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Interop interludes

Here it is, Day Three at Interop Las Vegas, and the activities are running as fast as a Dense Wave Division Multiplexing optical network.

Here it is, Day Three at Interop Las Vegas, and the activities are running as fast as a Dense Wave Division Multiplexing optical network. A few highlights:

• After announcing an alliance with Microsoft on Monday, members of the Trusted Network Connect (TNC) were all smiles at the show. In spite of its technical merits, TNC needed this stamp of approval from either Cisco Systems or Microsoft. Rather than defending the technology agenda, TNC members are now free to talk about flexible architecture and business solutions--a refreshing change.

• I understand that sex sells, but I give my personal jeers to Blue Cat Networks. Located front and center in the exhibit hall, Blue Cat's booth was staffed by a number of hired "booth babes" wearing skin tight silver "cat" outfits. When I walked by, several men were taking pictures of the women with their camera phones. I'm sure they will remember the women, but who will remember what Blue Cat Networks does (other than use women as objects)?

• Remember the name A10 Networks. The company competes in a crowded space with the likes of F5, Packeteer and Riverbed--all established leaders. That said, A10 Networks is one of those companies with a killer eclectic technical team from Foundry Networks, Cray Business Systems and others. The company offers a box with screaming performance and loads of functionality in a small footprint. In these days of green IT, that alone will win a lot of deals.

• Now that ISS is owned by IBM, there is a profound change in the way it approaches the market. Like all others in the uber-geeky security space, ISS used to talk "speeds and feeds" but now focuses on solutions. IBM brings ISS into big outsourcing and business-process solution deals and highlights security with messages about protecting business assets. Security industry take note, this is a window into your future.

• Hewlett-Packard has quietly become the No. 2 vendor in the networking industry. I love HP's flat network message, but HP woos the mid-market by offering a lifetime warranty on its networking gear. Value sells to small and midsize businesses;' HP is an expert here.

• If you think all high-tech CEOs are too showy and full of themselves, you haven't met Mark Canepa from Extreme Networks. Mark is a straight shooter who openly discusses the company's strengths and weaknesses. In my view, Extreme is doing things right by picking its battles, offering a consistent and open technology architecture, and bringing performance/intelligence to the edge. Mark has a sound plan to keep things humming at Extreme--just don't talk to him about the storage industry unless you want to see him get riled up. (Note: Mark ran the storage business for Sun Microsystems in a past life.)

• Finally, while Cisco is everywhere at Interop, the company made its most significant announcement at the EMC World in Orlando on Tuesday. Cisco will offer storage fabric-based encryption on its Fibre Channel switches and work with RSA/EMC on key management. With all of the backup tapes that continue to "fall off of trucks," Cisco's announcement will be welcome news to its growing share of storage customers.