Saturday, May 25, 2024

Interop Las Vegas: It’s a Jungle Out Here

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I just arrived at the Interop trade show in Las Vegas and the event is huge. Interop Las Vegas has a clear message: the technology industry is alive and well. Economic downturn? What economic downturn?

This trade show is the crown jewel of the nearly one trillion-dollar information technology business. Everybody is here. Every tiny gadget maker, every big-bucks software titan, every last mobile firm, every start-up hoping to get noticed. Some 20,000 attendees, 500 exhibitors, and probably a dozen IT staffers who will gamble away the deed to their house. (“Honey, I’ve got some bad news…”)

The event is mis-named, in a sense. It’s called “Interop,” short for interoperability, suggesting that these vendors want to play well with others. Well, kind of. In the hyper-competitive tech market, each vendor strives to “interop” with certain players while tossing a stiff elbow in the eye of others. Does VMware really want to be interoperable with Xensource? That’s like saying the New York Giants hope to partner with the New England Patriots.

The sight of all these vendors with booths side by side in the Mandalay Bay convention center highlights what a merciless business this is. There are too many players here for everyone to survive. And besides, technology devours itself like some constantly ravenous creature.

The in-house client-server world, which consumed the mainframe, is now being rapidly nibbled by Software as a Service (or at least that’s what SaaS vendors tell us, and SaaS is huge at Interop this year). The emerging technology of virtualization is a threat to the hardware vendors whose customers use it to get more from their existing servers.

Outsourcing services (also big at Interop) is encroaching on U.S. based software companies – except there really aren’t any more true “U.S. based” software companies. Yes, there are firms with U.S. headquarters, but if they don’t sell into global markets and hire the best talent worldwide – and fast – their lifespan is limited. The IT market is an eat-or-be-eaten jungle. Either keep up or you’ll be somebody’s lunch.

Everybody’s trying to do it better and faster and cheaper; the company you compete with has already figured it out. They’re leveraging VoIP deployments, Green IT, and flexible but secure Network Access Control (all big at Interop this year). Are you?

There’s something oddly appropriate about Interop taking place in Las Vegas. This city is built on an impossible fantasy. Every year, droves of people come and bet against the house, hoping to win big – but their odds are skinny, as any casino’s accountant will tell you. Yet they just keep coming, decade after decade. They lose so incredibly much that the Bellagio can afford an 8-acre lake (in the middle of a desert), and the Venetian, not to be outdone, has a network of Italian-style canals, complete with gondoliers.

The tech companies here at Interop are playing the same long odds. They all worry that someone sells what they sell, but newer, cheaper, more advanced, packaged better, rentable instead of buyable. Browse the issues of Datamation from the ‘90s to see all the companies that fell by the wayside. Still, the IT firms here this year keep planning on beating the house.

And they just might. Long term, the odds are against them, but who knows? Every once in while, someone even wins at the Bellagio.

Stay tuned, I’ll be sending back dispatches from Interop. But before I get to work, I’m gonna hit the casinos just a little. No, don’t worry, I can win – those long odds apply to everyone else, not to me. I mean, I’m really feeling lucky…

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