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Cisco Live: The Real Experience

  • Cisco could not have chosen a better location for this year's Cisco Live event. San Diego provided a pleasant respite, even with the tumult of the conference in its midst.

    That said, the networking industry is anything but serene. The landscape is rapidly changing, forcing engineers and executives alike to rethink strategies, transcend skill sets, and find new ways to do things bigger, better and faster. These were the topics fueling conversations during Sunday night's pre-Live Tweetup and the conversations that permeated the conference throughout the week.

    Read on to share my experience at Cisco Live, and the impressions it made on me.

    Image: Cisco

  • Keynote of doom

    During his final Cisco Live keynote as CEO, John Chambers first delivered a grim prophecy for the sustainability of unprepared businesses. Predictive statistics reveal a stark reality for businesses that adapt too slowly in world demanding pure digitization, Chambers told an audience that flocked to him like moths to a street lamp.

  • But wait, there's hope

    "Disrupt or be disrupted," was a continued theme throughout the conference. With colorful Internet-of-Everything demonstrations, Chambers lightened the mood and showed us all what it means to disrupt. My fiancé was live-streaming the keynote from Florida and got giddy over what she dubbed "the virtual reality pasta picker," an augmented reality grocery application for the network-connected grocery store.

    Cisco showed how it will continue to be a leader and even more critical as the world becomes increasingly connected and interactive. This vision transformed a dark room of moths into a bright flurry of fireflies. Chambers said goodbye to a standing ovation, passing the torch to new CEO, Chuck Robbins.

  • DevNet, it's what's for dinner

    As a classic network engineer, it's overwhelming to witness the transition from traditional to programmable networking. The Cisco DevNet zone was much larger this year, offering attendees a smorgasbord of development sessions and hands-on labs, preparing engineers for the inevitable evolution towards software-defined networks.

    The reality of this evolution will enable businesses to simplify yet achieve malleability, massive scale, and focus on rapidly accomplishing business goals. On the back end, engineers will truly be at the heart of the action, making this happen through automation, programmability and orchestration. It's both a daunting and exciting time to be in networking, riding this wave of interconnectedness and potential.

  • World of Solutions (and free T-shirts!)

    Vendors, integrators, and partners galore -- the World of Solutions is where attendees checked out the coolest technologies in the networking industry. Vendor booths offered engaging presentations, lively conversations and quick demos showcasing technologies you may not have known about or maybe didn't know you needed.

    Although you could learn about a range of vendors, some of the best demonstrations were within the Cisco booths. The vast Cisco Solutions area was split into 10 sections: Cloud, Cloud-Managed Networking, Collaboration, Data Center, Enterprise Mobility, Enterprise Networks, Security, Service Provider, Software Defined Networking and Cisco Powered.

    Booth tours showcased some of the most brilliant use cases for connected industries. I participated in a Big Data tour that showed attendees how aircraft are monitored using agile analytics to quickly identify risks such as potential engine failures, connecting disparate systems to locate replacement parts and have them transported to the next airport for prompt repair. The analytics and orchestration were running on Cisco UCS and ACI, of course.

    Image: Cisco

  • The Hub

    The Hub was where some of the best minds inside and outside of Cisco congregated to share ideas, find clarity and talk challenges. Long lines for "Meet the Expert," where attendees could pick the brain of a Cisco engineer about literally any topic, signified the value of The Hub for eager conference goers. In the Whisper Suites, the real hipsters and VIPs were able to get the low-down on the technological horizon (no photos allowed).

    My favorite part of The Hub was this giant screen showing real-time traffic and threats going through the Cisco Live network. I was a little freaked to see the attack values, but simultaneously relieved that Cisco was monitoring the entire conference with FirePOWER, preventing the spread of threats. I must say; it was impressive. Oh, and iTunes was king in data consumption!

  • #Geekslices

    On the face-to-face networking front, I united with a nice group of like-minded socialites for lively mingling over pizza and drinks. Recognize anyone here? Cheerful chatter, geek lingo and energy abounded. This is the best time of the year for the Cisco community, celebrating 30 years of strong industry leadership and a vision to change the world. I'm leaving Cisco Live excited, and you should be, too. In the words of John Chambers: "Are you ready?"