You Are There: Scenes From Nth Generation's Annual End User Symposium

Nth Generation's End User Symposium: Introducing A New Nth

Nth Generation last week held its 11th annual end user Symposium at Disney's Grand Californian Hotel in Anaheim, Calif.

For Nth, a San Diego-based solution provider, the event was an opportunity to tell about 345 end user attendees about significant changes, including its move into the enterprise security market and a reorganization resulting in a CEO change.

The event was also notable for attracting over 190 vendor personnel, including over 100 from Hewlett-Packard, Nth's biggest vendor partner.

Turn the page for a look at the first day of the three-day event.

Nth Reorgs To Meet New Maturity

Jan Baldwin has over the last couple of months taken on the role of CEO of Nth Generation from her husband, Rick Baldwin, who is now the solution provider's chief strategy officer and CIO.

"Rich is the technologist, and has the vision," Jan Baldwin said. "Also, the culture of the company is changing. I am more representative of that culture at the heart. Not that Rich doesn't have a heart. But we have a strong workforce, and we don't need to babysit them like we were a startup."

Nth has many employees who have been with the company for 10 to 18 years, Rich Baldwin said. "Under previous leadership we were beginning to feel like a public company which was focused on making quarterly numbers. Today we’re a big cohesive family and our sales, teamwork, and morale have increased significantly since the change in leadership.’


Nth And Rich Baldwin: 20th Anniversary Times Two

Rich Baldwin, CSO and CIO for Nth Generation, kicked off the Symposium with an overview of the company's past year highlights, as well as introducing new security and risk mitigation strategies for the next 12 months (more on that in the next slide).

Baldwin, who until recently was also CEO until that title passed to his wife, Jan Baldwin, also noted that 2011 is the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Nth, which was started in 1991.

"It's also the same year Jan and I got married," Baldwin said. "Can you imagine starting a business and getting married at the same time?"

New Enterprise Security, Risk Mitigation Initiatives

Nth introduced a new risk mitigation practice to help customers minimize the risks involved with deploying new technologies in mission-critical, 24x7 environments, including cloud computing and converged infrastructure, Baldwin said.

Later in his keynote Baldwin introduced Jeromie Jackson (see slide 6), the company's new security practice lead, as part of a new focus by Nth on the enterprise security market. Baldwin said Jackson, who used to run his own security practice and who has been in the security industry for over 20 years, is helping Nth build an enterprise security team.

Shhhh! "Shadow IT Sprawl" A Secret

Dan Molina, CTO of Nth, said the use of cloud computing is becoming so pervasive that "server sprawl" caused by too many virtual servers being secretly created by users has given way to "shadow IT sprawl" as users increasingly go around their companies' IT department to secretly use public clouds to quickly handle tasks.

"Shadow IT sprawl" leads to potential compliance issues for businesses, Molina said. "(Such users) are putting the whole organization at risk," he said.

The answer? "How about adopting a private cloud?" Molina said.

Molina tried to quantify the "shadow IT sprawl" problem by noting that, according to a recent survey, 11 percent of companies had 20 or more shadow IT users. John Randall, marketing vice president for Nth, responded, "Of course, if its shadow IT, you're not supposed to know."

New Nth Practice: Risk Mitigation

Jeromie Jackson, Nth Generation's new security practice lead, introduced several ways which companies can help decrease the risks from their IT infrastructures:

* Companies need to categorize all their data regardless of where it sits, from servers to mobile devices to corporate credit cards.

* Carefully select the policies and audit controls applied to reducing the risks related to corporate data, as they can be very costly to implement.

* New technologies to protect business data need to be implemented thoroughly, with no weak links allowed.

* Assess the new technologies to ensure they are implemented properly, making sure that changes are included as customers and suppliers change.

* Make it very clear who is authorized to use a company's services.

Templates For Building Clouds

Dave Peterson, an Nth solutions architect, said that for customers looking to implement the cloud, HP is offering its CloudSystem single SKUs for building private, hybrid, and public clouds based on its C-class blade servers.

HP is also offering "CloudMap" templates for customers to use to build cloud services catalogs, Peterson said. "You don't have to redesign the wheel, because our HP friends have done all the work for us," he said.

Peterson said that, in his experience, most customers build a private cloud first, and then add technology to "burst" to a public cloud to handle short-term spikes before actually implementing public clouds. "If you can't get your private cloud in order, you will have trouble with your public cloud," he said.

SLED And The Cloud

Nth invited a panel of state and local government and education (SLED) CxOs and vendors to discuss the challenges and opportunities of cloud computing.

Phillip Leclair, deputy CIO for the City of Pasadena, Calif. (third from right), warned the audience that cloud computing is not a solution for any messes they currently have, and that they need a clear picture of what services are offered and who are using them.

"Taking that mess with you to the cloud is not going to help you," Leclair said.

More SLED And The Cloud

Joel Manfredo, CTO of Orange County, Calif. (far left), said that signing cloud contracts is difficult because vendors often cannot tell a company where its data is located or provide proof that it is compliant with regulations such as HIPAA and PCI.

Manfredo cautioned the audience to read contracts carefully. "There may not be an obligation on the part of the cloud provider to return your data," he said.

Jorge Mata, CIO of the Los Angeles Community College District (front center stage), said that adopting a private cloud to handle the data of a couple of million students meant survival for both him and his organization. "You will either learn to do this, or your replacements will," he said.

Journey To IT-As-A-Service: Orange County CTO

Manfredo later described in detail his organization's journey to become a provider of IT-as-a-Service to 32 Orange County, Calif. government departments.

Manfredo's organization worked closely with Nth Generation’s Professional Consulting Services and Hewlett-Packard to develop a comprehensive transformation plan, measuring progress with such metrics as reduced incident tickets, decreased SLA exceptions, and increased staff productivity.

Manfredo said that adopting the cloud to provide IT services led to a 32 percent drop in incidents from his department's customers, and that the number of resolved incidents has grown significantly. SLA exceptions fell by 77 percent between 2009 and 2010, while the average number of days to resolve issues dropped by 75 percent.

Starting The Cloud Journey

At the Symposium's Advanced Technology Demo Showcase, Nth brought in over $5 million in equipment from its San Diego demo lab to highlight its customer offerings.

In one corner was the Cloud Journey Showcase, brought together with help from HP, VMware, and Terremark. The Cloud Journey Showcase was divided into the five stages of a customer's journey to cloud computing, as defined by Nth.

That journey starts with an introduction to what the cloud can do for customers looking for more information, help with building a virtualized infrastructure, information for developing a private cloud based on that virtualized infrastructure, help with using public clouds, and information on tying it all together with a hybrid cloud.

Converged Infrastructure For Cloud Computing

HP, as Nth's primary vendor partner, had the lion's share of equipment at the Advanced Technology Demo Showcase, including storage, server, enterprise security, networking, TouchPad, and printing solutions.

One highlight was a complete, running HP converged infrastructure, including HP C-class blade servers, HP 3PAR (with the yellow bezel on right) and other storage, and a variety of third-party equipment, all bundled together in four racks. Nth said the Cloud Journey Showcase across the room was running on this converged infrastructure system.