A Reflection on Tech Summit 2016

by Kevin Tuttle

Introduction

iVision had its third annual Tech Summit meeting on October 14th, 2016 and it was a great success. The Tech Summit is a unique concept whereby all employees can meet for a casual evening together to learn about what’s going on in each practice, learn about some new and emerging technologies, and build closer team relationships.

Building on one of our core Client Engagement Values, I am passionate about learning and growth, the event is mostly comprised of presentations by each of our individual business practices including a cross-platform panel discussion with questions submitted by other employees. The opportunities for cross-practice pollination and socialization, matched with the incomparable style and, yes, food, of the Capital City Club have made it a very popular annual event.

iVision Atlanta TechSummit 2016Keynote

The night began with a keynote address by CTO, Eric Aslaksen, who chose Innovation as our theme for the evening. Innovation, as he explained, can be confused for “change” but they are not the same thing. While change involves moving away from something, innovation is all about moving Atlanta TechSummittowards something. Any company can abandon an old, deprecated technology when it no longer serves its function, but a focus on innovation is something that sets iVision apart as it has us focused on the next big technology. This allows us to stay ahead of the relentless march of technological progress and help our customers to reap the benefits of our foresight.

One particularly tangible example of this drive for innovation was quickly revealed by our CEO, Gabe Damiani who was both there for the summit, and also not there. While he was in Wisconsin, he was able to remotely control a telepresence robot (quickly dubbed GabeBot). This allowed him to contribute to the discussion, interact with other team members present at the event, and provide more than one entertaining distraction in the middle of the keynote!
TechSummit in Atlanta

Eric also introduced the major digital trends significant to iVision in the near future, notably an increase in Big Data analytics; an enormous rise in both the presence and security vulnerabilities in theInternet of Things; increasingly adaptable and disruptive Smart Machines and AI; the continuing dominance of Mobility both in devices and traffic; as well as even more affordable privately-run space travel and space-related technologies.

Old         Innovative

Self-Serving                         Customer Centric

Waterfall                                     Agile

Autocratic                                  Inclusive

Not-original                          Creative & Authentic

Chaotic                                     Disciplined

 

BUSINESS PRACTICE DISCUSSIONS & PANELS

Business Technology Practices

Application Development

  • Practice Director Jeremy Likness began by introducing everyone to the new iBlueprint for the Application Development practice. Notable updates include an increased focus on Mobility and the combining of “Big Data” and “Business Analytics” foci into a single, grouped approach to “Information Management & Analytics”.
  • Our new DevPod offering was expanded upon and introduced to some who weren’t yet familiar with the concept whereby iVision leverages its existing talent identification and training skills to both provide experienced and affordable services to our customers while also helping to alleviate some of the pain points involved in hiring and training new employees.
  • Noted disruptors included Containers, Microservices, Serverless Services, Cross-Platform offerings including .NET Core, Ionic, and Xamarin frameworks, and the increasing use of Infrastructure as Code.
  • The panel discussion focused often on the emerging Container paradigm for both application development and infrastructure operations and it was very helpful to have people from multiple, disparate practices share their particular insight on the exciting promises that the technology may hold.

Infrastructure Services

  • One of the larger practices, Infrastructure Services includes offerings like Email Management, Systems Management, Unified Communications, and Identity & Access Management.
  • Michael Trapnell, the Practice Manager, reviewed some of the many new offerings that Infrastructure Services has been working on including full adoption roadmaps and server/device management for Windows 10, Office 365 Migration, Cloud Platform Transformation (including AWS and Azure), and Merger & Acquisition Roadmap services.
  • Many of the disruptors involved the increased adoption of the cloud for traditionally on-premises systems such as Microsoft Exchange, SharePoint, SCOM/SCCM, Voice Services (including Skype), and even Active Directory support.
  • As well as reviewing the many great success stories they’ve had over the last year, the panel discussion also included some important lessons that were learned, discussions of the increasing adoptions of Windows 10 and Office 365, and how Microsoft’s Nano Server offerings may impact how it’s all put together.

Converged Infrastructure

  • Converged Infrastructure, led by Josh Hedge, provides forward-thinking data center, networking, and voice solutions, including using software to completely transform how traditionally-pure-hardware systems like networking and data storage operate. It also includes services including virtualization, backup/recovery, and telephony.
  • An interesting disruptor was the increasing enterprise adoption of alternatives to email as a means of internal and external communication. Some of the collaboration examples demonstrated were Slack, Cisco Spark, and Atlassian’s HipChat. Included in these was also increased support for video integration.
  • Other collaboration disruptors included more Software Defined Networking services, Location-based services such as BlueTooth beacons, industrial integration of more IoT systems for things like transporation management and manufacturing, and better network telemetry services from offerings like Splunk and Cisco Tetration.
  • The Data Center side was not without its disruptors either, notably the dis-aggregation of compute and storage nodes and hyper-scalar hybrid management solutions like the Azure Stack and partnerships between AWS and VMWare.
  • Commoditization of flash memory is also increasing allowing for server-class flash memory and using third-party SSDs with software-defined storage. Combined with OpenStack, more Automation/Orchestration offerings, DevOps support, and Data Mobility solutions, there was a lot to get out of their presentations.
  • The panel discussion had questions on software-defined networks and storage solutions, collaboration tools, and other uses for wireless networks (e.g. Cisco Hyperlocation) on the Collaboration side, while the Data Center side discussed the pros and cons of the traditional hyper-converged infrastructure concepts of keeping storage, compute, and networking in separate silos, as well as the rise of the IT Generalist role as infrastructures become easier to manage through simpler interfaces.

Cloud Services & Consulting

  • Heading up this practice, Omar Torres, demonstrated both iVision’s own private cloud services as well as elaborated on our partnerships with Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services and ability to seamlessly integrate with both.
  • Among their offerings are Fusion Recovery and Fusion Protect. These services work hand-in-hand to provide amazingly-fast backup and recovery services to our clients using our best-of-breed technology partners including Cisco, Veeam, and, of course, Microsoft and Amazon.
  • For disruptors, the immediate takeaway was that everything is just continuing to get faster and cheaper, making enterprise adoption of cloud offerings even easier and easier. The continued innovation and growth of distributed, hyperscaled computing, more adoption of software-as-a-service products like Office 365, SalesForce, and Tableau, the decrease in price for high-speed connectivity (making even a 10Gbps WAN an everyday reality), and “serverless” computing such as AWS Lambda, IBM OpenWhish, and Azure’s Functions.
  • The WAN/Collaboration panel discussion touched on the interesting challenge of integrating key connectivity components like WAN/MPLS and Voice/UC into the Fusion service platform. 
  • Data/Storage discussed the effects of both innovations in storage technologies and hyper-converged infrastructure on our existing Fusion service platform. Lastly, the Automation/Orchestration panel went into detail on how their technologies also fit into the larger service platform and how they can help to make all of the other pieces work together seamlessly and safely.

Security

  • Our Security Practice had the final presentation for the evening and Thomas Jeffries started out by sharing some particularly troubling statistics.
    • 52% of Organizations do not actively monitor and analyze internal security intelligence
    • 51% of Organizations do not conduct regular threat assessments.
    • 46% of Organizations do not have a CISO or CSO in charge of Security Operations
    • 42% of Organizations do not have an overall Information Security Policy
  • Security becomes more important with each passing day and iVision has a number of offerings to help our customers ensure the safety of their data, networks, and infrastructure. Our auditing services include analysis of such things as an Organizational Security Policy, Data Governance, External Vulnerability Assessments, and Internet Hygiene. We can also have on-site analysts to review and tune security infrastructures as well as take care of network and endpoint security needs for things from servers to mobile devices.
  • Disruptors has a particular effect when it comes to security as security, by its nature, has to stay ahead of the game in order to prevent attacks before they happen. These threats include the increase and shifting-infection methods of ransomware, possible security holes in IoT devices that may not be sufficiently hardened (e.g. a wifi-enabled coffeepot) and poor control and security practices when it comes to keeping data in the cloud.
  • To meet these challenges, the Security practice relies upon innovations in User Behavioral Analytics and Heuristic Detection which can detect threats that it hasn’t seen before – even without an existing definition, simply by identifying activities on the devices that are sufficiently unusual for the user to have likely consciously wanted to happen. Software-defined networking also provides increased flexibility in meeting threats without relying upon simple copper lines when it comes to connecting critical devices to the network.
  • The ever-present dichotomies of security vs. convenience, security vs. private, and security vs. connectivity were topics discussed in the panel after the presentation. While the balance will always have to be struck, iVision is determined to help businesses choose wisely and help mitigate any risks.

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