Interop 2014: Mobile is here, Cloud is next, SDN is coming

IT leaders need to inspire their workforce to embrace these changes, says Deloitte CIO

Interop, one of the premier shows for networking each year, kicked off its general session on Wednesday in Las Vegas proclaiming that a new era of IT is upon the world, led by a mobile revolution and supported by cloud computing. And more change is on the way as software-defined networking quickly matures into a platform for enterprises to seriously consider.

Keynote panelists from Cisco, HP, Dell Citrix and Deloitte all spoke about the changes that are shaping the IT industry today and how practitioners can get their hands around these mega-trends.

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD:  Cisco reveals OpenFlow SDN killer  | Hot Products at Interop 2014 | A full list of stories from Interop +

Mobile: It's here

Larry Quinlan, the global CIO of $US32 billion international consulting firm Deloitte, spoke about how in this new era, IT leaders need to inspire their workforce to embrace these changes. It's about creating a culture of passion for technology, he says. This can be done in a number of ways, but he said the key is to ensure that IT shops are not seen as enablers and inhibitors to technology.

The biggest way Quinlan did this was to embrace a mobile workforce. "People really care about mobile," he says.

One mistake Quinlan said he made was dictating the technology that employees could use. While the firm could get a great deal on a certain cell phone plan or networking speed, it didn't lead to adoption. Instead, the programs were much more successful when his IT shop offered employees choice. Deloitte rolled out a store with more than 150 IT-approved apps that employees can use. Employees can choose from a list of approved laptops, cell phones and levels of connectivity. "The concept of choice got people talking," he says, and engaging with the IT department. The key though, he said, is realizing the importance of having a mobile workforce, and having an IT shop that enables that.

Cloud: It's coming

It's not just a mobile-first world though. A new era of computing is upon us, says Gregory Smith, CTO of ASCD, an education-focused consortium. The industry has migrated from a mainframe-focused world in the 1980s, to a client-server model and now the cloud is quickly emerging as the dominant model for delivering services.

This movement has been led by the software as a service (SaaS) market by allowing companies to consume applications and software through a web browser, instead of downloading software application. Salesforce.com, perhaps more than any other company, has exemplified this model, he said. Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) is the next major wave in the cloud adoption cycle, he said, allowing businesses to outsource their compute processing and storage needs. Platform as a Service (PaaS) is a wave where applications can be built and run in the cloud.

"There will still be a need for data centers," Cisco CIO and senior vice president Rebecca Jacoby reassured the audience. "But there is a huge need to distribute processing on a global basis." In a Cloud-based world, the network needs to be able to support this move, she said. In the "Internet of everything," or the idea of a world of connected devices, the network has to evolve to handle that load. A big way of doing that will be embracing new networking models, such as SDN.

SDN: State of the market

Software-defined networking is perhaps the buzzphrase of the conference this year. 451 Research Group's chief analyst Eric Hanselman said the industry has moved beyond the hype and wild projections of what SDN is and what it does. But there is still "healthy skepticism" among end users about the promise and practice of implementing SDN technologies.

"We actually have tangible products now," said Citrix's Steve Shah, senior director of product management. SDN in its essence is about introducing malleability into the network, Shah said. If an application needs more networking resources, it should automatically be able to provision that on its own. Initial SDN products focused on the lower-level networking functions of routing and switching. Now, products are beginning to address higher-level networking services around application delivery, security and optimization.

Arpit Joshipura, vice president of product management and marketing at Dell Networking, said it's still a fragmented market. There are overlay approaches, open source approaches, and a proprietary approach.

Because of this fragmentation, customers need to manage their expectations for SDN, said Dominic Wilde, vice president of global product line management at HP Networking. Find the pain points related to networking in your organization and talk to your vendor of choice about if there is a way to automate that. "Start small and start with a specific problem," he said.

Senior Writer Brandon Butler covers cloud computing for Network World and NetworkWorld.com. He can be reached at BButler@nww.com and found on Twitter at @BButlerNWW. Read his Cloud Chronicles here.  

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