The IT industry must look for architectures which improve efficiency and allow companies to easily use external resources such as managed or cloud services, said EMC, VMWare and Cisco at the keynote of the event, held at the Westin Hotel in Martin Place, Sydney.
However, it was important to retain on-premises infrastructure to maintain reliability, security and control of data, and to allow companies more control over selecting their cloud computing partners, they said.
"We are not going to build a cloud ourselves. We will give companies a choice," said David Webster, president of EMC for Australia and New Zealand. "The cloud does not provide the flexibility and choice that companies need."
The three vendors unveiled their joint pitch for a virtualised data centre which runs on VMWare's recently released vSphere operating system and uses Cisco and EMC's virtualised network and storage devices.
Their message was that companies need to think of their data centre as a "private cloud" which can be connected to external clouds as more processing power, storage or other services are required.
The key to the private-cloud vision is virtualisation, which hides the location of IT resources from the user, said the vendors. Some on-premises infrastructure was necessary as it gave companies greater choice in finding managed services providers, they said. Virtualisation allowed the seamless federation of data between private clouds on companies' premises and with external cloud services and resources.
The three vendors said companies, especially in the mid-tier, were urgently wanting to cut the operational costs of running a modern data centre.
The logistics of running a modern data centre - where 80 percent of IT budgets are spent on maintenance and running costs - are unsustainable, said Webster. "That has to change."
A growing part of the cost of a data centre is in its management. Server prices have remained more or less stable over the past five years as their processing power has improved, but admin costs have soared.
Power and cooling costs have climbed too, but are a much smaller percentage of the overall cost of running a data centre.
Two strategies for reining in costs was virtualisation of the data centre and desktops, and automation of resources and data management.
CIOs need to focus less on provisioning devices and more on providing services to end users, said Paul Harapin, vice president of VMWare, South Pacific. "Applications and information should be accessible to anywhere, anytime," said Harapin.
He added that the virtual machine was becoming the common unit of computing in the data centre and had made prohibitively expensive technologies, such as fault tolerance, affordable to SMBs.
Data centres have become overly expensive and complex, said Kevin Bloch, CTO of Cisco, Australia and New Zealand. "It gets so bad that the operators don't want to touch a server because it might upset something," said Bloch.
Cisco was pushing its unified fabric concept during the keynote. Unified fabric takes legacy technologies like fibre channel and standardises on IP to contain costs and converges multiple networking elements into single devices. Unified fabric could reduce infrastructure needs by two-thirds and reduce provisioning, said Bloch.