My 5th Cisco Live is in the books and this was a fantastic week of reconnecting with friends, meeting new ones, and drinking from the technology fire hose.
This was my first visit to San Francisco and although I didn’t get to be a tourist very much, what I did see of the city was great. My hotel wasn’t in the greatest part of the downtown area, but even so the walk to and from Moscone never seemed too scary.
As I mentioned in my pre-show post my schedule this year was packed with sessions, meetings and events, much more than previous years. I arrived on Sunday and the whirl wind week of activity began immediately.
Registration and Arrival Tweetup
I managed to get to Moscone in time to register and pick up my badge and bag before the 5:00 pm closing on Sunday. After checking into my hotel and dropping off most of my gear, I went straight back to Moscone South for the Welcome Tweetup. This had grown exponentially over the last few years and the 2014 Tweetup was no exception. It’s always great to be face to face with the people you interact with all year on Twitter and other social media platforms, and this year was made that much more special with the #CiscoChampion program adding a number of new people to the mix.
The appearance of the SDNicorn marked the beginning of what was going to be a week filled with networking (in several terms), socializing and yes, even some shenanigans.
Sessions and Cisco Live Online
If you’ve ever attended Cisco Live or other events like it, you’ll know it’s near impossible to schedule in all the breakout sessions that you want to attend. There are simply too many of them. I’ve had a couple of years where I was focused on a particular technology, mostly because of a specific planned project at my day job, but when I can I prefer to have as much variety in my schedule as possible. Cisco has made this far less stressful because selecting one session over another doesn’t mean I have to miss the content for the one I didn’t attend in person, it simply means I can view it later on Cisco Live Online (formerly Cisco Live 365). This is a fantastic resource all year long, and I find myself going back to watch and re-watch content from the various Cisco Live events worldwide.
This year’s sessions included some Collaboration, UCS, Virtualization, and Nexus sessions. Also, thanks to Robert Novak (@gallifreyan) over at rsts11.com I was provided a complimentary 4-hour lab, and I chose to attend the Intelligent WAN (IWAN) Hands-On Lab. The IWAN lab was fun, given that I got to spend some time working with gear and software that I don’t normally get to play with, particularly UCS-Express (in the form of ISR-2911’s with UCSe blades), and Cisco Prime Infrastructure. A lot of this lab focused on Cisco Prime and seemed more of a DMVPN lab mixed with some WAAS and QoS, but it was still a great learning experience.
Throughout the week there were some fantastic opportunities facilitated via the Cisco Champions group. These included an excellent (and revealing at times) team building event, a live Cisco Champions Radio episode hosted by Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja) in which a large number of us piled into the smallest room possible to record a really entertaining podcast, a tour of the Cisco NERV truck, and a briefing on the upcoming Cisco Modeling Labs (CML) product.
For me, these activities were more about connecting with a group of people who I’ve “met” through the Cisco Champions program via Google+, Twitter, and podcasts, but hadn’t yet met in person. I was absolutely blown away by the diversity of this group and the opportunity to meet face to face and share some conversation, some knowledge, and a quite a few good laughs as well.
The fine folks over at @CiscoDC along with infamous bacon advocate Amy Lewis hosted an awesome party at the Cable Car City Pub on Monday evening. This was a fun social event that gave everyone an opportunity to wind down after the first full day of sessions and enjoy meeting some more of the social media personalities, Cisco Champions, and Cisco staff. The evening included some bacon-related giveaways, including subscriptions to the bacon of the month club. There was even a food table replete with….bacon.
INE once again hosted a customer appreciation event that included some excellent prizes (congrats to @bbaize on winning a Macbook Air!) and some more food and drinks. After mercilessly harassing Mark Snow (@highspeedsnow) and Brian McGahan (@brianmcgahan) I managed to procure one of the VIP tokens that provided access to an exclusive section of the Mezzanine Nightclub. They also used the evening to preview their upcoming revised and retooled training platform which promises to be a tremendous platform for studying and certification along your chosen Cisco track. The Rewired platform offers an interactive community approach to learning, including badges, achievements and looks to add a bit more “fun” to the task of studying for a Cisco exam. I’m really looking foward to the launch of this product, and attendees of the event were told they would have beta access sometime in the upcoming months.
Customer Appreciation Event
The annual CAE is always a great time, and this year was no exception. We invaded AT&T Park, home of the San Francisco Giants, and were treated to some awesome food, a few beverages, and live performances from Lenny Kravitz and Imagine Dragons. I would have loved to see Kravitz as the headliner, but then again I’m old. He played a fantastic show, playing many of his hits from the 90’s and 00’s. Imagine Dragons’ set got off to a rocky start when the power went out to their amplifiers, but after a brief “Please Standby” everything got back underway. The rocked out the remainder of the evening and the evening’s finale was a brilliant fireworks display launched from a ship in the San Francisco Bay beside the park.
Final Tweetup and Farewell
The Thursday of Cisco Live is always bittersweet as the final sessions of the week wrap up, the last of the prizes are given away at the World of Solutions, and everyone heads to the airport to scatter across the world back to their homes. This year was no exception.
The farewell Tweetup was held at the Social Media
Hub Routed Bridge (no idea, ask @amyengineer) and everyone had an opportunity to take a few more photos, play a few more hands of Cards Against Humanity #CLUS, and say their goodbyes. As is tradition the group photo at the Cisco Live sign marked the end of the week, and I bid farewell to my fellow Twitterers, Champions, and friends, and headed to the airport.
Cisco Live 2014 was for me, the best Cisco Live yet. They seem to get better every year and I’m not quite sure how that happens, but it’s true. From the moment I left San Francisco I started to look forward to next year, and Cisco Live 2015 in San Diego.
See you there!