RSA and OSBC: It's a trade show double header
- By John K. Waters
I have a modest request of the technical/scientific community: Will someone
please hack the space-time continuum and create a Tivo for trade shows?
While I'm waiting for this much needed 2.0 release of reality, I'll be
burning up the 101 between San Jose and San Francisco next week to cover two
must-attend events: the annual
RSA Conference, held this year in San Jose at the McEnery Convention Center (Feb 13-17), and the
West Coast edition of the biannual Open
Source Business Conference (OSBC), held this year at the Argent Hotel in San Francisco (Feb
The RSA security conference is one of my all-time
favorite tech trade shows. It's been running for 15 years now, and it just keeps
getting bigger—which isn't surprising. Security moved from a check-box item to
the top of the enterprise priority list after the 911 terrorist
attacks. Recent headline-grabbing breaches have just made it more of a priority. There's really nothing like news
that the FTC has spanked ChoicePoint with the $10
million fine for a data breach that compromised financial
records of more than 163,000 consumers, more than 800 of whom
became victims of identity theft, to get management focused on security.
This year's RSA show promises to be a humdinger, with 17 class tracks, 200
sessions, and a bucket of pre-conference tutorials. Conference organizers are
expecting 14,000 attendees and 275 exhibitors. The keynote roster is
star-studded, and includes highly anticipated presentations by Microsoft's Bill Gates and Cisco Systems chief John Chambers. Gates and
Chambers are expected to talk about their companies' network-access control
strategies, which appears to be something of a theme at this year's show. Gates
is likely to discuss Microsoft's Network Access Protection (NAP) technology;
Chambers will probably tout Network Admission Control (NAC).
RSA 2006 also features the ever popular, much anticipated, eagerly awaited
(drum roll please) Cryptographers Panel! Moderated by Burt Kaliski, VP of
research and chief scientist at conference organizer RSA Laboratories, this year's
panel includes Martin Hellman, Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering at
Stanford University; Ronald Rivest,
Viterbi Professor of Computer Science at MIT;
Whitfield Diffie, Chief Security Officer at Sun
Microsystems; and Adi Shamir, Professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.
The info security guys are definitely my favs. They are the true
über geeks, and RSA is definitely their event. Where else could you see
a keynote presentation called ''Codes and Ciphers in Ancient India''? Very cool.
In fact, I'd be in geek-wannabe heaven if the OSBC show
weren't running at the same time as RSA—and in a different freakin' city.
Though much younger—this is its third year—the OSBC has already proven to be an important
event. In a way, this is the anti-geek show; no science experiments, just
two days of sessions and keynotes focused on making money with open source.
This year's show continues to spotlight applications, says OSBC's conference director,
Matt Asay (pronounced ''AY-see'') but there's an additional emphasis this
year on the community aspect of commercial open source.
''We have tended to think of community as something that applies to
open-source pure play products,'' Asay says. ''But I think community is equally
important—maybe more important—for commercial open-source enterprises. So
there's a big emphasis [at this show] on how you build communities around
open-source commercial projects, how you feed those communities, what the best
practices are, where you go to find the developers, and how you market to them.
I believe that those companies who are best at creating communities will be the
most successful financially.''
The shows keynote lineup includes Sun Microsystems COO Jonathan Schwartz,
Microsoft's director of platform technology Bill Hilf, open source guru Mitch
Kapor, SAP EVP Peter Graf, SpikeSource CEO Kim Polese, SugarCRM co-founder John Roberts, and PayPal's pres Peter Thiel. Nick Carr, former
editor of the Harvard Business review and author of Does IT
Matter? Information Technology and the Corrosion of Competitive Advantage,
and Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig will also be
I was surprised to learn that Microsoft has been a platinum sponsor of
this event since it began in April 2004. ''[Microsoft] has been a great sponsor
and hasn't tried to steer the content in any way,'' says Asay. ''Why? I think
they're actively trying to figure out this open source thing.''
This show also features an interesting program of sessions divided into four
tracks: ''What's Now,'' which covers current strategic issues around enterprise
adoption of OSS; ''What's Next,'' which highlights emerging trends,
opportunities, and strategies for the open source company, with an emphasis on
applications; ''What's Legal,'' which takes on such issues as patents, dual
licensing, corporate review boards, GPL 3.0, among others; and ''What's
Starting,'' which is a new track started in the most recent Boston edition of
the conference. This last track presents ''today's most promising early-stage
open-source startups, most of which will be seen at OSBC for the first time.''
That list includes Alfresco, EnterpriseDB, Funambol, GroundWork, JasperSoft, Pentaho, Project.Net, Realm Systems, rPath
, SugarCRM, Zmanda, and others.
The event's ''Emerging Elite Showcase'' will feature about 30 open-source
startups in what Asay describes as an intimate exhibit. ''When we were just
getting started with this conference, we struggled to find a dozen startups
worth mentioning,'' Asay says. ''In the space of two years, the market has grown
dramatically. Now it's a struggle to limit the number of companies in the
BTW: Even if you're not attending, check out the RSA conference Web site
(http://2006.rsaconference.com/us/). This may be the best-designed conference
site I've ever seen. It's easy to navigate, thoughtfully layered, and packed
with information. Did I mention that it's easy to navigate. I encourage—no, I’m
begging—every event organizer to check out this site. Take particular note of
the way the agenda is searchable by day and session type. It’s the little
things, you know? ###
John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached