Festivals come in all shapes and sizes. Some are cultural, some are religious and yes, some are entirely technical. At their core, however, they all share at least one trait in common. They are each – in their own way – a gathering of a faithful flock.
When you host a technical conference for 25 consecutive years two things happen. It becomes a major production around logistics and attendance will swell. That’s clearly the case for Cisco’s annual conference called simply Cisco Live!
It’s not entirely dissimilar to the major cultural festival in Pamplona Spain – The Running of the Bulls. There’s a big social component, a festival-like atmosphere and lots of herding (into all the major events). Substitute Day-Glo green accents (on all the backpacks) for red bandanas on all the participants moving in mass and you get the idea.
Festival aside, whenever you gather about 20,000 people together – there are lots of different elements that come together over the course of 5 days in a single location. Orlando was this year’s host city and here were some of the highlights I saw – or had help assembling:
• Record Attendance of about 20,000
• About 15,000 customers and partners
• Remote/Virtual participation extended the reach to over 235,000 visits
• More than 200 partners participated in the World of Solutions Exhibit Hall
Through the years, this has remained the core function of Cisco Live! In a single location, over the course of 4-5 days, network engineers can meet with Cisco product experts and extend their expertise in all the key technologies and new products that Cisco represents. The metrics reflect the significance of this ongoing commitment:
• Over 750 Breakout Sessions
• Over 760 customer meetings with Cisco experts and executives
• About 3,600 participants attended product sessions
More than just a fly-in for their keynote, all of the executives at Cisco are fairly accessible. They run a tight schedule, but can often be seen among attendees, partners and customers at many of the major events and some of the venues. Attendance for John Chambers’ keynote swells and his personal style and well-honed delivery always makes for a compelling presentation.
The first – the Internet of Everything (or IoE) – wasn’t an actual product announcement as a full-fledged business unit that now includes 500 people and an R&D budget of $200 million a year. The concept – with implications for retail, manufacturing, logistics, transportation and yes – even healthcare – is really about what opportunities exist when everything is connected to the internet (with either a simple IP address – or with additional intelligence).
Dave Evans (Cisco’s Chief Futurist) referenced a provocative idea around assigning babies an IP address at birth. While it may be awhile before the idea applies to actual people, the opportunity around IoE was pegged by Chambers at $14 trillion plus. Stacy Higgenbotham at GigaOm had more of an in-depth assessment – online here – and Shamus McGillicuddy over at TechTarget also weighed in here.
The biggest single product announcement was clearly the new “muscle-switch” – the Nexus 7700. Shamus McGillicuddy also delivered a preliminary review/assessment here. Given my “software” engineering background, my hardware around networking doesn’t run that deep, but the statistics I saw were definitely impressive.
Intrigue: There is simply no way to avoid the ongoing speculation across all the major media outlets on who will replace John Chambers as CEO. John turns 65 this August – and openly acknowledged a few years ago that his retirement was in the “2-4 year” timeframe. As that clock winds down – speculation naturally winds up on the likely successor. The Executive Press briefing included 2 of the possible candidates – Gary B. Moore (left – currently President and COO), and Rob Lloyd (right – currently President of Development and Sales). Maybe Cisco Live! next year in San Francisco (with Cisco’s HQ down the peninsula in San Jose) will be the year of the changing of the guard.
Healthcare highlights included an afternoon tour of nearby “Connected City” – Lake Nona, Florida (about 20 miles away). The press-only tour was designed to showcase the vision around a “Connected City” where the Internet of Everything is being built into the fabric of this 70 acre community that includes a brand new Children’s Hospital (Nemours), a state-of-the-art VA Medical Center (with a grand opening later this year), a major Medical Research Institute – Sanford-Burnham – and a host of residential communities around retail, education and recreational facilities (various stages of development). Healthcare was not only a key component of the vision for Lake Nona – it’s being integrated directly into the new homes as further evidence of the need for the patient-centered-medical home concept. The advantage here is that the enabling technology can be built into the actual design with a far more seamless experience than anything that’s after-market or retro-fitted. Teleconferencing is a key value-proposition in healthcare – and there were several examples demonstrated – with Cisco technology on full display.
Dave Evans – Cisco’s Chief Futurist – referenced several sensor/medical devices in his keynote – including one I’ve written about recently – the Scanadu Scout.
Barbara Casey – Cisco’s Senior Director of Healthcare Business Transformation – led an afternoon Customer Roundtable called Transforming Healthcare of the Future. Panelists included Brian Comp (CTO for Orlando Health), John Maass (Conferencing Tech & Support for Moffitt Cancer Center), and David Kennington (IT Director for Children’s Hospital of Central California.
A great discussion where the consensus on the panel was that our Government wasn’t supporting new business models quickly enough which is slowing adoption of advanced technologies in healthcare. Not necessarily news, but definitely top-of-mind and necessary for the entire industry – not just those in attendance at Cisco Live!
A new “virtual” world exists inside all major events these days – and the social media landscape was generating its own set of amazing statistics – across all major social media outlets:
• @CiscoLive and the #CLUS hashtag were mentioned over 35,000 times on social media by over 9,000 unique users -- creating 214 million earned impressions.
• Cisco itself posted more than 1,700 branded posts (tweets, @replies, @mentions, FB posts, Twitter
DMs, retweets) that created over 39M impressions from Cisco content.
• Tuesday’s keynote boasted the highest traffic with 2,500 mentions
• Wednesday’s keynote had 1,200 mentions.
• Richard Branson’s Thursday Keynote rounded out the week with 800 mentions
When you gather 20,000 people for anything – there’s a reasonable expectation that the entertainment will also be world class. This came in three forms.
The first was the amazing (and ongoing musical contribution) by @thatdeafdj – Robbie Wilde. As a musical performer that is deaf – his story is both amazing and truly inspirational. His musical performance was pitch perfect.
The Wednesday evening event at Universal Studios Orlando ended the day with a live concert by ‘80s rock icon (and Steve Perry-less) Journey. I missed the event – but the set list was definitely a “best of:”
Thursday’s celebrity (and sometimes cheeky) keynote by Sir Richard Branson really capped all the
festivities. At one point, Sir Richard offered Blair Christie (Cisco’s Chief Marketing Officer) to “come sit on my lap.” Loads of fun speculating around what might have happened had Blair accepted the offer – so safe to say she didn’t. As with much of Sir Richard’s life – many of the stories and anecdotes are set against the backdrop of the global (and now galactic) stage. As a result, of course, they are – like Sir Richard himself – truly “one-of-a-kind.”
In the end – a world-class event with amazing people – and stories to last until Cisco clicks the counter to its 26th consecutive “running of the bulls.” Be sure and hold the dates and we’ll see you next year in San Francisco! (May 18-22)