Interop: It’s All About Collaboration

NEW YORK — Wake up network administrators!

Those networks you manage aren’t just about moving simple data around any more. That’s the message that leading executives from IBM, Cisco and Novell delivered at the Interop trade show today during the morning keynote sessions.

Keywords in their talking points: social networking tools, virtualization, cloud computing and the need to manage it all in a seamless and heterogeneous manner. This is how you need to think about data these days.

IBM’s Bob Picciano, General Manager, Lotus Software and WebSphere Portal, kicked off the keynote session by talking about the importance of social networking tools, which he argued are critical for modern business success.

“Why is Web 2.0 important? It’s because of information overload,”
Picciano said. “It’s important to figure out the right information to make decisions on and it has a profound effect on organizational productivity.”

Picciano argued the collaboration mitigates information overload and lets you see where the experts with a center of gravity exist within an organization. The key to making that work is by embedding collaboration features and putting them directly into line of business application so they become a contextual part of workflow.

IBM’s Lotus Connections software, updated earlier this year, got a test run for attendees here. IBM positioned it as a way to put social networking to good use in an enterprise.

In this regard, collaboration is the theme, as well as making it more available than just local users. IBM’s approach is Project Blue House, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) version of Lotus Connections. Blue House is currently in a private beta with a wider public beta expected to come later this year.

Cisco’s (NASDAQ: CSCO) collaboration take is to disconnect the real physical modality of collaboration with the virtual approach, according to Marie Hattar, a Cisco vice president.

“Some of you probably think that things like Facebook have nothing to do with me or IT. But how many people are using Facebook as their customer relationship management database?” Hattar asked the audience. “I can tell you that at Cisco, people are using it. So if you think that enterprise IT networking is just about data centers then think again. It’s all relevant.”

For Hattar, the new world of work is also about using social tools and virtualization technology to do more.

“What if you could partition yourself off to be in different places doing more things at the same time?” Hattar asked. “That’s what virtualization does, it allows you to dynamically partition resources off for jobs on the fly that need them.”

Internally, storage virtualization is making a difference at Cisco, she continued. By using virtualization, Cisco is now achieving 68 percent storage utilization, up from only 20 percent utilization in its physical environments.

For Cisco, it’s the network that is common glue that melds the capabilities of modern collaboration and virtualization together. Just this week Cisco rolled out new virtualization-aware switching technology.

“It’s the network that touches everything,” Hattar said. “It’s the thing that provides the connectivity for all resources so you can connect people with information.”

Managing it all, the social networking, virtualization and platform issues are becoming increasingly complex. Novell’s CEO Ron Hovsepian noted that ease of management is critical for making everything work. He argued that making management as easy as an iPod should be an operational goal.

“We need infrastructure that is both physical and virtual. Then we need the operational part,” Hovsepian said. “Don’t let us just talk you into the virtual. You need to manage both seamlessly in a singular manner.”

And although networking may be the glue that holds IT together, Hovsepian thinks openness is what makes it all stick.

“To us the future of IT is based on open source and open standards and it will be a mix of those pieces.”

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