Extreme Networks president and chief executive officer Gordon Stitt put the best possible face on the networking industry downturn in a keynote address at the Networld+Interop show, saying that a slump is a good time for looking beyond small improvements for immediate needs and contemplating the technological advances that need to take place.
The quiet, almost professorial talk, free of pitches for any specific product, "architecture" or "framework", was appropriate to the setting: a hall in the Las Vegas Convention Center had chairs set up only halfway across the floor. For a major trade show keynote, it was downright intimate. The same could almost be said for this year's N+I as a whole.
The show is now in its 17th year and historically has been the premier event for enterprise networking. But along with the network equipment business and the rest of the IT industry, it has changed dramatically in recent years. Most significantly, organiser Key3Media Group, which filed for bankruptcy protection in February, has eliminated the autumn N+I show that took place in Atlanta.
Key3Media has estimated that attendance at this week's event, which began on Tuesday and ended yesterday, is about 70% of last year's turnout of 40,283. The show covered less than half the floorspace used the previous year.
Wireless LANs have been a recurring theme at the show, along with network security, voice over IP and 10-Gigabit Ethernet.
If the show is smaller this year, at least it looks a little busier. Even with only 275 exhibitors, compared with last year's 572, the tighter floor space has led to smaller booths and less wide-open space than at the 2002 event, when attendance had slumped dramatically from 61,000 registrants in 2001.