From Pampered Customer to DevNet Zone Builder. Is this you?
My first Cisco event
I still fondly remember my first “Cisco Live” type of event back in 2006. It was not an actual Cisco Live in the way the event is run these days, but a local Cisco event in Romania, called Cisco Expo. Back then Cisco Live was still called Networkers and the smaller scale events like the Cisco Connect ones these days were called Cisco Expo. The scope of these events being Cisco Expo, Cisco Connect, Networkers or Cisco Live is the same in all cases: Bring together IT professionals and present the latest products and market trends from Cisco’s perspective. Attendees get a chance to interact, ask questions, connect with their peers in a conference setting, and the Cisco experts get a chance to present the latest and greatest products they’re working on to an engaged audience. It’s a win win situation for everyone.
By that time in 2006, when I got the chance to attend Cisco Expo, I already had worked with Cisco technologies for a while and had taken the first major step in my career: passed the CCNA exam and become Cisco certified. At the time I was working for a Cisco gold partner and was experiencing that special Cisco treatment as a customer. I have to say it felt amazing to be valued and pampered and at the same time energized to promote and sell IT solutions.
Little did I know that today, more than a decade later, I would be on the other side of the fence, organizing and building infrastructure for events and helping Cisco customers meet their goals, making the transition and getting them ready for the challenges of tomorrow. It was not an easy journey but it was fun! I’ve been involved in countless projects with amazing people in all these years and have very few regrets.
Setting up infrastructure for events
By the time I had joined the DevNet team in 2014, I had missed the inaugural DevNet Zone at Cisco Live US in San Francisco. My first major event as part of the DevNet team was Cisco Live US 2015, which took place in San Diego. That came also with the first important lesson for me: Setting up infrastructure for events is challenging, and no matter how much you prepare in advance there will always be surprises and issues that you’ve never seen before.
Having worked for many years in enterprise environments I had gotten used to the mundane day to day work around setting up new enterprise infrastructure, managing and maintaining it. Setting up infrastructure for events is a completely different beast. You show up to a venue a couple of days before the event starts and you set up a whole network from scratch. Yes, you can build it in advance and test it for months in a lab, but I can almost guarantee that you will face issues that you’ve never thought of once you get to the actual venue.
Starting with simple issues, like different power adapters and power outputs for different countries, to hardware being destroyed in transit no matter how many fragile stickers you have on the cases, to flapping network links due to poor patching, to flooded data centers. You would think that after a while, you’ve seen them all but that is never the case. Four years later and after dozens of large events organized and set up all over the world, I still get surprises and have to deal with unforeseen issues. We have gotten much better at managing unknown conditions and risk, but that is a normal result of experience. It’s like taking the lifespan of a regular enterprise network and shrinking it down to days instead of years.
I still think that being able to do this, setting up a whole complex and large environment in just a few days, is a testament to how robust and scalable Cisco technologies have become over the years. We stand on the shoulders of giants, and all the bugs that were fixed, and all the features that were developed over the years have brought us here: Being able to setup a network for tens of thousands of people in a couple of days.
The amount of work that goes into the preparation, planning, building, testing, and running of these types of events is incredible. Each of these events is like a unique universe in which out of nothing, in empty venue halls, amazing things are being built in record time and then destroyed just as fast. Every and all walks of life are involved in this process: carpenters, electricians, janitors, law enforcement, engineers, marketers, sellers, lawyers, you name it, we are all part of making sure attendees of these events get the most out of them. It’s like a miniature universe which pops into existence for a week and then disappears just to happen again a year later. The level of stress reaches extremes and this definitely is not a job for everybody, but if you like challenges, the rewards at the end of the day make it all worth it.
DevNet Zone at Cisco Live!
Content wise I think we’ve done a great job at all our Cisco Live events so far. Now, we want of course to do better. What started as the brand new DevNet Zone in San Francisco in 2014 has grown and evolved in San Diego in 2015, and then Las Vegas in 2016 and 2017. And that’s just in the U.S.A. We want to hear more about how we can customize the developer experience for you around the world. Which is your favorite Cisco Live?
We brought you the Learning Labs train, classrooms, workshops, demo pods, theater sessions, and all the content around all these areas, and so much more. We have always tried to showcase the latest and greatest Cisco technologies from a developer‘s perspective:
Would people be interested in knowing more about this technology?
Does it expose an API?
What about the documentation?
Does it have an SDK and associated sample code?
How easy is it to set up and get it running in the DevNet sandbox?
All of these and more were questions we were asking ourselves when deciding on which technologies to actively promote in the DevNet Zone: The main catalyst for our decisions has always been the feedback we’ve received from YOU, our DevNet community!
Cisco as a company, and for that matter the whole industry, is going through major changes on several levels. One of them is being much more open, dynamic and fast. Making API first design the foundation of all new products is a huge institutional and cultural shift for a company that historically didn’t have public APIs. Over the past four years, DevNet has experienced explosive growth driven by a community of people hungry for knowledge, by fierce competition, and support from senior Cisco executives. We have seen the DevNet Zone at Cisco Live US almost double in size every year since the initial one in 2014. We want to make the future DevNet Zones everywhere better for all of you.
So we have a big ask for all of you, our community, next…
We want to get even more feedback from you and to know what you would like to see in the DevNet Zone at the upcoming Cisco Live events.
What would you like to learn?
What technologies do you want us to cover in more detail?
Do you want more introductory, intermediate or more advanced workshops and classrooms?
Do you want more Spark bots? (really?)
Do you want more NETCONF/RESTCONF and YANG, more Python or more ACI, UCS or even Ansible?
You have been at other events and you’ve seen something cool and were wondering how come they don’t have it at Cisco Live. We want to know about it. We are ready to take the DevNet Zone at Cisco Live to the next level. We need you to help us get there. Help us help you!
You have the unique chance of dictating and having your say on what exactly you want from the DevNet Zone. We are impatiently waiting for all of you to give us suggestions and pointers and want to thank you in advance for making the future DevNet Zones better! You can reply in the comments section of this blog post or on twitter if you tag @CiscoDevNet our amazing marketing team always keeps a close watch.
See you in YOUR DevNet Zone!