BrainShare 2011

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Customers and partners from all over the planet converged in Salt Lake City for a first-hand look at the latest offerings from Novell, SUSE and, for the first time at BrainShare, NetIQ. During the conference, attendees ate 23,000 slices of bacon, drank 486 gallons of beer, and topped it off with 5,600 brownies. Of course, they also attended more than 200 technical sessions and met with dozens of engineers and top industry vendors. Here's a brief re-cap of some of the highlights.

Keynotes

More than 2,000 people gathered for the opening keynote session. [See video replays.] They heard from Jeff Hawn, CEO of The Attachmate Group, and the presidents of three of its companies, NetIQ, Novell and SUSE, along with top product experts from each. The speakers laid out their vision for the future--and demonstrated specific technologies for making that vision a reality.

Jeff Hawn outlined the history, current structure, and business strategy of The Attachmate Group, which now boasts 60,000 customers around the world. Hawn said that the privately-held company is focused on customers, not on pleasing Wall Street.

Novell President Bob Flynn rolled a video showing the history of Novell: from pioneering networking itself, to leading out in directory services, to advancing Linux and more. What's important, though, he said, is what comes next. He pointed out that all the slides look great, but the critical part is how Novell executes against the commitments it made to customers this morning. To that end, he emphasized Novell's renewed focus, engineering excellence and lasting relationships. As one example, he recommitted Novell to GroupWise, mentioning adoption of the product within The Attachmate Group, and enhanced capabilities like BlackBerry support.

The first demo previewed an upcoming product, Novell Filr (pronounced "filer"). Filr makes better use of the files enterprises already have, providing a middle tier and intelligence for files in order to provide easy social sharing and mobile access.

Next up was a demo of the newly-announced GroupWise 2012 (formerly code-named 'Ascot'). GroupWise 2012 features improved WebAccess, better calendaring, synching with Novell Vibe and much more. The new version is more mobile, more customer focused, more integrated, and more effective at increasing productivity. The public beta begins today. The upcoming ZENworks 11 SP2 also got a workout on stage, showing off its policy-based management, Novell Full Disk Encryption, as well as the ability to tie a user's credentials to a device, allowing only that owner to use the device.

NetIQ President Jay Gardner then took the stage to talk about the powerful combination of Novell and NetIQ. He said the combined set of solutions makes NetIQ the largest, most focused company in the identity and security space, one that is relentlessly focused on its customers' success. NetIQ has 80 offices around the world, more than 700 engineers, and a strong partner ecosystem. In other words, the scale, scope and strategy needed to solve problems. "Large enough to deliver, small enough to care."

To illustrate the powerful combinations, a demo of Change Guardian and Sentinel followed. Sentinel can let admins quickly create easy-to-read security reports upon demand. But its powerful correlation engine can also automatically notify administrators. This was followed by a demo that illustrated in detail how AppManager, Aegis, Operations Center and Cloud Manager, working together, could save the day when helping an insurance company deal with a disaster.

SUSE President Nils Brauckmann was on hand to deliver the SUSE keynote. He gave an overview of the firm's history, going all the way back to 1992. Brauckmann offered some SUSE stats: 13,000 enterprise customers, employees in 43 countries, 20+ years experience, a 5000-strong partner infrastructure, 80% share of all Linux on mainframes, 70% share of all SAP running on Linux, more than 8500 certified apps, dozens of name-brand enterprise customers. On top of all that, most top-ten supercomputers are running SUSE. SUSE also continues its strong partnerships: Microsoft, SAP, VMware, Amazon.

Why should customers choose SUSE? Three reasons: no vendor lock-in, maximum choice and flexibility, and enterprise quality. The top IT issues as laid out by Nils: return on investment, strategic alignment, risk mitigation. Top tech trends: open source software, commodity hardware, virtualization, cloud computing - both public cloud and private clouds, with both open source and proprietary approaches. SUSE's cloud strategy includes offering SUSE Linux Enterprise Server in public clouds, a SUSE cloud infrastructure solution based on OpenStack, and platform and tool integration solutions, such as SUSE Studio and SUSE Manager.

SUSE engineers showed a demo of how to quickly and easily build, deploy and manage IT workloads in public clouds (Amazon Web Services in this case) using SUSE Linux Enterprise Server, SUSE Studio and SUSE Manager.

IT Central & Breakout Sessions

The hub of all activity at BrainShare is IT Central, where attendees can get the latest technical details on the solutions that are most important to them, in many cases directly from the engineers who designed them.

IT Central is a technology lab, where experts from NetIQ, Novell and SUSE are available to demo new solutions and answer questions from customers.

It's an exhibit hall, where representatives from industry leaders such as HP and Microsoft are on hand.

It's a training opportunity, where visitors can stop by the Installation & Upgrade Central area to try their hand at installing and configuring the latest software, and get coaching as needed.

IT Central is even the dining area, since lunch is served right there among the demo tables and booths, maximizing the available time. (So far, no server racks have been destroyed by a spilled drink.)

A popular stop in the hall this year is the GWAVA booth. GWAVA, the cornerstone sponsor of BrainShare, provides security, archiving, management and disaster recovery solutions for Novell GroupWise, Vibe and other messaging and collaboration systems. GWAVA's Christina Bliss said there a few themes she's hearing from BrainShare attendees.

"Security has really come to the forefront because of major recent malware attacks," Bliss said. "People are interested in what we do because if there's malware sitting dormant we can go get it and get it out. And it's interesting because we're finding that there is a lot of malware that's sitting dormant in post offices, time bombs that can go off later." She said archiving and compliance are also consistent interests among IT pros who are visiting the GWAVA booth during the conference.

She said a highlight at BrainShare this year for her company and its customers is Novell's renewed commitment to GroupWise, especially the new GroupWise 2012 and its enhanced Web access features, along with Novell Filr, which was announced on Tuesday.

Another major stop at IT Central is SuperLumin Networks, which provides caching, content acceleration and application acceleration solutions to enterprises across the globe. And it wasn't just attendees who got to know the company. Every year, the team responsible for organizing BrainShare faces the challenge of providing wireless Internet access to hundreds of IT professionals who are using a wide range of devices at the conference to stay in touch with their operations back home. Most of them at the same time. Network usage at BrainShare 2011 has, by some measures, more than doubled last year's rate. But on Wednesday admins reported smooth operations. With no prompting whatsoever from Marketing, the reason they cited was the caching server provided by SuperLumin.

BrainShare attendees took in more than 200 hands-on technical sessions about technology and solutions from NetIQ, Novell, and SUSE, each one designed to advance real-world, up-to-the-minute skills and competencies. Most of the sessions were taught by the engineers and experts closest to the products being discussed. This year, BrainShare was combined with Novell Advanced Technical Training (ATT). The advanced classes included options for those looking to cross-train in other technologies, as well as resume-building certifications.