Interop: 'Get The House in Order'

Reporter's Notebook: Interop attendees take up the challenge issued by Juniper CEO to stop accepting bogus claims about what products can do.
Reporter's Notebook: Early last week at Interop NY, I postulated that there wouldn't be all that much that is new or surprising coming out of the show.

Little did I know that one of the world's largest and most influential networking vendors, Cisco Systems (Quote, Chart), would not be an exhibitor at the show.

Cisco isn't the only major IT vendor to blow off a major IT show in its space this year.

The biggest question at LinuxWorld in San Francisco this year was Where is Red Hat?

Similarly I heard many show goers ask where the Cisco booth was.

Though Cisco wasn't on the show floor, there were plenty of Cisco employees participating this week.

For example, the company participated in a Network access control (NAC) panel discussion, which was both lively and, dare I say, "entertaining."

On a panel about application acceleration, a Cisco employee made sure that his presence was known (even though he wasn't on the panel) by identifying himself and telling the panel (and the audience) about what Cisco is doing in the space.

As for an official answer as to why Cisco was not on the show floor, all I got from a Cisco PR spokesperson was that the company had "put its eggs" in the Security Standard event basket earlier in the month.

So what did Cisco miss out on?

Well for one there was a lot of NAC noise, with nearly every session addressing the technology and the vast majority of show exhibitors touting some form of alleged NAC solution.

As mentioned, Cisco did participate in the NAC panel, and for me that panel was one of the highlights of the show.

The gist was that the panel exposed the fact that there isn't a standard that is yet accepted by all in the industry. Even better is that at a time when an IETF industry standard is approved, it won't be exactly the same as any one solution currently deployed.

One of Cisco's fiercest competitors, Juniper Networks (Quote, Chart), took the moral high ground at the show.

In a keynote address that I personally found to be remarkably honest and forthright, Juniper CEO Scott Kriens took direct aim at bogus vendors' claims that they ultimately only serve to muddle user expectations.

There was no shortage of bogus claims being made on the show floor and in various sessions. Though Kriens himself didn't go booth to booth or session to session to out the bogusness, others took up the challenge.

In a session about MPLS (define) (multi-protocol label switching), panel moderator Johna Till Johnson, president of Nemertes Research, responded to a bogus comment made by a panelist asking him to instead provide a real answer.

She also advised members of the audience to not put up with "sucky networks" and to insert "sucky network" clauses into their contracts with providers so they can get out if the network is sub-optimal (or "sucky" as Johnson called it).

Audience members also took up the charge of assailing vendors on bogus claims.

In the application acceleration session I attended, an audience member told panelists that none of the their solutions were any better than the other and they were all equally difficult to install.

In a session on Metro Ethernet, an audience member complained to the AT&T panelist about service level agreements on existing service and demanded to know why Metro Ethernet service would be any better.

Even a few panelists got in on the action.

In a network security threat session Joshua Corman, host protection architect at ISS (Internet Security Systems), accused antivirus vendors of leading enterprises astray.

His comment, "when it's a targeted attack, giving a signature is like giving a vaccine to a corpse," is one of the standout quotes for me of the whole show.

So perhaps the Interop show participants did take Juniper's CEO's message to heart.

There is still much to be done in the world of networking technologies.

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