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Fading glitz in Las Vegas.

by Scott Bradner

There were some significant changes at the Networld+Interop show in Las Vegas this year, and I'm not even talking about the changes to the show network which have already been discussed in Network World. Technologies in vogue have taken another spin with VPNs, IP telephony, and quality of service winding up on top and ATM, among others, fading from view.

A full tour of the show floor makes it very clear that the sign painters know how to spell VPN. But it's also clear that the vendors do not all spell VPN the same way. There was a significant dichotomy between those vendors that were talking about site-to-site (or firewall-to-firewall) VPNs and those vendors who think that a VPN is the encrypted tunnel from a telecommuter or road warrior and the home office. Sometimes it took a bit of discussion before I could figure out what belief set a particular vendor espoused. In retrospect I expect my confusion was generally due to a knowledge deficit on the part of the individual occupying the booth and wearing the company T shirt. Once upon a time one would find the technically cluefull product designer or implementers in the boots at Interop. But that day is long gone -- one is far more likely to find a capella groups singing the praises of products they only recently learned to pronounce or roulette wheels (both of which were in Vegas).

In any case, there seem to be a lot of vendors who think that they are going to make some money on VPNs. Seventy nine companies were listed under the VPN category in the show guide. IP telephony did not do quite as well with 62 companies listed under Internet Telephony and 48 under computer telephony integration. To put these counts in perspective, 101 companies were listed under Internet access and 114 under bridges/routers/gateways. But if one measures by hype level on the show floor the traditional Internet hardware and access vendors didn't stand a chance. The 53 quality of service vendors also had a high profile. The discrepancy between the attention that the newly hyped technologies got and what the traditional Internet iron was afforded was higher than I can remember since the heyday of ATM.

Speaking of ATM. ATM was the invisible visitor in Las Vegas this year. I could hardly find any booths touting their ATM prowess even though 39 vendors mentioned ATM in their description in the show guide, the guide did not even have an ATM product category. I do not see this as an indication that ATM is fading into the Nevada sunset. (Which was quite nice even though it was hard to see because of the slightly overdone casino lighting.) ATM seems to have moved to being drab infrastructure, and that just might be a good thing for ATM fans.

disclaimer: Harvard is often an invisible visitor in power circles but the above is my own opinion of the sunset.