With such changes swirling around the industry, Encompass, Hewlett-Packards largest user group, is working to prepare its 16,000 members to be ready to meet these challenges head-on.
At the 2007 forum, HP and Encompass plan to sponsor more than 500 breakout sessions and 300 hands-on labs for the approximately 7,000 people who are expected to attend the show. Dozens of sessions will focus on virtualization and how the technology is beginning to fundamentally change the data center.
As at other forums, there will be a focus on the latest in hardware and storage products, but Nina Buik, president of Encompass, said the groups membership is thirsty for as much virtualization advice as possible. Buik said her members want to know how this technology is affecting IT management and how administrators can get the best return on their investment in the technology.
"Theres a lot of focus on virtualization, what it is, how to work with it and how to manage it," Buik said during the start of the forum, which runs from June 18 to 21 here.
Kristi Browder, director of IT for Silicon Laboratories in Austin, Texas, and a past president of Encompass, said her company recently underwent a virtualization push, which added 200 servers to the IT department and another 200 virtual machines. With such large additions to the data center, IT managers need to remember the capital costs associated with a project that could easily sprawl out of hand.
"Virtualization is now happening in every environment and a lot of our users want to know about developing and testing this technology," Browder said. "Users also have to remember that this is a capital process and there has to be a process in place before a project like this is started."
In addition to the virtualization sessions, Buik said Encompass has a new service for its users dubbed MSIG or Migration Special Interest Group, which will focus on migration projects and problems. MSIG started as a user support group for members who are contemplating moving or have started to move mission-critical applications from older, legacy systems to newer hardware.
Buik said MSIG also addresses what she said was a renewed interest in HPs high-end systems that use Intels Itanium processor.
In addition to these issues, Encompass is working with its membership and HP to help sort through the additional software and management tools the company has started offering. With acquisitions of companies like Mercury Interactive, HP has begun expanding its software offerings, which has led to some confusion from users.
"Were really trying to work to untangle the mystery behind HP software," Buik said.
Another issue that Encompass plans on addressing at the show is the need for IT specialists to become more involved in management, especially as IT functions are outsourced and the need grows to remotely control and supervise compute resources.
Buik added that there has also been interest from Encompass members regarding HPs BladeSystem c-Class blade servers and its various storage products.
Encompass has been working with HP in developing its forum agenda since 2005. Since the acquisition of Compaq in 2002, HP had been looking to bring the multiple user groups together at a single conference.
In addition, Encompass has been looking to bring more members of the now defunct Interex group into its fold. Interex, another HP user group, closed its operations in 2005.