a metric, see the Green Grid's whitepaper[Data Center power efficiency metrics:PUE and DCiE].
While virtualization can help with these issues, it also introduces new problems, such as VM sprawl anddealing with antiquated licensing schemes of software companies.
The Four Traits of the World's Best-Performing Business Leaders
Best-selling author Jason Jennings presented his findings in researching his various books:
It's Not the Big That Eat the Small... It's the Fast That Eat the Slow : How to Use Speed as a Competitive Tool in Business
Less Is More : How Great Companies Use Productivity As a Competitive Tool in Business
Think Big, Act Small
Hit the Ground Running : A Manual for New Leaders
Jason identified the best companies and interviewed their leaders, including such companies as Koch Industries, Nucor Steel, and IKEA furniture. The leaders he interviewed felt a calling to serveas stewards of their companies, not just write mission and vision statements, and be willingto let go of projects or people that aren't working out.
Jasonindicated a 2007 Gallup poll on the American workplace indicates that 70 percent of employees do notfeel engaged in their jobs.The focus of these leaders isto hire people with the right attitudes, rather than the right aptitudes, and give those people with the knowledge and the right to make business decisions. If done well,employees will think and act as owners, and hold themselves accountable for their economic results. Jason found cases where 25-year-olds were givenresponsibility to make billion-dollar decisions!
I found his talk inspiring! The audience felt motivated to do their jobs better, and be more engagedin the success of their companies.
These keynote sessions set the mood for the rest of the week. I can tell already that the speakers willtoss out a large salad of buzzwords and IT industry acronyms. I saw several people in the audience confusedon some of the terminology, and hopefully they will come over to IBM booth 20 at the Solutions Expofor straight talk and explanation.