25 'critical' things you need to know about Interop, Las Vegas

Vint Cerf, computer networking and bungee-jumping, all in the same city!

Vegas and Interop can be overwhelming, so here's a list of stuff to know and stuff to do while you're there.

For those of you going to Las Vegas for Interop, here are 25 fun facts about the show and things to while you're there.

1. Interop, which also hosts conferences in Japan, India and New York, was founded 25 years ago and expects about 13,000 attendees in the Las Vegas show May 8-12. Expo passes, keynotes, InteropNet tours and certain sessions are free, but a full ticket will cost more than $3,000

MORE ON INTEROP: Virtualization, cloud computing dominate InteropQuiz: Can you identify the misfires, milestones and high jinks from Interops past?

2. If you're going to Interop you almost have to check out the keynote speech to be delivered by Vint Cerf on Tuesday morning. Seriously, how often do you get to hear the wisdom of one of the fathers of the Internet?

3. Interop founder Dan Lynch is a "private investor and retired bum," according to Usable Security Systems, where he is an investor and adviser. Lynch was involved in the development of Arpanet and founded CyberCash, whose payment technology was acquired by eBay's PayPal.

4. Tour the InteropNet and OpenFlow Lab. Interop offers tours each year of one of the impressive temporary networks in the world. This year the show is upping the ante by providing a lab where attendees can learn about OpenFlow, an emerging networking technology with backing from Microsoft, Google, Facebook and others.

5. Interop, will be held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The million-square-foot convention center is attached to the hotel of the same name, which has some pretty fancy restaurants and a giant wave pool and “beach.”

6. Obviously, there is tons of fun stuff to do in Las Vegas. Take a ride on the New York New York casino's roller coaster. Here's a description: "The Roller Coaster will lift you up 203 feet, drop you down 144 feet and leave you coasting at 67 mph."

A discussion with Interop general manager Lenny Heymann

7. Visit the SuperNAP. You'd probably need an invitation, but one of the world's most powerful and efficient data centers is just six miles from the Vegas airport. The location was chosen partly because of its lack of natural disasters and the presence of a no-fly zone around the airport, minimizing the risk of a plane crash.

8. Go to the top of the Stratosphere, and bungee jump down. The Stratosphere hotel's tower is 1,149 feet tall, one of the tallest structures in the United States. You can take an elevator ride to the top in less than a minute, and then fall down 108 floors in the "SkyJump," the “highest controlled free fall in the world.”

9. If you want something even more dangerous, you can always gamble – and you can do that anywhere in Vegas, even the airport. If you do gamble, feel free to sign up for each casino's rewards card program to earn free meals and stuff. A couple of years ago I snagged some free Beatles T-shirts and drumsticks from the Hard Rock Hotel. You may not be so lucky, because the Hard Rock has scaled its rewards program back since then. But if you're going to risk your money anyway you may as well have a chance at some free stuff.

10. See a Steel Panther show. Possibly the funniest band in Las Vegas, Steel Panther parodies 1980s metal groups, complete with cheesy guitar solos, big hair and inane stage banter. It's a bit like watching four Weird Al Yankovics on steroids, singing Def Leppard and Journey. Steel Panther will rock the house at the Green Valley Ranch on May 7 and the House of Blues on May 13, just before and after Interop.   

11. For some cheap fun, walk the strip. There's no ban on open containers on the Vegas Strip, and people-watching in Vegas is always a treat. For some extra Strip-related sight-seeing, make sure to check out the Bellagio fountains and Mirage Volcano.

12. The Las Vegas area was one of the nation’s fastest growing regions for many years, but the recession hit Nevada hard. There are reportedly 167,564 empty houses in Nevada, and Nevada's 13.6% unemployment rate was the nation's highest in February

13. High-tech industry executives recently met with the Nevada governor and legislative leaders, urging them to create new jobs and help workers learn technology skills.

14. While the economy has slowed down, it's often hard to tell on the Strip. If you want to check out something new, go to the impressive CityCenter, a giant complex with many hotels, casinos and shops.

15. Interop not enough for you? There are always plenty of other conferences in Vegas. Symantec will host Vision 2011 the week before Interop at Caesar's Palace. The week after Interop brings North America CACS at the Paris, a conference for IT audit, security and governance professionals.

16. If you're looking to learn about cloud computing and virtualization, the first two days of Interop are for you. On Sunday, May 8 and Monday, May 9, Interop will host the enterprise Cloud Summit and Virtualization Days, each of which are two-day workshops and cost $1,590 to attend. There will also be a CIO Boot Camp on the same two days for $1,590.

17. Most of the big enterprise tech names will be either sponsoring or exhibiting at Interop, including Cisco, Amazon, Citrix, EMC, Dell, HP, Intel, Juniper, Microsoft and VMware. Three vendors that aren't on the list:  Apple, Google and Oracle.

18. Getting tired of tech stuff? Here are some more fun options. Off the Strip, check out the Fremont Street Experience, in the same area that saw the first hotel and paved street built in Vegas in the early 1900s. It still has an "old-timey" feel, but also some newfangled light and sound shows every night on the pedestrian walkway.

19. If you want to show off your hard body (or look at someone else's) there are tons of fancy pool parties at places such as the Palms, Hard Rock and Rio.

20. In Vegas, you will use copious amounts of electricity. At Hoover Dam you can see electricity get made. You can drive out to Hoover Dam for a tour, or fly over in a helicopter

21. Visit the Valley of Fire. About 55 miles northeast of Las Vegas is the Valley of Fire State Park in the Mojave Desert. There are plenty of great hikes and you can drive by Lake Mead on the ride up there.

22. For some more nature goodness, drive 35 miles from Vegas to Mount Charleston, a 12,000-foot mountain with plenty of hiking trails, camping sites and a ski area. The often snowcapped mountain peak can be seen from portions of the Las Vegas Strip.

23. Visit the Atomic Testing Museum. Affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, the museum covers the history of nuclear testing in Nevada since 1951. Recently, a monitoring station at the museum actually found small amounts of radiation originating from Japan's damaged nuclear power plant. 

24. Bet on the World Series. Baseball is just getting started, but casino sports books will take your bets on who will win the World Series. You could make a lot of money on the Pittsburgh Pirates – but you'd probably have a better chance betting on the lottery.

25. Leave. After a few days in Vegas, you'll be ready to go home. Just trust us.

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