What is the Digital Nervous System of an Enterprise? Expert Dan DeBacker Says “It’s the Data Center”

Stephanie Rodriguez Co-Op, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 19 Mar 2019

“The data center is really the center of the digital nervous system of a company, all of the intellectual property, all of the assets of a business lie within a data center – which is why it’s so crucial to understand how the data center is changing and why it’s changing to benefit your company in the long-run.” – Dan DeBacker, Director of Data Center Product Management, Extreme Networks

Meet the Expert – Dan DeBacker at Extreme Connect 2019

Considered a tech industry veteran, and with more than 30 years of data center networking experience, Dan DeBacker has worked across multiple data networking companies, including Brocade, Avaya, Nortel, Bay Networks, as well as being an end user at Ford Motor Company. Here at Extreme, his focus includes providing vision and strategy into Extreme’s Agile Data Center solutions portfolio.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Dan to discuss where networking is heading and what he is looking forward to most about our upcoming user conference, Extreme Connect 2019. Here’s a glimpse of our Q&A:

Question 1: Can you tell us a little about your background in networking?

Dan:  I started my career at Ford Motor Company and was there for 10 years. I then moved to Bay Networks, which was acquired by Nortel Networks and subsequently acquired by Avaya for a total of 14 years.  I made the move to Brocade in 2012 and now am part of Extreme.

As an end user for 10 years at Ford, I have that perspective and more empathy for what customers go through on a daily basis and the challenges they face. I think it made me a well-rounded with a broader view because I’ve been in a data center troubleshooting at 2 am and I understand how to design and sell solutions to the end users.

Question 2: What are your thoughts in the future of data networking? 

Dan: Networking itself is moving from a siloed approach in data centers to a more horizontal matrix model. There will still be a need for data center networking experts, but you also can’t be oblivious to everything else going on in the data center. Moving forward, you’ll have to know a little bit more about servers, storage, applications, security, and management – all the components that create the data center.  

Apart from all of this, networking is going to continue to change with automation. Automation is going to be a major shift for customers. Our concept of automation at your pace gives the choice of what, where and how. If we think about this in terms of automation-assist, starting small and growing, it doesn’t seem nearly as daunting.

Add on top of that, the use of visibility, analytics, machine learning, and artificial intelligence, end users will be able to know more, do more and continue the journey to autonomous and intelligent networking at cloud speed.

Question 3: What technologies should we be on the lookout for? 

Dan:  The future is all about management, automation, and analytics. The network itself is just a means to an end, so there’s no doubt you need a good infrastructure in place. However, it’s really about what you can do with that infrastructure and how fast you can adapt to changes in the environment. With digital transformation, things happen at a much more rapid pace. A company can be going in one direction, and suddenly, they make a right turn, and now the data center and infrastructure, in general, must be able to adapt quickly. The data center needs to become an asset to the business as opposed to an anchor.

Applications that help you run your network are going to be the technologies to watch out for. You can’t manage what you can’t see. Visibility and analytics will become even more important because if you need to make a change or a decision on the network you need to have all the right information in front of you. There isn’t going to be time to wait around and think “Should we do this? Should we do that?” You’ll need to make choices very rapidly to support the desired business outcomes.

Question 4: What are you looking forward to the most about Extreme Connect 2019?

Dan: I’m looking forward to the chance to speak to our customers and show them the new and exciting solutions we have to offer. I hope the take away from the conference is that Extreme is a well-rounded company with well-rounded solutions.

Extreme has the end-to-end solutions end users need and it’s going to be great to demonstrate and showcase these. Saying you have the full complement of solutions that work across the portfolio, like how Extreme Management Center can manage everything from the cloud to the campus to the data center, is great, but being able to show someone makes them a believer. End users are going to see that we are delivering exactly what we’re saying.

Question 5: You’re presenting a couple of breakout sessions: “A Path to the Agile Data Center: Design and Transition” as well as “Building the Agile Data Center: Provisioning and Management,” at Extreme Connect. Why should attendees add this session to their schedules?

Dan: Any customer that has data center responsibilities or is interested in understanding what this new Agile Data Center is all about and how the data center is a key tool and the central point for enabling digital transformation should attend these sessions.

We’ll first take time to dive into design best practices for the new Data Center as we get into specifics of how the technology works, what’s the best way to architect a solution and things to look out for. We’ll also talk in detail about transition – this is key as everything is a brownfield deployment, so getting from the old to the new isn’t always easy and straightforward. We’ll discuss the options and review some success stories in this area.

In the second session, once we’ve nailed our design, we’ll implement it, starting with plug and play automation, tenant provisioning, and VMware integration – all in a live demo. This will give attendees the real-life experience of how this is all done. It won’t be theory and slides, it will be a live implementation of a new Data Center Network.

Want to learn more about how you can transform your digital nervous system? Find out when you attend Dan’s can’t miss breakout sessions at Extreme Connect 2019.

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