Cisco Live! 2017

If you haven’t attended Cisco Live yet then you’ve got to figure out how to go next year. It’s a technical conference that you have to go to at least once in your lifetime. But the problem is, it’s like a Lay’s potato chip; you can’t stop at just one. I’ve been to two so far. But if I can never go again then so be it. Wait… what? why would I not ever go again??? Well, you need time, money, and the blessing from all of the bosses in your life. But if you’re smart enough to configure an SSL VPN on an ASA 5515 or code a widget in Finesse, then you can figure out how to save $$, budget time and butter up your bosses. So by all means GO already!

This year’s USA conference was held in Las Vegas, NV. It was a blistering 100o Fahrenheit the whole time. But luckily there were so many sessions to attend, vendors to visit, engineers to talk to and peers to mingle with that you didn’t have time to go outside! My boss and I arrived mid-day Sunday and checked into the Delano (think Franklin Delano Roosevelt) which is on the Mandalay Bay property. I have a love for Vegas that began in my 20’s so when I walked into the hotel I took in a deep breath so I could discover its signature scent. Sound strange? Well there’s a science to it so I’m fascinated by it. And Delano? You had me at hello.

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No trip to CLUS is complete without a picture with the infamous Cisco Live sign.
We picked up our badges and our CL backpacks and I headed off to attend the CEWN (Cisco Empowered Women’s Network) event. It was four hours filled with inspriation, motivation and networking. Kevin Bandy, Cisco’s Chief Digital Officer, was the host (yes a man hosted the event and he was great!). He says we should be cross polinating our functions. He mentioned several times that he can’t believe we only do this once a year and that once a year is not enough! I agree. And I often wondered why there aren’t more CEWN events. He stated that last year there were roughly 300 attendees and this year we are up to 400. That’s a huge increase! Let’s follow that trend and get next years attendance over 500. I realized that this event left such an impression on me that I had to write a separate blog post just to cover it. They even provided a free professional headshot to those who wanted one. Then I was off to the CEWN cocktail/networking hour. I didn’t know anyone there so I just grabbed a margarita and walked up to a table out on the patio that looked inviting. The two ladies did not know eachother but the three of us (and later a fourth) were able to engage in conversation about our career and home towns. The next day was going to be a very full day so off to get a good night sleep after some dinner.

Monday I had three sessions (sometimes 2 hours long), the opening keynote and World of Solutions on my agenda. My focus for sessions is around Collaboration and Security. Every speaker that I heard was so good. These people are not only smart but they know how to deliver a good session. And the opening keynote? Wow! As we waited patiently in our seats for the keynote to begin, the DJ kept us engaged by providing some entertainment (lip sync contests and dance off). And as the keynote began, the lights dimmed and the room was pumped with what I can only decipher as a beat that was written specifically for Cisco Live. “Thunder, feel the thunder. Lightning and the thunder“. Blue and green orbs dropped from the ceiling and danced in unison with the music. George P. Johnson Experience Marketing contacted me a few weeks before Cisco Live to see if I would have time for a quick interview so I can only imagine that they were the ones responsible for putting this together. Here’s a link to the full keynote if you want to see some of the magic.

As the music and light intro ended, Chuck Robbins took the stage. He emphasized that we are in a new era, explaining that the number of new machines added to the network exceeded the number of phones and tablets added to the network. Scale. Complexity. Security. He had two guests come on stage. First was Tim Cook, CEO of Apple. He was there to explain the partnership between Apple and Cisco. Apple is priding themselves in the security of their devices.

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Then later he brought on David Wichmann, CEO of UnitedHealth Group. He was there to explain the partnership between Optum and Cisco. He showed us a prototype of a system that would keep physicians, family, friends and the patients all on the same page. A way for the physician to present references and materials to the patient. A way for the patient to share appointment dates and diagnoses with family and friends. A way for family and friends to cheer on and keep tabs on their loved one. It looked pretty revolutionary.

After the keynote I worked my way out with the crowd and attempted to find Miss Abby, with GPJ. After a phone call and a few texts we finally found each other and landed in the ultimate spot for my short interview. Right in front of a mural on the wall representing my superhero. I didn’t actually have a chance to see where my interview was used at the conference but she said that they would be using parts of it on some of the social media boards. She sent me a copy. Here’s a clip:

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I tried to refrain myself from saying Um a billion times and I did ok but replaced my Um’s with lots of pauses!  A little sceince behind why we say Um.

Then I was off to find my boss to grab one of the boxed lunches at one of the lunch and learn tables. These tables are great and I highly recommend going to at least one when you’re at Cisco live. The table will have at least one expert on a specific subject and the rest of the table is filled with customers like yourself. It’s a nice casual way to have open discussions about challenges, tips, upcoming features and the like. The rest of my day was filled with more sessions and a trip to the World of Solutions for some good networking and of course who would want to miss Hoppy Hour. Hoppy hour is a networking opportunity sponsored by the vendors. Lots of yummy appetizers, beer and wine. We ran into our northwest territory Cisco representatives for some good conversation. These networking situations are such a great way to get to know your vendors and Cisco reps on a slightly more personal level. There are so many things around you in the WoS that spark conversation that it just flows out naturally.

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We had an invitation to an afterhours event hosted by Stealthwatch at the SkyFall Lounge at Mandalay Bay. As we walked in we received a Cisco branded Moscow Mule cup. The SkyFall lounge is a rooftop lounge with a nearly 360o view of the strip. It was mezmerizing watching the sun set and the city lights come to life.

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Oh and how could I forget… I’ve never seen a Loo with such a view! Yes that’s a toilet facing floor to ceiling windows with a view of Vegas.

Cisco has a goal to positively impact 1 billion people by 2025. So at CLUS 2017 they had a couple of platforms of Kinetic tiles. Their goal was to gather 1 million steps from Cisco Live attendees, harness the energy and ship the batteries off to Nepal to donate to schools without electricity. Well by the end of the conference we had doubled their goal ending with over 2 million steps which equated to over 4 million joules of energy.

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It’s hard to describe the magnitude of the WoS (World of Solutions). It’s roughly a million square feet of activities, technology advancements and learning opportunities. Need a more resilient ethernet cable? Or someone to install it for you? Or maybe you have a complex call center and need a dashboard to help better manage your call flows. There were over 300 hundred vendors and they probably had what you were looking for! And even if you don’t think you need anything, you’ll most likely find something you either want or didn’t realize you needed. The World of Solutions is so much more than vendors though. There’s the Cisco Campus which showcases the latest in Cisco technologies and services. DevNet is where you can get hands on training for the development side of Cisco technologies. I wanted to attend a few sessions but they fill up fast so was only able to sit in on one of them. These people are smart! Do not skip this. You don’t have to be a developer (I’m not).  Then there’s Meet the Expert where over 500 engineers are available to talk to attendees in depth about any challenges they might have. We scheduled a 1:1 with an expert and he resolved our problem in about 30 minutes! It would have taken us hours or days. There’s the Cisco Store where you can get the latest Cisco swag, Cisco Press books and even meet the author at a book signing. And there’s no short of lounge areas where you can plop down to rest or if you’re on-call during the event you can whip out your laptop to do some remote troubleshooting.

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Some of the fun things to do at the World of Solutions.
One of the first things that caught my eye when I stepped into the conference area at Mandalay Bay was this area where an artist was painting a superhero mural. As the days passed you could see the mural come to completion so I snapped a picture every day which made for a fun collage. 🙂 The artist was Bunka. Check out his final product below.

More Cisco Live sign pics. It’s hard to avoid the urge!

And then there’s the Customer Appreciation Event. This time they hired none other than Bruno Mars! The CAE is the event where you pick up your infamous Cisco Live hat. This one was fun because it had lights on it with a button that changed the sequence. So the entire stadium was lit up with flashing hats. So fun. And Bruno… it’s really hard to describe how good he is. He was on stage for exactly 90 minutes. He often had his band dance across the stage with him. His voice was dreamy. He sang one song with no instruments (or maybe there were but I was so mesmerized that I didn’t notice any) and everyone was quiet and just started in awe. But most of the songs everyone was dancing!

And luck us, on our way back to the hotel we stumbled on a great cover band in the Mandalay Bay casino that ended up playing a couple of Bruno Mars songs after some of the attendees threw their CL hats to them on stage.

Oh and I almost forgot to mention the security keynote from earlier in the day. Cisco’s SVP, Chief Security and Trust Officer, John Stewart spoke about the utmost importance of security on the network. He brought on guest speaker, Theresa Payton, Former Whitehouse CIO and Cybersecurity Authority on CBS’s new TV program “Hunted”. She was great!

And on the final day we attended the closing keynote which was a QA session between Chuck Robbins and Bryan Cranston (four time Emmy Award winner). He was hilarious!! And at the end of it all came the reveal of the location for next years conference. Orlando! And then later, Cisco social media tweeted the estimated lineup for the next five years. I say estimated because I found a lineup on an old blog and it was supposed to be at Vegas three years in a row but it did end up that way.

  • 2018 – Orlando
  • 2019 – San Diego
  • 2020 – Las Vegas
  • 2021 – Las Vegas
  • 2022 – Orlando

Cheers and I hope you all can go next year! (and I hope I can go too)

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