Customers join us every year
Charlie McMahon, vice president for information technology
and chief technology officer, Tulane University, explains why he is an event Alumni.
With the Dell EMC combination, what are you expecting from the first Dell EMC World?
What I am looking for is signals about how similar technologies are going to be integrated. This comes back to the roadmap discussion. I’ve been very impressed with the storage arena and the direction that Dell has taken. Dell has done a great job not only providing the hardware but the software that it is necessary to support our enterprise storage needs.
EMC is going to bring another dimension to the storage capabilities. Dell has technologies in the storage arena that are very appropriate for businesses of my size. EMC deals with enterprises that are larger than we have at Tulane, but clearly EMC have some capabilities that I’d like to see in the systems that I’ve been historically buying from Dell. I see there’s an interesting opportunity where the traditional Dell storage and the traditional EMC storage meet and create a seamless product offering that will give me more choices as I select my storage technologies. That’s probably the biggest thing I’m looking forward to, now that Dell EMC have completed the merger. I really want to see the new technology offerings of this new company.
What do you love about this event?
It’s is a pretty cool gathering and a pretty unique event in many ways.
First of all, it’s a place where I find many of my peers gathering. There’s a subset of my peers that also consider Dell one of their key partners. That creates a community where I can interact with people with the same problems and who are solving these problems with the same technologies I’m using. There’s also a sense of community that grows with seeing people, sharing common experiences, visions and approaches.
Unlike other events, this is a very deep technical opportunity for us to interact not only with peers but also with the Dell leadership team, the people that are on the cutting edge of developing new technologies.
Every year I’ve attended I’ve been able to identify an emerging technology that helps me solve one of the problems I have at that point of time.
It is a very immersive environment where you can get one-to-one access to the architects of new technologies, people really on the leading edge.
These people not only are excited to share with me what they are doing, they are excited to understand what my needs are; in turn, that influences the direction they go with some of the technology developments. It’s not simply a one-way communication from the technology folks. It’s really an exchange of information and perspectives that I find very valuable.
Do you have a favorite story from the event?
I do! One year I was in the Whisper Suite to see some technology I’d heard rumors about. It was a new high-density switch with 132 40Gb Ethernet ports in just 3RU. Very impressive bandwidth and latency characteristics. I was talking with the developers and they were going on and on talking about the specs of this switch. I told them if we were to design a super computer around a single switch, it would be a pretty impressive machine. It would have outstanding network characteristics, and because we would be basing it on this new switch, we would have a very cost-effective and attractive price point.
While we were having this conversation, a group of developers that were working on the next generation of servers overheard us. They came around and joined our conversation. In about 15 minutes, we sketched out the architecture for this super computer that was built around that switch technology, incorporating the next generation of servers that was also being developed. That was a really cool experience! It was not something that was planned, but developed from a casual, overheard conversation; and we ended up designing something pretty special. About six months later we built that machine. We called it Cypress and you can see the specs on our website. It worked out very well.
What makes this event different from other technology events?
What makes this event different is the ability to grab the people. Well, no; you don’t need to grab people, they volunteer to step up and help you solve your problems not next week or next month but right there on the spot. That does not happen at any other event that I attend.
How do you describe the experience to your associates and colleagues?
I describe those success stories! It’s kind of nice when you’re able to do something really cool and cutting edge before other people even think about the solution. That’s what Dell helps me do: Dell helps me solve problems that do not have solutions yet. It’s not trivial to put these technologies together in unique ways to solve problems. When I’m talking to my colleagues, it’s easy; I just share the cool stuff we do.
Who do you recommend attend the event? Who needs to join us and why?
One of the things I’m very impressed with is the serious commitment to Women in Technology. If people on your staff have an interest in understanding the issues around Women in Technology and working on solutions, this is a good place to be. There is a session track dedicated to this topic and I always make sure I have someone attending from my team.
If you have someone who deals with storage and networking equipment at an executive level, those people need to be there.
I also like to have people who really roll up their sleeves and get their hands on the technology, particularly around networking, storage initiatives and around servers – the heart of our enterprise system. Those are the people that need to be there to interact with peers and Dell developers to see the roadmap so we can understand what’s coming and learn how new technologies can be incorporated into our plans.
I can’t emphasize enough how important it is for key IT decision makers to have visibility to these roadmaps.