Tech Field Day 26 - Event Details and Summary
The 26th Tech Field Day event put on by Gestalt IT was held this month in San Jose, California. Over the course of three days, we debated trends and topics around the Enterprise Datacenter space, talked network automation with ZPE, and participated in the OCP 2022 CXL Forum.
Read on to learn more about the event.
Tech Field Day
Gestalt IT's Tech Field Day 26 event was held from October 19th-21st, 2022, in San Jose, California. Gestalt IT is a content creation company focused on what's new in the information technology industry. A Field Day event is an opportunity for technology vendors and independent tech experts and influencers (who Gestalt calls "delegates") to get together and discuss products and strategies that align with the specific Field Day focus. To that end, there are many types of Tech Field Day events that Gestalt hosts, with disciplinary focuses from Networking to Storage to Mobility to Security, and of course, Cloud computing.
Normal Field Day events don't operate in your typical trade show atmosphere. There are only 12 delegates in the audience (a mix of in-person and virtual attendees) who are sitting approximately 15 feet from the stage. This means that presenters cannot be in output-only mode like they have to be at the massive shows like re:Invent or VMware Explore. The smaller setting allows for a lot more back and forth, as well as technical tangents and deep dives as delegates work to discover the 'how' as well as the 'what' from each presenter.
More details, including recordings of the sessions, are available at techfieldday.com/event/tfd26/ as well as through searching the event's twitter hashtag, #TFD26.
Themes of the Week
This iteration of Field Day was a little different than usual. We spent the first day debating Enterprise Datacenter and infrastructure issues, went to the Open Compute Platform's 2022 Global Summit to attend (and some of us participated in) their CXL Forum, and closed out the festivities with a discussion of Network Automation with ZPE. Overall I think the theme was that what we know about the Enterprise Datacenter is going to change dramatically in the next few years. CXL will be a big mover- but it won't be the only mover.
Day 1: Enterprise Infrastructure Roundtable(s)
The delegates spent several hours discussing topics that are central to the state of the Enterprise Datacenter. All recordings are available on the TFD website here. The topics are listed below.
What will VMware Customers Do Next?
I will note that before the cameras started, there was a robust discussion of the terrible things that spellcheckers have done to the name "VMware" over time. A simple plea to the spellchecker architects out there- can we get this under control? Asking for a friend.
VMware has been a bedrock technology for the IT industry- far more than just the Enterprise Datacenter. The Broadcom purchase has caused a lot of consternation. At VMWorld (yep we're sticking with that) they proudly announced a Subscription model for vSphere, and something like a week later they shut down the Tanzu Community Edition. vSphere has been a one-stop shop for a lot of people's infrastructure management- which is something we think VMware will try an lean into for both on-prem and cloud workloads. This single-pane-of-glass potentiality may also help keep some of VMware's competitors from gaining ground.
Also, hardware is expensive, and there doesn't seem to be an industry-wide incentive to shut it all down prematurely (more on this in a later roundtable). I think the first line of the Roundtable summed it up nicely for many (if not most) IT shops: "Ain't nobody ditchin' ESXi anytime soon."
What Comes Next For The Enterprise Datacenter?
Kind of a larger-scale discussion. Distributed datacenters, cloud computing, and edge computing has taken some of the shine off of the old-style centralized datacenter- or has it?
Who are we kidding, it totally has.
But, all of the questions of data sovereignty, workload flexibility, and disaster recovery strategy remain. (Not to mention, disaggregated architecture is hard- especially at scale.)
Which Hyperscale Technologies Are Useful To The Enterprise?
Hyperscalers are the super-mega-ultra-huge companies that serve either cloud platform products directly (Microsoft with Azure, AWS, Google with GCP), or for themselves as massively distributed SaaS products like Facebook and Twitter. Similar to NASCAR, a lot of technology will start at that insanely high level, but eventually trickle down to the regular users (or, to finish the metaphor, a Toyota Tercel)?
Waiting to implement the bleeding-edge technologies until they're proven at the highest levels (and proven out over time) is a good strategy for smaller companies. Give the big players time to shake out what works, and then the vendors will sell stable (and most importantly, supported) versions that will benefit everyone else. This roundtable also had a little taster on OCP technologies as well as CXL.
It's Time To Talk About Sustainability In Enterprise IT
Here's a fun one, but I feel like I need to go all Merriam-Webster to start: When we talk about sustainability in tech, we use the acronym ESG. ESG is a way to rate a company on value potential from a sustainability perspective. E=Environmental, S=Social, G=Governance. So, like... how do we do that?
Cost is going to help drive ESG goals, whether companies are actually sensitive to sustainability or not. Reduce your footprint, you reduce your bill. This is true for reducing power consumption on-prem just as much as it is reducing utilization in the cloud.
As a great philosopher once observed, this is not that much different than the sustainability philosophy around recycling. We just have to remember that it goes Reduce, Reuse, and THEN Recycle.
Day 2: Open Compute Project Global Summit's CXL Forum
Yeah, I know. That's a long name.
I Promise I Won't Ask If You're Down With OCP but if I know you...
The Open Compute Project is dedicated to advancing open source and open collaboration efforts in both hardware and software. They hold an in-person event twice per year. The event in question was the OCP Global Summit 2022, held from October 18th-20th, 2022, in San Jose, California. The OCP Summit is much more than just the CXL Forum- I encourage you to look through the event schedule to see the wide range of topics they covered.
CXL Forum was a smaller event held throughout an entire day of the larger OCP Global Summit. The forum was quite comprehensive, covering the basics of what CXL is, to use-cases that are available today, to future plans and potential.
CXL stands for Compute Express Link, and it's goal is to extend the PCIe bus outside of the server. Additionally, the CXL platform will allow you to change configurations on the fly. So, for example, you could have a pool of RAM that is dynamically allocated to X amount of servers. If a server needs more memory, you can change the allocation. It's kind of like hot-swappable CPU and RAM options in VMware, without the 30% performance penalty. CXL is supported by major technology vendors such as Intel, Micron, Samsung, and MemVerge, and will undoubtedly be a game-changer in the way we approach datacenter design in the next decade.
I will be writing something more detailed about CXL in the future, but I will drop some links here to writeups done by other fellow delegates to give you a few perspectives on the technology.
- Tech Field Day Panel at CXL Forum - Delegates from Field Day had their own session at CXL Forum. I will update as soon as I get a link
- Joey D'Antoni - Understanding CXL for Servers
- Enrico Signoretti - CXL is the future of Enterprise Hyperconvergence
- Girard Kavelines - Tech Field Day Recap - CXL
Finally, Gestalt IT's Stephen Foskett will be hosting a season-long podcast on CXL that features (among others) TFD26 delegate Craig Rodgers. Stephen and Craig were both part of the Tech Field Day Panel at CXL Forum.
Day 3a: Network Automation Blueprint: Best Practices for Implementing Hyperautomation with ZPE
The final day of TFD26 centered around another key Enterprise Datacenter topic: the network. ZPE is a company that I have written about before, and I really enjoy their approach to managing (and securing) out-of-band networking devices.
ZPE has secure devices that can sit in both datacenters and remote/edge sites. The devices are extensible and can be used as a launchpad for a lot of infrastructure automation use cases. Recently, ZPE introduced their Network Automation Blueprint, which launches from their out-of-band devices. Their devices are centrally configured and managed, which gives it a big advantage over a simple jumpbox model.
The presentation also featured live demonstrations that showed just a few of the things that Network Automation could do.
(More to come from me on this topic too.)
Day 3b: Roundtable - Edge Computing: Past and Future
We rounded out Tech Field Day 26 with a final roundtable discussion about Edge Computing. It's tough to define the term "edge computing," and it regularly falls into that famous IT chasm of "it depends." Everyone takes a swing at it in terms of their own experience- which really is the best way to define something as squishy and new as "edge computing" is.
All in all, I think the main message from this Field Day was that the Datacenter isn't going away. We might see it go from a really big room filled with noisy computers, down to a less-big room filled with fewer (but still noisy) composable components, but otherwise, for many workloads, the song will likely remain the same.