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A largely disappointing Comdex 2003 just wrapped up in Las Vegas. With attendance down to one third of the level achieved right after Sept. 11th, 2001, the organizers are gamely attempting to put a positive spin on things. But when you can walk through the Comdex exhibit hall in a couple of hours and meet everyone you intended to (without appointments) in a morning, it's hard to see much to smile about.
It's obvious somebody somewhere got it in their head that 50,000 quality attendees would be more desirable than a quarter of a million people from all walks of life. Granted, several vendors did have some positive things to say about this shift.
"I notice that lead quality was up compared to other shows," said David Houde, a customer service engineer with Somix Technologies, a network management company from Sanford, Maine. "Attendees seemed to be focused on their specific needs and had particular vendors mapped out before the show."
Most booths, however, grumbled about the turnout, and the consensus was largely negative. As a result, the pizzazz, extravagance, and overhype that Comdex once embodied is no more. It seemed like a meeting with an old boxing champ. You remember the strutting arrogance and unwavering self-belief he exuded in his prime, and can't quite reconcile that with the run-down man before you. Advice to Comdex: emulate Ali or Foreman and win the title again, or get out of the ring.
One worthwhile activity at the show, however, was the on demand computing sessions. A selection of experts from the various vendors touting on demand in its various forms, as well as industry analysts and end users, discussed the subject at length in a series of sessions.
"We saved $300,000 a year through our on demand strategy by being able to cancel our frame relay contract," said Kenneth McCardle, assistant vice president of information systems at Southern Farm Bureau Casualty Insurance Company of Ridgeland, Miss., one of the largest property/casualty providers in the nation. The company achieved this using several components of Computer Associates' Unicenter (including Business Process Views) as well as Vmware to virtualize Windows servers. "We've used the technology to reduce the turnaround of insurance applications from two to three weeks down to 30 minutes or less."
OK. But what is on demand all about? Or adaptive computing as HP calls it? Or seamless computing (Microsoft), N1 (Sun), or utility computing (as the media seems to prefer)?