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Interop Preview: Virtualization, Cloud Top Tech Strategies Agenda

Data center issues haven’t changed in the last few years, says Forrester infrastructure analyst Doug Washburn says, but the specific technologies have. Two years ago we didn’t talk about converged infrastructure or clouds very much, but now they're big topics.

With advances in virtualization, cloud computing, mobile devices and related technologies, IT organizations have unprecedented potential to save money, improve performance, and support or steer business goals. These key areas will be spotlighted on the agenda at Interop New York, which runs Oct. 18-22 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center.

Server virtualization is a fact of life for many enterprises, and desktop virtualization is under way; cloud computing is at least on the radar for most companies, and these and scores of other technologies are being accessed by a dizzying array of smaller, increasingly mobile endpoints (more on specific technologies later). You’d think data centers would be ghost towns of empty racks and tumbleweeds.

Yet while the cabinets look a bit different lately, with processor and storage blades replacing monolithic servers and tape units, most data centers are still hubs of activity, as companies work to make sense of the myriad new technologies in context of their corporate strategies. The goal: to build the best information-processing structure possible for the business.

Indeed, the data center remains the heart of the modern enterprise network—but it’s forced to shift continually with additions and advances in related technology—particularly around the ongoing separation of applications, services and hardware. This disruption means some seriously challenging adjustments (if you're having flashbacks to the not-so-gentle transition from mainframes to client/server, you're not alone).

Where the data center was once a monolithic entity, today it serves as the logical center of the organization’s data and processing infrastructure, housing not just processor and storage racks, but links to remote and cloud computing resources and connection endpoints for remote offices and workers. And while IT is increasingly a part of the overall set of business concerns, and CIOs are quickly closing the knowledge gap with their C-level counterparts so they can effectively bring the technology viewpoint to bear on critical business decisions, they’re still under pressure to justify their departments’ value to the organization. Maybe some things never change.

In many ways, though, the data center represents the changes happening throughout IT. A space once neatly defined is now "cloudy," and under pressure from all directions.

This mix of old and new concerns makes the data center an intriguing focal point heading into Interop, observes Doug Washburn, analyst for infrastructure and operations at Forrester Research and chair of the Interop data center track, which addresses next-gen data center design and related topics. "In some respects, data center issues haven’t changed at all in the last few years," Washburn says. "Some of the traditional questions on the role of the data center, new technologies, best practices, and organizational design elements continue to be asked."

However, Washburn adds, "the specific technologies continue to change. Two years ago we didn’t talk about converged infrastructure or clouds very much, but today these are big topics."

Alternate power sources remain a major data center concern, for both environmental and budgetary reasons, though even here there is a hint of a broader change, with increasing emphasis on IT’s support role in greening the business overall.

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