Datacenter Dynamics presented the Converged Canada conference on October 12 with two pre-conference workshops the day before.  The conference headline was “the business of data centers.”  The event was also co-hosted by the Toronto Cloud Business Coalition (TCBC), a part of Insight-as-a-Service.

For full disclosure, I was a panelist at the conference, attended the IoT bootcamp, and have actively participated in various TCBC working groups.  This blog isn’t intended to be a detailed report on the various panels; rather, I offer some thoughts and observations from what I saw and heard.

The opening keynote by Willian Mougayar was about blockchain, even though the official title was “promoting innovation and re-engineering efforts to discover and unlock the full potential of distributed applications.”  Mougayar introduced the blockchain, based on his new book, including describing what it is, where it’s going and what the implications are for business.  Ten different facets of blockchain technology were identified.  A significant emerging concern is how regulators will approach blockchain and what legal roadblocks will need to be overcome.  It seems that blockchain has definitely taken its place as the breakthrough technology for 2016.

Another panel focused on analytics, big data and changing corporate behavior.  What I heard was that analytics systems are complex and, along with many other emerging technologies, hard to define precisely.  Some of the important ideas included:  an underlying requirement is trust in the data being used, the whole topic of analytics should really be looked at holistically, and there are multiple levels of concern to be addressed.

Three levels of value-add for analytics were identified:  curating data, analyzing data and predicting data.  Each adds value to a business but it is difficult to quantify their value and to account for it in business terms.  From the opposite perspective, there is a danger in spending too much on data collection and analysis – you need to avoid spending $1,000 to solve a $10 problem.

Other panels addressed disaster recovery, scalable modular data centers, cloud brokers, hybrid cloud configurations, and trends in placing data centers where power is cheap.

There were two pre-conference workshops.  One was about “how to diagnose your data center operations program” and included formal evaluation, discovery and diagnosis of the data centre operations program.  The other was an IoT bootcamp that discussed accelerating IoT adoption and use in Canada.

The bootcamp examined various IoT scenarios.  For example, the three scenarios I was involved in were intelligence in community ecosystems (e.g., improving traffic flows), backing the winners in building the IoT stack (e.g., re-thinking how vending machines are managed), and privacy/security (e.g., implementing a remote patient monitoring program).  Attendees broke up into several groups to develop the scenarios.  It was quite interesting how many ideas were generated, especially when the full future capabilities of IoT were included!

All in all, the conference represented a good snapshot of people’s interests and viewpoints.  Some of my reactions were:

  • The number of things to be considered in new data centres seemed quite intimidating – everything from basic power, wiring, security and networking all the way up to virtualization, hybrid clouds, and the applications of blockchain;
  • I wonder if anyone should be designing and building new private data centres when there are so many other options and the technology is so rapidly changing;
  • Cloud computing and IoT have become “business as usual” and are now part of the IT resource mix; they can no longer be relegated to the research labs;
  • It is quite difficult to see the big picture by attending a single conference – there are simply too many pieces in the puzzle, and no easy way to link everything together;
  • There are still many opportunities for innovation and competition – it will be difficult for buyers to choose the winners and even more difficult to manage the procurement processes;
  • Things are moving very fast – technologies such as IoT and Blockchain were barely on the radar screen last year.

The last panel of the day was called “Really big, audacious ideas panel:  What will data centers and cloud services look like in 2025?  203X?”  The audience was encouraged to provide “out of the box” ideas – in my view nothing really amazing was suggested, although the wish list was impressive.

It was clear that imagining the future is difficult.  Think back eight years ago to 2008 (after the iPhone was announced in June, 2007) – what were the predictions then and have they been realized?  Were we talking about Docker and microservices? Were self-driving cars on people’s minds?  Now think forward to 2025 and at twice the pace of change – what can we expect?

This is what I got from the conference.  What do you think data centres will be like in 2025 and beyond? Let us known in the comments section below.