An interesting assignment was recently proposed: write about the Interop conference, and more specifically, evaluate whether or not it's focused on the right things. I reluctantly accepted, knowing that Interop is the type of conference I try to avoid. In the world of *nix systems administration, the conference scene is bleak. USENIX LISA and the various LinuxCon conferences are about the only worthwhile, non-commercial conferences where real sysadmins gather to exchange ideas. Everything else is lacking in practical details and is overrun with vendors trying to sell crap.
Interop has over 300 vendors and a huge exhibit hall, so it certainly fits into the "everything else" category. It is also located in Las Vegas. Among those types of conferences, however, Interop does seem to have a better than average variety of lightly technical topics. Three days are dedicated to the conference portion of Interop, where the hot topics of the year are presented.
Cloud Computing, of course, is a main topic. Digging through the list of talks in cloud track, something strange happened. I started recognizing names. Then, I found numerous sessions that actually sounded interesting. My favorite thus far is, "Private Clouds Are Just Another Name for IT Done Right." Exactly! Then, I read on to discover "The DevOps Revolution," a talk given by Opscode founder Jesse Robbins. Strangely, it's in the Cloud category, likely because there is no Systems track, but nonetheless I am pleasantly surprised. DevOps is one important topic anticipated Interop would ignore, so its presence softened my attitude.
At odds with the Cloud track, the sparse set of Data Center topics includes such gems as "How to Build the Business Case for Data Center Transformation" and the related "Why XYZ Technology Must Change." Of course some mention of virtualization and network/storage convergence is there as well. These are your standard fare data center topics. Likewise, there is a Green IT track with a few predictable topics.
Enterprise 2.0 -- yes you read that correctly -- is another category. If value propositions and fruitlessly comparing large businesses with agile "Web 2.0" technologies is your thing, you'll be right at home with the four talks in the Enterprise 2.0 category. There is also a Governance, Risk and Compliance category with four talks, most dealing with compliance issues. One particular title caught my attention, though: "Is PCI The No Child Left Behind Act For Information Security?" by Josh Corman, Research Director at Enterprise Security Practice. That is one talk I'd surely enjoy. Application Delivery 2.0 (ugh, another 2.0) deals with an interesting paradigm: delivering applications using virtualization. Meaning that each application gets its own virtual machine, which is a huge change from just a few years ago when most IT shops were still piling as many applications as could fit on large servers. Something tells me most of these talks will be a bit too high level to really evaluate the implications of this shift in application delivery. IT Security and Risk Management includes the expected "Data Security in the Cloud" and topics related to outsourcing security, social media, and mobile security. Yawn.
Mobile Business and related categories VoIP and Video Conferencing cover a fairly good range of topics in these areas.
Finally, there are a few talks categorized as Storage, Networking, or Virtualization which are not cross-listed in the above categories. These talks either deal with best practices, preparing for new best practices due to convergence, or high-level overviews of new ways to do things. Some of them are even labeled with "DEEP DIVE," indicating a more technical talk. "Storage - The Path to Performance" sounds interesting.
I had never heard of Interop while working as a systems administrator, until I started writing these types of articles about six years ago, but my ignorance was not necessarily bliss. The non-technical conferences have their place. Just as systems administrators need to exchange ideas about how to scale systems and make their jobs easier, management needs a place to ogle at new technologies and buzz words. No, Interop is not worth attending for sysadmins, and your boss will probably return and try to rally for an "Enterprise 2.0!!1!" movement. But talking about current challenges and new ways of running IT services is better than the alternative (ignoring them).
Interop, therefore, is a great place for management to gain a broad understanding of the latest innovations. It seems to have its pulse correctly focused on current industry trends, and even books some good speaking talent. And, you know.. Vegas.
When he's not writing for Enterprise Networking Planet or riding his motorcycle, Charlie Schluting works as the COO at Elevation Fitness, a Web-based fitness management platform. Charlie also wrote Network Ninja, a must-read for every network engineer. Follow Charlie on twitter: http://twitter.com/cschluti