Optical/IP Networks

N+I Conference Reflects Gloom

ATLANTA -- The Networld+Interop networking conference reopened here Wednesday to sparse attendance and major vendor pullouts prompted by yesterday's terrorist attacks.

Everyone's mind was focused on Tuesday's tragedies. John Roy, a technology strategist with Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc.'s (NYSE: MER) securities research department, gamely participated in a panel discussion at the end of a keynote address, despite concerns about his office and colleagues in New York.

"You almost have to block it out, if that's possible," said Roy, who flew to Atlanta from New York on Tuesday morning, before the terrorist attacks hit. Even though his office is in the World Financial Center in Manhattan - close to the collapsed World Trade Center towers - Roy said he believed keeping the show open was a correct decision.

"It doesn't do anyone an advantage [to cancel the event]," Roy said. "We need to keep doing what we do - it's critical, to keep the economy going."

Conspicuous by their absence were Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) and Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), whose large show-floor booths were closed when the floor reopened Wednesday morning. A rescheduled keynote speech by Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) CEO Dan Warmenhoven attracted fewer than 200 attendees, reflecting the fact that many potential showgoers had already left town.

Warmenhoven said he didn't expect to give his speech, after his original keynote was canceled Tuesday. However, he said the show officials asked him to replace scheduled keynote speaker Dave Dorman of AT&T, who was unable to travel to Atlanta yesterday.

"We had some discussions [about not giving a speech], but the consensus decision we made with the show organizers was to try to get back to business, as quickly as possible," Warmenhoven said.

N+I president and Key3Media executive Valerie Williamson said that show officials "debated the pros and cons" of closing the event, but in the end decided to follow the advice of President George Bush, "and not let cowardly acts" disrupt the way Americans do business.

On the show floor, the booth magicians and models that are part and parcel of large shows like N+I seemed a bit lost, without a sizeable crowd to perform for. Companies that did remain were able to give the few attendees personal demos, though ones like Cisco's display of its Storage-over-IP technology were hampered a bit by the other vendors' departures.

- Paul Kapustka, Editor at Large, Light Reading

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