Bill Roth, Ulitzer Editor-at-Large

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Security, Rumors of Security, and Bill Clinton

RSA Conference 2011 Preview

The major theme of this year's RSA Conference is, guess what, security. This is the largest security show of the year, and its clearly a big deal, since it covers both sides of the Moscone Center in San Francisco. As of 10 a.m. on Monday, preparations are still being made. The show officially opens at 6 p.m., when the doors are thrown open to the Exhibit Hall. And yes, as was noted on various social media outlets, only a security geek show would be scheduled on Valentine's day.

Full Disclosure: While I am covering this as a reporter, I am also CMO of an exhibiting company, LogLogic.

This is the 20th year of the RSA conference, and that appears to be one of the principal themes. The tunnel between the North and South side of Moscone has a 50 foot long graphic on the history of computer security and cryptography. The latter being important, since this is core to the founding company RSA, which stood for Rivest, Shamir and Adleman, three mathematicians who developer a popular public-key cryptography algorithm first published in 1978 (if Wikipedia is to be believed).

It is important to remember that RSA is no longer independent. They are now owned by the storage company EMC. EMC has been on an acquisition binge in the last few years. As a result, they include companies as diverse as VMware, SpringSource, and the aforementioned RSA. The year's show is laid out like a normal giant trade show. The Keynotes will start Tuesday morning, with presentations from the head of RSA, Art Coviello, and VMware exec Richard McAniff, who will no doubt release a few products and engage in the obligatory corporate chest-thumping. Microsoft and Symantec will also have keynotes in the morning.

Then things get interesting, which a panel of all star cryptographers, including the creators of the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, Martin Hellman, and former Sun Microsystems employee Whitfield Diffie. They are now both at Stanford University. The panel will also include Rivest and Shamir or RSA fame.

But the show is also home to some serious policy discussions as well. Closing out the discussion on Tuesday is Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III, who will give a talk on the Pentagons Cyber Strategy. This will be followed up by a heavy-weight panel on Wednesday afternoon with former Department of Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff, and former Director of National Intelligence Vice Admiral Mike McConnell. Thursday will see a talk from US Cyber Command Director General Keith B. Alexander, who is also the head of the National Security Agency at Fort Meade.

In addition to the serious discussion of policy, there will also be lighter moments. On Wednesday, Murder Room author Michael Capuzzo will talk about his work with the Vidocq Society, which worked on solving unsolved murders. Thursday acclaimed physicist Dr. Michio Kaku will give his impressions on where computing and telecommunications will evolve in the next 20 years.

The one keynote that stands out is the one that is the least associated with computer security. On Friday afternoon, US President Bill Clinton will be presenting "Embracing Our Common Humanity." This will no doubt cover topics related to his Clinton Global Initiative, Clinton can be a very entertaining speaker, but he is also known to speak at length. For example, at the 1988 Democratic National Convention, he took a 20-minute speech and spoke for more than an hour.

There are also a variety of "breakout" sessions on various topics, including Policy, The Business of Security, Technical Infrastructure and Cloud Security.

There will clearly be something for everyone at this show, from the Nerd to the Wonk to the Shameless Huckster. (I am in the latter category.)  A conference spokesperson said the conference drew about 16,000 attendees last year. Expect it to be about the same this year.

More Stories By Bill Roth

Bill Roth is a Silicon Valley veteran with over 20 years in the industry. He has played numerous product marketing, product management and engineering roles at companies like BEA, Sun, Morgan Stanley, and EBay Enterprise. He was recently named one of the World's 30 Most Influential Cloud Bloggers.