INTEROP - Conference spins technology as a way to save

Vendors touted SOA as building services that can be shared across business units using existing resources and lower long-term expenses

Technologies that can improve corporate bottom lines dominated the buzz at Interop Las Vegas, promising efficiencies and returns on investment that may help stave off cuts to IT spending in a tough economy.

Virtualization, service oriented architectures (SOA) and software-as-a-service all were cast in the light of improving efficiencies, speeding up applications, even enabling new types of products that can improve corporate earnings.

"I think it's time to rethink everything we've done with enterprise computing," says Mark Templeton, CEO of Citrix in his keynote, urging that businesses forge ahead with corporatewide IT improvement plans and adopt a software-as-a-service model both internally and externally, adding that that takes bold initiatives by IT executives. "You need to think a new way about your role as an IT leader," he said.

Templeton promised Citrix will round out its virtualization products later this year to further cost reductions by reducing the number of physical servers needed to support corporate networks and dynamically adjusting server capacity based on demand

Vendors touted SOA as building services that can be shared across business units using existing resources and lower long-term expenses. SOA can make it easier to do compliance reporting, software-as-a-service, legacy modernization, unified communications, business intelligence and various other important tasks, says Burton Group analyst Chris Howard, who moderated an Interop session on the technology.

Despite tight budgets, attendees swarmed the show floor and seemed focused on specific technologies as they waded through more than 350 exhibition booths, bombarded by sights and sounds including networking gear, rides, video games, car raffles and even a gospel choir. Show organizers wouldn't confirm attendance but said they expected it to be up some 25 per cent over last year.

Money-savings proved paramount in show-related hype about other well-established technologies. Wireless is less expensive to set up and maintain, and is the logical replacement for wired networks, says Kathy Paladino, president of Motorola's enterprise mobility unit, who delivered a keynote. The availability of 802.11n wireless gear signals the arrival of LAN-like quality that will phase out wired infrastructure. "The question is not why to cut the wires but when," Paladino says.

Nortel grabbed the forum of Interop to claim its switches can save on energy costs and that it's alliance with Microsoft will lead to more efficient virtualized data centers.

Nortel claimed that recent studies show its switches and routers are as much as 50 per cent more energy efficient than competitive offerings.

This energy saving component has helped the company land 50 recent enterprise wins, says Joel Hackney, president of Nortel's Enterprise business. It's also playing a key role in helping Nortel create demand during a recessionary economy marked by reduced spending on enterprise IT, he says.

"The opportunity we see is simplifying networks," Hackney says, and is a chance to make inroads against Cisco. "Customers are looking for a choice. We have the opportunity for growth as the No. 2 player going against a very large market-share [leader]."

Even security vendors were getting into the cost-conscious act. Dave DeWalt, CEO of McAfee, in his keynote characterized security suites - packages that combine multiple functions on a single platform - as a way to improve management efficiency and reduce the effort needed to deal with multiple vendors. "Security is a must-have, whether we have a recession or not," says DeWalt, and one way to make it affordable is by buying what he termed best-of-suite products that combine antivirus, antispam, NAC and other functions in one software package.

Despite enthusiasm for technologies that support more efficient, effective networks, some experts were also cautioning about the complexity of implementing them. For instance, SOA implementations are subject to alarming rates of difficulty, according to a Burton Group analyst on a panel about the technology.

"The state of the union of SOA right now is there's some fatigue set in," says Burton Group's Howard, noting that when he recently asked an audience of 300 people whether their SOA efforts were going well, only a half-dozen responded positively.

Often IT departments implement SOA programs that may be technically sound but don't meet the needs of business users, Howard said. Burton Group is researching SOA successes and failures through interviews with dozens of its clients, including both their IT professionals and business executives.

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