Cisco Live has been over for a few days now and yes, I miss hanging out with the many good people that make this event something special. Over the years I’ve had the pleasure of meeting so many good people and believe me, the list is long. As I sit and reflect on the event, it’s a bit difficult to put my feelings into words. Every single year the Cisco Live team seems to step it up a notch, making me feel like it’s been a better event than the year before. I can’t express enough, my gratitude for the team that makes this event happen. But all praises aside I want to take a moment and just throw my thoughts out there, both good and bad.
The Registration Process
The online registration process was smooth and uneventful. Everything you’d expect from a registration was here. I’m not a huge fan of the survey to obtain demographic information, but I know it’s protocol. One thing to note is that I did have to get a little assistance with the eBook for Netvets. Somehow something was not right in the registration process. It wasn’t a big deal, but I mention it because it was a brief point of friction. The Cisco Live folks were extremely responsive in straightening things out and even asking for screenshots for the webdev team to use in troubleshooting.
The Hotel Situation
Every year I hold out on booking a hotel. I always assume I can get a better rate on my own. This year I booked a hotel as soon as registration opened. I book at the Hard Rock Hotel- San Diego, and it was totally awesome. The Hard Rock Suite was what I booked and it was a bit interesting. The Bathroom and Shower were in a transition area between the living room and the bedroom, but they didnt have an actual door on them, rather a glass door that had a few inches at the top. You could see the shadow of anyone inside, and you could hear everything. It was amusing, and we dealt with it.
Another cool feature of the Hard Rock is that they let you “lease” a guitar for free during your stay. I took advantage of it the last night. It was fun. I haven’t played guitar in about a year and a half but I could still manage to start a few songs, but I dont think I could finish a single one. My guiter was a Fender Telecaster. I’ve owned a Stratocaster in the past but never a Telecaster so it was nice to give it a test drive. In fact, I may pick my guitar up a bit more often now that I remember how much fun it can be.
Also, I have to mention Mary Janes. The food is expensive to some, but it’s a decent portion and very tasty. My favorite was the Benny’s which is their take on Eggs Benedict. So Good!
The Check-in Process
There’s nothing much to say about the check-in process at live, but they did add somewhat of an express lane this year. Using a QR code you could check-in on your own and then go puck your backpack up and so forth. I decided to just go to the Netvet line, where they tried to get me to go to the express line. There were a dozen guys in that line and nobody in the Netvet line. It reminded me of the lst flight I took. Tons of self service kiosks with very few live employees to check your bag. Is this the direction we are heading with Cisco Live checkins?
The Social Media Lounge
There’s so much to say about the social media hub. For one, it’s the one place I can go where I know I’ll find people I want to hang out with. This was my first and nearly last stop at the conference this year. It was a little crowded though, which brings me to my rant. I was there in Vegas when “Tom’s Corner” began. Yeah the group was REALLY small back then. Now the group has become so large that there’s no way I can keep up with it. And there’s no real differentiator between those hanging out in the Social Media hub and those who are walking by and notice that there’s ice cream and sodas. Tons of people showed up that didnt even know what twitter was but they knew there would be some snacks.
I do have to throw a huge thank you out there to Kathleen who was busier than any of us during the conference. She does a ton behind the scenes to make things work. Fantastic job again Kathleen!
The Cisco Champions
This is my second year as a Cisco Champion. There have been a few posts about the program that in a round about way indicate that there are flaws in the program. While the program is not perfect, it is beneficial in many ways. The work that Lauren and Rachell do for the program is like having your own liason between us and Cisco who can actually make something happen when it needs to happen. To that end, I don’t think you could ever compare it to Tech Field Day, as some have. Tech Field Day is about independent community and multiple vendors having a fair shot to speak about their ideas and offerings. I love it. But understand that the Cisco Champions is something completley different. The Champions program, in my mind, is like a frequent flier program for Cisco advocates. You get a few perks, and because of the time and effort you put into talking about their products that you use, they get some social media oomph.
The Technical Sessions
This year I had 6 technical sessions scheduled. I attended one and the seats were horrible. If you have a two hour session in a room with no tables the seats better be comfortable enought to sit in. Additionally many attendees, myself included, are a bit on the larger size. The room was simply too cramped and I’d rather review the slides later. I was a bit disapointed that many of the sessions I am interested are not recorded. It’s not a big deal, but I wish they would have recorded more sessions that what I could see online. Of course, maybe they did but they arent up yet. I’m used to Tech Field Day sessions that are posted within an hour or so on Youtube and Vimeo.
The Opening Keynote
The opening keynote was great. John Chambers sure knows how to work a room. But aside from the content that was delivered by John, there were a few things here that I observed.
- A few of us happened to find our way in a few minutes early. Someone on twitter decided to say a few words that were uncalled for. There seems to be a few individuals on twitter that seem to have some not-so-nice things to say about others in the community. All these ones are doing is causing the larger number in the community to lose respect for them. It’s sad.
- The CCIE/DE Netvet seating area seems to be moving back a bit. This year we sat behind the Cisco Execs. It was subtle, but could it be a sign that the Netvet program is losing some luster?
The CCIE Party
Hands down this had to be the most chill CCIE party I’ve ever been to. The venue was the Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island and for a number of those at the party this may have been their first time at the beach. It didn’t feel like it lasted very long, but it was very relaxing being able to kick of your shoes and hang out in the sand.
On thing I’ll share that was pretty amusing to me was that the bar had a small wine selection. I was told, “ We have a Merlot, a Cab, and a blend.” I asked for the blend and watched the bartender proceed to fill my cup half way with Merlot and half way with the Cab.
The Certification Lounge
The Certification lounge is the place to be if you want to get away from the show floor. It’s located in the World of Solutions and has a selection of food and beverages. I seem to have spend more time in the lounge last year that I did this year, but that’s probably because of the location. This year it was in the far back right corner of the World of Solutions. In my opinion, that’s way to far. You have to wade through the barrage of booth people trying to swipe a scan at your badge. That’s the most annoying thing to me about this entire show. It would be nice if they were asked to stay in their booth rather than come out into the aisles trying to coax me in for a visit.
The World of Solutions
This year seemed to be the year of the maze. The World of Solutions was a bit more difficult for me to navigate this year, and it might be because all the Cisco stuff was along the back, and the layout seemed a bit funky. Aside from that, there were a ton of vendors and partners. I’ve spend more time in the WoS in years past, and mostly don’t now because its the same old thing. There are however a few booths that I like to visit to catch up on recent developments and to say hello to friends.
The Netvet Program
The Cisco Netvet program is another program I’m happy to be a part of. As a Netvet, you get access to the NetVet Lounge where you’ll find a nice expresso machine, a free e-book from Cisco Press, and priority session scheduling, which I made use of. In additional to those benefits, if you’re a CCIE/DE Netvet, you get access to a special lunch reception with John Chambers, priority seating in the general session and innovation talks, and a sweet lapel pin. Over the years the Netvet status has been really nice to have during the keynote. Usually Netvets are right up front. This year we got a bump back behind the Cisco Executives. Could this be a hint of the diminishing importance of the program? It makes me wonder if Chuck Robbins will continue the tradition once he has full control of the ship.
The Netvet Lounge
The Netvet lounge was a good size this year, but one thing really bothered me. They wouldn’t let my wife, or my mentee walk in with me. So when I wanted to get an expresso, they had to wait at the entrance. I can understand leaving the dog outside while you run into the grocery store, but if my spouse is with me, she should be allowed to walk in with me while I get a cup of coffee for myself. Furthermore, this year Cisco started a mentor program where Netvets were assigned a new attendee to mentor. They wouldn’t let my mentee come in either, and this person was assigned to be with me. I realize its a new program, but this should be considered. Perhaps a special lanyard for the attendee assigned to a mentor should be provided that will allow the new attendee to actually accompany the mentor while being mentored.
The Chambers Netvet/CCIE/DE Reception
The reception this year was nice. It was held on a rooftop patio at the Hard Rock Hotel. The food was good, the conversations were stimulating, and the Q&A was top notch. It was nice to see the two CEO’s bouncing back and forth answering questions.
The DevNet Zone
The DevNet Zone was a huge part of live this year. What I appreciated about it was all the random (wasn’t really random) stuff you found in there, like drones! I spent some time doing a few labs, talking about VIRL and mostly just wandering around learning. Very cool stuff!
The Cisco Store
What can you say- the clothes are way too expensive and aside from that there’s some neat gadgets.
The Cisco Press Store
It was nice to see that I still had a book on the shelf in the Cisco Press store. The AAA Identity Management book is still alive, but I am itching to write something new so this might be the year.
The Cisco Press Author Reception
Cisco Press held a reception for their authors. It was nice catching up with fellow authors and talking about what’s on the horizon. It’s also nice to see that Cisco Press still appreciates the people who put a lot of time and effort into these publications. Believe me, a book is not easy to write.
The Customer Appreciation Event
The CAE was absolutely awesome. The Royal Machines and Aerosmith both performed and we had a good time listening to them from the Cisco Champion suite. The view is not as good as it would be if you were on the ground floor at the stage, but it was very enjoyable. Again, just another great opportunity to spend some fun time with fell Champions and Twitter peeps.
The Closing Keynote with Mike Rowe
Mike Rowe was the final speaker and talked about working harder AND smarter. I felt the speech was very motivational because I’ve seen a trend with new folks thinking that this is a cush job. IT work can be easy, but you have to put the time in to get there, and there’s a great deal of mental exercise that one must do. I reminded me that when the clock is ticking on the work that needs to be done, it’s best to just get in there and get dirty, and get it done.
The Social Media Picture… with Mike Rowe
Every year we take a picture with the Cisco Live sign. When we got there this year it was nearly packed. Some of it was stood back up and we still got the pic. As an added bonus we were joined by Mike Rowe. I have to say they I’ve always enjoyed his work, but I have a new appreciation for him after Cisco Live. Some celebrities have a big head and don’t want to be with the peasants so to speak, but Mike was hanging out just like one of the gang.
There’s so many thought that I have about the event. Some good, some bad. I’m not going to hash that out here. Some takeaways for me include the fact that developers are becoming more and more important to Cisco, and the DevNet Zone will likely keep growing. Automation is king. Security is top of the list. There’s a lot of talk about the social scene and the Cisco Champions. I think this will be an area to keep track of over the next year.
So what do I think about Cisco Live? I think Cisco Live is the event that every networking professional should attend, if not for the Cisco education, for the networking with like-minded people. Every year I’m sad to leave, but happy that my feet will get a rest. It’s a non-stop event that has more to offer than anyone could glean in a single year. It’s the people that make it worth attending. People like Kathleen, and Lauren, and Rachel. It’s the people like Teren, and Bryan, and Tony, Steve, and Blake, and Ryan, and Jay and Jeff and Amy, and so many more. It’s a week with my wife, seeing her learn about what I do and get motivated to the point where she wants to do it herself. It’s the #CLUS hash tag, and the goofy games people play. It’s the technology that doesn’t seem to let up and the really smart people being them. It’s the side events that you can following along with like Tech Field Day, and the people that organize them like Stephen Foskett and Tom Hollingsworth. It’s the walking, the talking, the learning, and the understanding. It’s Cisco Live!
Wow, I can’t believe it’s over this year!
See you all next year in Vegas!