The Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek hosted the 7x24 Change Spring Conference, June 3-6, 2018. Approximately 650 vendors and endusers attended the event, which was filled with social and networking opportunities along with keynotes and breakout sessions.

7x24 Exchange was founded as the Uninterruptible Uptime Users Group in November of 1989. The founders recognized that IT and facilities professionals worked in separate silos and that operating in this manner was not beneficial for the business they support. The founders Ken Brill, Dennis Cronin, Paul Fox, Alan Freedman, Frank Gialanella, John Jackson, and Howard Levison had a vision to conduct meetings with IT and Facility professionals and the consultants and vendors that support the Mission Critical industry so they would gain a better understanding of the challenges each faced and would begin to work closer together for the benefit of the business. In all, 16 people attend the first meeting in a Wall Street conference room.

The event has grown not only in size but in its stature in the mission critical industry, now being one of the largest gatherings that focuses on education for the industry. Endusers come from around the world and represent such prestigious companies as GEICO, Wells Fargo, FaceBook, Eaton, and Tesla. 7x24 provides its members with two major meetings annually that serve as great training events. The 2018 Fall Conference will be held October 21-24, 2018 at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Phoenix.


Meeting Highlights

The conference opened Sunday, June 3, with a tutorial about the data center certification program. Mission Critical magazine’s board of advisor member, Paul Schlattman, senior vice president at Environmental Systems Design was among those presenting on the topic. The purpose of the program is to enhance data center resiliency and protect the data center consumer especially from cloud or colocation downtime. It is a comprehensive program that includes sustainability, fire, life-safety, and security.

The panel also reviewed the first existing data center to apply for certification, QTS Chicago; and the first to apply for new construction certification, Iron Mountain, Manassas, VA.

Data Center 101, a session designed for student education, was aligned with 7x24 Exchange’s commitment to STEM education. Participating among five panelists was Mission Critical magazine’s advisory board member, Dennis Cronin, CEO, Resilient Solutions. The panel spoke of the Top 10 trends in IT today including: Mobile computing, virtualization, cloud/client computing, software defined applications, libraries – digital content, IoT, cloud-based storage, and cyber security.

Tim Campbell, P.E., Syska Hennessy Group, Inc., an associate partner, talked to the group about general important concepts such as redundancy, reliability and availability, distinguishing between these non-technical and non-scientific definitions that are actually the parameters by which all data center applications are measured.

7x24 Exchange International New England Chapter chairman, Michael Swetz, vice president, Global Technology Operations, State Street Corp., spoke to data center management, procurement, and operations. Swetz said, “Professionals in this industry receive education through generalist pathways before specializing in data centers. U.S. Department of Labor says that employment of computer and information technology occupations is projected to grow 12 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average of all occupations.”


Keynotes & Sessions

Robert Cassiliano, 7x24 Exchange Chairman and CEO, opened the meeting with a report on the association’s growth and summary of initiatives. In addition to the objectives of association management, Cassiliano emphasized the importance of the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) commitment of 7x24 Exchange.

“The STEM program exists because not enough students are pursuing curriculum studies that lead to data center employment,” said Cassiliano. Thus, an industry that is seen from the outside as high tech in fact suffers the same labor shortage problems that the skilled trades are experiencing.

Molly Fletcher, the opening keynote speaker, received a $5,000 check in her honor, written to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. The presentation is in keeping with a long-standing tradition of the 7x24 Exchange conferences to support local community efforts.

Fletcher, nicknamed “the female Jerry Maguire” by CNN, spent nearly two decades as a sports agent. She now applies lessons learned from years in the sports industry to the business world.

Fletcher presented the 7x24 audience of approximately 630 attendees with several key messages. “How do I make them think they can’t live without me?” asked Fletcher. Relating her own experience as a former tennis star in college and how she transferred that experience into nine years of free apartment rent in Atlanta while increasing the property’s occupancy rate to 96%.

She next posed the question, “How can we stay relational and not focus on transactional?” Fletcher related a story of how she failed to ask the hard questions of former University of Florida head basketball coach, Billy Donovan (current NBA Oklahoma City Thunder head coach), when he was then considering a move to the NBA. “The negotiation was going too smoothly, and I never bothered to ask Billy the tough questions. I didn’t get in the moment, I was too focused on the transactional outcome, and I missed the bigger opportunity,” said Fletcher.

Francis Dramis, CEO, FDRAMIS, LLC, spoke to the group about the Four Secrets of Retention. According to Dramis, “Retention is the biggest problem we faced in all my business experiences, and the technology industry has the highest turnover. The average tenure of a CIO is 5.7 years, and 1.5 years for the average technologist. Knowing this it is important to capture the mindshare of employees for the brief time they are with you. Every manager should focus on helping direct and indirect reports accumulate the skills, experience and relationships needed to attain their professional aspirations.”

The four secrets of retention are: 1. Increase their marketability; 2. Make them strategic; 3. Instill a set of shared values; 4. Link their work to their business life goals. Dramis’ message was that a sincere interest in an employee’s business life goals will lead to longer tenure, but also to a better tenure for those that still accelerate their careers elsewhere.


Blockchain Technology

One of the meeting highlights was a presentation by Kfir Godrich, managing director, global head of technology and enterprise services, BlackRock. Godrich posed the rhetorical question to the audience, “Why are we talking about blockchain? The reason we are talking about it is because people are afraid they will miss the next Internet if they don’t.” Godrich’s sly humor was not lost on the crowd, as many equate blockchain and cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin as the next big thing that turns the world on its ear. Bitcoin is digital cash that is transacted via the Internet in a decerntralized, trustless system using a public ledger called blockchain.

Godrich cautioned that though blockchain is an eminent evolution, not to expect bitcoin or other cryptocurrency to necessarily maintain its current mysterious stature as a new form of money. He expects that regulations for taxation, value treatment, identity management, etc., will lag market evolution by five years. Godrich also predicted, “Limited operability between different metacoin platforms, at different levels of stack (scripting level, data level, etc.) and lack of clear customer use cases will cause retirement or termination of 90% of metacoin development initiatives.”

However, with regard to data centers especially for the financial markets, Godrich said, “We are in a digital transformation in everything in our world. Blockchain is an underlying data management process which may expedite some of the changes we foresee.”

“Blockchain or distributed ledger is a transaction database share by all participants in a network. The distributed ledger contains every transaction executed between participants. With this information anyone can trace back a value belonging to any participant at any point in history. One outcome is that specially designed consensus algorithm deters rogue participants,” said Godrich. In other words, security measure can be greatly enhanced.

Current problems with blockchain include such things as latency; up to 10 minutes per transaction is not uncommon. Privacy is another concern as all transactions are disclosed to the entire network. The blockchain of tomorrow is expected to provide faster, cheaper clearing, settlement, and reconciliation of transactions.

Godrich’s final words: “Be prepared to accept even more disruption and fluidity across business and the economy.

For more information on the 7x24 Exchange International conferences and organization, visit