Man, Cisco definitely knows how to put on a show, that’s for sure. Way up here at the top of the first paragraph, I want to thank Cisco and the many, many, many people who were responsible for the activities of the last four days. From a great (great) venue, to good keynotes, to solid technical content (as usual), to great speakers and presenters, to one of the best solutions floors I’ve seen, to a great venue (yes, I said it twice) this was the best Cisco Live I’ve been a part of in either the US or Europe. Hands down.
Also, a special thank you to the Cisco Live social media team for their efforts. Omar Sultan (@omarsultan) and Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja) got more out of the resources they had than most of us thought possible. From the Social Media Lounge to the influence tracking, to the roving reporters (Fred Nix and Josh Atwell were great!) to the keynote coverage to the impromptu birthday celebrations to the countless introductions, they were awesome. Thank you so much to both of you and everyone who supported your efforts!
Any wrap up of the event should start by pointing out the obvious difference in tone of this Cisco Live versus last year’s. Honestly, to me, the keynotes last year were borderline depressing. With some of the struggles Cisco was in the middle of, the layoffs/retirements, some product misses, it might even have been understandable, but it definitely left a pall over the event. Even William Shatner couldn’t close the show on a high note.
This year it was a completely different story. The Cisco event keynotes are always well produced affairs, and everyone from John Chambers down is very, very good a the public speaking part of the job. The message this year was one of growth in key areas and a focus on programmability that probably frustrated as many people in the industry as it made happy. Personally, I think Cisco’s angle on SDN and their now apparent strategy for embracing the things they can and that their customers can consume easily while staying on course with the overall company direction is both pragmatic and understandable. There’s going to be a loud contingent that wished they did more to jump into the full-on SDN fray, but anyone who looks at where Cisco revenues are being generated from knew that was a stretch. It seems to me that they did enough to keep the idea of SDN from being “anti-Cisco” without causing too much turmoil. Big ships take a long time to turn, and Cisco did well to come this far.
I was surprised there weren’t more actual product announcements. Everyone knows that EMC and Cisco are very different from a personality standpoint, and their respective events definitely highlight some of those differences. Where as EMC has a much more informal keynote style (both Joe Tucci and Pat Gelsinger are very “folksy” in their presentation style, in my opinion…) and likes to officially announce dozens of products and refreshes at EMC World, Cisco is more understated. Padmasree Warrior and John Chambers are fantastic public speakers, always very smooth, rarely ad-libbing, never getting too excited, and the rest of the show follows suit. They are certainly different events, despite both companies being diversified into vast swaths of technology, but both are great.
Cisco also isn’t afraid to go deep with the technical sessions. There were a couple I sat in that seriously made my head hurt, and they made no apologies for presenting expert-level material. Rick Shearer (@rick_vmwaretips) and I had a conversation about how we wished there was an expert level track of this kind at VMworld. I bet there there are a bunch of people who would prefer to sit through deep-dive sessions that may be a little over their heads rather than the standard sessions presented by technical marketing teams. Hopefully this is something that we’ll see evolve over the next few years.
One thing that was brought up during the conference (I think it was Chris Hoff (@Beaker) who first asked the question) was where the ASA1000v went. Last year, especially with the release of vSphere5 by VMware, Cisco was everywhere talking about it with partners and customers. This year, I think I saw mention of it twice, both in slide presentations, and couldn’t find anyone with a demo on the solutions floor. As someone who lives in the “Triangle of Love™” between Cisco, VMware and EMC, I’ve got a keen interest in seeing how some of the conflicts around CIAC/vCloud Director, Nexus 1000v/VMware DvS and vShield Edge/ASA100v resolve themselves. Best case, in my mind, would be for both sides to make their offerings modular to the point where the customer could choose which solution to implement rather than having the choice of portal/service catalog/orchestration tools be constrained by something that is really out of path, like the virtual switch and firewall being used. Hopefully we’ll see more by the time VMworld rolls around because I get questions about this from customers every day.
After the conference ended, I stayed in SoCal through the weekend and took the family to Legoland and Disneyland. It’s always special when the kids can come with me on a business trip, and it made a great Cisco Live that much better. Thank you again to everyone who helped make it special, and hopefully I’ll see some of you at VMworld at the end of summer!