Interop 2009: Big Networking in the Recession

When the going gets tough, the tough goes to… Las Vegas?

Interop Las Vegas 2009 gets underway next week, with vendors big and small talking up their networking wares. With big vendors like Cisco (NASDAQ:CSCO) and Juniper (NASDAQ:JNPR) reporting declining revenues as customers delay or put off networking purchases, Interop is coming at a challenging time for vendors and their users.

Despite the recession or perhaps in spite of it, there is no shortage of news and speakers scheduled for the event. If the early hype from the conference organizers is any indication, the winds of change – in terms of buyer sentiment – might be picking up.

A survey of over 900 pre-registered attendees released this week by the conference organizers reported that only 20 percent of attendee IT budgets will decrease in comparison with 2008, while 42 percent claimed that they budgets will increase over 2008.

If those numbers turn out to be true, 2009 might not be such a terrible year for IT after all. Then again, we’re nearly halfway through the year now, and we all know how positive (or not) the economy has been so far.

Still, there is reason to be optimistic if the initial Interop survey results pan out. Certainly, tech vendors aren’t slowing down much in terms of their announcements.

For tech vendors, there are already some 55 different vendors that have made some kind of announcement related to their news or demonstration at Interop this year. Some of them are simply demonstrations of technology that was announced weeks (or months) ago, like Alcatel-Lucent and their improved NAC (network access control) capabilities.

Aruba will be showing off its new remote access solutions that was announced this week.

There will also likely be a number of new network access control (NAC) related announcements early in the week, seeing as the first day of Interop there is an event called NAC Day.

NAC was the hot networking term a few years back. NAC may prove to be the silver bullet for IT security – once it’s fully implemented. With NAC in place, users and their networks can be protected and monitored from the moment a user tries to connect to the network.

In addition to NAC day, there is also a panel event in which Cisco, HP ProCurve, Juniper and Microsoft spokespersons will talk about the technology. In past Interop events, similar NAC panels have often led to dispute around which vendors are or aren’t helping to standardize NAC in an open way.

Virtualization and the Cloud

While NAC is still a relevant and interesting technology the newer hot terms in networking, virtualization and the cloud, will take center stage at Interop this year during the event.

Russ Daniels, vice president and chief technology officer of cloud services strategy at HP, Vishal Sikka, CTO at SAP and Ric Telford, vice president of cloud services at IBM are among the high level keynotes on the cloud this year.

The thing to keep an eye out for is not specific product announcements on the cloud, but rather at the vision these companies have for the ‘cloud’ (which in previous years was often referred to as ‘Software as a Service’). No doubt there will be plenty of comments made how the economics of cloud computing are good for a recession.

Virtualization is also a hot topic and VMware’s CTO Dr. Stephen Herrod has a keynote, too. There is a desktop virtualization panel at the event with Citrix, VMware and Red Hat — three vendors that sometimes can differ greatly in their respective approaches to technology.

Networking gear

In terms of networking gear, there is no shortage of either news or events. There is a big keynote panel involving Cisco, Juniper, Brocade and Riverbed on the subject of re-inventing the datacenter. With virtualization, cloud computing, greater bandwidth needs and a down economy, there is lots to talk about.

Open source vs. proprietary will also be a topic when open source networking vendor Vyatta squares off in a panel against Juniper and Cisco.

While it will be interesting to see how many people show up to the event on the show floor this year, it is the panels that often are the best part.

Often keynotes can end up being little more than glorified product pitches for a particular vendor. But panels don’t go that way and in a real sense offer a reality check about multi-vendor trends as well as competitive challenges.

As the entire global economy faces the current recession, IT has a key role to play. Cloud compute models and virtualization can help to improve network and application delivery efficiency. Whether or not the solutions to all that troubles IT and the current economy will be found at Interop next week, it’s still a start.

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