Cisco Live! 2022: The Experience
Cisco Live! is Cisco System’s annual conference where customers, partners, prospects, technology innovators, and members of the C-Suite gather for education, networking, and inspiration. The five-day event offers live booths showcasing new technologies from Cisco and partners, breakout sessions on every aspect of networking from some of the companies’ brightest minds, certification testing, lab environments, developer areas, and much more. Arraya Solutions once again attended this year to network with existing customers, prospect new technologies, and keep up to date on current IT trends.
I’m Kyle Dillon, Practice Manager – Networking with Arraya Solutions. In this blog I intend to take you through the full Cisco Live! experience, including everything from booking to the conference itself.
Cisco Live! ran this year from June 12 – June 16, 2022. The event resumed its normal in-person attendance this year in Las Vegas, Nevada at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Convention Center. The conference comes with different package options you can purchase, catering to different IT folks. The conference also offers discounted rates at the Mandalay Bay, should you choose to stay there (if you value your feet, you will). It is imperative that you register for everything early. As soon as registration opens, things book incredibly fast.
Full Conference passes are self-explanatory, granting you access to everything except IT Leadership sessions. IT Leadership is a newer option to purchase that provides enablement for anyone in a management position in the IT workspace. Leadership talks, meetings with high level executives, and inspirational stories come with that side. I chose the full conference option, as my role at Arraya requires a blend of technical expertise to continue to deliver quality solutions to our customers.
The explorer pass is likely only useful if you live within proximity to Las Vegas and have extra cash to burn. The explorer pass gets you access to the World of Solutions and major events, but no breakout sessions or exams. A nice benefit of the Full or IT Leadership packages is the free pass to take any exam at the event, subject to availability. However, CCIE Labs do book quick here, but I believe you can take them if you enjoy a bit of stress with your conference.
One of the nice things about Cisco Live! Is the ability to get access to Cisco’s technical teams that create the products customers and partners like Arraya must implement and troubleshoot daily. Most of the breakout sessions are about 45 minutes to an hour depending on what you select. I attended a plethora of them this time around. I tried to absorb as many best practices as I could across the many different focuses Arraya Solutions offers under the Hybrid Infrastructure line of business (Routing, Switching, Wireless, Security, and Collaboration).
I recommend registering for the breakouts you’re interested in as soon as Cisco announces the availability. These sessions fill up fast, so you need to register quickly.
Here’s a high-level overview of the schedule I chose:
Some of the sessions were great, some involved content I was already familiar with, and some weren’t my favorite. Even if a breakout session doesn’t provide you much value, the speaker generally gives you 5-10 minutes after their presentation to chat with them. As there isn’t usually much of a line, I encourage you to come to the event loaded with questions to bombard them with. You’ve certainly paid for it.
My favorite session was BRKOPS-2259 Cisco Full Stack Observability – Solving Problems End-to-End, with Dave Zacks and Nagendra Kumar Nainar. Dave and Nagendra clearly articulated Cisco’s approach to FSO, something that I believe will be a key development for most major IT vendors in the next few years. Cisco harped on FSO at the partner summit earlier this year as well. Look for a follow up post about FSO from Arraya highlighting the key concepts of the solution in the next coming weeks.
World of Solutions
The World of Solutions is the trade floor of the conference. Located on the first floor of the convention center, it is the centerpiece to the event. Multiple vendors, partners, and divisions of Cisco, all show up with their own sections and booths to showcase new technologies, products, arenas for labs, theaters for lightning sessions, and much more.
This is the best part of the event, for sure. I walked through it many times, but wanted to point out some of the highlights that I enjoyed:
I stopped by the certification area to get my CCIE ribbon to attach to my pass and a free cable bag with the logo on it:
Cisco has gone full drive-in programmability with their products in the past seven years. The DevNet Zone is a Cisco hosted area encouraging programming and automation focuses on the networking industry. You can stop in this area and get free courses with Cisco-provided gear, intro classes, and more on programming.
The technical solutions clinic is a must stop for anyone that is hands on with networking equipment. The TS clinic is a section of the event where Cisco brings their best technical assistance center (TAC) engineers. With a full conference pass, you can come to this area with ANY questions you have on any of Cisco’s products, and they will assign a TAC engineer to work on solving the issue with you right there. No case creation, no escalations, no conference calls to be scheduled. You walk right up and get help immediately. So come with many questions!
I stopped by the Panduit booth, a vendor that deals in Racks, UPS’, and Fiber deployment technology to look at their portfolio. They had new LC-LC fiber cables that you could change the polarity on and pop out of a little sheathe without tiny little plastic pieces that hurt your fingers. Their cassette style fiber deployments were also really nice.
The NOC was a cool spot to visit. The entire event’s network and wireless is powered and secured by Cisco products (of course). So naturally, Cisco goes all out on design, capabilities, and showmanship, putting most of the gear in a glass case and featuring some cool technical stats, charts, and diagrams. They used a bloc design for the event for anyone who is reading this and studying CCDEs. 😉
They also had a number of TVs devoted to the wireless statistics. Cisco hosted their own WiFi environment, showcasing a controller-based deployment with around 17,000 active clients. An engineer showed me the client migration spikes between controllers on Twitter. For example, there was a huge spike in controller associations when everyone left the show floor to attend a keynote in the Michelob Ultra Arena.
The World of Solutions is a must see, for anyone interested in networking topologies. This is the mecca to travel to and see the latest and greatest developments in the field. There were many more booths, each with their own pros and cons, and I highly encourage anyone that goes to the event to explore and try their best to see them all.
Another big piece of the event is the executive leadership keynotes, held in the Michelob Ultra Arena. Here Chuck Robbins (CEO of Cisco Systems) and other VPs talk about the headliners of the event.
Some of the big takeaways of this year:
- Cisco Catalyst Integration with Meraki Cloud
- Nexus Cloud Dashboard
- Thousandeyes WAN Insights
- Full Stack Observability
- Continuous Trusted Access
- Cloud Delivered Firepower Management Center (Finally)
Chuck Robbins also met with Ford Motors CEO, Jim Farley, and discussed a bit of what they wanted to see in the next few years in terms of automobile development. Farley made a very bold prediction that fully autonomous vehicles would be available from Ford in 4-5 years. The focus was on increasing productivity by turning your car drive into work into time you could be spent collaborating since you’re hands free. Will it happen? Who knows, but it’s bold, that’s for sure.
Next Steps: Tips & Insights to Plan Your Visit
Cisco Live! Is a must visit for any aspiring network engineer. There’s so much value in all its offerings. You walk away with a fresh, more forward-looking perspective on the industry every time. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide on what you feel works and doesn’t work for your business, but this is the forum to do it in. This was my third year attending and before I end this article, I’d like to offer a couple very important tips and insights, if and when you decide to attend:
- Wear very comfortable shoes. You will be walking a lot.
- Register early, book your hotel early, and book your sessions early because all of it fills up fast.
- Come with questions for your areas of interest. There will be plenty of people to answer them.
- Don’t spend the whole event in breakout sessions, take only the ones that you are interested in. The WoS is a much better experience.
- The Cisco Store has a booth where you can buy clothes/merchandise at a reasonable discount and it’s worth looking at.
- Take a certification exam here if you’re ready. It’s free, so why not?
- Don’t be afraid to network with other conference goers. It never hurts to have more friends in the industry.
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