As the countdown to Infosec 2008 begins, channel pundits are questioning the possibility that Europe’s premier IT security fair could be losing its shine.
Some 11,700 delegates are set to descend upon London’s Olympia over the event’s three-day run next week fractionally up on last year.
Overall, vendor numbers appear to be as healthy as ever, with 230 stands in the Grand Hall booked at the time CRN went to press.
However, any trade show is only as strong as its exhibitors, and a few channel eyebrows have been raised at the array of big-name vendors that will not have their own pitches this year among them Symantec, Check Point, Cisco and Blue Coat.
The show must go on
The show itself promises to be bigger and better than previous years. New for 2008 are the Interactive Theatre sessions, which allow visitors to pit their wits against IT security experts using electronic voting.
Keynote speeches will delve into the industry’s current hot topics most notably data leakage and the security of social networking sites.
In a year that promises to be one of the most exciting yet for new and emerging security technologies, 46 exhibitors will have a direct presence at the event for the first time and 31 of them, including Websense, Sophos and Check Point, will use the show to unveil products.
The commercial backdrop is also promising, if the latest figures from IDC are anything to go by. Against modest growth for the overall IT industry, the western European market for security appliances boomed by 27 per cent in 2007 to $1.3bn (£650m) as end users struggled to keep pace with new regulations and head off new threats.
Ian Kilpatrick, chairman of distributor Wick Hill, which featured a double-decker bus on its stand last year, is in no doubt this year’s event will be stronger than ever. “My expectation is that it will be even bigger than last year and that is why our vendors asked us to expand our stand.
Tradeshows such as Cebit grew too big and imploded. “Every year with Infosec, we have come out with more leads for partners than the previous year and increased our stand space. In Europe, there is nothing that comes near it,” he said.
Kilpatrick added that data leakage prevention would be “monstrous” this year thanks to HMRC.
“Encryption, mobile protection, and everything else around it is doubly hot at the moment,” he said.
A diluted event?
However, not everyone is as convinced that Infosec can keep its place at the cutting edge of the European security market.
Not only does the UK show officially named Infosecurity Europe face competition from rival brands, it is increasingly having to share the limelight with Infosec sister events in continental Europe.
The Infosec franchise now extends to France, the Netherlands, Italy, Belgium, Spain, Canada and Russia.
Nigel Hawthorn, vice president of marketing at Blue Coat, which recently took a stand at Infosec Belgium, said: “This is the first year in a long time we are not going to be at the UK event.
“It is still a good show and a fantastic place to meet customers and channel partners, but we were not convinced we were seeing that many new customers from it, so this year decided to spend our money elsewhere,” he said.
“I think it was always a bit of a stretch to say the UK show was European, when 90 per cent of customers come from the UK,” Hawthorn added.
Nick Lowe, managing director for northern Europe at Check Point, agreed that the show felt quieter last year, which he said had some bearing on the vendor’s more subtle approach this year.
“We will be there, but through our partners’ stands,” he said. “It shows our commitment to partners if we resource and fund elements of their stands and it allows them to take more responsibility, so we will have a presence, just in a different way,” he said.
“Infosec does genuinely have a bearing on the decisions we make and is an opportunity for us to demonstrate how the Check Point portfolio is broadening.”
While Cisco has been notable by its absence from Infosec for several years, Symantec’s muted approach to this year’s event came as a genuine shock to many onlookers.
The world’s largest pure-play security brand will be sharing a pitch with HP and sponsoring an interactive theatre seminar.
However, its presence is expected to fall short of previous years, when eye-catching stands have been packed with with hordes of sales people.
Paul Davie, founder of UK-based database security vendor Secerno, will be at Infosec for a second year running as it makes its first assault on the channel.
“Infosec is very important at this phase in our life for market awareness, which Symantec and Check Point do not struggle for,” Davie said.
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