IT World Canada has been a media sponsor of Neilsen Consulting Inc.'s Know Your Alternatives conference since its inception last year, and I've participated as a panel discussion moderator for both events. It's billed as a different kind of IT trade show, and it is: it's very muchc network- and telecom-centric, and it's oriented toward networking opportunities among the users, vendors and consultants there.
There were some notable changes at this year's show, not the least of them the new venue. Having outgrown its downtown Toronto hotel venue of last year (which was claustrophobic enough to provoke a panic attack), the event this year moved to the North Hall of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This helped accommodate the exhibition floor, a new feature for this year's event.
(If you entered the North Hall from the Skywalk, as I did, you would have circled around a huge exhibit floor, with a vast number of exhibitors uncrating displays. For a moment, you might have gone, “Wow, I didn't expect a show this big.” Then you'd have realized it was actually the floor for this week's auto show.)
Maybe more significant than the bigger crowd and the bigger venue, though, was the change in focus. The buzz last year was all about exit or retention strategies for network gear from from failed Nortel Networks , with recent buyer Avaya flying the Don't Panic flag, while other vendors seized the opportunity to try to get a foot in the door.
This year, the bring-your-own-device phenomenon was front and centre. This surprised me some; while BYOD has been the buzz-abbreviation of the last 12 months, KYA is a network-oriented show. I hadn't thought it immune, but I didn't expect BYOD to be on everybody's lips.
At the closing panel featuring executives from four major hardware manufacturers, all pointed to BYOD as a major influence in the near future for networking pros. Mike Ansley, managing director of Cisco Canada's partner organization, spoke of “the tyranny of consumerization.”
“The idea of a unified endpoint is gone,” he said.
The notion that the IT department has to accommodate whatever whimsical device an employee chooses to use just because the VP of Finance insisted on using his iPad at work has always rankled for me. So it was refreshing to hear some realism on the BYOD front from Pejman Roshan, who heads up ShoreTel's mobility business.
Roshan's wife, coincidentally, works for Cisco (they are going to have some conflicted kids). She's one of the 12,000 Cisco employees who decided to go with Apple's Mac for a desktop rather than a Windows-based PC. Support for those desktops (actually, more likely laptops) is peer-based through a Wiki' not through the IT department.
Users accept that they might be ostracized by IT, Roshan said, but they'll still bring their own devices to work. “You're on your own if it doesn't conform,” Roshan said, and that seems like a reasonable compromise between nailing down the company desktop and supporting dozens of platforms.