SuperComm as an indicator

I just got back from my first SuperComm show and must say that I was surprised. There were more exhibitors, fewer booth babes, more attendees and less noise than I expected.

I’ve managed to avoid SuperComm up to now figuring that I was paying full penitence by teaching at two NetWorld+Interop shows per year (Why do they still call it NetWorld+Interop anyway given that NetWorld was a Novell show and Novell is hardly a major network player these days?) But I stopped offering tutorials at N+I a year ago and, because I accepted a speaking engagement at SuperComm. I decided to take a day to see what the scene looked like.

The first thing that became clear was that I would not be able to cover the show, even if I bypassed most of the booths. I glanced at the booths in one of the two main halls. I was a bit surprised at the size of the show; I was expecting something quite a bit smaller based on the reports I had gotten from N+I in Las Vegas a month ago.

The SuperComm Web page ( lists 834 exhibitors. There also were more attendees than I expected, based on the same reports from N+I. It was not as crowded as N+I had been at the height of the Internet boom, but not bad.

A quick scan through the SuperComm Web page produces some interesting statistics about what types of products that were being pushed. Who would have thought that more than 50 vendors would admit they still sell ATM? IP telephony was a popular topic with about 70 vendors listing it and another 44 listing softswitches, but maybe telling us something, there were only six vendors on the list for billing, a handful for network security and only one for fraud control. What is wrong with the picture of 10 times as many vendors trying to peddle VoIP than vendors trying to figure out how to charge for it?

In my quick scan, broadband came out on top with 127 vendors, twice as many as Gigabit Ethernet and about three times as many as those still determinedly pushing metropolitan-optical networking.

I’m not sure how to interpret these statistics, particularly because they do not include the size of the companies. But I would guess that the IP telephony interest is a leading indicator, and the ATM numbers is a trailing one.

I am beginning to change my opinion on one topic based on what I saw and heard in Atlanta. I am no longer as convinced that TV over IP is just blind IP enthusiasm run amuck. Oxtgnet, a very small start-up, borrowed the corner of the Xavi booth to tell me about its video-over-IP wireless set-top box and spun a convincing tale of how a TV over IP service potentially could make sense.

I’m not sure if I’ll be back to the show next year, but it was worth the trip this year.

Disclaimer: Harvard was tied up with commencement and did not make the trip, so the above is my trip report.

Bradner is a consultant with Harvard University’s University Information Systems. He can be reached at