Show Floor: 20% faster but 20% smaller too:

In 1998 it took me three days to walk the show room floor and I was pretty sure I didn’t see everything. The last few years I’ve been doing it in 1 day and this year was no exception. I did my first pass in about 5 hours with just a few short breaks. During this pass I skip the booth presentations and just talk with people and collect literature and freebies. That left two hours to do a second pass and sit through any presentations that I identified as possibly interesting in my first pass. The presentations last between 5 and 15 minutes. Five hours is about 20% faster than last year. Last year I counted 324 booths listed in the pocket guide, this year I counted 256 booths, about 20% smaller. However, I overheard one vendor tell another that he heard that attendance was up and unlike last year there was a line at the registration desk. It also seemed that, at least the major vendors had spent more money on their booths this year. There seemed to be more models outside the booths and professional presenters inside instead of just someone from the marketing or sales department making the pitch. Indicators, perhaps, that things are looking up for the IT industry.

 

Besides the Cloud Computing and Security/Compliance zones from last year they added a Mobile Business zone. The “Start up city” area for new companies was a large booth with 4 vendors, larger than what I remember seeing last year. Intel, Fluke, Solar Winds, and DICE were again missing this year. Juniper Networks, Adtran, Nortel and Ipswitch WhatsUp Gold are also missing this year but Microsoft was back after missing last year.

 

I didn’t see any new trends or really interesting products. Lots of vendors had 10 and 40 gig Ethernet switches. Cloud computing was out in force but nothing new; the same for load balancers and acceleration hardware and security appliances.
Certification Down, Universities Up

 

There seemed to be fewer vendors offering certification classes. I counted 8 in 2008, 4 last year and only 3 (CBT Nuggets, CCBOOTCAMP and (ISC)2) this year. However I did see 3 universities (Colorado Technical University, University of Denver, and American Intercontinental University) offering on-line classes at the bachelors, masters and doctorate levels. Last year I saw only the University of Denver. Every year there seems to be a booth from a country touting how good it would be to open a development or manufacturing plant there. Last year it was the Czech Republic, this year it was Reunion Island which is east of Madagascar and is an overseas department of France. No one ever seems to come back two years in a row. The only surprising booth was Staples, the office supply company. They appear to also offer data center and IT management services – who knew.

 

Employment Opportunities

 

While DICE and the other major employment vendors were missing I saw two booths that had a simple printed sign indicating that they were hiring. I also saw one temporary IT staffing company, Corona Technology Staffing, Inc. I’m told that temporary staffing is a leading indicating of permanent job growth so their presence could be another indication that things are looking up.

 

Freebies – T-shirts down 36%

 

This year’s crop of freebies was disappointing; I picked up only 7 T-shirts (4 less than last year). If things do not improve next year I’ll be reducing to buying shirts. There were plenty of raffles for IPADs and E-readers, mostly Kindles (small and large) but also a few Sonys.  Squishy stress balls (and other shapes) and bouncy balls that have internal lights were few and far between. I think the most common give away were reusable shopping bags I collected 8 before stopping. CoyotePoint had a small but really intense LED flashlight. Vyatta was giving away a disk with their routing software on it. Brocade was handing out copies of “The WORST-CASE Scenario Survival Handbook”.  Safari books was offering a 15 day free trial and a 15% off an annual subscription and IEEE was giving away a chance to win a subscription to one of their magazines, I actually won something in Vegas and picked up a subscription to “Security and Privacy”.

 

Was it worth the price of admission?

 

Registration to the show floor is free, if you register early enough. That however doesn’t mean that day was without cost. I had a plane ticket to Vegas (OK, I’m from Phoenix but the days of a $25 round trip ticket are long gone), taxies to and from the Mandalay Bay convention center, meals, parking at the Phoenix airport and I had to take a day of vacation. So I have to ask myself, was it worth it? Frankly I am not sure; the lack of any really interesting products is very disappointing but taking the pulse of the industry and the job market is useful. As I said, the show has been shrinking steadily and I think it has reached critical mass. If it gets any smaller I do not think it will be worth going back.