Thursday, July 30, 2009

Catalyst09 Sessions

The first surprising thing I heard at Catalyst yesterday morning was that attendance was only off 10% over last year and that last year's conference was their biggest year ever. Impressive. I've been to other tech conferences this year and I have noticed a drop in attendance at these events. Digging down into this a bit more, this data point isn't so surprising since a lot of the attendees are here with passes they get as part of their Burton research subscriptions. Still it does indicate that there is value in attending or at the very least with Burton Group's research.

The rest of the day was packed with a barrage of sessions, some given by customers, which were generally of good quality and filled with useful and thought provoking information. I was mainly in sessions that were part of the identity track and I particularly enjoyed the first half of the day where the current state, general trends, what's hot were discussed. The highlights:

  • Customers are demanding quicker time to value in identity deployments. (Typically, 3-6 months.)
  • Decomposition of identity products is starting to happen because customers want to mix and match solutions.
  • Standards are going to be more important and yes, SPML may get new life.
  • In some cases vendor products are ahead of where customers are in this space.
  • Identity services and identity as a service vendors are on the rise.

As an integrator I feel I'm pretty clued into what customers want, so a lot of what was said about quicker ROI on projects rang true. I'm also encouraged to here discussions that standards are important and are being demanded by the wider community. Standards are the best way to offset the instability caused by tectonic vendor M&A activity. It will be good to see standards seep deeper into identity solutions and not just deal with external interconnect. Sure, it would be great for the industry if SPML were more widely adopted. I'll bet that customers would appreciate if workflows and user form configurations would be portable between vendors as well. That's where the real lock-in occurs.

I also jumped tracks a bit to attend virtualization, cloud computing, and social networking talks but this is a fairly frustrating exercise. Most of the talks here are are short and packed tightly together. This format rewards those who just want to attend one track. However it makes it difficult to attend complete talks in other tracks. If you decide you want to hear VMware and Citrix debate performance you are guaranteed to miss either the Q&A from the previous session or the beginning of the debate. Frankly that sucks. I've been to other conferences. I know you can't attend every session but it would be nice to have the sessions scheduled in a way where you can see the whole session. A short break between sessions also helps increase the "hallway" conversations, the conference within the conference if you will. This is really why we go to these things, no? I bumped into a few customers, partners, and friends here and it was difficult to even schedule time as we were running between rooms.

So far lots of good things going on here. I'm glad I came. Next year I've got to bring my partner out so we can tag team this thing. To much to do for one person.


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