In August 1986, the Internet Advisory Board (now the Internet Architecture Board) and TCP/IP pioneer Dan Lynch worked with DARPA to develop a TCP/IP Vendors Workshop -- what would evolve into Interop. Held in beautiful Monterey, Calif., the workshop was designed to bring together TCP/IP protocol designers with equipment vendors. The agenda included sessions on FTP, SMTP, and Telnet.
After holding three more TCP/IP interoperability conferences, Lynch came up with a catchier name for the event: Interop. The first Interop was held in San Jose, Calif., in 1988. Vendors with TCP/IP products that could reliably interoperate were invited to participate. Fifty companies made the cut and 5,000 networking pros attended.
Today, 10 Gigabit Ethernet is becoming pervasive in enterprise networks and even 40GbE is showing up more and more. But back in 1989, it was a big deal when -- for the first time -- vendors at Interop set up at 100Mbps LAN. For many years now, Interop has featured a multi-vendor, volunteer-run temporary network called InteropNet, which supports conference attendees and exhibitors.
Photo credit: ABC
Mr. T Makes An Appearance
Mr. T -- an icon of the '80s since his starring role in the hit television show "The A-Team" -- made his way to Interop in 2000, when the conference was held at the Georgia World Conference Center in Atlanta (and known as NetWorld+Interop). Hosted by an IT services firm, the actor and former professional wrestler wowed tech pros on the show floor with his trademark mohawk and formidable presence. Unfortunately, there's no record of Mr. T using his old "Pity the fool!" tagline during IT demos. (By the way, NetWorld -- which Interop bought from Novell -- was soon dropped from the Interop name to better reflect the conference's broad range of content.)
Interop Debuts In The Big Apple
Interop grew past a single annual event when a second Interop conference was added in New York in December 2005. Held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center, the event provided another way for IT pros -- especially those on the East Coast -- to meet, collaborate, and check out new technologies. Keynotes featured executives from Microsoft, Google, AT&T, Nortel, Avaya and ProCurve by HP.
Wireless Grabs The Spotlight
In 2009, Wi-Fi vendor Xirrus caused a stir on the Interop show floor with its huge booth that included a boxing ring. Interop attendees watched in awe at the boxing matches, which included female pugilists duking it out. That a Wi-Fi vendor stole the show highlighted the uptake of wireless networking in the enterprise.
OpenFlow Makes A Splash
On the heels of the launch of the Open Networking Foundation, the SDN-enabling OpenFlow protocol it promotes dominated headlines at Interop Las Vegas in 2011. With several vendors unveiling their OpenFlow switches, the software-defined networking hype was in full bloom.
Each year, the Best of Interop Awards recognizes exhibitors for significant technological advancements in specific product categories. An Interop team of judges chooses the winners. But at Interop Las Vegas 2013, the audience got to vote for their choice for the best product. The voting was conducted live at the show. The first Audience Choice Best of Interop winner was Citrix's Mobile Solutions Bundle.
It's always a big deal when the CEO of the world's biggest networking vendor shows up, and John Chambers' appearance at Interop New York last fall was no exception. The CEO of Cisco gave an energetic keynote in which he roamed the stage and through the audience, talking up an application-centric network future. The keynote foreshadowed Cisco's launch of its Application Centric Infrastructure.