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Networking trends spur drastic change on Interop 2011 agenda

Why is Interop 2011 so critical to your career? This Q&A with Dr. Jim Metzler explains how rapid technology change is creating new networking trends.

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Dr. Jim Metzler, Vice President of Ashton, Metzler & Associates

The takeaway: New networking trends driven by evolving data center and cloud network architectures, as well as a changing wide area network (WAN), will shape the course of conversation at Interop 2011.

Networks are adapting quickly to the changes brought on by virtualization and cloud computing. What are the networking trends most critical to learn about now? spoke with computer networking industry authority Dr. Jim Metzler, vice president of Ashton, Metzler & Associates, about rethinking the data center LAN, WAN and application delivery. Metzler has chaired the Networking track at Interop for 12 years and is also moderating the Service Delivery sessions at Interop 2011.

You have been speaking at Interop for a long time. Is Interop 2011 any different?

Jim Metzler: This is a very critical Interop; we are going through so many fundamental transitions in the industry. Networking is fascinating right now. A few years ago there was not much to say about the LAN. Now I've got sessions that are complex and interconnected and point to six or eight other sessions. It's very exciting to go to Vegas and listen to these conversations and drive some of them.

What is the hottest networking trend you expect attendees to have interest in at Interop 2011 this spring?

Metzler: I think the focal point of excitement in networking is in the data center network, and I'm moderating two sessions focused on that. Last summer, I put an RFI on the street for a data center LAN for a client of mine, Boston Scientific. We discussed some of the results at Interop in New York in the fall, and this spring I'm bringing some of the panelists back for "How Should You Redesign Your Data Center LAN." I will have the architect from Boston Scientific onstage co-moderating with me to bring a lot of the voice of the customer for a real-world network and data center. I want attendees to see the technology trends and what they mean to a somewhat typical Fortune 500 company. We'll also walk through the vendor responses and their original bids, and whether they would change their responses now and why. We'll be covering a whole variety of topics and compare what vendors said last August and what they would say now, so we get some sense of the momentum in the marketplace, how quickly some of the standards are coming together and how quickly the products are being realized.

Is cloud computing a reality yet for most networking organizations?

Metzler: Yes, there's no question in my mind it is. I have a session that is called, "What's the Impact of Cloud Computing on the Network?" This is not yet another session that will analyze the cloud market, but a session that explains what all this cloud stuff means to the networking professional. It will talk about the impact on the LAN, the WAN and network management, and it will also act as a pointer to a bunch of other related sessions. There is no way I could possibly cover that topic in a one-hour session, so I try to drive home some of the key concepts and show people where they can go to get more detail.

For example, attendees need to know how to support the dynamic movement of resources. The joke I tell about that is: The director of IT says to the vice president, 'The good news is that I've virtualized our servers and can move a virtual machine between servers in 4.68 seconds.' The vice president asks, 'What's the bad news?' 'Well,' says the IT director, 'it takes me two and a half weeks to reconfigure everything else.' One of the real promises of virtualization and cloud is the dynamic nature of spinning up and moving resources around. That's a really easy thing to say, and a really tough thing to actually do.

You have several sessions on breakthrough technologies and new advances. Can you give a couple examples of what you plan to highlight in these?

Metzler: I have a gentleman coming from Bluesocket, a company that specializes in wireless LANs, and he will be talking about virtual application delivery controllers in the wireless space. He'll talk about the controller no longer being hardwired, but [based on] software and potentially delivered from the cloud, whether private or public. So, [this is] another instance of the impact of cloud computing on the network.

There may be a lot of focus on data center and cloud networks, but branch office and wide area networks are also experiencing a fair amount of redesign and rethinking. I'll have Talari and Ipanema, who are both acknowledging that the two dominant forms of wide area networking are MPLS and the Internet. They're going to talk about ways to dynamically balance traffic across MPLS and the Internet, using MPLS for when you need it, but you use the lower-cost Internet when you don't need it, and maybe even with DSL access, which is very inexpensive. So you have the potential to drastically lower your WAN cost.

Your Service Delivery track was formerly called the Application Delivery track. What was the thought behind the change?

Metzler:  In the old days— like last year— we used to worry about an application such as voice over IP. It was pretty well defined, and we worried about monitoring it, understanding degradation, trying to improve performance where we could and maybe even redesigning the application. And that's still a huge issue that hasn't been solved. But now we've come into cloud computing and the concept of everything as a service. And these things like compute, security and Storage as a Service are like building blocks for the application. So part of the idea of service delivery is how to manage those building blocks.

There's also the issue of related applications and how they interact. So there is the component services of building applications and also, above that, the level of tying applications together into a service as seen by the business. A service can be a component, an app or a set of interrelated apps tied into a complex business service.

To learn more about Interop, view our 2011 Interop Las Vegas conference page.

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