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Switching, virtualization, and more at Interop

Highlights so far from Interop 2008 networking convention in Las Vegas.

A correction was made to this story. Read below for details.

Foot traffic seems slow at this year's Interop business tech conference. I've heard about companies issuing travel bans on employees and vendors pulling out at the last minute due to budget constraints. However, the people who run Interop say attendance is up from last year.

Nevertheless, the networking industry is making the best out of it. Some of the early highlights for me include:

1. Switching, switching, and more switching
Extreme Networks kicked off the proceedings on Monday in Las Vegas with a new 10-Gigabit stackable data center switch built to scale to 40/100 Gig in the future. This nice device set the tone for Interop 2008. On the show floor, start-up Arastra received its fair share of Vegas buzz. The company was founded by former Sun Microsystems bigwig Andy Bechtolsheim, but the real story here is that Arastra is pushing the 10-Gigabit Ethernet performance limit with prices at around $500 per port. It will be tough for old Andy to crack this market with the big boys, but this is pretty impressive.

2. Don't forget Cisco
Is Cisco Systems vulnerable in the data center switching or other networking spaces? Probably not. Senior Vice President Jayshree Ullal's team won the "best of Interop" award for Cisco's new Nexus data center switches and picked up another award for application acceleration.

3. Virtualization
I am intrigued by Citrix Systems' strategy that blends server/desktop virtualization with its leading XenApp (formerly Presentation Server) and NetScaler application acceleration portfolios. Citrix is thinking about virtualization, asset optimization, and traffic management from end-to-end. This is where the industry is headed; Citrix has a pretty good idea of how to get there.

4. Nortel gets the chutzpah award
Nortel Networks is on the offensive and its target is--obviously--Cisco. Nortel announced 60 companies that chose it over Cisco, a pretty bold gesture on Nortel's part. Nortel is also featuring an "energy calculator" at its booth where users can enter a Cisco and Nortel configuration and get data on power consumption comparisons. No gimmicky booth babes or giveaways, just "go for the throat" guerrilla marketing.

On tap Wednesday: more virtualization and wireless networking. Should be fun.

Correction: This story initially said attendance at Interop was down. Attendance at the show was actually up from last year.

Jon Oltsik is a senior analyst at the Enterprise Strategy Group.