I recently attended the Gartner Catalyst Conference in San Diego, and thought that I would share some quick observations.
For those of you old-timer IAM-ophiles who attended the old Burton Catalyst conferences, the differences in the new incarnation of this conference were striking. The old Burton sessions were highly technical, and there was a distinct identity focus to most of them, with a number of threat management sessions thrown in for the anti-virus crowd. But, the new Gartner format is much more business-focused - less techie details and less focus on pure identity topics. And, I assume that the audience is evolving to be more consistent with this content evolution - fewer identity architects and more CIOs, for example.
I attended a wide range of sessions, so it's hard to draw too many sharp conclusions about what topics are new and exciting in this year's conference. But, a few things were clear.
The most obvious conclusion is that mobile is HOT!!!. The mobile sessions were packed - standing room only. In addition, the analysts stated in the keynote that mobile had leap-frogged with cloud in terms of priority for their clients. The mobile sessions were "foundational" in nature, which means that they focused on broad strategic issues rather than more specific tactics. This obviously illustrates the place on the adoption curve where most companies are positioned today. The audience wanted to learn how to get started with mobile, and how to create a vision for where they should be going with it.
Probably the second most attended type of sessions (not surprisingly) were related to cloud computing. There was significant interest in these topics, but it appeared that the adoption maturity level of the audience was clearly higher than for mobile. Many in the audience had already adopted cloud in various ways, and some had success stories (or partial success stories) that they could describe about it.
Another observation I had that was unrelated to the conference content was that the iPads have taken over. Laptops were relatively scarce, at least in comparison to the recent past. Everybody seemed to have an iPad that they were using to take notes in the sessions, or maybe just surf the Web.
Luckily, one thing that hasn't changed about Catalyst is the hospitality suites. Whoever invented that model should get an award because it's such a great way to have fun at the conference, while still giving the sponsors the opportunity to generate goodwill and even some good leads. It is far better than the tired old cocktail parties at most shows. Some reasonably small vendors were sponsoring hospitality suites this year with only a few big names as sponsors. The trend seems clearly to be towards the smaller companies sponsoring this conference.
The content at Catalyst might have evolved over the past few years, but it's still one of the best conferences (IMHO) to learn about the real issues facing business and security executives today.