SUPERCOMM – Not very super so far

On the official second day of one of the largest annual communications and information technology conferences in the U.S., exhibitors were receiving a less-than-optimal amount of foot traffic through their booths. Attributing it to the down economy and a lack of service provider customers attending the show, many exhibitors think this year’s SuperComm isn’t so super.

“The first day was a good day, lots of traffic, but frankly not good traffic,” said Aliza Ohayon, marketing communications manager at Native Networks Inc., who was manning the company’s information booth and swiping the cards of the few attendees’ who requested more information.

The United Kingdom-based company is showcasing its switches and devices that combine Ethernet with SONet (Synchronous Optical Network) using MPLS (Multi-Protocol Label Switching) technology, which will permit service providers to aggregate different services such as packet and circuit onto a single fiber. The show is Native Network’s second as an exhibitor — and may be their last. “We’re thinking about [whether to attend next year],” Ohayon said.

Not too far from Native’s booth was 5-year-old Mockingbird Networks, a provider of equipment that enables carriers to offer VoIP (voice over IP) services to enterprises. Describing their location on the floor as on the “quiet side,” Andy Leong explained that they, too, believe the show is kind of slow. “It is substantially quieter than it was last year,” Leong said.

As for generating qualified sales leads from those attendees that come through Mockingbird’s booth, Leong said the show has been positive in that respect. However, he noted that rarely do contacts from the show lead to actual deals.

Despite the slow traffic, Leong said the company will likely be back in 2003, but “in a better location.”

In the shadows of Agilent Technologies Inc.’s massive booth, Charlotte’s Web Networks’ 20-foot-by-20-foot booth is occupied by about six company representatives — slightly more then the number of visitors who were checking out the company’s IP core router early Wednesday morning.

Talking over a loud play taking place at the neighboring Agilent booth, Gary Petitt, vice president of sales for Charlotte’s Web Networks explained that the traffic is down from last year but that it was the nature of the show.

“I’m hearing the same thing from everyone: ‘Traffic is down,'” Petitt said. “We knew it would be, but that didn’t change our plans and we’re getting regular flow.”

Petitt, too, believes the company has been having some quality booth vistors stopping by and said there are definitely some opportunities to explore.

Showcasing its Aranea-1 router, which has been in trials for a year and has been generally available since January, Charolotte’s Web Networks has garnered some customers, including MAnet, a German telecommunications provider, which the company announced Monday at the show.

Meanwhile, at Unisphere Networks Inc.’s booth, the early excitement revolved around the possibility that the company’s hanging circular sign might crash to the floor. Having placed chairs under the sign to dissuade people from standing under it, the approximately 25 Unisphere employees working the booth were standing around watching the sign.

When asked, Chris Olenik, a system engineer for Unisphere, said a lot of people had been by their booth, although few were there at the time. He attributed much of the interest to the company’s proposed acquisition by Juniper Networks Inc.

“There have been a lot of people here,” Olenik said. “Service providers realize the edge is the point [where] services are applied and need to be incorporated.”

On Monday, Unisphere announced the availability of its SDX-300 Service Deployment System, a platform that lets carriers deliver DSL, Ethernet, and leased-line from a single architecture. The platform also permits carriers to offer enterprises services, including video chat, IP television, content filtering, and e-learning services.

Others have also found SuperComm to be a success. Iamba Networks Inc., a 2-year-old startup that had not released any details of what it was working on until the show, has been satisfied with the turnout.

“Thus far, SuperComm has exceeded my expectations,” said Scott Madigan, general manager of Iamba Networks, speaking from the company’s tiny booth adjacent to a main entrance for one of the three show floors. “Due to the state of the economy, we had low expectations, but the walk-up [traffic] has been higher than expected.”

Iamba is introducing iAxelent, a multiservice optical access system that allows carriers to deliver voice, data, and video over a single fiber. The product supports the TDM (Time Division Multiplexing), ATM, Ethernet, and IP/MPLS protocols; and allows carriers to take fiber all the way to the home or office, Madigan explains.

And the exhibitors aren’t the only ones who have noticed fewer people on the floor. George Chase, a general partner at Dallas-based venture capital firm Dali Hooks Partners said the show has seen better days.

“I’ve come to this show every year since 1978 and this year is very subdued,” Chase said. “There isn’t [anything] really new here, just updates to existing stuff.”

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