At every tech conference, executives of the host company talk about how the event is bigger and better than ever before. The RSA Conference is no exception, and this year, those claims are backed by a little something extra.
You see, for the last four years, the conference's home, San Francisco's Moscone Center, has been undergoing a $551 million renovation that became increasingly disruptive to the events being held there. The renovations were at their most obvious last year, and the simple logistics of getting around the conference were challenging.
This year has been like a whole new universe. The finished facility added more than 157,000 square feet, bringing the total square footage to more than 1.1 million. That's literally breathed life into the conference, making it feel roomy without sacrificing the sense of hustle and bustle for which the RSA Conference is known.
But as noticeable as the improved flow of foot traffic, more abundant and available bathrooms, and increased options for simply taking a load off have been, the renovation has probably had the biggest impact on the exhibition floor.
Moscone's main exhibition spaces have always been split in half, in halls on the north and south sides of Howard Street, with a long hallway passage in between. Now, however, the two halls have essentially been connected by another huge space that stretches between the two.
That space has brought numerous benefits. Most obviously, it's significantly increased the square footage for booths, and this year's conference features a lineup of 700 exhibitors, up from 650 last year. That increase doesn't do the change justice; there are many more large-scale booths, with exhibitors clearly choosing to stretch out more in Moscone's newly breathable space, reflecting what a robust and exciting time this is for the cyber security market.
The expanded layout has also improved the attendee experience greatly, and I say that based not only on my own experience, but also on having had at least a half-dozen conversations with other conference-goers who've been impressed with the impact the improvements have had on the exhibit floor, and the event at large.
After years of a segmented experience (the passage between the two halls became increasingly narrow and claustrophobic as the renovation progressed), the flow of the exhibition halls has become seamless.
It also seems to have put exhibitors in a better mood. It may just have been one blogger's skewed perception, but it sure seems like the swag is more abundant. More booths than ever have goodies to offer parents looking to placate their kids after leaving them for days.
Network and security intelligence vendor Plixer went big, bringing crazy light-up plastic swords that manage to be cheesy and medieval at the same time. Light-up balls and squishy foam dolls (some with hairdos that double as screen cleaners) are seemingly everywhere. And IBM security has been giving out plasma globes. Plasma globes, folks!
Admittedly, on the surface, none of this has anything to do with cyber security. And yet if you look closer, it does. Put simply: a bigger and better Moscone Center is good for the future of the RSA Conference. Having weathered through the project years, the conference now can feel comfortable remaining in San Francisco for the foreseeable future, keeping it near Silicon Valley, and the abundant cyber security community that calls it home.
Taking that a step further, a stable RSA Conference that's able to draw so many of the industry's top thinkers year after year is good for the future of cyber security. The RSA Conference is where security professionals, from CISOs to junior engineers, come to exchange ideas on a level playing field. They learn about cutting edge new technologies, brainstorm new solutions to problems, and collectively chart the future path of the industry.
That they can now do so in larger numbers, and in more comfortable environs, can only lead to even more productive gatherings. It's a corollary to the growing acceptance throughout the business world that happy employees work harder, innovate more, and stay in their jobs longer. Likewise, conference attendees who can get around more easily, meet more people, and have more fun are going to create more magic collectively.
I don't know about the rest of you, but I've been seeing a whole lot magic going on at this year's RSA Conference, and I look forward to many more years of it at the new and improved Moscone Center.