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N+I preview: WLAN, 10-Gig switches creating buzz

Observers say next week's N+I conference will be well attended, thanks to the buzz surrounding new wireless LAN gear and true 10-Gigabit Ethernet switches. However, the event is entering a key transition period, and organizers are striving to avoid past mistakes.

Despite a swooning economy and the cancellation of its sister show, next week's spring Networld+Interop conference in Las Vegas is expected to draw good numbers, thanks in part to a pair of emerging networking technologies: wireless local area networking and 10-Gigabit Ethernet.

Wireless LAN technology is likely to be the big draw at N+I this year, said Dave Passmore, research director with the Midvale, Utah, research firm Burton Group, because this is one of the few areas where IT spending is increasing dramatically. As wireless access points become an integrated part of enterprise networks, companies are finding there is much more to constructing a wireless LAN than slapping an access point on the wall.

Many established companies, such as Holtsville, N.Y.-based Symbol Technologies Inc., as well as a number of smaller competitors, such as Bellevue, Wash.-based RadioFrame Networks Inc., will be pushing products that help enterprises both manage and secure wireless networks, Passmore said.

Attendees are also likely to see the emergence of true 10-Gigabit Ethernet switches. While 10-gigabit products have been around for some time, few, if any, have had true 10-gigabit throughput, Passmore said.

Storage is also likely to be an area of interest, said Mike Millikin, vice president of N+I for Los Angeles-based Key3Media Group Inc. He noted that there have been developments with IP-based storage as well as with new standards, such as the IP-based storage networking standard, Internet Small Computer System Interface, known as iSCSI.

N+I keynotes will feature a few familiar faces, including John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems Inc. But N+I is a show at struggling for its identity, said industry veteran Tom Nolle, president of CIMI Corp., a Voorhees, N.J.-based consulting firm.

Part of the reason the show has suffered in recent years is that press and conference organizers have focused on compelling themes that had no real businesses potential. He said that a few of the elements driving this year's show, especially buzz-heavy Wi-Fi implementations like wireless hot spots, may face the same fate.

Nolle said that N+I now has the opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and focus on technologies and strategies that have a solid business foundation.

This year, he said, will be a good indicator of how relevant N+I will remain in the years ahead.

Now that technology trade show producer Key3Media has done away with its fall N+I conference, the spring Las Vegas show is likely to be the benefactor.

Millikin said that, despite the difficult economic climate, he expects this year's attendance figure to be near the approximately 40,000 that attended in 2002. Interest from vendors has also been strong, he said.

That is to be expected, Passmore said. While service providers, dot-coms and other high-profile sectors of the IT economy have been hit hard, enterprises are chugging along at about the same pace they were a year ago. Enterprise IT budgets as a whole are even expected to rise by a few percentage points this year, compared with 2002.


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Voices of Authority: 'New rules' for networking, telecommunications Experience is the best teacher, but in networking it can be just as beneficial (and a lot less painful) to learn from the wisdom of others. In our special series, you'll hear from both practitioners and pundits about how to make the most of your network now and what to prepare for in the future. Today, David Passmore discusses the state of the networking industry and where it's going. Read his advice and then download an information-packed presentation for specifics and tactics you can put to work.

To say the networking industry is in a state of constant evolution is an understatement. In an industry that changes by the minute -- by the second if you really pay attention -- there are very few constants. To get a feel for where the industry is now and where it's heading, spoke with David Passmore, research director for the network and telecom strategies service at Burton Group, a Midvale, Utah-based analyst firm.

Passmore's credentials say it all: He is a technical advisory board member for dozens of startups, regularly consults for multiple networking gear and software vendors, and was previously a vice president at Gartner Inc. and a partner with Ernst & Young. His vast knowledge and experience have earned him spots among the top six IT industry consultants and the 50 most powerful people in networking.

In the interview, Passmore touched on some main points of his recent presentation "State of the Networking Industry: The Disruptive Effects of IP." He spoke of the industry's past, present and future, and, in a style inspired by political comedian Bill Maher, introduced the five "new rules" of networking and telecommunications.

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