Monday, November 17, 2008

Jim Pepin: Arpanet < iPhone

Jim Pepin, CTO at Clemson, had some thought-provoking points about the challenges facing research environments. Similar to some of Ray Kurzweil's analysis about the rates of change for technology, Jim compared technology today to his start in the field in the 1970s, and noted that there has been five to seven magnitudes of growth in storage, compute and networking capacities over that time. He noted that his iPhone has more compute and storage capacity than the entire Arpanet did in the 1970s.

He also got a round of unsolicited applause from the crowd this morning for pointing out the value of SAM-QFS and chiding Sun spending too much time talking about ZFS, and not giving more attention to the widely used software for large scale archival storage.

Jim said that storage is in many cases moving closer to the user, with GBs of storage in laptops or in pockets on phones and USB drives. That conflicts with organizational drives to do a better job of organizing and protecting data, and vendor pushes to move data and systems into the cloud. He noted that the speed of light is not a suggestion, it's a law - we can't change it to make clouds work better. He went on to suggest that campus IT has come to think of itself as plumbers and not innovators, and that trend needs to reverse if we are going to successfully address these challenges. He listed several efforts under way at Clemson, including the broadening of IT support beyond the traditional Helpdesk out to power users and user groups.

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