While my colleagues have been soaking up all things IP EXPO at Earls Court, I've spent much of the week in Germany for the third annual Samsung Memory Solutions Forum, where the South Korean technology powerhouse launched its fifth generation of enterprise storage products. Naturally, the big reveal grabbed all of the headlines, but there were also a number of presentations and discussions that caught the eye, of which three in particular really stood out.
The first of these came from Sebastian Zilch, the head of business development at Deutsche Boerse Cloud Exchange, and set about demonstrating 'business innovation'. Zilch's big plan is to establish what he calls the world's first unified, fully-automated, completely vendor neutral marketplace for trading cloud capacity, computing and storage. His idea brings to mind 6Fusion's debate with Strategic Blue at GigaOM Structure: Europe (see 16:57).
According to Zilch, the platform would set about connecting providers with buyers, and would be competition-encouraging, open, flexible and as easy to use as online banking services. Bodies using the platform – whether cloud vendors, IT service providers, brokers or consumers – would be able to search for stocks via name, location or ID.
Of course, products traded on the exchange would have to be comparable, and Zilch says Deutsche Boerse would act as an operator and a trustee, applying an admission process which would ensure a participating organisation's financial wellbeing.
Next came the rather charming professor Klaus Toepfer, the director of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies and former German Environment minister, whose discussion revolved around sustainability in IT. Toepfer kicked off with a pair of striking statements: there could be nine billion people on earth in 2050; and "mankind is acting like a quasi-ecological force."
Obviously some scaremongering was in play here, but he still made some valid points. If the population was to increase by such a figure, could we cope? The way we're going right now, sadly not, according to Toepfer. He believes that the world of IT is waking up to this problem, but its actions are still far too slow. In order to maintain the planet for future generations, we need to shake a few things up, and waste could play a key role. "Whatever waste we have today will be the business of the future," said Toepfer, defining IT 'waste' as unused computer capacity and surplus virtual services.
Referring to a March 2011 Time Magazine article of the same name, his message was, "Today's smart choice: Don't own. Share." Many may still see the concept of 'green IT' as a mere fashionable movement today but Toepfer believes it is absolutely crucial for the future. And soon enough he anticipates a downwards spiral in product trade and the rise of a new trend of selling products' services instead.
Finally, former head of Cosworth's Formula One team Mark Gallagher took the stage, with a presentation titled 'Top performance is key to success'. I'm not an F1 fan myself, but Gallagher's talk certainly made me sit up and take notice. While it is well-known that technology plays a massive role in motor sports – it's all about trying to get the most power and efficiency out of energy – hearing about its full impact first-hand was highly interesting.
According to Gallagher, F1 relies so heavily on IT that the sport has become a predictable and frankly quite boring affair. It is now a data-based event, and drivers are mere machine operators. Here he says he is not exaggerating – during a race, all car data is broadcast to a racing team's base (in Red Bull's case, an office in Milton Keynes), where a group analyses the information and statistics and promptly feeds back to the driver. Gallagher calls it the "ultimate Big Brother system." Whichever team makes the best use of technology will – barring some significant failure – always win, Gallagher assures us.
But technology has also made Formula One a lot safer than it used to be. The tragic death of Ayrton Senna on the track back in 1994 remains to date the last driver fatality in the sport, and according to Gallagher that is not just down to luck.
The accident marked a crisis point in F1, and triggered an enormous safety push in the industry. Data that was previously only used to try and enhanced speed and efficiency is now also employed to boost safety and minimise the risk of accidents. As Gallagher summed up, "reliable, secure data makes F1 safe."
To end the day on a sweet note, he also announced that Formula One will be going fully hybrid in March 2014.