Cisco Live 2013 Wrap Up

Cisco Live Tweetup Pic 1

Cisco Live 2013 Tweetup Pic 2

Cisco Live 2013 in Orlando is in the books. I’m sitting in the airport once again thinking about what made this year so special. It’s interesting to see the huge number of people coming to events like this. All manner of folks that want to see what Cisco is bringing to the market as well as those that want to talk to the best and brightest in the networking world.

I arrived on Saturday afternoon after taking a direct flight from Tech Field Day 9 in Austin. I made sure to pack a few extra clothes to be sure I’d have something to wear in the Orlando heat. As soon as I arrived and checked into my hotel, I headed down to the registration desk. Once I picked up my NetVet badge, I headed right next door to the Social Media Hub:

CLUSSocMedHub

This area has grown substantially since its introduction at Cisco Live 2012.  And when you consider that my original meet up area was a corner table with three chairs, you can help but feel awed at this presentation. I was very impressed to see the lounge aspect fully realized and the ample amount of seating provided a great place for attendees to hang out between sessions. Many of the Twitter folks at Cisco Live like Justin Cohen (@Grinthock) and Patrick Swackhammer (@swackhap) even used the Social Media Hub to watch the keynote addresses and comment on Twitter as they happened. They might have even exceeded their tweet count for a given time period and gotten silenced. It was impressive to see social media being used as the primary method of giving feedback during these big events.

Speaking of social media, the Sunday evening tweetup was a huge success. We had more than 50 people packed into our little corner of the Social Media Hub enjoy good conversation and amazing company. We even got a surprise visit from the former host of Cisco Live, Carlos Dominguez (@carlosdominguez), who stopped by to chat for a bit. We had a chef making Cherries Jubilee along with all the caffeinated and sugary snacks that one could hope for. I jumped on a chair to say a quick “thank you” to all those that attended. Events like this are the way to show the higher ups at Cisco how important social media is to a coherent and vibrant business strategy going forward.

Transportation seemed to be a commonly discussed theme at the event this year, though not usually in a positive manner. While the hotel shuttle system was keeping up rather well with demand and even offered in-bus wifi connectivity, the whole system seemed to break down when forced to cope with large numbers. The CCIE party on Tuesday and Customer Appreciation Event (CAE) on Wednesday both had large numbers of folks waiting for a very small number of buses. The most commonly heard explanation was heavy traffic around the convention center. I would love to believe that, but the fact that a few hundred people were standing around in the oppressive Florida humidity waiting for one of the dwindling spots on the few running buses was what I remember more than anything else. While San Francisco is a much friendlier city for walking I’d rather avoid the issues from this year.

The best part of Cisco Live is the people. I rekindled so many outstanding friendships this year and made quite a few new ones as well. I was astounded at the number of people that would stop me in the hallway to say hello or thank me for writing. Almost everyone was appreciative of the input that I gave into all the social media events. Truth be told, I didn’t really do that much. I helped out with a couple of things here and there, but for the most part I let the incredible Cisco Live Social Media team led by Kathleen Mudge (@KathleenMudge) do everything possible to make the experience amazing. I just wrote a blog post or two about things. If anyone deserves credit, it’s them.


Tom’s Take

I think Cisco is finally starting to get it when it comes to social media. They are pulling out al the stops to enhance the experience through meeting spaces, additional access, and even real time information gathering. For once, it wasn’t an airbrushed tattoo that announced me to the world of Cisco Live 2013. It was this tweet about hotel wifi:

Others such as Blake Krone (@BlakeKrone) got their tweets in the keynotes as well. VMware has always had an edge when it comes to social media in my opinion. This year, Cisco closed that gap considerably. Some of the conversations that I had with decision makers highlighted the ability to involve large numbers of people in a very personal way. Those influencers then spread the word to others in an honest and genuine manner. They are the soul of Cisco Live.

I’m already starting to plan for Cisco Live 2014 in San Francisco. I plan on putting up a poll in the coming months so we can plan a time for the big sign picture instead of leaving it until the last minute. I want to involve everyone I can in submitting suggestions to the Cisco Live Social Media team. Anything you can think of to enhance the experience for everyone will go a long way to making the event the best it can be. From the bottom of my heart I want to say “thank you” to everyone at Cisco Live. See you next year in San Fran!

Cisco Live 2013 Tweetup

CLUSSignIt’s down to one month until Cisco Live 2013!  As usual, this is the time when the breakneck pace of updates starts coming out.  Whether it be about discount Disney World tickets from Teren Bryson (@SomeClown) or the comprehensive update from Jeff Fry (@fryguy_pa), you’ve got your bases covered.  One of the events that I’m most excited about is the official Cisco Live Tweetup.

Twitter has become a powerful medium in the IT industry.  It allows people from all around the world to communicate almost in real time about an increasingly broad list of subjects.  Professionals that take advantage of Twitter to build contacts and solve problems find themselves in a very advantageous position in relation to those that “just don’t get it.”  When a large group of IT professionals gets together in real life, it’s almost inevitable that they all want to get together and hang out to discuss things face-to-face instead of face-to-screen.  That’s the real magic behind a tweetup – putting a living, breathing face to a Twitter handle or odd avatar.

The 2012 Cisco Live Tweetup was a huge success.  Many of us got to catch up with old friends, make some new friends, and generally spend time with awesome folks all over the industry.  The social corner was the place to watch keynotes, troubleshoot problems and even talk about non-nerdy stuff.  After the end of the event, I couldn’t wait to try and top it in 2013.  Thanks to some help from the Cisco Live Social Team, I think we’ve got a great chance.

SMH1

The 2013 Cisco Live Tweetup will be held on Sunday, June 23rd at 5:00 p.m. at the Social Media Hub.  It’s on the first floor of the convention center right across from registration.  We’ve got some prime real estate this year to check out all the happenings at Cisco Live!  That also means there will be curious people that want to check out what this whole “social” thing is about.  That means more people tweeting and sharing, which is always a win in my book.  Jeff and I will also have a limited supply of the coveted Twitter flags for your Cisco Live name badge.  While there may be a printed version on the main badge itself, nothing shows your social media plumage quite like a piece of name badge flair.

The 5:00 p.m. start time was chosen by popular vote in an online poll.  I know that there are lots of events that typically run during Sunday, like labs and Techtorials.  In particular, there is a Cisco Empowered Women’s Network event that starts at 4:00.  I don’t want anyone to feel slighted or left out of all the fun at Cisco Live from the need to leave an event just to run to another one.  To that end, I plan on being at the Social Media Hub starting around 2:00 p.m. on Sunday and staying as long as it takes to meet people and welcome them to the Twitter family at Cisco Live.  I want everyone to feel like they’ve had an opportunity to meet and greet as many people as possible, especially if they have to leave to attend a reception or are just coming out of an 8-hour brain draining class.

SMH2

Remember that the fun at Cisco Live doesn’t just end with the Tweetup.  We’re planning on having all kinds of fun all week long.  I’m working on the plans to get a 5k run going with Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja) and Colin McNamara (@colinmcnamara) for those out there that want to stretch their legs for some great charities.  There are also a couple more surprises in store that I can’t wait to see.  I’ll drop a few hints once those plans come closer to fruition.  I’m really looking forward to seeing all of the people on the Cisco Live 2013 Twitter list as well as meeting some new people.  See you there!

Cisco Live 2013 CAE – Don’t Stop Believing

CiscoLive2013Logo

Cisco Live 2013 is coming to you this year from Orlando, FL.  After a 5-year absence, everyone’s favorite networking company on Tasman Drive returns to the Sunshine State to bring information and discussion to legions of network rock stars with Open Arms.  However, all work and no play makes networkers very dull.  That’s why there is an event to make us all feel appreciated.

What would Cisco Live be without the Customer Appreciation Event (CAE)?  In the past six years that I’ve attended Cisco Live, I’ve been a part of some very exciting times.  Watching Devo in the middle of San Francisco Bay.  Seeing KISS in Anaheim.  Watching the Barenaked Ladies on stage at the House of Blues in Orlando.  There’s always fun to be had and good time all around at the CAE.  This year promises to be no exception.

Universal entry with Cisco logo

The 2013 Customer Appreciation Event is going to be held inside Universal Studios Florida!  I had a great time in 2008 wandering around the Universal backlot.  I got to ride the rides, see the Back to the Future DeLorean, and watch an awesome concert.  It’s nice to have access to such a wonderful theme park and it’s super nice of them to host 10,000 invading nerds looking for geeky t-shirts and lots of pictures next to the T-800 outside the Terminator 3-D ride.  I’m going to make sure to bring an extra poncho again this year just in case we get one of those famous Florida thunderstorms, but I hope the rain holds off long enough for everyone to have a good time. With all the available attractions at Universal Studios Florida, there’s almost too much to do in one evening.  Really, there’s a good time to be had pretty much Any Way You Want It.  And that’s not even taking into consideration the star attraction for the CAE.

The headline band for the CAE always generates a lot of buzz.  Whether it’s KISS, the B-52s, or Weezer, people want to see the best.  The attendees Faithfully come to the CAE to be entertained.  In the last couple of years, Cisco Live has given fans the opportunity to vote on the headline band for the CAE.  This year’s vote was a close one that included some great artists like Beck and Jane’s Addiction.  But in the end, the fans went their Separate Ways with the other options.  I give you the Cisco Live 2013 headline band:

_AS__DSC1361DD.1 copy_JC

The Cisco Live 2013 Customer Appreciation Band – Journey!

Journey!  Folks, I can hear the kareoke now.  While I’m still a huge fan of all the other bands, I think having a headline act with such wide appeal promises to have an epic level of fun for everyone.  I’m really hoping that unlike last year, I’ll get to Stay Awhile at this CAE and enjoy all the entertainment to be had at Universal Studios.  I also hope I get to see all of the awesome attendees there as well.  I promise to keep the Touchin’, Lovin’, and Squeein’ to a minimum.  Okay, I promise I’m done with the Journey puns.  For now.

Cisco Live 2013 is still a few months off, but stay tuned for more great info coming up.  Once I find out who the special guest keynote speaker will be, I’ll be sure to let everyone know.  We’re also in the early stages of planning the big Tweetup and I’ll have the Cisco Live 2013 Twitter list posted soon.  There may also be a few more surprises in store, so be sure to keep your eyes peeled.

Cisco Live 2012 – Recap

Cisco Live 2012 Social Media

I knew it was going to be hard to top the great time I had at Cisco Live 2011, but I had great hopes for this year. I flew into San Diego early on Sunday morning. I figured I didn’t do much on Saturday the year before, so Sunday would be a great arrival time. I didn’t even make it out of the airport before I ran into Bob McCouch (@bobmccouch) in the Super Shuttle van. We caught up as we made our way to our respective hotels. The hotel situation in San Diego has been the source of some real consternation, even causing some folks to not be able to attend due to high lodging costs. I think the San Diego area hotels realize that they have their visitors at a premium, so they are charging appropriately for the privilege of staying so close to the convention center and the Gaslamp entertainment area. I’ll definitely be more considerate of places like San Francisco and Las Vegas in the future. Sunday was a bit of a whirlwind. I had been working with the great Cisco Live Social Media Team to try and schedule some times for the people that communicate together on Twitter to meet up and have a little time to catch up before we started the conference proper. I showed up to the convention center and checked in to receive my bag and materials. I then ran into Tony Mattke (@tonhe) and Jeff Fry (@fryguy_pa). We talked for a bit while deciding what to do. I knew the tweetup was going to be at 3 p.m., but I also wanted to take some time to check out other areas, like the NetVet lounge. One of the benefits of coming to Cisco Live as often as I do it the NetVet status. This allows for things like priority seating and access to special lounge. Inside, I picked up my free NetVet Cisco Press book, NX-OS Switching. I’m sure I’m going to need some more stick time on that particular subject. I also quickly linked up with the Cisco website team, as they setup in the NetVet lounge to do surveys and get feedback on the user experience. I work with them frequently as well, so it was good to see them in person once again. I realized that I didn’t have enough time to grab lunch before my scheduled exam, so I rushed over to get in line. I have started taking my exams on Sunday or Monday to cut down on the pressure to find time to study during the week of Cisco Live, as that’s usually impossible. This year, I wanted to attempt the CCIE Data Center Beta written exam, as I’ve blogged about the certification before. I figured it was about time to put my money where my mouth is, even though I’ve got less familiarity with the various platforms (hence the NX-OS book).

It was here that I had my first strange moment. As I was talking with Amy Arnold (@amyengineer) and others, someone came up and told me that they read my blog all the time and thanked me for all the writing that I do. I have to say this was a humbling experience. I still think of myself more as an occasional prognosticator and part-time snarky tech analyst. To have someone approach me out of the blue and give me good feedback about what I’m doing here makes me feel great. Afterwards, I jumped in and took my best shot at the beta. While I can’t disclose what was there, I can say that the test was a great indicator of what will be covered on the exam and I now know where some of my weak areas are when it comes to figuring out what I’m going to need to work on. I got out of the test just in time to get down to the Tweetup area. The Cisco Live team moved things from where I thought we were going to be to a more suitable area. We ended up having about 50-60 people show up, which was a great turnout. The Social Media team provided some refreshments in the form of Frappucinos and Red Bull, along with cookies and other sugary snacks. I had some great conversations and met some outstanding people that I hadn’t talked to before on Twitter. We stuck around for about three hours, since some fellow tweeps were coming from Techtorial sessions. We also wanted to wait for Jay Franklin (@jay25f), as he was taking his CCIE lab on site. Once everyone had caught up, several of us went into the Gaslamp district and had dinner at Mary Jane’s. One thing I will say for social media gatherings: while it’s great to catch up and hang out at dinner together, it’s a bit of pain to try to find a table for 25-30 almost anywhere. Better planning next year, I suppose. The staff at Mary Jane’s was great, and I had an opportunity to talk to @grinthock. After dinner, I went on a mission to a local grocery store to acquire supplies for a joke that would play out on Monday. A walk back to the hotel tired me out enough to make me turn in well before midnight.

Monday started off with me bolting out of bed at 5:15 a.m. local time. Guess my internal clock wasn’t quite adjusted to PDT. I grabbed all my supplies for the day and headed down to the convention center. Breakfast wasn’t served until 7 a.m., so I had a bit of time to catch up on some email and other tasks. After breakfast, I headed up to the NetVet lounge and spent some time talking with the web team. It was there that Jeff Fry and I were told that none other than Carlos Dominguez (@carlosdominguez) wanted to meet up with us and ask us some questions. Opportunities like that don’t come around every day. I skipped my 10:00 session but we were unable to meet up, as Carlos is a very busy guy. Back in the NetVet area, I ran into Shannon McFarland (@eyepv6), who’s class on IPv6 Enterprise Deployment is always good. I was afraid my afternoon schedule might cause me to miss a portion of his class, so I decided to let him in on my joke. I told him on Twitter a few weeks before that I was coming to his class to heckle him. He responded in jest that I was free to do so as long as I didn’t throw fruit. I replied that I was bring watermelons and cantaloupes, and his retort was that was fine so long as I didn’t throw coconuts. Remember my Sunday night trip for supplies? Guess what? I had two coconuts in my backpack. I reminded him that if he didn’t bring the good stuff in his session, I was more than willing to send the projectiles his way. We had a good laugh and set off in separate directions. Alas, I ended up missing his session, as I was called away to do an impromptu Packet Pushers episode. Greg Ferro (@etherealmind) and Ethan Banks (@ecbanks) had come out to Cisco Live to record some great Cisco Virtual Symposium material with Omar Sultan (@omarsultan) from the Data Center and Virtualization team. I just happened to get invited to something a little different. I walked into a podcast with Greg, Ethan, Amy, Wendell Odom (@wendellodom), Scott Morris (@ScottMorrisCCIE), Russ White, and Natalie Timms. The brainpower around the table was overwhelming. We spent a good amount of time talking about certifications, and I was pleased to have a chance to share thoughts with some real stars in the certification arena. I also stayed over to record a Virtual Symposium show with the Packet Pushers team.

Once out of the podcasting, I made it down to the opening of the World of Solutions. I knew that I was going to be running short on time, so I made my way over to the Certifications Lounge to get my CCIE ribbon and spiffy CCIE hat. They once again had the tattoo artist. There were many that were calling for me to get my infamous tattoo once again. There was even talk that Carlos wanted to stop by and see me getting it.  The fates decided to conspire against us and Carlos was delayed. That might have been for the best, as I was going to try to convince Carlos to get one too. Right before I needed to leave for a briefing, I was able to talk Blake Krone (@blakekrone) into doing it with me. We had a great laugh or two and more than a couple of pictures were taken. We sent Twitter buzzing once again with pictures that no one really wanted to see. At this point, though, it’s practically tradition. After a briefing, I finally had a chance to unwind with some friends. Monday night is historically meetup party night, as it’s the only night without an official party scheduled. I had three of them on my calendar and managed to only make the tail end of the INE event. I made it up to the roof just in time to have a quick drink before people started heading for the door. We ended up hanging out with the IP Expert team as well, and many bourbons were had with lots of laughs and good discussion. Little did I know that I would pay for that fun.

Tuesday morning was someone I was both looking forward to and dreading at the same time. Colin McNamara (@colinmcnamara) decided to put together a charity 5K run to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project. Being a wounded warrior himself, Colin understands the benefits of helping out. I had been working my way towards running a 5K for many weeks, so I figured I’d put it all out on the line for such a great cause. Alas, 6 a.m. came early for me after a night of revelry. I managed to make it down for breakfast before rushing over to the run course along the oceanside. Colin and the fellow runners were great fun. I pushed myself to keep going the whole way, and Colin helped out by pacing my the whole way. We both crossed the line to the cheers of the assembled runners some thirty minutes or so after we started. I felt drained but exhilarated at being able to do some great things for a deserving charity. Colin was also able to exceed his hopes for funds, as he ended up raising $1700! I know it will go a long way to helping out. I grabbed a quick shower before heading over to the John Chambers keynote address. Mr. Chambers is still a dynamic speaker, and his talk about the directions that he wants to take Cisco in the coming year really set a tone in some areas. I was also interested that the big demo this year involved Location/ID Separation Protocol (LISP), which is a much-discussed technology for reducing routing table size and increasing mobility. You can check out a very in-depth discussion about LISP on Jeff’s Blog. After the keynote, we met up for lunch before heading back into the World of Solutions. I spent some time walking around, but I had to go back to the Certifications Lounge and get a new CCIE Ribbon. Seems they aren’t as water resistant as I might have liked. While in there, I managed to work my magic and talk Marko Milivojevic (@icemarkom) and Colin McNamara into getting my famous CCIE tattoo. I’d managed to increase the CCIE Tramp Stamp club membership by 50% in just a single day, so I was mighty happy to post for yet more pictures. I got a quick chance to meet Amy Lewis (@CommsNinja) of the DCV team and her roving reporter Josh Atwell (@Josh_Atwell). They are a hilarious duo that had me in stitches for a bit.

I really wanted to attended my Nexus 5500 architecture class, but I had to miss it due to the CCIE NetVet reception. I walked over to the event with none other than Terry Slattery himself, which is always an honor and a privilege. We rode up to the Ultimate Skybox and enjoyed some refreshment before Mr. Chambers arrived. I got up to go to the restroom, and when I came back John was sitting in my spot. I couldn’t very well ask him to move, so I knelt down beside him as he started asking our group if we had any questions. This really floored me, as the CEO of a major networking company was having one-on-one discussions with engineers about issues that affected them. While he normally has a Q&A, the personal attention this year with a small group really set a tone for things. While I respect the setting and the candor with which the discussion takes place, I can say that Mr. Chambers is very aware of many of the pressing issues that we all feel and things are being examined even as we speak. After our discussion, we headed back to the Tweetup area to gather people before our trip to the CCIE party at the USS Midway museum. We got a chance to get on board a floating aircraft carrier and walk around. There were even some pretty impressive planes on the flight deck that many people were taking pictures next to. While this party was better than the Wax Museum the year before, there were still some issues. San Diego can be chilly at night, especially on the water. The flight deck was a bit cold, even under the provided heaters. The lines for food were also longer than expected, and many people were going back to the end of the line right away, as some portions weren’t large enough to satisfy. I’m still trying to think of logistics on the scale of the CCIE party, and no easy answers come right to mind. Still, I know that Cisco tries hard to have fun and do interesting things for their flagship engineers. We decided to jump out a bit early and head over to Brian’s 24 to meet up with Amy Lewis and the rest of the Data Center team for a “bacon & waffles” tweetup. This consisted of hanging out with a smaller group in a great little diner and stuffing our faces full of breakfast food. Thanks to a warning from Ethan, I manage to not order a large portion of food, but the Stuffed French Toast that I did get was like eating a plate-sized club sandwich. I packed away what I could before calling it a night and heading back to the hotel. Blake Krone’s hotel was so far away that I told him he could room with me, as I had two queen beds and ample room to save him the long walk back to his hotel.

Wednesday was another packed day. We attended the Padma Warrior keynote discussing new technologies like Cisco’s approach to Software Defined Networking (SDN). There’s been some recent buzz around things like OpenFlow and network programmability, so seeing Cisco enter the conversation about them made me perk up and bit and start paying attention. This is certainly something I’ll be looking more into in the future. I also managed to get my picture on the big screen during Carlos’s introduction. Colin, Marko, and I were once again famous for our proud display of the CCIE logo in an embarrassing location. After the keynote, I had the chance to meet up with the Cisco Demo team for a small Q&A session. We talked about the pressure to have demos going off without a hitch on stage and the fun that can be had making new technology accessible to a big audience. I also got the chance to meet Jim Grubb (@jimgrubb) as well as Padma Warrior (@padmasree). I even managed to finally catch up with Carlos! We had a great time, and I supplied Jim and Carlos with little Twitter ribbons for their conference badges to show the power of social media to Cisco Live. I went back to the World of Solutions after lunch to try and grab a t-shirt or two before yet another briefing. My hectic schedule was really cutting into my session time, but the valuable information that I lucked into is going to help a lot down the road. I jumped back into the WoS Social Media lounge to meet up with Mike Fratto (@mfratto) and Narbik Kocharians (@NarbikK). I always love chatting with my good buddy Narbik and picking his brain about some challenging scenarios. With the Customer Appreciation Event looming, I elected to go to dinner with the website user interaction team and give them some feedback about things. I made sure to draw on some of the things that my friends and readers had been telling me in the past few months that have been bothering them about the website. Here’s hoping that we can have some positive changes down the road. However, that made me about two hours late to the CAE, well into the start of Weezer’s program. I worked my way up to the exclusive CAE Tweetup skybox and enjoyed a view of the stage from the comfort of a chair. The CAE ended about 10:30 or so and a good time was had by all. A few of us ventured out into the wilds of San Diego, but I quickly realized that a noisy bar packed with people is not the place for me. I came back to the hotel and crashed due to an 8 a.m. session the next day.

Thursday was a much slower day thankfully. I managed to catch my 8 a.m. class, a great discussion about the CCDE exam as well as the Cisco Certified Architect exam. I’m thinking about writing a blog post specifically about this session, as there were a lot of things discussed that I want to talk about. My session ended and I headed back to the World of Solutions to record a special edition of the Packet Pushers Podcast. With many of the great minds of social media in the WoS, Packet Pushers and the NSA Show thought it would be a great idea to do a kind of “round table interview” style of podcast to get some thoughts and discussion around the things we’d heard about at Cisco Live. I really liked the interaction of the assembled guests and the format worked better than I could have hoped. I’m really looking forward to seeing the final product, so stay tuned to the Packet Pushers. A quick lunch was followed by once again returning for a last swag run through the WoS. I didn’t really come away with much this year, but that’s fine, as I’m still on t-shirt probation with my wife anyway. The closing keynote this year was from none other than the Mythbusters, Adam Savage (@donttrythis) and Jamie Hyneman (@jamienotweet). There were some great stories from them, as well as a couple of special videos that hadn’t been seen before. It was a special chance to hear from some real “geek” legends that inspire people to dig deeper and not accept things at face value. Afterwards, we hopped over to the tweetup area to enjoy a refreshment or two before walking down to the Cisco Live sign to take the picture above. I was really happy to see that this year’s picture was even bigger than last year, even if it didn’t include the occasional random person.

I want to take an opportunity to say a special thanks to the Cisco Live Social Media team for making all of this fun possible. They worked their tails off to address issues and answer questions all week. They were the driving force behind the Tweetup area and the lounge in the WoS. Without their support, this year’s corner wouldn’t have been nearly as successful as it was. I was once again humbled that people were referring to the area as “Tom’s Corner”. However, without the amazing people that I am friends with from social media, it would just be a guy sitting in a chair making snarky comments on Twitter. I’ve said it time and again: Cisco Live is the best because of the people. Whether it be the army of Twitter or the tireless efforts of the social media team, I think we showed the top people at Cisco this year that social media is a big part of what we do. I hope someday to have participation like EMC World or VMWorld. I know that every one of you in the picture above, as well as many others out there have really stepped up to help make the networking pieces of social media such an amazing place. I am once again honored and excited to know each and every one of you and I can’t wait until June 2013 to see you all again in Orlando.

Cisco Live 2012 – Social Locations (with maps)

Now that Cisco Live is upon us, I figured it was due time to show you where all the fun social media stuff is going to happen.  I’ve already told you about it before, but a picture is worth a thousand words.  Or, in this case, a map.

On Sunday, June 10, there will be a tweetup happening on the upper level of the San Diego Convention Center (SDCC) at 3 p.m.  I know there’s a lot of stuff going on that day.  People are arriving and checking in.  There are techtorials and tests and all manner of things.  This event will be casual and come-and-go so as not to crimp anyone’s schedule. It’s mostly a chance for the social media folks to get together and hang out before the craziness of the week starts up on Monday.  Here’s where we’ll be (look for the circled area):

It should be labeled as Lounge 2 on your maps, either on your tablet/phone or in the map you get at check-in.  We’ll be there for a while, so don’t worry if you can’t make it right at 3 p.m.  I’m usually the last one to leave, so if you are worried about not making it be sure to ping me on Twitter and I’ll tell you what’s going on.

During the event, starting Monday at 4 p.m., the World of Solutions (WoS) will be open for attendees.  This is where the Cisco Social Media Lounge will be located.  During the hours the WoS is open, I’m going to be in the Social Media lounge most of the time.  Consider this “Tom’s Corner” for Cisco Live 2012.  I’m sure the couches will be more comfortable than the chairs from last year.  Here’s our spot on the big map:

Right by the entrance.  And, conveniently located by the t-shirt booth as well.  I’ll be in the Social Lounge when the WoS opens on Monday evening.  Right after I go to the Certifications Lounge and get my CCIE ribbon.  I plan on mingling and hanging out as much as I can and meeting new people, so don’t be afraid to stop by and say hello.  There’s a lot of great discussion that goes on when a few engineers get together.

I can barely contain the excitement that I have for Cisco Live this year.  All of my friends from social media made Cisco Live 2011 the best conference ever.  Now that everyone has shown me the power of social media, let’s do the same for Cisco.  I want the most talked-about thing from Cisco Live 2012 to be the amazing time that everyone had during the tweetups and in the Social Media Lounge in the WoS.  Let’s send the message the Cisco Live really is the best place to be social!

Cisco Live 2012 – The Place To Be Social

With less than a month to go until Cisco Live 2012 in San Diego, we’re learning more and more about the festivities every day.  From the closing keynote speakers to the Customer Appreciation Event (CAE) band, it’s shaping up to be a very exciting event.  One area that I’m particularly excited to learn more about is the social side of things.  Last year was the best Cisco Live event I’ve ever attended, due in large part to all the people that I interacted with from Twitter and other social media sites.  We spent so much time hanging out together outside the registration desk that our group of tables was nicknamed “Tom’s Corner”.  I still blush a little bit when I think of that moniker.  It was wonderful having a place for everyone to come and sit down for a bit and just hang out or discuss sessions or speakers.  Even if we did have to fight for table space or chairs from time to time, I feel that having a place set aside for everyone to meet is a wonderful idea.  For Cisco Live 2012, the great folks at Cisco that are behind social media realize that too.  That leads to a couple of exciting new opportunities this year.

Social Media Lounge

The first thing that I’m excited about is a specific area set aside in the World of Solutions (WoS) for social media!  I always hear about “blogger lounges” and other such places at other vendor events or trade shows.  Cisco must have heard about them too, because we’re going to have our own spot at Cisco Live.  Much like the NetVet Lounge or the Cisco Certified Lounge, social media will finally have a hangout to call our own.  Based on some information that I’ve seen, it’s going to be a nice place to congregate and relax.  Couches galore, TVs all around, and even perhaps some entertainment options like an XBox or two.  This will also be the place where Cisco’s social media team will likely be hanging out as well, so if you want to interact with them then this is the place to be.  I’m already planning on moving myself in the second the WoS opens up.  I wonder if they’ll let me hang a banner…?

CAE Tweetup

Since last year’s CAE Tweetup was such a rousing success, there’s going to be another one this year.  I’m excited for all the same reasons that I’m thrilled about the social media lounge.  The CAE Tweetup is going to be even better though.  I’ll give you a hint why:

That’s where we’re going to be!  Originally, the Western Metal Supply Company building was going to be torn down when Petco Park was being built in 2004.  Since it was such a historic piece of San Diego, the park designers found a way to incorporate it into the actual architecture of the park.  The Western Metal Building has now been converted into a section of luxury suites with balconies and even a viewing terrace on the roof.  During the CAE, one of those suites will house the Tweetup.  It’s going to be a great time for sure.  I’ll post more info about the CAE once my Cisco Live moles feed me more information.

Other Tweetups

Since the WoS (and social media lounge) will only be open from Monday evening to Thursday afternoon, there’s been discussion of what to do about meeting up with people around those hours.  It’s always great to get in and hang out with everyone on the first day, especially since many of us don’t get to see each other unless we run into one another at Cisco Live.  Since I’m arriving around lunchtime on Sunday, June 10, I was talking to the Cisco Live folks about having an impromptu tweetup that afternoon, say around 3 p.m. or so.  The event schedule for Sunday looks fairly light, so having a tweetup around that time would give us all a chance to stop by and say hello before wandering off to parts unknown.  There’s still not a firm place nailed down for the meeting, so once again I’ll be relying on my Bothan spies to get me the information as soon as possible.

Another idea being kicked around is a farewell tweetup sometime on Thursday.  The closing keynote runs from 2:00 to 3:00, but afterwards there are going to be many people that either don’t have sessions or just want to hang out one last time.  What would be a good time to have this last Twitter party of Cisco Live?  Last year we all hung out at Tom’s Corner until they came and took our tables away before heading off to dinner.  This year, I was thinking we could use the final meetup to take an awesome picture next to the Cisco Live sign like this one from last year:

The Cisco Live 2011 Twitter Army

There were a few folks that couldn’t make it to the photo session last year for various reasons.  This year, I figured it we got it all planned ahead of time no one would be left out. If you have any good ideas for the Thursday tweetup, either time or location, leave me a comment.  I’ll be sure to forward it on to the Cisco Live folks and make your voice heard.

Tom’s Take

Social media is a wonderful and powerful thing.  As you can see, Cisco is putting a lot of extra effort into social media and its participants this year.  From having our own lounge in the WoS to having a luxury box at the CAE, there’s no denying that it’s going to be a great time.  If you haven’t already, make sure you’re on the Cisco Live 2012 Twitter List.  That way, we can all link up easier and put names and faces to Twitter handles.  You should also log into your Cisco Live account and be sure your Twitter handle is there so it can be printed on your badge.  Let’s face it, most of us are more familiar by our handles and avatars than we are by our given names.  Hopefully, that will change with all the amazing opportunities that Cisco has given us to hang out together at Cisco Live 2012.  I can’t wait!

My Cisco Live 2012 Schedule

It’s that time of year again.  Cisco Live 2012 in San Diego is coming up in June.  I will once again be attending for my seventh event.  After last year’s event, I realized for the first time that networking with my peers is just as important as attending breakout sessions.  With that in mind, I chose carefully this year when I build my Cisco Live conference schedule:

Monday
10:00 AM
12:00 PM
CUG-1002 Unified Communications Product Direction – Large Enterprise
1:00 PM
3:00 PM
BRKARC-3452 Cisco Nexus 5000/5500 and 2000 Switch Architecture
Tuesday
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Conference Event GENKEY-4346 Keynote and Welcome Address
4:00 PM
6:00 PM
BRKCRT-9344 IPv6 for Cert Nuts
Wednesday
10:00 AM
11:30 AM
Conference Event GENKEY-4347 Cisco Technology Keynote
12:30 PM
2:30 PM
CUG-1008 Cisco Collaboration User Group Open Forum
4:00 PM
6:00 PM
BRKSEC-2006 It is 2012, Why Do You Keep Getting Hacked?
Thursday
8:00 AM
9:30 AM
BRKCRT-8862 Cisco Certified Architect: How to complete the journey from CCIE to CCDE to CCAr
12:00 PM
1:30 PM
CUG-1010 Cisco Collaboration User Group Business Meeting
2:00 PM
3:00 PM
Conference Event GENKEY-4358 Closing Keynote: An Afternoon with Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman

Most of my unified communications sessions this year are going to be taking part in the Collaboration Users Group.  I like the small focus and immediate response to feedback I get from being a part of this users group.  I’m also going to be checking out some IPv6 and data center sessions, as I feel that much of what I’m going to be doing in the next couple of years will focus on these technologies.  Of course, having a security session is almost a requirement, so I found an interesting one in the list.  I’m also going to check out the Cisco Certified Architect briefing.  I’m nowhere near qualified to sit for the exam, having neither my CCDE nor the requisite experience in architect projects.  However, I think it will be interesting to see what’s going on with this certification since I was around for the initial formation discussion groups.

The keynotes are usually fairly interesting affairs.  John Chambers will likely have something to say about the new, slimmer Cisco and how they are doing in the market.  Padma Warrior will also likely be talking about the data center and the advantages that UCS offers to Cisco in this space.  The closing keynote appears to be the one that most people are talking about.  Discovery’s Mythbusters will be delivering a talk to the assembled crowd.  The closing keynotes are always interesting affairs, as you can never be quite sure what the guests will have to say to Carlos Dominguez.  I’m really looking forward to it.

If you’re headed to Cisco Live, feel free to leave a comment.  The Twitter and blogger contingent is usually fairly large and always great to hang out with.  The more people we know about at Cisco Live, the better the party will be.  See you in San Diego!

CCIE Data Center – The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

By now, you’ve probably read the posts from Jeff Fry and Tony Bourke letting the cat out of the CCIE bag for the oft-rumored CCIE Data Center (DC) certification.  As was the case last year, a PDF posted to the Cisco Live Virtual website spoiled all the speculation.  Contained within the slide deck for BRKCRT-1612 Evolution of Data Centre Certification and Training is a wealth of confirmation starting around slide 18.  It spells out in bold letters the CCIE DC 1.0 program.  It seems to be focused around three major technology pillars: Unified Computing, Unified Fabric, and Unified Network Services.  As people who have read my blog since last year have probably surmised, this wasn’t really a surprise to me after Cisco Live 2011.

As I surmised eight months ago, it encompasses the Nexus product line top to bottom, with the 7009, 5548, 2232, and 1000v switches all being represented.  Also included just for you storage folks is a 9222i MDS SAN switch.  There’s even a Catalyst 3750 thrown in for good measure.  Maybe they’re using it to fill an air gap in the rack or something.  From the UCS server side of the house, you’ll likely get to see a UCS 6248 fabric interconnect and a 5148 blade chassis.  And because no CCIE lab would exist without a head scratcher on the blueprint there is also an ACE 4710 module.  I’m sure that this has to do with the requirement that almost every data center needs some kind of load balancer or application delivery controller.  As I mentioned before and Tony mentioned in his blog post, don’t be surprised to see an ACE GSS module in there as well.  Might be worth a two point question.

Is the CCIE SAN Dead?

If you’re currently studying for your SAN CCIE, don’t give up just yet.  While there hasn’t been any official announcement just yet, that also doesn’t mean the SAN program is being retired any time soon.  There will be more than enough time for you SAN jockeys to finish up this CCIE just in time to start studying for a new one.  If you figure that the announcement will be made by Cisco Live Melbourne near the end of March, it will likely be three months for the written beta.  That puts the wide release of the written exam at Cisco Live San Diego in June.  The lab will be in beta from that point forward, so it will be the tail end of the year before the first non-guinea pigs are sitting the CCIE DC lab.  Since you SAN folks are buried in your own track right now, keep heading down that path.  I’m sure that all the SAN-OS configs and FCoE experience will serve you well on the new exam, as UCS relies heavily on storage networking.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see some sort of bridge program run concurrently with the CCIE SAN / CCIE DC candidates for the first 6-8 months where SAN CCIEs can sit the DC lab as an opportunity and incentive to upgrade.  After all, the first DC CCIEs are likely to be SAN folks anyway.  Why not try to certify all you can?

Expect the formal announcement of the program to happen sometime between March 6th and March 20th.  It will likely come with a few new additions to the UCS line and be promoted as a way to prove to the world that Cisco is very serious about servers now.  Shortly after that, expect an announcement for signups for the beta written exam.  I’d bank on 150-200 questions of all kinds, from FCoE to UCS Manager.  It’ll take some time to get all those graded, so while you’re waiting to see if you’ve hit the cut score, head over to the Data Center Supplemental Learning page and start refreshing things.  Maybe you’ll have a chance to head to San Jose and sit in my favorite building on Tasman Drive to try and break a brand new lab.  Then, you’ll just be waiting for your score report.  That’s the hardest part.

Say Backpack! – Cisco Live Conference Bags

One of the highlights of Cisco Live attendance is the conference backpack.  Geeks are always proud to carry around things with logos on them, especially if they are useful.  The backpacks at Cisco Live allow networking rock stars to carry all manner of dark magic with them and impress the unwashed masses with the skills of a real engineer.  Sometimes the bag is an instant hit and generates lots of good press.  Other times it’s a lightning rod for controversy and catcalls.  Given that many have only been to one or two Cisco Live events or may not be familiar with the backpacks of yore, I thought I might dig into my stash of carrying cases and have a nostalgic trip down memory lane.  Note that with one exception I’ll only be talking about bags that I have gotten from Cisco Live personally.  I know that there have been some cool ones before 2006, but since I don’t have them I can’t really do them justice.  Here you go:

2005

The 2005 Cisco Live bag was amazing, simply put.  So amazing that I didn’t even go to the conference and I still had to have one.  The reference design for this bag is the APC TravelPower Backpack.  This venerable design was APC’s foray into the market and was an attempt to provide not only a quality case for carrying your things but a way to charge them as well.  The backpack could be used with the APC TravelPower system, which placed a battery unit in one of the many pockets along with cables that could be routed throughout to provide power to laptops, cell phones, PDAs, and much more.  Then, a single power cable could be snaked out of the bottom and the whole backpack plugged into the wall.  Cisco must have just purchased a bunch of them from APC and had them branded with Cisco Live 2005, because they conference bag is identical (without the expensive TravelPower electrical stuff).  This bag is the mark of a seasoned Cisco Live Veteran.  I bought the APC backpack version right before APC stopped making them and I still carry it to this day.  I love all the extra pockets and places to hide my cables/adapters/junk.  My only real gripe is that it won’t hold a 17″ laptop (other than a MacBook), so I’m force to use a different pack for my behemoth Lenovo w701.  I love this backpack and will carry it until it frays away to nothing.  A note: if you want to make a backpack that will sell like hotcakes, you might consider copying this design and putting it back out on the market.

2006

The 2006 Cisco Live bag was my first.  I had been carrying a messenger bag for many years before and was considering changing over to something more comfortable.  This bag tipped the scales for me.  It’s a rugged design that it still sold today, notably on Newegg by MobileEdge.  It’s a big pack that has enough room to store a huge laptop as well as power supplies, cables, and assorted gadgets.  It also has a folding flap on the front that can be used as a shield or a place to carry a folded jacket.  I use this backpack today to carry my large laptop and it’s held up quite well for all the use it gets.  I am noticing that after 5 years the zipper pulls are starting to break off but I think that can be expected through normal wear and tear.  There aren’t quite as many pockets as I would like to carry all my gear, but that may be more a commentary on the amount of junk I carry around.

2007

Oh boy.  2007 was, quite simply, the mistake.  I heard about this bag on the bus headed to the registration desk.  People were complaining about it all week.  I have never heard so much vitrol about something so simple.  I think the idea that Cisco had was that there were so many backpacks already, maybe a change of pace was in order.  Instead, they got a revolt.  The bag itself isn’t necessarily bad.  It is well padded and has pockets for whatever you can think to carry.  The flap secures tightly and it’s comfortable to carry.  The real problem is that it was a major step down from the backpacks of the past years.  Many people commented that Cisco must have gotten them at a great price.  The addition of a bright red color scheme seemed to scare some because network rock stars seem to be allergic to colors other than black.  Overall a notable disappointment.  I use mine at home to store computer parts and will probably end up giving it to my son sooner or later.  At least until he’s big enough to carry a bigger backpack.

2008

Cisco live 2008 backpack - photo from Jim Fenton

Cisco got the message in 2008.  They gave us our backpacks again.  This one was grey and devoid of any electric colors and it suited the attendees just fine.  The standout feature to me was the reinforced cable handle.  This thing could be yanked around and you never had to worry about the handle coming loose or breaking off.  The carrying straps could also be rearranged in case you wanted to use it as a large messenger bag.  I never really warmed up to this bag, but I think that’s because I didn’t get the chance to.  As soon as I got back from Cisco Live, an officemate told me that he wanted to give the bag to his teenage son.  I figured it would probably get more use from him than it would from me, so I let him have it.  It’s another popular backpack to spot at Cisco Live, as many people still carry it due to the rugged construction.

2009

Cisco Live 2009 Backpack - many thanks to John Herbert (@MrTugs)

San Francisco was cold!  I never expected that I might freeze in the middle of the summer, but San Fran proved me wrong.  The 2009 backpack was a solid choice.  It didn’t have the reinforced carrying handle from 2008, but the padding on the straps and the back was very comfortable.  I have never really understood the need for the CD/media player pouch with headphone port on a “work” backpack, but that might be an alluring option for some.  The cords on the zipper pulls are also a very welcome change from the molded plastic of other years.  I used this bag for a bit up to the point where I started carrying my w701 which wouldn’t fit inside the laptop pocket.  I ended up giving this one to another coworker that work it with pride for quite a while.  I still see many people carrying this pack at Cisco Live events, most remarking on the comfort.

2010

Every convention comes back to Vegas sooner or later.  So it is with Cisco Live.  2010 was my first time back in Vegas since 2006, and I was greeted by this bag.  It seems to be based around the Wenger Pegasus backpack.  It’s a very solid pack and would probably be great for a large number of users.  I saw quite a few of them at Cisco Live 2011 which is always a good indicator of the longevity and popularity of a backpack.  However, nothing about this particular bag stood out to me as far as usability in my range of carrying cases. It has lots of neat extras like adjustable straps, music player pouches, and even a tab to hold your sunglasses.  Nice additions for sure, but not high on my list of “must haves” for a network rock star backpack.  This one is a good candidate for loaners or backup laptops in my opinion.

2011

Las Vegas still had more to give Cisco Live, and so we found ourselves back again in 2011.  This conference bag was the first in a while to have the bright colors again, this time orange to match all the orange draped in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center.  This bag is based off a reference design from Ogio, which coincidentally was the most popular backpack at Cisco Live 2007 (they flew off the shelves after the red messenger bag fiasco).  This bag has lots of space for all manner of books and laptops as well as a few catch pockets.  The big feature for this one, though, is that it meets the new TSA guidelines for travel bags.  The butterfly-style fold out allows you to send your bag through the x-ray with a minimum of shuffling.  The quality of this bag isn’t bad, but the Ogio bag it’s based on seems to have a bit better build.  I’ve heard that some people were having issues with straps and handles coming off after a few months of use.  Mine is still in almost pristine condition, but I haven’t really been using it because it won’t fit the behemoth.  If I had to start using something other than my APC or Live 2006 bag, it would probably be this one.

2012

This year for Cisco Live, we get to choose our bag!  We have the options of a backpack, a nice messenger bag, or even a gym bag.  I really do appreciate allowing the attendees to choose our favorite.  Some want a messenger bag because of the ease of carrying or the more professional look.  Others want the backpack to upgrade from whatever they might be carrying.  Still others want something a little different and think the gym bag would be a welcome change from the norm (as well as a great way to haul back the Cisco Live swag).  You can head over to the Cisco Live conference site and vote for your favorite.  Be sure your voice is heard.


Tom’s Take

Putting this post together was a trip down memory lane.  I can remember picking up each of these bags from the registration desk and trying my best to cram the contents of my current backpack inside.  Each of them is a reminder of fun times and lots of learning opportunities.  I hope that others can look back and see what kinds of backpacks we’ve gotten before and use them as a comparison to the future conference bags.  Those that forget the backpacks of the past are doomed to repeat them.  Although, for many of the backpacks on this list, a repeat wouldn’t be a bad thing…

Thanks to John Herbert (@MrTugs) and Jeff Fry (@FryGuy_PA) for their help in compiling this post.

The Ultimate Cisco Live Attendee

The results are in, and the Ultimate Cisco Live Attendee…isn’t me.  Bummer.  Congrats to Carole Warner Reece from Chesapeake NetCraftsmen for taking home the gold!

In all honesty, I never really figured I was going to win anyway.  There are people that have been going to Cisco Live since it began.  People that are way more involved in tons of aspects that I’ve never even seen.  And yet, I was named a semi-finalist along with my good friend Jeff Fry.  Jeff was a no-brainer because he did some great PR work with Cisco Live leading up to the event.  He was even a recommended read for all the first-time attendees this year.  You can’t knock the guy for being that popular.

I probably wouldn’t have entered the contest if it hadn’t been for the awesome time I had hanging out with all my friends.  Yes, crazy things happened.  Yes, I brought some of them on myself.  However, it all added up to make a great event and give me lots of interesting fodder for my submission video.  All of those things happened to me this year.  Except for my wife threatening to leave due to my overwhelming desire to collect t-shirts (that happens every year).

Here’s my submission video in all its glory direct from Cisco’s Youtube account.  For the record, I did record it on my Cius.