Some will say that DevNet started at Cisco Live! in May of 2014 when the event itself was celebrating its 25th anniversary. The 2nd floor of Moscone Center South provided the space for the very first DevNet Zone where the ragtag group of DevNet staff found themselves immersed in a sea of automation neophytes from the minute the doors opened. After scrambling for two months to prepare and a sleepless weekend hosting the very first DevNet hackathon, promoting Cisco technologies like MSE, Jabber, and Cisco Prime, the already exhausted staff was energized to find so many people excited to learn about APIs and coding. The energy was high, the vibe was palpable, and John Chambers was in the room. DevNet had arrived.
In the beginning…
Some may also say that DevNet started in December of 2013, when, after months of an intense effort by an inspired group of doc writers, developers, QA, DBAs, systems architects, and BDMs, developer.cisco.com launched. Introducing the world to Cisco docs that weren’t PDFs and a clever innovation called the Sandbox. DevNet was Cisco’s foray into the software world from its hardware roots. Now, those ISVs and SIs who wanted to build solutions could test out Cisco’s programmability opportunities without building their own labs and spending tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
But the truth is DevNet started 10 years ago, this week, in a handful of meetings held in Round Rock, TX, and I had the fortune of being there. The precursor to DevNet was called Cisco Developer Network (CDN) and prior to that it was Cisco Technology Developer Program (CTDP). Both of these programs were successful in their own right, but the focus was always only on partners. DevNet was intended to be a “startup inside of a company” that provided a true enablement program for all developers. The primary goal was to remove the barriers to entry that lay in front of those wanting to build solutions on top of Cisco platforms. At that tête-à-tête, the foundations for DevNet were laid, and have guided the program ever since.
The first DevNet Zone, 2014 Cisco Live US in San Francisco, revealed overwhelming interest in Cisco’s software direction
The “hair on fire” years
The first few years felt like we were flying around with our hair on fire. Some things were fantastic, like the initial launch of Learning Labs, our partnership with Networking Academy, and the DevNet Zone, a staple now at Cisco Live!. Other things we stumbled on, like week after week of hackathons where students barely understood Cisco technologies let alone wanted to build something with them. But whether it was a success or a failure, we always were able to focus on the key to everything; helping people with code building and API usage to make their jobs, solutions, and organizations better.
As our experience grew, we knew we needed to really build our community to scale the message, and that’s where the real fun began. First off, we launched DevNet Express, an “in-the-box” program that allowed our Sales System Engineers to take DevNet’s programmability content and deliver it, with interactive labs, directly to their customer base. Over three years, this program became so popular that we were holding or supporting 300+ events per year, including pre-Cisco Live! workshops hosting 100+ developers at a time.
Following the success of that effort came DevNet CREATE, our standalone event started in 2017. The impetus for CREATE was that it be “more than a Cisco conference.” And that it was. Hundreds of developers came to DevNet CREATE to pow-wow on topics relating to DevOps, SecOps, ML, philanthropic technology, and general software development. Not to mention the event-within-an-event Camp CREATE where 30 selected developers were split into innovation teams to build cutting-edge solutions. Let’s just say you haven’t lived until you’ve traversed and diagnosed your network in VR. It was unlike anything Cisco had ever seen!
A community that knows how to work, innovate, and have fun doing it!
That word, “community,” really doesn’t capture the full effect of the people that contributed to it. Year after year, event after event, we benefitted from partners, SEs, learners, customers, and internal engineers that supported and spread the word of DevNet. Network engineers who had been doing their job for multiple decades were now seeing their colleagues writing code to build solutions and make their job more interesting and wanted in on the fun. Students and earlier in career technologists saw the value in adding automation understanding to their operations education. At DevNet CREATE we would attempt, as best we could, to recognize those who really acted as an extra advocate for DevNet by presenting them with our Creator Awards. This recognition showed that we were not just paying attention, but really appreciated our community.
The DevNet Community celebrates becoming 500,000 members strong at the
“DevNet Social Club” event at Cisco Live in Orlando, Florida
But it’s not all work and no play. DevNet knew how to have fun. The capstone for our community social life was the DevNet Social Club; an inclusive party for all our fellow DevNet-ers at Cisco Live! Flamenco dancers and rock cellists ushered in the good times as we celebrated with everyone in our community.
DevNet gets professional
Piggybacking on that success, we found that our efforts in education, especially with Cisco Learning Network and Networking Academy, needed validation. That’s where DevNet’s certification program came in. Over the course of two years, while doing ALL of the above, our diligent team worked with our colleagues in Cisco Learning and Certifications to build exams and course material that could be worthy of the brand of a Cisco Certification. If you’ve never written exam questions for multiple levels of technical exams, I’d invite you to try it sometime. It’s a maddening foray into being VERY picky about wording and Bloom’s hierarchy of learning. We made it through though, and all that effort culminated in Cisco’s first launch of a programmability certification track in February of 2020.
Then, as we all know, the world was hit with calamity. But, through it, DevNet adjusted. Virtual events became a necessity as we held DevNet CREATE and the DevNet Zone at Cisco Live! online for thousands of attendees. We were able to facilitate virtual exams for those who wanted to make sure they used the lock-down time to bolster their resume. It even gave us time to work on some ideas we had swirling in the back of our heads but never had time to focus on, like the Snack Minute video series.
More to come
Fortunately, we’ve been able to return to live events holding our first DevNet Zone in person at Cisco Live! 2022. It was a more reserved event with safety protocols in place, but the audience for programmability and automation content was just as hungry as ever. The week proved successful with full classrooms and workshops. We saw an even bigger response for the events that followed in 2023 in Amsterdam and Las Vegas.
The DevNet staff poses in the DevNet Zone at Cisco Live US 2023
Through it all, I was fortunate to see DevNet and its people grow, change, pivot, and in some instances, survive. It’s been the best and most interesting challenge of my career. I always tell anyone who asks (and some of those who don’t) that I love my job and I’m never bored. This is because I believe in what we do here and the people we help in our community. There are only a handful of us from the original group remaining in the team, but the influence of all of the hundreds of people that made DevNet what it is across 10 years cannot be overstated. As we look to the next 10 years, I am extremely excited about DevNet’s next chapter, but it’s always fun to look back and see where we’ve come from.