Interop: We Want More

Reporter’s Notebook: LAS VEGAS — As a city built on excess, Las Vegas was the perfect venue for this year’s Interop. But how much of what went on in Vegas this week actually stay in Vegas?

In session after session, booth after booth and briefing after briefing, I heard only one word ringing in my ears: more. More speed, more power, more features, more security and, perhaps, more dramatically this year than in previous years — more interoperability.

Microsoft helped set the tone of the event with its day-one announcement of interoperability between its NAP and the TNC network access control
frameworks. The theme pervaded the show, as vendors up and down the line spent an inordinate amount of time in their booths and in seminars all talking about how their stuff will work with others.

With a show called Interop that should hardly be a surprise, though, right?

Users by and large are demanding more than ever before from their networks,
IDC analyst Abner Germanow gave reasons why networking
is growing faster
than other segments of IT. The bottom line is that
more stuff is coming onto the network, which is a reality Nortel CEO and president Mike Zafirovski expressed during his day-two keynote about hyperconnectivity.

Getting more out of existing networks was also a theme in sessions. Call it WAN optimization or network intelligence; it amounts to the same thing in the final analysis.

Users are trying to squeeze
as much as they can over their WANs and are looking for any edge they can
find to get it. More vendors than I can count told me they have
solutions to provide x greater performance than standard connections, and I noticed a lot of booth visitors nod their heads as they agreed that was
something they wanted.

Certainly WAN optimization isn’t anything
dramatically new, but it’s important to remember that networks don’t change
overnight, and, as IDC’s projections show, it is now that demand is really
ramping up.

Users are also asking for more speed. Vendors with 10GbE gear accounted for much of the activity as did The Ethernet Alliance, which was showing off 10GbE
standards. One GbE in the datacenter just isn’t enough anymore for many
demanding environments.

The newly ratified
10GBASE-T standard
is one mechanism by which more will be provided to
datacenters, allowing them to move packets at greater speeds using their
existing cable infrastructure.

On the wireless side, audience questions asking when 802.11n gear would truly be shipping and ready for full deployment dominated a session on the future of enterprise wireless. The general consensus from vendors
is 2008, but clearly there are many out there that need the extra bandwidth
promised by 802.11n as soon as they can get it.

On the power side, users want more electrical power out of
their Ethernet, too. In a session with panelists from Alcatel-Lucent, Nortel
and Cisco about the future of the network switch, the question-and-answer
session was filled with audience questions about Power over Ethernet (PoE) Plus.

PoE Plus is an
emerging Ethernet standard to provide 30 watts or more of power over a
standard CAT 5e cable. The existing power over Ethernet standard can only
support about 15 watts. Users and vendors alike were excited about the
prospect of reducing wires in their organizations and being able to power
and provide connectivity to a wider range of devices than is currently

Enterprise network users are a demanding bunch.

The slogan “whatever happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” is not likely to hold
true for what I saw this year at Interop. Enterprises are demanding more
than ever before from their networks and it’s a demand that I expect vendors
will do their best to satiate.

Sean Michael Kerner is senior editor of

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