Interop soldiers on in the face of a bad economy, swine flu

Cloud computing and data center architectures emerge as key themes for the show

Interop Las Vegas faces challenges because of restricted IT budgets nationwide, the poor economy and the unpredictable impact of a swine flu epidemic, but the show is forging ahead with new programs including a segment dedicated to cloud computing.

Interop Las Vegas faces challenges because of restricted IT budgets nationwide, the poor economy and the unpredictable impact of a swine flu epidemic, but the show is forging ahead with new programs including a segment dedicated to cloud computing.

Interop's general manager Lenny Heymann says in an interview with Network World that Interop Las Vegas 2009, which runs from May 17-21 at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center, has to deal with some pretty harsh realities. He says preregistration for the show is pretty strong, but attendance will drop compared with last year. "Most events are down, and we expect the same," he says. "Travel money is difficult."  

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As if that is not enough, the outbreak of swine flu is making attendance even more unpredictable. "We're watching that closely and carefully," he says. "It's too soon to say if we have to change or modify our plans. It's almost three weeks out. So far I think everything is going to be fine."

Looking on the bright side, he says that given the obstacles facing attendees, those who show up will be focused and motivated. "We'll see for sure that folks that end up going to events in the current economy really have a need to know. They have dollars, and they have shopping lists. We've heard from other events that those who attend are strong and qualified," he says.

Show attendees will find a major new area of focus: cloud computing. "This is the first time at length that anyone's examined the use and impact of the cloud within the enterprise," Heymann says. "There are real strengths and upsides there, and dangers for security and compliance.”

The cloud track of educational sessions supplemented with Cloud Camp and a two-day Enterprise Cloud Summit will help corporate IT executives get a well-rounded view of this growing technology.

The summit features a barrage of speakers from vendors to analysts to consultants who look at cloud computing from angles including security, privacy, application selection and licensing. Attendees can then hit the show floor where Interop has marked out Cloud Zone -- an area where about 40 vendors of cloud-related products and services will camp out to show their wares, Heymann says.

Cloud Camp is a gathering of experts in the field who give brief introductions to the technology then field questions from the audience, Heymann says.

Interop also features Energy Camp, which aligns with the green-track conference sessions. Experts running the camp quiz attendees what they want to know about green computing and tailor the day to their interests, he says. Interop annually polls registrants about what they are interested in and this year shows a significant uptick in interest in energy savings, Heymann says. Those results are scheduled to be released next week.

Keynote speakers at the events lack the big guns of former years such as Cisco's John Chambers and Microsoft's Bill Gates, but they will zero on an the important area of redesigning data centers and the impact virtualization and cloud computing have on that effort, Heymann says. Executives from HP, IBM and SAP will present the Cloud Summit keynote addresses, and a panel of three vendors -- Brocade, Cisco and Riverbed Technology -- comprise the keynote panel called Reinventing the Data Center. Heymann says recent Cisco, HP and IBM announcements about their data center strategies will likely be fleshed out during these addresses.

Heymann says to look for some changes on the show floor due to changes in ownership of some big players. For instance, Foundry Networks has been bought by Brocade, so the formerly large Foundry presence will be rolled up in Brocade's booth. IBM has announced a deal to resell former Foundry switches, so expect that to become part of the news released by those companies.

Siemens enterprise division has entered a joint venture with Enterasys, so they are combining forces in the Enterasys booth. HP ProCuve gear will be presented in the larger context of HP as a whole, Heymann says. "All these stories have been percolating but for the first time buyers will be able to see for themselves the new structure among the key players," he says. "What does that mean in terms of where buyers look to fulfill their data-center strategies? There's never been a time that I can remember that so much shifting has gone on at one time." In all, Interop has put together educational programs divided into 18 tracks in an effort to cater to attendees' needs, with the strongest emphasis on virtualization, he says. The technology has proven itself and hit its stride in servers and is starting to take hold in desktops, so a broader cross section of businesses are embracing it, boosting the need for education. "It's a very rich topic in terms of users incorporating it," he says.

Mobility also is a strong area of interest where businesses have adopted mobile devices but are looking to expand their scope.

"Mobility is very mature if you look at how many people have smartphones," Heymann says, "but it's less mature in terms of companies going beyond e-mail and mobilizing their business applications." Management and security for mobile devices also occupy a large chunk of the educational sessions on mobility. Heymann says he expects several announcements to be made at the show about Wi-Fi devices that support the 802.11n standard.

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