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Three Things I Learned at the OpenStack Summit – Day 3

  1. Want to liven up a boring conversation? Bring up OpenStack appliances.

That will get people talking. In an enthusiastic manner. With vigorously-defended opinions. The appliances talk was by far the most interesting one I went to all day. And you’d think that with the panel consisting entirely of people whose companies offer or are planning to offer OpenStack in an appliance or something very similar and pre-packaged, it would be a one-way conversation. But not so. The audience asked these guys hard questions.

What was offending the anti-appliance contingent?

Mostly vendor lock-in. Early in the conversation the panelists had spoken about how there really is no lock-in with OpenStack. But it was quickly pointed out to them that if you purchase an appliance, you’re pretty much stuck with the vendor that sold you the appliance, and therefore quite clearly locked-in. (No pulling one over on this audience.) Leave them and you’ve got no support for this physical box. It’s not like simply switching distros.

Panel reply: They didn’t really have one. One panelist debated what “lock-in” really means, and claimed that lock-in can be good if it means you’ve found the best solution out there. Another conceded, “it’s not for everyone” (appliances). And a third pointed out that they built their solution with a product you can do other things with, so that if you don’t want to use the appliance anymore you can redeploy the server. But it really seemed like no one wanted to state the obvious: Of course you’re locked-in.

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Education IT Leaders Innovate and Save

Education IT leaders continue to be challenged by declining budgets, rapidly changing technology and increasing demands to deliver platforms for 21st century teaching and learning.  In this current environment, a growing number of  IT professionals in education and government are leveraging next generation technologies like virtualization, collaboration, mobility and video to transform their organizations.

We’ll be sharing these best practices during the National Townhall, Celebrating how the Public Sector Connects, Innovates and Saves on March 1st at 11 AM, U.S. Pacific Time. Education speakers include:

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Cisco UCS Business Advantage Delivered: Just the Facts!

There are a lot of competitive claims made that pit one vendor against another. Its important to make a claim and back it up with the facts. Today I would like to share a fact-based analysis which validates that Cisco UCS enables you to gain competitive advantage by making your data center infrastructure more flexible, agile, and cost effective.  As a result, the Cisco UCS truly transforms the business economics of today’s data centers.

The way we approach IT has been changing over the last few years. Executive management, employees, partners, and customers continue to demand more services. Waiting for applications and services to deliver information is not an option.

IT organizations are beginning to come around to taking a holistic perspective, one where they view their compute, network, and storage components as being part of a larger resource pool that has to be purchased, cabled, configured, powered, cooled, and maintained. When organizations look at their infrastructure holistically, they start to realize the cost of the traditional ways of doing business.

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Filling the Void: School Districts Embrace Telepresence to Save Money and Share Resources

With budgets tighter than ever, school administrators are finding new ways to collaborate with other schools and districts hundreds of miles away.  Instead of spending money on flights and hotels to travel across the state and share best practices with others in their field, teachers, principals and superintendents in several California schools are now using telepresence to get that same face-to-face interaction without leaving town.

Fontana Unified School District (FUSD) in Southern California, for example, is a huge district – 41,000 students at 40 schools across 25 miles. FUSD is the latest school district to incorporate telepresence in order to offer their students the best programs possible — and not only prepare them for college, but also prepare them for the real world.  In such a large district, telepresence is a vehicle that allows the district to offer the same opportunities to every student at every school, and save time and money because administrators don’t have to travel across town for meetings.

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Addressing a New World of Learning

As a part of my job here at Cisco, I have the opportunity to meet with a range of customers in schools, colleges, and universities across the globe.  They have the wide and vast responsibility of educating students, preparing the workforce of the future, equipping students with different kinds of skills so that they can compete in the 21st century, ensuring that students are safe and secure, and a whole host of other responsibilities that will enable students to be productive and successful members of society.  Most critically, they have to do all this with increasingly constrained, and in developing nations, often non-existent, budgets.

The requirements for education have shifted over time as we have become more globalized, technologically advanced, and demographically different.  On average, people in the US change jobs about ten times before they’re 42.   In China and India, there is a massive demand for higher education.  And teachers are retiring in record numbers as the population of kids under the age of 15 has reached 1.8 billion.

Thomas Friedman has said that students today need to be special, specialized, anchored, or adaptable.  Not everyone can be special, and certain components of traditionally anchored jobs (for example, hairdressers, restaurant workers, and trade workers) can be outsourced.  This leaves jobs for which people need to be specialized or adaptable.   And this is where education is critical: students have to be able to access education that provides them with the specialization required to help them differentiate the value that they provide.  Think, tax planning for customers with major offshore assets, or biological technicians who are creating a biosphere in pace.  Or, education has to be able to provide them with the ability to obtain lifelong learning programs and capabilities to adapt to a broad range of careers and jobs that they will have over their lifetimes.

Existing systems on their own will no longer be able to meet the growing and changing demands for learning.  Educational institutions must necessarily deliver learning differently, and this is where technology can help.  Today, Cisco is partnering with educators to create what we call The Learning Society: a new way of thinking that harnesses the power of technology to help transform learning and allow people to learn anywhere, anytime, on any device.

Not only does Cisco offer a change model that integrates “best-of-the-best” research findings to help students flourish in the 21st century – wherever they are and whatever their culture or socio-economic status, or the economic situation of their country, may be (Education 3.0), but it also details the integration of innovative pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment strategies across whole systems—accommodating learner differences, linking learning to the real world, and setting high, yet realistic, expectations for every student. We encourage you to learn more by joining our Virtual Forum for Education Leaders on April 28th.

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