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Planning for RSA Conference 2011: Session suggestions and expo advice

In this edition of Patrolling the Channel, Kevin McDonald of Alvaka Networks shares his advice for getting the most out of your trip to the 2011 RSA Conference.

RSA Conference 2011 is taking place in San Francisco next week, and it's always an important event for IT security professionals. But with so many sessions, exhibits, peer groups and keynotes, it's possible to miss out on the areas that are most important to your job as a security solution provider.

In this podcast, spoke with Kevin McDonald, executive vice president and director of compliance practices at California-based Alvaka Networks Inc. In this interview, McDonald shares his suggestions and tips for getting the most out of the RSA Conference 2011, as well as any other IT security conferences.

Read excerpts from our interview with Kevin McDonald, below, or listen to the full podcast.

There are 15 tracks at RSA Conference 2011, ranging from cryptography to technology infrastructure to cloud security. What tracks do you think will be most useful to a security solution provider attending the conference?
You first need to figure out who you are and what exactly you need to get out of the conference. In the world of IT security, there are analysts gathering data, practitioners delivering services, consultant practitioners and business development people. So look at the tracks and select based on your goals for the year and then decide what topics you want to cover.

One of the biggest weaknesses of current strategy is that we have a group of siloed professionals, many of whom have very little understanding of the silos standing next to them. So conferences like this are a good chance to cross over into areas that may not be part of your day to day activities, but certainly could enhance your abilities as a security professional.

In the interest of time and budget, some people may decide to just go to the Expo portion of RSA Conference 2011. How can solution providers get the most out of their time at the Expo?

Look at the more boutique or unique products at the RSA conference... you can always see the larger vendors just about anywhere.


Kevin McDonald,

 When I go to these events, I quickly cover the entire floor on the first day. But I don't spend a lot of time at any one booth. Instead, I take as many materials as I can, then go back to my room and review them. The following day I go back to the conference floor and speak to the vendors I want to spend more time with.

This conference is a good chance to see the smaller start-up. I recommend you look at the more boutique or unique products at the RSA conference -- ones you may not see at any other conferences -- because you can always see the larger vendors just about anywhere.

Do you think the peer-to-peer sessions a good time investment for a security solution provider? Or are the tutorials more likely to give the solution provider some real information he or she can use right away?
I'm a strong believer in networking at peer-to-peer sessions. If you truly are a day to day practitioner, then you want to get down into the minutia of how things are done by going to the tutorials. If you also need the business perspective of IT security, then take the opportunity to ask people at the conference what they are seeing, what is and isn't working. This is the only way we can discover the difference between what the vendors are marketing or what the press is telling us versus the reality is on the ground. Face to face networking can be far more valuable than spending all of your time on the track.

Are there any not-to-be-missed sessions or exhibits?
Some of the speakers who will be at RSA Conference 2011 are phenomenally powerful. They are on the pulse of what is happening in our industry. Examples are William Lynn, U.S. secretary of defense, Francis DeSouza, senior vice president at Symantec Corp. and Michio Kaku, a physicist and author. The cryptographers' panel should also be very interesting.


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