TEF Q&A – Manoj Wadekar, Ethernet Alliance Board Member & Technical Committee Chair
Why is the Ethernet Alliance focusing on end users at the upcoming Technology Exploration Forum?
We wanted to do this TEF in a new way because in the last year, we’ve seen that people appreciate a forum where they can come together to discuss their future needs from Ethernet.
At previous meetings, we had a limited number of end users who would talk about their Ethernet needs and pain points. There was a lot of interest from people in the room, as most were from the system and device community and they are always looking to figure out what actual end users want. Discerning the real pain points remains a challenge for anyone defining a system or product
The feedback we received was that it would be fantastic to have more end users come and talk about their view of the world and where Ethernet technology needs to go. So, this time, we are asking the end-user community “What do you need?”
What was the “light bulb” moment that led you to make the format change?
In 2009 Andy Bach from the NYSE Euronext gave a keynote at our spring TEF. His speech generated so much discussion that that we struggled to keep to our remaining schedule. It was easy to see that people were very interested in talking to end users. We have had a lot of lively discussions arise from our technology panels, but it was satisfying to see so many people wanting to engage in discussion after Andy’s talk.
What will TEF attendees get from this meeting that they didn’t last time?
There are two things. One is insight into new trends like how virtualization, cloud, high-speed networks are coming together and what that means to the end users. The second is Ethernet itself – convergence is driving new use cases beyond networking and span to storage, low-latency applications etc. How do the end users perceive readiness for such capabilities of Ethernet in their businesses? These are the two angles that people want to learn more about from the end user point of view.
People know that all these things are happening and need to happen. But I think hearing it from the end user point-of-view will provide true validation of those thoughts.
What about prioritization? Will attendees get a sense of what direction they need to go in?
Yes; people want to understand because there are new architectures coming. Most of the time, product companies have their noses very close to the ground but end users are the ones that have a view of what they want and use. Even though we’re all connected to the end users through our sales and marketing teams and the data that we get back from them, there is nothing like hearing actual end users sharing and talking about the direction they would like us to take.
Does the willingness to listen to end users stem from lessons learned from past technologies such as ATM and SONET?
There are definitely lessons that have been learned. Sometimes there is risk of solution being created ahead of needs or at least it not being tailored appropriately to the problem statement. When you hear an end user say that something is a strong requirement, you’ll go and try to make that happen When lot of technological changes are happening, many vendors try to determine what their priorities should be by looking at things from the end users’ perspective. It helps them to make the best decision about their own internal priorities and product strategies.
The second thing is, end-user perspective helps to bound a solution to practical bounds. For example, there may be practical steps to achieve final goal of a complete cloud based infrastructure. There may be immediate techniques that end users might be interested in but that we’re missing out on right now.
Aligning their priorities with those of the customers will help product developers and system vendors to target their solutions to specific customer needs. It also will give them a chance to meet with decision-makers who will choose where that technology will be going for that end customer.
This is not a typical conference where you have end users walking around looking at products. It’s not about the number of leads you can get, but how much mindshare and understanding you’re getting about when end users are going to look at various technologies, why they’re looking at them, what they’ll be used for, and which pain points they’re really trying to solve.
What kind of feedback do you expect to get from this TEF?
When I talked to the end users who are speaking at TEF 2012, I discovered there was an interest on the end user side, too. Most of the attendees of conference are actively involved in defining Ethernet standards, so this is an opportunity for End Users to come in and influence this small, very focused community that is dedicated to defining Ethernet standards. These end users believe TEF 2012 is the right place for them to deliver their message about what kind of technology they want and how they want to use it.
Again, this is the first time – we’re just starting down this road with an end user-focused TEF. This conduit between end users and actual technology creation should be maintained. We’ll continue to learn and collect feedback as always, and hopefully this will be the first of many more end user TEF’s to come.
Is this being done anywhere else in the Ethernet community?
The Ethernet Alliance is committed to the expansion of the Ethernet Ecosystem, and supporting the development of Ethernet. This event is a way for us to support that commitment. As far as I know, this is the first time a whole conference has been focused on having only end users come and talk directly to the technologists who are defining Ethernet. Furthermore, in this event the Ethernet community is our technology advisory board. That’s not being done anywhere!
How did you select the speakers?
We started by looking at various technology areas that our members are interested in. Individuals who could provide insight into things like speeds, latency, power, and driving the technology to new capabilities and requirements were approached. For example, the financial industry needs more speed; the oil exploration people are looking to improve their data centers; and still others are looking at leveraging cloud computing.