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IBM Pulls Out Of RSA Conference Due To Coronavirus Outbreak

‘The health of IBMers continues to be our primary concern as we monitor upcoming events and travel relative to Novel Coronavirus,’ IBM says in a statement. ‘As a result, we are cancelling our participation in this year’s RSA conference.’

IBM Friday became the first high-profile vendor to publicly cancel its participation in the RSA Conference in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

“The health of IBMers continues to be our primary concern as we monitor upcoming events and travel relative to Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19),” IBM said in a emailed statement to CRN. “As a result, we are cancelling our participation in this year’s RSA conference taking place February 24-28 in San Francisco.”

A spokesperson for Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM said the decision was made out of an abundance of caution, and that the company still plans to make news the week of the show. RSA Conference officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Related: MWC Barcelona 2020 Called Off Due To Coronavirus]

IBM Security was supposed to be one of nine Platinum Sponsors at the RSA Conference, which is the second-highest level of sponsorship behind the thee longtime Diamond Sponsors of the show: Cisco, McAfee, and RSA. IBM Security tends to have a very large presence at the RSA Conference, highlighted by the company’s 50-foot-by-30-foot booth near the front of the Moscone Center’s North Expo Hall.

The RSA Conference said Wednesday that it plans to proceed with the show as scheduled since a situation summary from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates the health risk from coronavirus for the general American public is considered low. More than 80 percent of registered attendees and exhibiting organizations at the RSA Conference are from the U.S., officials said.

Nine of the roughly 700 companies signed up to exhibit at the RSA Conference were from China, and six of those nine companies had canceled by Tuesday due to the travel restrictions, conference officials said. Only 0.2 percent of RSA Conference expected attendees had to cancel their registrations due to travel restrictions around coronavirus, though the figure includes two scheduled speakers at the show.

The RSA Conference is the largest cybersecurity conference in the world, and in 2019 drew 42,500 attendees to San Francisco for more than 550 educational sessions, keynote addresses from the biggest names in the industry, and a week’s worth of networking and social events. The RSA Conference began in 1991 as a small cryptography conference, and has grown over the decades to cover all things security.

The decision by IBM comes the same day as Facebook opted to cancel its global marketing summit, which – like the RSA Conference – takes place at San Francisco’s Moscone Center. The Facebook event was expected to draw 4,000 people to San Francisco from March 9 to March 12.

IBM’s withdrawal from the RSA Conference comes just two days after Mobile World Congress 2020 was cancelled, which was scheduled to take place in Barcelona the same week as RSA. Many of the world’s largest tech companies including Cisco Systems, Ericsson, Facebook, Intel, LG and Sprint pulled out of Mobile World Congress in the days leading up to the show.

MWC 2020 was expected to draw 109,000 people to Barcelona.

In addition, Fortinet this week opted to cancel Accelerate 2020 Barcelona (which was supposed to take place Feb. 16-19) due to health and safety concerns associated with the coronavirus. The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based platform security giant said registration fees paid by credit card will be fully refunded over the next five-to-seven days.

“Holding our first Accelerate in Barcelona was exciting on many levels,” Fortinet said on the event website. “The demand exceeded our expectations and we were all looking forward to spending next week with our valued partners and customers. After much consideration, the decision was made to cancel the event to avoid any possible spread of the Coronavirus.”

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