Interop 2008 runs all this week, featuring about 25 percent more exhibitors for networking and related technologies than last year's show, almost in defiance of the nation's economic downturn.

"Interop has been a reflection of the IT industry through the years, and we took a hit in 2001 during the bust, but now things are growing back and especially this year," said Lenny Heymann, Interop general manager. "We haven't seen the impact of the current economy, at least on the vendor side."

About 500 vendors will have booths on the show floor, up from about 400 last year. Heymann "conservatively" expects the number of attendees to be about equal to those of 2007, with about 18,000 people attending. By comparison to the annual Consumer Electronics Show, with 150,000 visitors, Interop, produced by TechWeb (formerly CMP) is small, but it is still considered influential for its networking segment of the technology arena.

Regarding the current downturn, Heymann mirrored other executives who see technology as one of the stalwarts of the nation's economy. "I think the tech business is holding its breath regarding the economy, but so far is a shining part of it," he said.

A 'broad and deep' array of technologies Seventeen networking-related topics and vendors will be featured at Interop, including discussions on mobile and wireless, unified communications, data centre and virtualisation, as well as open source and green IT. Heymann said Interop tries to serve "all constituencies" and goes "broad and deep at the same time."

Rob Whiteley, a veteran visitor to Interop and an analyst at Forrester Research, said he wasn't aware of any major vendor announcements, but said several themes have emerged. Among them: Making green IT "real" for businesses; finding how virtualisation has gone beyond servers to other IT infrastructure; growth in videoconferencing and collaboration technologies; and growth in business mobility.

One of the biggest networking vendors, Cisco Systems, was coming back to a familiar theme with announcements about how businesses can incorporate video into their communications and collaboration strategies, a spokeswoman said, although she wouldn't reveal details.
"Video is creeping into the enterprise," the spokeswoman said, citing a survey by Illuminas in New York that reported 55 percent of corporate IT decision-makers reported using video technologies in collaboration.
Interop officials listed more than 50 vendors that are announcing new products or other announcements at the conference.
"In a slower economy, I'm excited there's so much innovation," Heymann said. "Companies realise they can't afford to shut down or slow down. Ever since the dot-com blow-up, people in this business have been very careful to do more with less."