N+I: Atlanta struggles to show off

Although no tumbleweeds were spotted blowing across the exhibit floor, this year’s semi-annual Networld+Interop conference looked like a ghost town. With more than twice as few exhibitors and attendees present, the once gigantic conference that ended today was quiet in all regards.

Extreme Networks Inc., 3Com Corp., and Foundry Networks Inc., three of the larger networking outfits to present at the show, used the event to demonstrate new technologies.

Extreme’s booth, and another featuring many of its partners, showcased a multi-service Ethernet/IP network that addresses IP convergence, data storage, access security, and network management. Partners attending included Dell Computer Corp., Intel Corp., Zambeel Inc., and Siemens AG.

3Com demonstrated its router technology that permits an enterprise to connect and use two of the company’s Layer 3 core LAN routers simultaneously. The technology allows enterprises to create a distributed fabric that uses the company’s eXpandable Resilient Networking (XRN) it introduced earlier this year with its line of SuperStack 3 4900 switches and the 4050 and 4060.

The demonstration showed a simulation of the XRN technology connecting a number of switches and running streaming video and audio across the network.

Meanwhile, Foundry participated in a multi-vendor interoperability test of Virtual Private LAN Services (VPLS) and announced some incremental enhancements to its IronWare software.

On the wireless front, ReefEdge and Symbol Technologies Networks both made announcements at the show related to 802.11 products for enterprises.

ReefEdge announced version 3.0 of ReefEdge Connect System, its management and security product for 802.11-based IP networks. Specifically the product is used to manage multiple access points to ensure a secure wireless LAN.

Symbol Technologies introduced Symbol Mobius Axon Wireless System, a centrally managed switch that provides wireless networking services and application-specific security to IEEE 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, and older wireless networks and mobile systems. Yesterday the product was named the winner in the “Best of Show Awards” competition.

On the wireless carrier side, both Sprint and Cingular Wireless have large presences at the show, but neither made any specific news announcements. Both promoted its new services and exhibited them on the show floor.

Combined this year with Comdex, another once-behemoth conference, the show’s attendance was estimated at around 30,000, significantly smaller than the average 50,000 attendees at N+I Las Vegas earlier this year. Show organizer Key3Media Group said official attendance numbers will be released on Monday.

In addition to poor attendance, the show also saw a significant drop in the exhibitors. N+I Las Vegas in April boasted 500 exhibitors, more than double this year’s representation. The list of exhibitor no-shows included industry powerhouses Nortel Networks, Avaya, IBM, Intel, Cisco Systems, and Check Point Software Technologies.

“Our experience at N+I in Vegas was that there weren’t many customers there,” said Jason Matlof, vice-president of marketing at Neoteris, a startup developing an appliance that enables enterprises to provide its remote employees with secure Web access to internal application and data. “We decided this time that our resources were better spent answering our incoming customer demand,” he said.

Matlof said Neoteris decided to pull out of the show three weeks ago after learning Cisco and CheckPoint had withdrawn. He said many vendors chose not to exhibit due to the poor economy and concerns about traveling around Sept. 11.

In spite of the lower number of attendees and exhibitors, vendors that did exhibit were generally pleased with the quality of the turnout.

“I’m glad we put the effort in,” said Duncan Potter, vice-president of marketing at Extreme Networks. “For us the show was successful: It was a difficult time, but the people that attended were people that are committed.”