Day two of the NetEvents conference in Phuket, Thailand, opened with a fantasy.
Ian Keene, VP at research firm Gartner, pretended to be a late CIO at a company that was late at adopting cloud computing. With the help of panellists Douglas Gourlay, VP Arista; John McHugh, VP & CMO, Brocade; Shehzad Merchant, VP of Technology, Extreme Networks; and Erik Papir, Worldwide Director, HP, all of whom pitched for his 'business', Keene had to decide how to upgrade his datacentre. Fellow analysts Tim Dillon, AVP APAC End User & Mobility Research, IDC and Michael Barnes, VP Research, Forrester, acted as consultants to help him make his decision.
Gourlay said that Keene's company's IT dept was not innovating or creating value for the business. He suggested that Keene should ask any vendor of datacentre network fabrics if their technology was open and if you could replace parts of their solution with products from another vendor. "People don't want a large, flat, layer-two network," he said. "Smart network engineers don't want to build or operate them - vendors are trying to lock you in."
For Brocade, McHugh quipped that "our presentations are like our networks - faster than Arista." He went on to argue that "80% of network traffic will be going east-west, not north-south as the network was designed to work. Our fabric gets rid of one aggregation layer to save power, and consolidate your edge layer to create a universal touch point for most of your datacentre devices."
Merchant said that today, everything is converging on Ethernet with no more separate network technologies for HPC, SANs and data. "Flat networks are better, with active-active paths so that recovery is under 50ms," he said. "You need 40Gbps for the aggregation layer, and you cannot be tied into a proprietary technology - so you need an open fabric."
Papir argued: "You need to look at the overall infrastructure in the datacentre not just the network. Compute power and storage are going to be critical to enable the instant-on enterprise." He went on to say that a framework to address business needs such as cloud deployment can enable end to end virtualisation. "It can consolidate management systems, and we are open," he said. "We work with you to ensure interoperability is not a problem."
Keene asked for help to be more green and use less energy. All the vendors promised to radically cut power consumption radically, and reduce the rack space needed. Merchant said that Extreme would help with analytics too and that his company would provide tools to examine the network down to the level of individual virtual machines.
The 'consultants' asked the vendors how they could help Keene drive change inside his organisation. All promised consulting services, along with free trials using virtual machines.
The discussion moved to applications and it was generally agreed that some applications will be suited to cloud, while others will not, depending on the workload. It was agreed that critical data should be kept local for the time being at least.
At the end, the audience of press and analysts were asked to vote on which vendor they would choose, a poll won by Arista with 34%, closely followed by Brocade with 32%, then Extreme Networks at 18% and HP 16%.
The next debate, Ethernet's role in the cloud, was opened by Matt Walker, Principal Analyst, Ovum, joined by panellists Deb Dutta, VP Asia-Pacific, Brocade; Shehzad Merchant; Nan Chen, President, MEF; and Passakorn Hongsyok, Director International Business from the Thai service provider UIH.
Walker defined the term cloud and sized the cloud services market at $233 billion by 2016. As a telecoms analyst, he pointed out that cloud is not a core focus for telcos but said that they can benefit from the connectivity gap, as the last mile is an issue.
He explained the benefits of Carrier Ethernet as flexibility, scalability, diversity and redundancy, describing it as a facilitator of the cloud. "Ethernet now the de facto access standard," he said.
Asked if there was scope for smaller telcos, Hongsyok said that Ethernet business was growing rapidly and that customers want rapid deployments.
Merchant highlighted the challenge of dealing with IT management tools and policies. "How do you take things like group identities into the cloud?", he asked.
Dutta talked about the importance of standards so that customers could develop an exit strategy from a cloud provider's facility. "You need a cloud ID that allows you to demarcate your domain in the cloud and migrate from one SP to another," he said.
Chen said that the MEF "was working on an ID standard so you can classify VMs and assign them priorities."
The final debate of the day concerned the trend from desktop to mobile devices and asked what are the implications from infrastructure, management and security perspectives?
The panel for this debate consisted of Jonathan Andresen, product and solutions director APAC, Blue Coat Systems; Shehzad Merchant, Extreme Networks; and Shara Evans, CEO, Market Clarity.
It was opened by Tim Dillon, IDC, who described the dominance of mobile devices in Asia-Pacific, using examples of airline crew and corporate execs using tablets. "Market growth will come from applications, a lot of which are downloaded from the cloud. There's no single OS in the enterprise any more," he said. The problems this raises include complexity and security.
Andresen said that network managers wanted to know how mobility was developing in their enterprise, and that they want to know what it will do to their network. "Video can swamp the network," he said.
Merchant said that the network needs to understand who the user is and what they are trying to do, and that security should be multi-level and omni-present.
For Evans, end-user devices are insecure because they get left in taxis. "The network needs to understand who the user is, as they may not be authentic," she said.
Andresen argued that putting data in the cloud enhanced security. "Cloud security is the first line of defence," he said. "Catch malware in the cloud and you don't let it into your network."
Brocade's chief marketing officer and VP John McHugh rounded out the final plenary session of the event with a keynote entitled NetEvents 2011: The Takeaways.
"This year, business leaders worked in an environment full of challenges for the future. They will be thinking about risk," he said. He argued that IT was or should be transformational especially given the growth of new end-user devices which offer new ways of workforce provisioning.
On storage, he said that "we are feasting on more information - its important because the CIO needs to lead their strategy around information.
"CIOs can't opt out," he said, as questions from the CFO and CIO will drive transformation while on-premise datacentres will be prime locations for years to come as datacentres virtualise. Crucial to the process is the network which is not yet robust enough. However, he said, "the trend is inexorable - it will change economies and business models."
On datacentre network fabrics, McHugh predicted that in next six months, over 50% of CIOs will be deploying a network fabric in their datacentre, and that it would be part of a converged infrastructure.
On outsourcing and the cloud, McHugh described his early days as a production engineer at HP when the decision had to be made to outsource production to Singapore. "Ultimately, HP started looking at quitting a capital-intensive practice because someone at the top had the vision and understood that trends, directions and options needed that leadership. It's now ridiculous to think we wouldn't have moved forward. The cloud is the same. The biggest risk is that the competition does it first."
He was then interviewed onstage by editorial director Manek Dubash, who asked about storage architectures, datacentre transformation, and network reliability, among other things.
The meeting then broke for lunch, resuming with scheduled meetings between press and vendors.
A list of links to the NetEvents APAC Press Summit Day 2 Transcripts, Presentations and Photos can be downloaded from this URL:
(Transcripts will be available within 24 hours)