As some readers of my blog know, I organize the independent Gestalt IT cooperative. We’re a group of folks who investigate and discuss enterprise IT technology, writing articles, running online communities, and organizing live events. Field Day is our chance to come together in various locations for face-to-face meetings with interesting product and technology companies. We’re in San Jose this week for our first networking-focused Field Day event, and things are getting interesting!
Networking on Networking
We brought a dozen well-known networking pros to San Jose for Field Day, most of whom had never met in person. It’s ironic that our online-centric world highlights the value of live interaction to such an extent, but it was evident right from the start. While planning the event, Greg Ferro and I put together a list of dozens of possible delegates, finally picking a “dream team” we hoped to get involved. Amazingly, just about every one of these folks walked through the doors and sat down Wednesday night!
The networking community is much like other enterprise IT crowds like storage and virtualization. They are reeling from the pressures of vendors driving adoption of products, the impact of server virtualization, and the increasing industry consolidation. A key topic of discussion was the continual assault on perennial market leader, Cisco. They see an opportunity for HP, Juniper, Brocade, and the other challengers to chip away at Cisco’s margins and topple their control of major niches.
Consolidation on Ethernet and IP continues to be a challenge. Network-centric vendors try to pull storage and other traffic into their traditional protocols, and the results are controversial to say the least. Topics like TRILL, FCoE (and FCoTR), and DCB/CEE caused intense debate in this crowd. But their discussions were nearly as heated when discussing Apple’s role in the enterprise world, the future of IT, cloud computing, and many other topics besides. The talk ranged to photography (cameras seem to be a hobby for many), coffee, travel, and family as well.
HP’s Attack on Cisco
Thursday began with a half-day session at HP’s beautiful Executive Briefing Center. The focus here was the burgeoning war between HP and Cisco. HP’s A-series networking products (acquired with 3Com) appear to match the technical capabilities of Cisco’s high-end datacenter networking equipment, but the Field Day crew remained skeptical. They continually returned to questions about HP’s support for professionals like themselves with documentation and training, as well as their long-term commitment to the networking field.
They were impressed by HP’s Intelligent Management Center (IMC) demonstration, and presenter Les Stuart was ready and able to field their questions. The S-series of security products (acquired with TippingPoint) also piqued interest, though many were concerned about the pricing.
Through it all, though, everyone remained respectful of HP. They seems ready to take on any company everywhere in the data center stack. Although questions remain on whether they will succeed, everyone agreed that they are uniquely positioned due to their size, resources, customer footprint, and broad product range. HP is the enterprise IT company to watch.
SolarWinds: Mining Metrics
Being a storage guy, I was not familiar with SolarWinds, but just about everyone in this networking group had experience with them. In fact, this session was much more focused on feedback and suggestions than education and exploration. SolarWinds dived deep into their ability to collect performance metrics and presented their future architecture for scalability. Although it was difficult for me to follow the discussion, the Field Day crew was impressed!
Cradlepoint Links 3G/4G and the LAN
Turning the tables, the Field Day delegates were unfamiliar with one of my favorite networking companies, Cradlepoint. This small firm from Boise markets a line of routers that link networks with wide-area wireless data on 3G/4G mobile networks. Tech Field Day runs on a PHS300 battery-powered router while on the road, and I am impressed with the MBR1200 high-availability router I’m testing at my home office. Once they took a look, the entire Field Day crew was excited about this technology, even suggesting new product ideas.
Force10 Takes the Whiteboard
Breaking from the more-corporate sessions of the day, Force10 eschewed the projector and turned to the whiteboard exclusively. Steve Garrison gave the lay of the land before turning the session to a deep dive into networking architecture and the company’s 10 GbE products. The Field Day delegates really responded to this presentation method, a lesson that future presenters would be wise to learn!
Computer History and the Babbage Engine
Thursday ends with a retreat to one of my favorite San Francisco locations, the Computer History Museum. All delegates, presenters, and a few friends will gather for socializing, ogling artifacts from our industry, and even a demonstration of the Babbage Engine!
Friday: Juniper, Arista, and Xsigo
Tomorrow will see Juniper Networks, Arista Networks, and Xsigo Systems take the floor. I will update this post with coverage of their sessions tomorrow evening!