Hewlett-Packard and its largest user group, Encompass, were two weeks away from their first annual Tech Forum in New Orleans last year when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city and surrounding area.
The show was postponed for a month and moved to Orlando, Fla., where it was attended by about 5,000 customers and resellers.
This years show, scheduled for Sept. 17-21, will be in Houston, and while she doesnt expect another Katrina-like catastrophe to hit the Texas coast, Encompass president Kristi Browder said, "Im constantly watching the Gulf [of Mexico]."
This year the show, which Browder said she expects to draw more than 6,000 people, will offer more than 200 hands-on labs and more than 400 breakout sessions. Most will focus on what Browder said are the key trends in the industry, including IT consolidation, virtualization, security, blade servers and the next-generation data center.
The big issues will be storage, data backup and disaster recovery, said Browder, who also is IT director at Silicon Laboratories, in Austin, Texas.
"The whole storage industry is out of control," she said. "Our data continues to grow, yet the ability to archive that data and to retrieve that data is becoming more and more complex, but also a bigger need. … Its going to get worse before it gets better."
Compliance and legal issues for businesses are mounting, and with most of the data now being stored electronically, theres a growing need to find ways to archive and manage it. That could become even more important by the end of the year, when the federal government is expected to amend civil court procedures that could lead to more problems for businesses that dont properly back up their data, or dont back it up at all, she said.
"Its really a question of which penalty will be worse," Browder said.
Its something that every business is having to deal with. Silicon Laboratories, Browder said, regularly backs up 20 terabytes of data a week.
"This isnt impacting one segment of the industry, but everybody," she said.
A number of the other key issues surround the growing problem of power consumption and cooling in enterprise data centers, and will be addressed at the show. Greater server density and rising energy costs are forcing power costs for businesses to skyrocket, and users are looking for a way to slow those increases. In addition, having more—and more powerful—systems in smaller spaces is leading to more heat being generated, which means higher costs for cooling facilities.
"The biggest issue in the data center is, yeah, you can put a lot more in the data center now, but it also takes a lot more to cool it," Browder said.
Technologies such as multicore and energy-efficient chips, virtualization and better management software are being used to counteract the power issues. HP design engineers also are looking five to 10 years down the road at possible ways that technology and facilities can be configured to help alleviate the power and cooling issues.
HP President and CEO Mark Hurd will keynote the Tech Forum. Other talks will be given by Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HPs Technology Solutions Group, and CIO Randy Mott.
Encompass joined with HP last year to host the Tech Forum. Since the acquisition of Compaq in 2002, HP had been looking to bring the multiple user groups together to a single conference. Encompass, which had been a Compaq user group of about 10,000 members, agreed. The much larger Interex group, which had helped host the HP World shows, opted to continue with that conference. However, Interex folded last year before the HP World event, and Encompass has since been working to bring ex-Interex members into the fold.
Browder said she was unsure how many of those people had joined Encompass, though she added that two former Interex members are now on the board of Encompass.
In addition, the International Tandem User Group this year will have sessions at the Tech Forum focusing on issues important to users of HPs Nonstop technology.