February 28, 2006

RSA Conference Thoughts

The 15th annual RSA Conference was a modest success.  There were enough exhibitors that the McEnery Center’s main floor couldn’t hold them all – some were spilled out into the hallway, lining both sides of it.  This is a refreshing change from recent exhibitions, most especially those that happened immediately after the dotcom crash.  It’s one signal that the industry is getting back on its feet and feeling some healthy growth.

One of the buzzwords this year was “compliance.”  Most security vendors seemed to be focused on enabling their customers’ security by making sure all employees and employee devices become compliant with the customers’ standards.  This is all well and good, and in my opinion, an admirable goal.  However, I was reminded of the fashion industry.  Say that someone decides that culottes are “in” this year.  Suddenly, every designer is churning out their version of culottes.  There are different fabrics, different cuts, different colors, and the customer has a wide range of selection… as long as she’s looking to buy culottes.  It may be a phenomenon caused by either a rumor that a name-brand designer is making culottes and then everyone jumps on the bandwagon so that designer can’t corner the market, or it may be an organic outgrowth of the fact that Capri pants were in style last year, so culottes are a natural choice for this year.  Either way, the result is the same:  most everyone is offering culottes in the stores.  And in the security field, most everyone is offering compliance tools.

Of course there are always exceptions – nothing is ever completely one-dimensional.  Along with Microsoft proclaiming that the long-awaited IdentiCards are soon going to be a reality, the big vendors were able to offer entire wardrobes of security choices, while some of the smaller venders focused on the accessories of the security world.  After all, a customer can’t wear just one item.  If that same customer knows what she wants and needs, then she could generally find it at the conference.  

Overall, the people were friendly and informative, the weather was wonderful (especially to someone traveling down from the frozen North), and the tchotkies were plentiful.  The smaller people who live in my house were thrilled with the booty, and I was pleasantly impressed with the overall quality of the conference.