CeBIT Australia 2015 Experience

This year was the first time I had attended CeBIT, with a primary motivator being the Cloud Conference component, with that component being of interest personally and professionally, as well as the fact that events of this size are rarely held in Perth.  The speakers for the Cloud Conference covered private enterprise and government, giving a broad view of how cloud was making IT work better.

The first speaker was Chris C Kemp, former CTO at NASA and co-founder of OpenStack.  He spoke about the concepts of anti-scarcity, where a thing can be made more valuable by making it more freely available and accessible because more parties are involved and invested in the item.  This concept applies strongly with open source software and OpenStack in particular, which because as an internal project at NASA.  By allowing it to be available to all, OpenStack now has support and investment from large IT vendors such as HP, IBM and Cisco.

David Boyle from NAB opened his presentation by stating he wouldn’t use the “c word” (cloud).  He managed to stick with his promise, and talked about the concepts of traditional “horse and cart” IT, the model we’ve used in the past of physical infrastructure, lengthy release cycles and waterfall development.  This was contrasted with “Ferrari” IT, which uses virtualisation, frequent release models, continuous deployment, automation and dev ops.  A key concept he outlined was “fail fast” – having a deployment framework that can be run rapidly so success or failure can be determined quickly and subsequent deployments attempted once problems have been fixed.

Dez Blanchfield outlined a somewhat subversive approach to cloud adoption, via the use of “micro clouds”.  Dez has managed to produce a cloud that can fit on a USB stick, using a number of free and open source tools.  It can run on as little as 8GB of memory and allows people to reuse old hardware as a platform to dive into cloud computing without making the capex committment typically associated with getting a cloud up and running.

Robin Phua from the State Library of NSW and Pedro Harris from NSW Department of Finance each detailed how cloud computing had changed IT service delivery in their respective areas.  The State Library was able to use cloud based storage to contain large amounts of digital data in a cost effective way.  Pedro detailed the GovDC marketplace that the NSW government had setup, allowing a shorter procurement cycle.

Johnathan Sharratt from ING Direct presented about ING’s “Bank in a box” concept.  This was a project I’d read about previously and was very interested in seeing more detail about how they actually utilised it.  From Johnathan’s presentation, the technology had progressed from being used to deploy test or development environments to being used for production releases, where an entire copy of the bank’s application stack (over 300 applications) would be deployed and then switched over to be the live production system.  The entire process is highly automated and includes garbage collection to prevent sprawl.  This allows the bank to run on a release cycle of 2 per week, which allows ING to rapidly deploy updates and new features to meet the needs of their business and their customers.

With regard to the general exhibition area, a few booths stood out:

  • Orion VM – Orion provides a whole sale model for cloud, allowing you to buy their product and rebrand it for your customers, including customised rate cards and billing.  The guys from Orion were very knowledgable and passionate about their product and from what I’ve seen it offers some new and interesting things in the way IAAS is built and served.
  • ControlNow – What got my attention about ControlNow is their product that presents a “single pane of glass” that summarises security, updates and monitoring of your infrastructure, providing a overall view of the health of your systems.
  • Helpmaster – Helpmaster’s service desk software included a sophisticated workflow engine, which could allow workflows to be kicked off based on key words or phrases from monitored mailboxes.  These workflows can run Powershell scripts, which allows an incredible amount of flexibility.
  • Airwatch – Airwatch was recently acquired by VMware as part of their push into the mobile space.  Airwatch is a mobility management suite and supports a very broad range of devices operating systems, including Android, iOS, Blackberry, MacOS and Windows, which would mean cover devices such as laptops, tablets and smartphones.  Device management included application deployment and security of the device.

Overall, the conference was good and it was interesting to see how other state governments were doing their IT, particularly NSW which seems to have taken a stand to set themselves as the ICT leader in Australia (as displayed in their stand in the exhibit hall).

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