I was fortunate enough to be part of the team that supported the EMC presence at the recent Gartner Data Center, Infrastructure and Operations Management Conference in Las Vegas earlier this month. Lots of hard work (briefings, meetings, staffing the expo booth) but also a great opportunity to speak with users and customers, as well as garner some interesting insights from the Gartner analyst-presented sessions.
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So what were some of the key themes I observed? First, the software-defined data center is moving a lot closer to reality for a lot of attendees. Key technologies such as software-defined storage and software-defined networking have moved for most from the “I’ll keep my eyes on it” bucket in 2014 into the “I’ve got to do something about this in 2015” bucket. That’s no surprise to our team; we’ve been observing a lot of the same behavior in our interactions with customers at places like executive briefings and user-group meetings. And it helped drive a lot of the insights we presented in our event-sponsor session on“Making the Software-Defined Data Center a Reality for Your Business,” in which the need for automation, especially at the management and monitoring level, was emphasized as a critical requirement to delivering on the promise of the software-defined data center.

Another key theme that had almost everyone talking was a notion of “bi-modal IT,” in which IT operations would simultaneously support both an agile, devops-like model for rapid iterations and deployment of newer applications and services, while also maintaining a “traditional” IT operations model for more traditional, less business-differentiating applications and services. In some ways, analysts had been alluding to this for years – devops was coming; it would be a major influential force; prepare for it. What was lacking was the “how,” and that confused and even scared people. But now at this event we learnedanalysts are saying to support both models (hence “bi-modal” IT), and, more importantly, deploy supporting systems and tools for each – and absolutely don’t try to use one system for both models (because nothing is out there that can do that effectively). Folks I spoke to almost had a concurrent sense of relief: Two modes, each with their own tools and systems, makes sense to everyone, and eliminates that angst associated with potentially trying to make the round peg fit in a square hole. And since it came from this event, it has the inherent “validation” that many in upper management want.

DSCN0314 Building on this, the third theme I noticed (more from my interactions with other conference attendees, especially at the EMCexpo booth) was a strong interest in continuous availability of applications and systems, rather than in backing up and being able to recover these same environments. People were asking the right questions: For example, what kinds of storage architectures make sense in a continuous-availability model, and can those be aligned with changing data needs? (Yes, and EMC has a lot to offer on this front.) What are the key elements of a monitoring system that focuses on continuous availability? (One answer: automated root-cause and impact analysis, which radically shrinks time needed to identify problems, and is a key capability in the EMC Service Assurance Suite.) And can a server-based SAN play a role in continuous availability architecture? (Absolutely – as long as you’re managing it with EMC ScaleIO.)

And this event also had its share of the unexpected (the Las Vegas strip was fogged in – yes, that’s not afoggy_lv typo – for almost two full days), as well as lighter fun-filled moments (EMC’s arcade-themed hospitality suite for conference attendees, complete with a customized Pac-Man-like game called “ViPR Strike). And as always, it’s the discussions and interactions that I cherish and remember the most.

Which brings it back to you: Were you at the conference too? If so, what do you think of these higher-level observations of mine? What else do you have to add or share? Even if you didn’t go, what are your thoughts and opinions on what you’ve read here?

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