As many of you know, I spent a couple of days at the 7x24 Exchange Thought Leadership event in Orlando, FL. Orlando, as you probably know, is home to children’s make believe with attractions including Disney World and Universal Studios. I spent yesterday at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, a kind of adult land of make believe. Turning Stone, while very nice, is not Las Vegas; it has fewer restaurants, lower stakes, and fewer headliners.

Walt Disney, it is said, wanted the Magic Kingdom to feel isolated from the real world. And Las Vegas certainly feels virtually apart from the world, if only because of its sheer scale. Turning Stone, however, is just a day trip away for most of its customers, and the real world is just outside its doors. You can practically hear the New York State Thruway, it is so close.

So, in its way, Turning Stone is an ideal place for the New York Tech Summit, which is a terrific technology event organized by Teracai and CxTec.  Attendees at the event are almost all end users looking for solutions to their IT problems. They run libraries, hospitals, school districts, and small manufacturing plants. We tend to forget how many similarly sized facilities operate within the 50 states.

IT managers in these spaces must worry about energy costs, available space, technology refreshes, data security and availability, and new regulations. Capex and Opex are daunting issues. In other words, these users are just like those at 7x24, except at several orders of magnitude smaller.

The largest data center operator I encountered was Mark Dereberry, senior technical lead, Data Center Facilities for Harley-Davidson Motor Company. He described a consolidation and virtualization program that reduced Harley’s data center needs to under a megawatt in a very small footprint. Management was delighted at the space IT was able to give over to manufacturing. Harley was able to recoup some of its costs by selling equipment that was unneeded after the consolidation program, although older equipment had to be recycled.

More typical was Ted Love’s presentation. Love described his implementation of VDI (virtual desktop interface) at the Phoenix (New York) Central School District. Love described the district as small, but it is at least somewhat larger than my local school district. Love’s solution also requires less space than the previous solution, requires fewer IT professional, and costs less overall. Education professionals bombarded him with questions, and the envy was palpable. He had succeeded in a way that most of them could only dream about. What had he done, really? He installed a VDI solution on two blade servers, which made obsolete most of the more than 400 legacy desktop units in the district. The result changed his workload dramatically away from service and repair, gave the teachers more tools, and saved the district money.

Pointing to a Harvard Business Review article about the poor performance of America’s K-12 system, Love urged the other IT professionals to take the lead in their educational institutions, noting that change was coming any way. According to Stacy Childress, author of the review article,  “First until recently, they [schools] hadn’t widely adopted technology: Education ranked dead last, a 2002 Commerce Department study reported, in deployment of technology relative to number of employees. Second, when technology was deployed, it wasn’t being used to do anything differently—a problem many industries have long since confronted and resolved.”

I heard many similar stories at the event. Virtualization had arrived, and with it cost savings, energy savings, and space savings.

By contrast, the enterprise-scale solutions at 7x24 seemed to be discussing bigger facilities, cloud solutions, or modular solutions. These solutions just didn’t seem to apply  to the users I encountered yesterday, and yet they represented a lot of data center space.