Interop 2013 – Wrap-Up

Back in May I was fortunate to get to attend the Interop Las Vegas IT conference. I’ve already discussed my trip as a whole and the Principles of Effective IT Management workshop in the previous two posts. I wanted to take one more post to describe briefly the rest of the conference.

Wednesday, Thursday, and the first half of Friday comprised the main part of the conference. Wednesday and Thursday each began with keynotes, and then the rest of the time was filled with breakout sessions and time in the expo hall.

The breakout sessions were a definite mixed bag. Some of the ones I attended were frankly fairly boring and generic — nothing I couldn’t have stepped up with about a day’s notice and presented myself, and I’m an expert in almost no relevant areas. But others were in fact quite interesting and well-presented.

Frank Andrus, CTO of Bradford Networks, had a very good session entitled “Breaking Through the FUD: 10 Steps to Secure BYOD.” He actually presented some interesting technical solutions to common BYOD issues, which made it unique from some of the BYOD sessions which seemed to basically just say “BYOD is coming if it isn’t here already, and it’s going to be a challenge!” (No kidding.) Furthermore, he spent a while reinforcing what was, to this IT pro, the key takeaway of the session: “BYOD is NOT about the devices, it’s about the human behavior change” (such as the common desire to be always connected).

The keynotes were pretty cool. While not the “keynotes” that the public generally thinks of (Steve Jobs, Steve Ballmer, and so forth), we had representatives from HP, Cisco, and PayPal and the FIDO Alliance (which is super fascinating, by the way). There were no product announcements or any other headline-generating presentations, but lots of good information. Much of the content seemed to revolve around the theme of SDN — Software Defined Networking. I’m still unsure whether it was intentional to have that as a recurring theme or not.

Finally, we had the expo hall. This was a pretty cool experience. While I can imagine CES (or Comdex!) is a considerably larger show (albeit obviously consumer-oriented), the show floor was in fact quite large. Most vendors had very impressive-looking displays. But even more than that, I was glad to find that most of them were staffed by very intelligent people who knew their products but more importantly the industry as a whole.

The icing on the top of the expo hall cake, though, was the InteropNet. As a listener of Fr. Robert Ballecer’s This Week in Enterprise Tech (TWiET) on the TWiT Network, I knew to expect this. The backbone, the NOC, of the entire Interop show is run out of a space located right on the show floor — the InteropNet. It is intended to be a show-and-tell NOC, where they have many screens of real-time metrics turned so passers-by can check them out. They also do narrated tours throughout each day. I may not be a network engineer per se, but I am hugely fascinated and interested in the architecture and engineering that goes into putting together a network of this sort — particularly since it has to be mobile and set up (and torn down!) so quickly.

Overall, the Interop show was well worth the money. (Okay, easy for me to say, since my employer paid for it. But seriously, I came back with so many ideas that it really was valuable.) It was also a lot of fun. While I didn’t arrive knowing anyone, and didn’t even walk out of there with more than a couple new solid contacts, everyone was friendly and willing to chat. The networking is something I will take even more advantage of in the future.

I recommend this show to any IT pro — whether Help Desk technician or manager or C-level — who has the time and budget to make it happen!

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