INFOSECURITY 2002: Attendance Up, Some No-Shows

Although attendees and exhibitors spoke of a subdued Infosecurity 2002 show, attendance was up across the board at the annual trade show, according to show organisers.

Held at New York City's Jacob K Javitz Conference Center, Infosecurity is billed as a forum and trade show where IT professionals can mix with business owners and managers who are interested in learning about the latest in information security technology.

In its second year in the US, this year's show doubled in size compared with last year, with 22,000 square feet of display space. The number of both exhibitors and attendees grew by more than 60 per cent over last year.

Infosecurity 2002 had 2100 attendees, compared with just 1300 last year and 126 exhibitors compared with 78 last year, according to Scott Temple, event director for Infosecurity organisers Reed Exhibitions, part of Reed Elsevier Group PLC.

Despite the increases and a number of recent reports indicating that security hardware and software will be one of the bright spots in next year's technology purchasing market, vendors interviewed on the exhibit floor at Infosecurity still complained of low attendance at this year's show.

Standing in his company's booth on the exhibit floor, Ralph Pisani Jr, director of business development USA at antivirus maker Sophos PLC, said that foot traffic by his company's booth was low at this year's show, but said that netting qualified customers was only part of the reason that companies like Sophos invests in booths for Infosecurity or shows like it.

"A lot of it is security vendors networking and getting to know each other," Pisani said.

In addition to sizing up the competition, Pisani said that connections made at trade shows can also lead to business partnerships and more.

"You need to be here," Pisani said.

But in other exhibit booths, the talk was of the well-known security companies that were not attending.

More than one exhibitor noted the absence of security industry mainstay Network Associates Inc. (NAI), maker of the McAfee antivirus software and a major sponsor of the 2001 Infosecurity show.

Temple cited "internal organisational" changes at NAI, including the recent reorganisation in which the company spun off its PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) technology, as the reason behind the company's decision not to sponsor or even attend this year's show. NAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Still others looked around to find one or more competitors absent.

John Wilson, vice president, North America, at Ubizen NV was surprised by the absence of companies such as RedSiren Technologies Inc. which competes against Ubizen in the market for managed security services.

In the end, a tough economy coupled with a security technology market that is diversifying may explain many of the decisions by individual companies to stay home.

"For us it honestly comes down to budget," said Leslie Currie, manager of marketing operations at RedSiren. "We do a lot of trade shows, but not all of them."

As opposed to broad shows that draw attendees from across the spectrum of private and public organisations, RedSiren is focusing its energy and resources on trade shows that target vertical markets the company is interested in selling to, according to Currie.

Attendees interviewed on the show floor said they felt Infosecurity had something to offer and would likely come again next year, however.

Steve Kiernan came to Infosecurity to research instant messaging (IM) security solutions for his employer, fashion company LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

After viewing a number of different secure IM products displayed by exhibitors at the show, Kiernan said that he reconsidered his approach. Kiernan said he was now thinking less of locking down instant messaging and giving more weight to security management software that would enable him to determine which employees were abusing IM on their employer's time.

As for exciting technology, Kiernan said he was struck by the continued proliferation of security features in many of the products on display, with what used to be merely firewalls now performing virus scanning, intrusion detection, and more.

But Kiernan echoed the comments of others in saying that no one product stood out from the others at this year's show.

"I haven't seen a great breakthrough here," Kiernan said. "Someone may be out there writing it right now, but it's not here."

Kiernan's so-called "killer security app" and other changes may come in future years as the show — and the security industry itself — mature, show organisers said.

"We'd all like people to believe that (security) is a US$7 billion a year industry, as reported by a lot of people. I'm not sure we're there yet, but we're on the right course," Temple said.

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