Cloud computing, virtualization top Interop agenda

Last year's Interop was all about how to survive the economic apocalypse created by a housing bubble and a subsequent Wall Street meltdown. This year, Interop wants to help companies rise from the ashes and get themselves back to growth. Interop general manager Lenny Heymann says that this year's show is going to try to give companies strategies they can use to revitalize their industries and spearhead and economic recovery in the United States. In this Q&A with Heymann, we discuss the major themes of this year's show, the impact of cloud computing on the enterprise and how the rise of the iPad  might affect IT.

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What are the big themes at this year's Interop?

The biggest theme is the revival of the tech economy itself. Our show is big enough and broad enough that it acts as a barometer for the health of the industry. Clearly things have improved since last year and the community will get a chance to take the industry's temperature themselves and see if the recovery is on. So the biggest theme this year, instead focusing on individual technologies, is that the market is back on.

Moving on from there, we see that cloud computing is number one with a bullet in terms of the new action around it and the decisions that people in IT will have to make around cloud computing. Clearly cloud computing is a game changer and it's one technology that we think people need to know about. In fact on Wednesday morning our keynote speeches largely revolve around cloud computing.

Enterprise cloud put to the test

The second major area we'll focus on is virtualization, which is something we've been covering for a number of years. And the third area that relates to both of the first two is the rethinking of networking as a whole. Given the urgencies around both virtualization and cloud computing, there's a new examination of networking in terms of a network's abilities to support the cloud and virtualization. In other words, how do data centers and LAN technologies take the leaps forward needed to support the cloud and virtualization?

Cloud computing is obviously a big part of this year's show. Has the industry decided on a precise definition for what cloud computing is and what services it encompasses?

That is a proverbial hot-button issue. I have friends and folks who do education for us who feel passionately about how to define cloud computing. At the end of the day cloud computing opens up possibilities for the way companies will do computing in the future in terms of both automation and agility.

But I think that because the industry moves so quickly we're going to have a hard time maintaining definitions of cloud computing. The point is more for companies to look at the evolving cloud marketplace and determine where they want to jump in. If you work too hard to create definitions you'll be spending too much time thinking about something that doesn't have an easy solution. So I'd urge users not to worry too much about definitions but instead to jump right in to educated themselves about the opportunities that cloud computing presents.

What's the most important thing IT departments should know about the 4G wireless technologies due to hit the mass market over the next year?

I'm not an expert on 4G specifically, but in terms of mobile technology in general, companies have still sort of moved slowly in terms of supporting mobility on their networks. For instance, I got an iPad over weekend, and I think that people are going to get more excited about bringing mobile devices like that to work with them, even though IT departments are still behind in terms of leveraging the power of mobility. I was looking through some data of a recent survey we took of Interop attendees where we asked people about their mobile device use and a quarter of all respondents said they used an iPhone. So this is something that IT departments have to pay more attention to.

Last year's show focused a lot on helping the IT industry weather through the worst recession since the 1930s. How's the industry's outlook for this year?

It's pretty strong. We've known for a while now that tech is going to be one of the things that helps drive our economy out of recession. The big driving growth factors, as I've mentioned, will be cloud computing and virtualization, as well as updating key network infrastructure. Fifty-one percent of respondents in our survey said that upgrading their networks was a priority.

And finally, with the iPad taking the computing world by storm this weekend, do you see Interop a year from now holding a panel on tablet computers' impact on the enterprise?

The answer is probably yes. We're already doing lot of sessions on devices, but as I said earlier, I think IT is lagging a bit in how it's handling these devices that consumers are lapping up. We do see some real promise there, though, as the more organizations aggregate their data in either a public or private data center, the more they'll be able to provide support for a wider variety of devices.

Read more about data center in Network World's Data Center section.

This story, "Cloud computing, virtualization top Interop agenda" was originally published by Network World.

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