This past week I was fortunate enough to attend Cisco Live 2009 in San Francisco California. I wanted to share with you my experiences this week in case you weren't able to be there. If you have never been to a Cisco Live event I highly recommend that you make your plans to attend the 2010 event in Las Vegas.
It has been 8 years since I attended a Cisco Networkers (Now called Cisco Live) event. I went to Cisco Networkers in 1999 (Vancouver BC), 2000 (Las Vegas), and 2001 (Chicago) but I haven't attended since then. I felt that the content didn't change significantly from year to year to warrant going every year. Time got away from me and I felt that this year it was time for me to reengage. This year marked the 20th anniversary of the Cisco Live/Networkers event. There were displays and discussion about the history of the event, the various hats, t-shirts, and happenings over the past 20 years. As this year has evolved so has Cisco themselves so it was interesting to see the progress over the years.
Many thought that the attendance was going to be down this year. However, I thought the attendance was great. They said that over 10,000 attended in person and that there were over 3,000 people attending virtually.
Cisco Live has responded to by providing leading-edge content on the latest technologies like: Data Center (L2MP, Nexus, virtualization), Cloud discussions, expansion of UC technology including contact center, and telepresence, network management, security, wireless, and new products. I was attending many of the great technical sessions. I attended sessions on multicast troubleshooting, IPv6, VSS, SNMPv3, L2MP, DMVPN, Performance Routing, Embedded Event Manager, among others. The sessions were great because they are given by experts within Cisco who are part of developing these technologies. It is a rare treat to hear about these solutions from the same folks who are working to create them. In this way you gain a deeper understanding of these than you can get from reading the configuration guide.
Cisco announced that it is creating a new top-level certification named the Cisco Certified Architect (CCA). This appears to be one of the toughest Cisco certifications; even tougher than the CCIE. This certification is going to be similar to the Cisco Certified Design Expert (CCDE) in the way it focuses on the design of technology. In fact, the CCDE will be a prerequisite for attempting the CCA exam. The CCA sounds like it is going to focus on the entire deployment lifecycle from the architecture and design through to implementation. The test will be a board exam rather than a computer-based test or a hands-on lab exam.
One shocking moment on Tuesday involved protesters that were at the event picketing outside. They were upset by the large amount of money that Cisco executives make annually compared to unskilled hourly workers. During the keynote speech by John Chambers the protesters seated themselves in with the audience and started chanting and being obnoxious. I was impressed with how smoothly John Chambers and the event staff handled the situation. He is such a great speaker that he didn't let those people disrupt his train of thought. He remained composed and continued to press his points about what makes Cisco a great organization and their plans to amplify the contributions of others through innovation of communication and collaboration solutions.
Little do these people realize the things that Cisco does to give back to communities. For example, Cisco employees volunteer their time for a variety of charities and causes. Cisco is substantially behind several green initiatives. Cisco has an entire Social Investment group that is working to improve the world we live in. The fact that Cisco hosted their event in San Francisco brought close to 15,000 people to the great city and helped boost the economy. Many great people were hired for the week to help support the event. I think those protesters should do some more homework before they try to criticize a single individual for what they perceive as injustices.
World of Solutions:
Cisco Networkers typically has a great trade show called the World of Solutions. This year there was close to 100 booths of vendors who have products and services related to Cisco products. Two topics that are left to the end of deployments of networkers are security and network management. Organizations are finally starting to take network management seriously. There were many companies at the World of Solutions (WoS) trade show that offered network management products. However, in my opinion, the company with the best booth was Solarwinds.
I used to work at International Network Services (INS) (now BT Professional Services) and I really enjoy reconnecting with those old INSers who were on the leading edge of networking in the mid to late 1990s. Several of these top-notch INS consultants including Josh Stephens, Andy McBride, and Dan Wendeln are now working at Solarwinds. Josh is now the "Head Geek" at Solarwinds. Their booth was amazing and the cartoons on their booth were a refreshing contrast to the typical boring trade show booth. All the Solarwinds folks were dressed in garage shirts and wore bright orange Converse All-Star shoes.
Kennon James was on hand all the WoS days drawing cartoon caricatures of anyone who wanted their picture drawn. Kennon is a talented artist that draws cartoons and other forms of art using his keen eye and good sense of humor. I got my picture drawn by Kennon and I think it is great. I think this is what I would look like if I were a cartoon character. What do you think of the likeness?
It was nice to talk to the folks at Chesapeake NetCraftsmen at their booth. Peter Welcher and Terry Slattery are always full of knowledge and are great guys to talk to. I am amazed at how modest these two gentlemen are given their extensive IT careers and vast experience networking knowledge. They were giving away copies of their VoIP Troubleshooting poster at their booth so if you didn't get one you can click on this link to see what it looks like.
Another memorable booth was by BlueCat Networks. For those not familiar with BlueCat, they make an IP Address Management (IPAM), DHCP and DNS solution that supports both IPv4 and IPv6 addresses. Their booth had a pair of shapely ladies in silver skinsuits bearing the BlueCat logo.
Customer Appreciation Event:
There were several things that really impressed me. The enthusiasm of the event staff was incredible. Being greeted at the door by someone saying welcome and offering to help was tremendous. The food was great and the hospitality was incredible. However, the high point of the entire event had to be the Customer Appreciation Event (CAE) held on Wednesday night on Treasure Island. I have never been to a better Customer Appreciation Event (CAE). This year there was a concert by a fantastic lineup of 1980s stars. Martha Quinn from MTV fame was the master of ceremonies and it was hard for her to comprehend the number of geeks wearing DEVO hats.
The concert started off with an incredible lineup of 1980s musical talent. Mike Score from the Flock of Seagulls kicked off the show with I Ran. It was great to hear Tone Loc (Not to be confused with the old war dialing software) who sang Funky Cold Medina and Wild Thing, and the Sugar Hill Gang. Other artists included The Bangles (Walk like an Egyptian), Curt Smith from Tears for Fears (Shout), and Howard Jones (Things can only get better).
DEVO was fantastic and were further energized by the 10,000 audience members wearing energy domes. Their show included some of my favorite DEVO songs; Whip it!, The girl you want, Peak a Boo, and Secret agent man. I am thinking that my DEVO hat will make a great Halloween costume this year. I just need to find a Tyvek jumpsuit.
The B-52s concert was great. I remember seeing them at Red Rocks amphitheater in 1991 and they still put on a great show today. They played Roam, Private Idaho, and afew songs from their latest album Funplex.
Even though the rules clearly stated "No photography or videography will be allowed at the Customer Appreciation Event" there were tons of people with their Flip cameras and mobile phone cameras taking videos of the event.
I want to thank Cisco for putting on such a fabulous event. I also want to thank my company GTRI for making it possible for me to attend. If you get a chance to attend Cisco Live 2010 in Las Vegas I highly encourage you to attend. You will learn about leading edge technologies and you will have a blast doing it.