Silicon Valley: The gift that keeps on giving (VFD3)

Being a delegate at Virtualization Field Day 3 (VFD3) gave me an opportunity to spend 5 days in San Jose/Santa Clara/Mountain View/Palo Alto, also known as “The Valley”. It was not only great to meet vendors but also to hang out with Stephen Foskett and Tom Hollingsworth who know most people within the industry and have a pretty good idea where the IT Industry is heading.

Literally !! An Overview 

IMG_2860 This is a picture of me, standing at Freemont Elder with my good friend Peter Curley, MD of Applied Materials. Applied Materials are a company that is critical to the supply and delivery of “Silicon” to The Valley and the world in general. That’s the stuff we all assume is inside everything we use that has a keyboard. Most people don’t even think about it; It just works. Behind us is Silicon Valley, a region that has possibly outlived it’s moniker. I’m wondering whether we should consider renaming it as “Software Valley” ?

What-if ?

When we were looking over The Valley along with Marco Broeken, we surveyed the region and were chatting about earthquakes, fault lines, coast lines and all things geological. As Marco observed, if all this went away due to natural disaster or some other calamity, what would we do for a living ? Would we be able to work without the creation of Intellectual Property that emanates from this region ? Would innovation, technological advancement and the delivery of new functionality cease. Would we work off vSphere 5 or its equivalent for the next 5 years ? It would be not so much a case of rebuilding hardware and infrastructure but replacing ideas, know-how and the people who harness their creativity every day. And that’s not something that can be done overnight.

Look Around 

IMG_2770 It’s possibly overlooked and taken for granted that on nearly every street corner in The Valley there is a globally recognised brand-name. I mean literally everywhere you look you will see a Broadcom, Palo Alto, Google, Cisco, VMware, Juniper etc etc etc etc etc etc. There are hundreds !! And of course this is no accident but is a self-perpetuating cycle. When you have so much talent in the same place, business thrives. We sometimes call the forces of creativity in these companies “Rockstars”. That’s an interesting title but it’s because they are thought leaders who are constantly pushing the envelope. They’re at the cutting edge….Breaking on through to the other side….. When I reflect on the DotCom era around year 2000, I remember in other countries, as well as in The Valley how everyone wanted to get rich quick. While things may not be at those heady heights, it is not a passing FAD in The Valley. Once there are ideas there will be funding. It’s about commerce but also much more than that.

CTOs: The definition of adventure

During Virtualization Field Day 3 we visited companies like Cohodata, Atlantis, CloudPhysics, Pure Storage and met people like Andy Warfield, Chetan Venkatesh and Irfan Ahmad. Any startup is a gamble that may not pay off. I’m sure The Valley is littered with failed startups, the same as aspiring actors and actresses in LA. The payback can be huge, but these people don’t just do it for the money in my view. We also saw Shmuel Kliger from VMTurbo who has been there before with SMARTS which was acquired by EMC. When his colleague was presenting he was pacing the room, with a drive and initiative that was so obvious to me.

A cup of Java

So when we meet such vendors, it always makes me think of these ventures starting in a cafe somewhere over a cup of coffee or a sandwich.  It looks easy once you have a sign on a street corner, but building to that point is at the other end of trivial. As Stephen Foskett pointed out to all, one of the great things about Tech Field Day is that you get to visit companies at different stages in their journeys. When we visited Pure Storage and the guys put up a map of all their locations, it struck me how we take for granted what it takes to build a global presence. That is also at the other end of trivial. But each company is trying to move forward and achieve market share.

These are not “sales” offices  

In Dublin we have a large IT footprint. We also have a lot of rockstar talent. However in the case of certain sectors and companies like Google and Amazon, As my Enterprise Architect friend Gordon points out, in some areas in Ireland we are “builders”, but the “architects” are State-side. In other areas like Software for Telecommunications it is the case that we are World Leaders via companies such as Openet Telecom.

Silicon and the SDDC 

We commonly use the work “commodity” to describe hardware, and we are now starting to apply the same attributes to a hypervisor. So now we refer to software as a commodity; Who would have foreseen that ? This is where the so-called Software Defined DataCenter kicks in. If we look at what VMTurbo are doing, it’s about automation and achieving a desired state through software. During their presentation and reaction to this on Twitter, it seems clear that my IT comrades do not fear ceding control to software. In fact it’s the opposite, such is the power of software today. I for one value the effort, ingenuity and drive that the firms of Silicon Valley represent. That’s why TechFieldDay is so fantastic. To let true innovators and future industry titans speak directly to regular guys and girls who might happen to be bloggers, but are just representing their specific IT Communities. That’s openness and power right there…

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