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Sanity check: The top four trends in IT from Interop Las Vegas 2008

I tried to sniff out big trends in the IT industry at Interop Las Vegas 2008 by looking at the booths getting the most traffic, the sessions that were most crowded, the topics that got the quickest rise out of attendees, and the buzz phrases coming out of the lips of the most people. Here are the top four trends that I found.

One of the top priorities for me at large trade shows like Interop -- with 18,000 attendees and 500 vendors -- is to try to sniff out big IT trends. I look at the booths that are getting the most traffic, the sessions that appear to be the most crowded, the topics that get the quickest rise out of attendees, and the buzz phrases coming out of the lips of the most people.

Here are the top four trends that I identified at Interop Las Vegas 2008.

4. Holistic manageability

Okay, no one was actually using this phrase at Interop. I just made it up. I needed something to describe the fact that there's a demand for infrastructure management tools that take holistic view of IT operations. This is a reaction against the current climate in which a lot of IT shops have a plethora of tools -- each a silo unto itself -- to measure, manage, and report on the various pieces of the infrastructure. This can result in confusion, overlap, and lots of different software agents running on the same servers and systems.

What IT managers want instead is a single dashboard for viewing, creating reports, and -- whenever possible -- implementing configuration changes. Splunk is grooming its IT search platform to meet this demand. Microsoft is moving in this direction with Forefront and System Center. This approach is the infrastructure management equivalent of consolidating corporate reports with Business Intelligence (BI) software instead of relying on a scattered network of Excel reports and Web-based dashboards.

3. Supporting a decentralized workforce

At Interop, one vendor told me that 70% of all employees now work outside of the corporate headquarters. Another vendor told me that number is actually up to 80%. One representative of a very large IT company said that it recently moved into a new headquarters and that the employee-to-workstation ratio is now 4-to-1 (up from 1.5-to-1). That's because they now have a lot more mobile employees and they actively encourage employees to work from home during times they don't need to come into the office.

There were a number of technologies taking center stage in order to support an ever larger number of remote offices, telecommuters, and road warriors. One is fixed mobile convergence, which is aimed at allowing employees to use a dual-mode phone to connect over the Wi-Fi network at the corporate office (or their home) and then to connect over the cellular network when not on a trusted Wi-Fi network. FMC also allows employees to consolidate phone numbers and voicemail inboxes.

Another technology for enabling a decentralized workforce is what I call "WAN caching." You'll hear it called WAN optimization, WAN acceleration, and a number of other marketing terms, but the speed burst comes primarily from caching large files so that they aren't being sent over the WAN multiple times.

2. Data center consolidation and centralization

Sun Microsystems recently consolidated 500 racks of servers down to 65. IBM is in the process of consolidating 4,000 servers into 30 mainframes. Hewlett-Packard is currently consolidating 85 data centers down to six. Those are three of the most well-publicized data center consolidations, but every direction you look in IT right now you can find a company doing a big squeeze on a data center. At Gartner's data center conference, 94% of 735 respondents reported that they were planning, had completed, or were in the process of doing a data center consolidation.

The forces driving this trend are cost savings, energy conservation, IT simplification, and centralization. The last factor might seem to contradict the previous issue of a decentralized workforce but, in fact, it actually supports it. As the location of workers is less certain and more fluid, it makes more sense to centralize services so that the workers can get a similar experience no matter where they are located.

Some of the technologies supporting this trend are server virtualization, storage virtualization, utility computing, managed services, and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

1. Green IT and "greenwashing"

The most talked about theme at this Interop -- by a couple touchdowns -- was Green IT. If I had any doubt before Interop that IT managers considered Green IT a serious priority and not a flowery ideal, then those doubts were thrown out the window last week.

While most IT managers used to never even see the company's power bill -- let alone be tasked to measure and conserve energy usage -- it was clear from a lot of attendees that is changing quickly and dramatically. I was also surprised to see how many IT leaders are anticipating the arrival of a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions that will also change the way they do business. As it turned out, energy conservation, carbon emissions, and dealing with electronic waste were three major Green IT themes at the EnergyCamp unconference at Interop, especially the first two because they could potentially have major ramifications for IT.

It was also clear that nearly ever vendor had a pitch, angle, or spin to explain how their product was an energy saver or an asset to companies concerned about Green IT. In fact, this theme was so prevalent that attendees and established green vendors started calling it "greenwashing" (as in green brainwashing). There was definitely a lot of "greenwashing" going on, and I expect to see a lot more at upcoming IT events.

About

Jason Hiner is the Global Editor in Chief of TechRepublic and Global Long Form Editor of ZDNet. He is an award-winning journalist who writes about the people, products, and ideas that are revolutionizing the ways we live and work in the 21st century.

24 comments
AhmedAba
AhmedAba

Is all this (greenwashing, consolidation, ... etc) to save money or to save our planet ? i.e If oil prices go down to 10 .. will greenwashing still alive ??!!

BALTHOR
BALTHOR

Merriam-Webster:a system of medical practice that treats a disease especially by the administration of minute doses of a remedy that would in healthy persons produce symptoms similar to those of the disease.(!!!)

No User
No User

As is with all the "Shows" Interop for what ever else it is, it is a huge sales and marketing pitch. That said welcome to the land of buzz words BS and 8 1/2 x 11" color glosses. Lets face it what ever genuine IT knowledge was transferred the show is centered around sales and marketing. Take all of it with a grain of salt. As for the holistic view of IT operations you said what IT managers want instead is a single dashboard for viewing, creating reports, and whenever possible implementing configuration changes. Ok, can you tell me something that is actually "NEW" about that? A real, practical and functional all in one tool/dashboard is the stuff dreams are made of. It sure would make life grand if it were obtainable and more to the point maintainable. The problem with that is several fold. The cost is typically outrageous, If a products vendor makes the tool/dashboard for their products they can't seem to ever keep the tool/dashboard up with all of their products which means that the all in one tool/dashboard simply isn't all in one and do to that and the multitude of bugs not just in the tool/dashboard it's self but in the total combined products that it services reduces it's impact and thus usefulness. A current example is Cisco works. To counter those issues they add additional tools/dashboards that are specialized which defeats the purpose of an all in one tool/dashboard. If an independent vendor makes the tool/dashboard that brings a whole new can of worms. By the shear nature of that they are forced to have an alliance with vendors and in doing so being chums with company A makes you Persona Non Grata with company B. The second issue is if the market for your product becomes lucrative then you face Competition from the very vendors for whom your tool/dashboard is used with. There are other issues with both examples as well. As far as a decentralized work force that is strictly dependent on the type of business that the company is in and individual company circumstance. If an east coast company opened up offices on the west coast you may very well need to make local provisions. There are other less extreme situations that would result in less then a completely centralized work force but it is not a national trend. You mentioned the 'Mobil" workforce that has grown and the needs to provide for that and once again that is dependent on the type of business. Certainly many types of business have no mobile users nor a need for them and others still can only make little use for them. Perhaps more to the point there is certainly no rush for companies of all sizes and kinds in all markets to switch their work force to mobile users. You mention data center consolidation and you gave 3 examples from industry behemoths. Keep in mind that they make most if not all the products that they use and have all the resources in the world to do it. It's presented as a reduction in data centers when the reality is that it's simply a consolidation of data centers set around much more efficient computers. I must note that this would be a centralized as opposed to a decentralized situation hmmmm. The 30 mainframes are doing the same work that the 4000 servers did only much more efficiently. It is a matter of the 30 mainframes now being cost justified as opposed to previously not being cost justified. You will find the there is much more room for growth at a reduced cost as well. At least for the time being there is always a to and fro with that. So it's much to do about nothing. The Green movement is far more a sales and marketing phenomenon then an actual movement to being GREEN. Computers constantly become faster and have greater resources and thus become more efficient and less are required. It's a take it out of two and put it into one situation and not lets go GREEN. Virtuilzation technology having finally arrived as a good sturdy and dependable product and still has much more to come, makes many things practical such as disaster recovery and server consolidation for which neither intent is to go "GREEN" but it can be a positive unintended side effect. Now as to Gartner well lets see the show had 18,000 attendees and 500 vendors and at Gartner's data center conference, 94% of 735 respondents reported that they were planning, had completed, or were in the process of doing a data center consolidation which leads me to wonder if they only had three choices and of course we neither know who the "RESPONDENTS" were nor the company or companies they work for nor do we know how many were solicited so we could compare solicited to responded and there for we can't garner anything of significance from that. In fact the only thing we can say is that it's vague, skewed and the survey small in comparison to the 18,000 folks and 500 companies. I think that it's much to do about nothing and a self fulfilling prophesy which is the rule of thumb for sales and marketing and make no mistake that is the main purpose of Interop. Perhaps you have mistaken preaching to the choir as an actual national trend.

kss91354
kss91354

Re: Going Green! I've been around long enough to remember the "ZPG Movement" (aka: 'Zero Population Growth' Movement), a sort-of 'green' movement during the 60's encouraging people all over the world to have smaller families so that the earth's population would stablize, or even shrink some, rather than continue to grow each year and increase depletion of the earth's resources. resources. Then came the 70's and the "Energy Crisis", where Americans especially worried about dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, and we were all encouraged to drive smaller cars and turn off lights....another version of 'going green'. In the 80's and 90's the trends were more about being greedy, grabbing everything you could, and to heck with planet earth and future generations! Now we are once again 'environmentally conscious'. I hope this time it is more about preserving our precious planet and the species that inhabit it, and not just another trend! I think we should go back to the 'going green' concept of the 60's that was first introduced by scientist and philosopher Paul Erlich, and think about controlling population growth. If we can do that, everything else 'green' will fall into place. Karen Schmitz, Chicago, kss91354@hotmail.com

Slvrknght
Slvrknght

I, for one, have never been that big on the idea of SaaS; particularly when it comes to online database solutions. Granted the idea is enticing, but one of my major concerns is that it hinges a lot on Web 2.0 and that's something that has me cautious. Sticking system-critical applications in a web-based application environment seems to be opening up a pandora's box of problems in the long run. Maybe I'm just "old school" when it comes to the idea of SaaS and Web 2.0, especially when it comes to security issues.

RealGem
RealGem

Jason - using booth traffic to determine trends is risky, since I've noticed that booth traffic is highest around the booths with the best freebies. Still, you seem to have accounted for this in your analysis! :D I love the term greenwashing - I've noticed that there are daily articles on "green" whatever and it's getting a little thin - the topic is not that deep right now. Until data centers are solar-powered or reclaim their own waste heat, then we're only going to be talking about nickels and dimes.

rosen.len
rosen.len

It is amazing to me that "holistic manageability" is an emerging trend when HP, IBM, CA and OpenNMS have all been around touting end-to-end network management forever. Back in the 90s I was representing Unicenter and competing with Tivoli. In the early years of the new decade I became very interested in OpenNMS and a proponent of its capability. Is everything "old" new again because we put a new spin on it?

rlcallaway
rlcallaway

I agree that like it or not fad or not, Greenwashing is going to be a hot topic. I think the issue will be seriously addressed once the actual energy cost appears on the IT operating budget as a distinct line item. Of course the conflict will be between speed of response and "green-ness". Certainly consolidation which was also mentioned in the article will play a major role as a action that can improve energy consumption.

greaterheights2003
greaterheights2003

As a student in the IT/Networking field and currently on a work placement I think virtualization is hot and the way to go!!

roy.evison
roy.evison

Mention 'green' and you will get a response. As energy prices go up then managers/accountants will examine their bills.The benefits of carbon off setting are considerable despite the fact the experts may have got the CO2 thing wrong. The issue of home working is down to immediate cost, you pay for your own heating, toilets etc. Jargon has a lot to answer for. Holistic, please!

alex.kashko
alex.kashko

In many countries the only way to ensure you can retire, go sick, or have a holiday without starving to death is to have lots of children. I understand that as a country becomes more prosperous so people can provide for retirement or accident family size tends to decrease. I also think there is no ethical or moral way to control population if that way involves even a hint of coercion or state control. Bottom line: make people prosperous and population growth will slow or stop.

DesD
DesD

which is why we studiously avoided Tivoli, OpenView, and were initially attracted to Unicenter. When you have all of mainframe, RS6000, SUN E10K, DEC Alpha and Compaq DL series machines, what you really want is a standard data feed from each box(that doesn't require you to write MIBs), which you can consolidate in your own choice of reporting system, and still get the management info you want to see. When they get to function like electricity supplies (i.e. standard socket on one side, standard plug on the the other), then all any one supplier has to do is meet the standard. Will we still be waiting for this in 40 yrs time? (not running that stuff now, btw!)

Womble
Womble

as you state, those projects in the 80's that had such promise are being looked at again, mostly as a result of technology changes. The interoperability of computers is so much more advanced, so that it does not require PHD's to set them up Ordinary families are setting up home servers and running wireless networks and print servers in their homes. My home has 3 laptops, all needing to be connected to one Cable modem, and this is typical of all the homes in my street - mum's Dads, and the kid's As the tools to operate these in the home become simple, all those other things that people excited in the 80's now become cost effective to deploy, so people can contemplate deploying them

RealGem
RealGem

I've been in IT for a long time and we do tend to recycle our ideas. Thin client applications and centralized data centers running VMWare ... that's been done before. It was called "mainframes running virtual sessions". SANs are roughly equivalent to the old mainframe disk controller subsystems. Definitely the functionality is higher these days and the market is much more open, but it's been a long time since we've had a fundamental revolution. Even concepts like grid computing are not new concepts. Anybody remember Thinking Machines? Same concept. The only difference is that the processors in a grid are connected by the Internet instead of a local network - merely a difference of protocol and transmission distance. It's just another flavour of MPP architectures.

jasonhiner
jasonhiner

This is an everything-old-is-new-again type of thing. It's the pendulum swinging back toward things like HP OpenView and SNMP, rather than all of the specialized tools that have been dominating lately. The only thing that's different is that with something like Splunk, which allows you to search logs and text files across multiple systems, you can find information far faster than in the past.

panthyr
panthyr

I'm not sure from the article if you (Jason) are familiar with the existing term "greenwashing". It has nothing to do with brainwashing - it's a play on "whitewashing". As in, covering over the social and environmental flaws of a product or policy by distracting critics with a coat of heavily marketed environmental benefit claims. Wal-Mart is one of the most egregious examples. Their business practices are best described as horrific. Yet they claim to be a socially and environmentally responsible company because they are now incorporating some principles of green design into their latest big-box blights.

jspurbeck
jspurbeck

Implemented correctly, web server software and web pages themselves can cause web servers to consume electricity at a far lower rate. Imagine a web application that quickly downloads and only goes back to the server to post transactions. It would/does not go back for each 'click'.

tommad
tommad

It's been a hard-sell getting our tech-guys to consider "green" versions of the servers we are buying. I'm thinking that the vendor of choice sells the regular systems on the basis of higher performance, and with no cost-incentive to buy green, customers lap-up the "faster" systems. Limitations regarding power and cooling capability will become more apparent as we move into summer, but as for now, I haven't seen any movement towards the "green" versions.

RealGem
RealGem

How does that save power? Does your app server go into sleep mode between clicks? If not, you're not saving any electricty because the server is always on while it's waiting for the next click.

jspurbeck
jspurbeck

Electricity is expended for each and every byte that traverses the web. Limiting the round-trips necessary to complete a transaction (or multiple transactions in the case of 'heads-down data entry') is one source of energy savings. The status quo calls for numerous server trips, server-side session managers, and a whole lot of convoluted HTML code generators, just to name a few sources of energy waste. The need at the client to manage state. Using an Event Driven Application Model, combined with an Object-oriented Document Object Model, applications can be written making full use of existing client-side javascript code repositories, to increase developer productivity while limiting bandwidth usage, and enhancing the user's experience.

mikeg3
mikeg3

My guess is that what JS meant by limiting trips to the server is that, the fewer demands placed on the server, the fewer times it has to retrieve a page, run a script, consult a database, etc. IOW, carefully limiting the web server's activity means fewer demands placed on the server hardware. The server doesn't necessarily have to go to 'sleep' to conserver energy, it just has to work less to consume less energy than a poorly-written application.

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