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Monday, March 20, 2006

IT Roadmap Boston: Part 1

The Network World IT Roadmap Boston Conference started off with a fairly motivating and well structured key note by Network World President, John Gallant. He barely missed a beat as his slides disappeared off the main screen signaling the first of a few technology glitches at this technology conference. A quirky remote slide changer was easy to deal with when compared to the fact that the organizers decided wireless access was not a requirement for the conference attendees.

They had the typical giveaways based on expo booth visitations to solicit attendee participation and engagement of the featured vendors hocking their wares. However, denying wireless access didn’t do much (at least for me) in suppressing my urge to get online and not view the expo booths. In fact, it did quite the opposite. I had to conduct a spur of the moment wireless assessment to find an unsecured wireless network on which I could get access and use my VPN to get email. So a tour around the conference floor with laptop and NetStumbler in tow quickly located a suitable service provider.

Back to the conference; the morning session: “Network Management”, was hosted by charismatic presenter Jim Metzler. His presentation wasn’t overly deep in prescient industry trends; however, he keep the audience involved and hosted a very well put together break out that included four industry vendors – none of whom gave a sales and marketing pitch for their specific product.

The main theme was application management as opposed to device management. This is a trend we’ve seen in the industry for a few years now. I’m assuming it’s gaining more front page headlines with the push towards Service Oriented Architectures that bring the application to the fore. However, none of the speakers addressed the growing difficulties in managing application delivery on a network platform that you don’t manage (let alone own) from end to end.

A quick example: take a large international with a global network services group that mainly exists to create policy and strategy but is largely ineffectual due to the disparate local organizations that actually build and run the networks that compose the whole. Add in a healthy (or unhealthy depending on perspective) dose of outsourcing and managed services. Finally, deploy the end to end global service – say videoconferencing – that not only is truly global and requires very precise controls in terms of network configuration and Quality of Service, but is literally very user visible. How does one manage the delivery of that application without an end to end understanding of the intermediate infrastructure and the appropriate agreements between groups to allow a cohesive holistic management of the global service? It isn’t an exercise in network management anymore; it revolves around relationship management. This is something that can’t be solved with a vendor tool.

Off to lunch now, more from the afternoon session coming!

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