At Cisco Live this week at the Moscone Center in San Francisco, the company put its best foot forward, treating customers, partners, and media to a wide range of education and activities -- of course, through the lens of the tech vendor. The conference celebrated its 25th year, hosting a record-breaking 25,000 live attendees and 200,000 virtual participants.
Spirits ran high and WiFi consumption skyrocketed as old friends reconnected and new technologies were debated. There was serious work done and serious socializing. Here we've selected the seven outstanding takeaways. Are we missing your favorites?
Crazy For Code
The networking industry is embracing the importance of DevOps, if Cisco Live is any indication. The conference DevNet Zone was a hive of activity all week long, even hosting a 24-hour hackathon. Hands-on learning labs let attendees code APIs on working platforms and systems, and sessions on coding skills taught users to call REST APIs from Python and JQuery. Targeted at large customers and service providers, the beta version of Cisco's Dev-Innovate program began accepting applications. The program will provide customers with a half-rack of fully loaded gear ready for them to experiment for "accelerating innovation."
The brotherhood and sisterhood of geeks was out in full force, especially at Cisco Live's Social Media Hub, where Twitter users gathered for an arrival Tweet Up on the first day of the conference. A DJ kept Moscone's South lobby sounding more like a club than a conference hall, and a constant thrum of activity including podcasting and videocasts provided plenty to talk about. Throughout the week, attendees could be seen exchanging business cards, sharing stories, snapping selfies, and even donning tiaras.
The World According To Chambers
Cisco Chairman and CEO John Chambers is always a compelling speaker. But his presentation opening the show on Monday, clearly aimed as much as his competition as at customers and partners, provoked differing reactions among attendees we spoke with. The messages of "brutal industry consolidation," "fast IT" and the now tired "Internet of Everything" prompted either jaded cynicism or reassurance, depending on the listener. Many agreed, however, that Chambers was communicating an urgency and excitement they haven't felt before, one that's infectious. He certainly seemed loose onstage, dancing to Bobby Brown and wearing his Ray-Bans in honor of the 25th anniversary.
Cisco showed off the first public prototype of an augmented collaboration technology, internally dubbed "Spring Roll." One of the first five projects supported through Cisco's Tech Fund, the technology, described by staff as "telepresence on steroids," provides full head-to-toe videoconferencing. It allows conference participants on both sides to write on the same white board via a third-party developed gesture language. The prototype is designed to get customer feedback; no decision has been made to productize the project, said Susie Wee, VP and CTO of networked experiences at Cisco. Launched in 2012, Cisco's Tech Fund is like an internal venture capital fund for that helps engineers develop technologies.
The climax of Cisco Live is the Customer Appreciation Event, affectionately called the CAE by acronym-loving technologists. Lenny Kravitz and Imagine Dragons took the stage at AT&T Park to rock the house on Wednesday. Cisco traditionally gives out a goofy hat to attendees to commemorate the event; this year's was a 25th anniversary cake with candles. All the hats from years past were also displayed in the Cisco Live Museum.
Big Market, Low Interest
The amorphous "Internet Of Everything" continued to be a topic touted by Cisco and equaling, according to John Chambers, a $19 trillion market. The secret to the Internet of Everything, lucky for us infrastructure folks, is the underlying architecture, especially the network, which attendees could see in varying forms on the show floor. Feedback from conferencegoers was that this is not urgent news to them but something they will take into consideration as their environments evolve.
It's All About The API
While some in the industry may still be questioning Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) SDN strategy, the company's partners are getting on board. Citrix, F5, Microsoft, RedHat, Embrane, Palo Alto Networks, and others promised to have APIs ready for download when Cisco's Application Policy Infrastructure Controller (APIC) comes to market this summer. Citrix, for example, will provide integration for its NetScaler application delivery controller through a "device package" that enables REST-based API integration and allows the APIC controller to perform a list of 13 different feature configurations on the NetScaler.