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From Pampered Customer to DevNet Zone Builder. Is this you?

- February 16, 2018 - 36 Comments

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Adrian Iliesiu Cisco Blog DevNet Sandbox

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.

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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!

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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?

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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.

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See you in YOUR DevNet Zone!

 

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36 Comments

    Nice write up. I especially liked the portion about your initial experience setting up the environment. It's always interesting when you get to a new situation like that to see how it ends up and how different from what you thought it was.

    Excellent write-up Adrian! Thank you for sharing this journey :-) From my side I'd say +1 on the real time stats, especially those that are more granular and can reach high ranks over the course of CL week (like we used to count lines of code written!) I'd also like to have a competitive flavour added to it towards an achievements or reward, more gamification through the learning process. Looking forward to the next DevNET Zone ;-)

  1. I loved the DevNet zone. So much to learn. I would like to see more haptic experiences in the booths though. Physical computing, toy trucks, simulated water breaks etc. Many CISCO attendees are used to boxes/appliances and I think it's easier to have us associate with software if it's made haptic. There are some good executions on it already, the car racetrack, the foosball table, etc. They attract visitors. All booths should relay back to the physical world.

      Ralf, you bring up a great point! Glad you noticed the haptic experiences we are bringing to the DevNet Zone. We plan on having the demo booths incorporate some of them and also create a different experience around them in the future. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. Great post. So much goes into building out Cisco Live and setting up a network for tens of thousands of people, and in a couple of days, amazing. Love that DevNet is looking to attendees to provide feedback and help define future DevNet experiences, really cool.

      Brett, thank you for the comment! We value feedback from all our #DevNet community members. Would be great to get some more #CiscoChampions to chime in also if possible :) Hope to meet more Cisco Champions in person in Melbourne at Cisco Live.

    More PowerShell, that's what we need, PowerShell 101, 102, 103 all of them.

  3. I think the #SilviaTracker is clearly needed, maybe a green flashing light on her head would do the job :) But seriously, I'd say that we should be careful to allow space for people to discuss/compare notes and absorb information fully. I think it's really important to have the space so we can enable the follow up conversations. I think this is where the real "aha" moments happen.

      I agree, Peter. Those in-person conversations with Customers, Partners, and fellow team members are the reason we get on a plane, and travel for hours. So much strategic, foundational work happens in those "aha" moments. We mustn't underestimate them, and we should definitely make people feel welcome and comfortable, so those conversations can happen in the first place. As for the #SilviaTracker flashing light, I vote purple or pink. Thanks! See you in Melbourne.

    Nice post, knowing somewhat about whats involved only puts me more in awe of what a great job, Cisco do every year in bringing all and every aspect together for a single week. The DevNet zone is my usual "go to" hangout as there is always something fun going on and something new to learn. As a long term "Traditional Networker" I am always very keen on seeing how all this digital transformation and infrastructure programability can make a real difference to my job. i.e. I wouldn't be able to sit through a 8hr python or Ansible "ground up" course, but spend just 20mins showing me how to do 1 single thing, that will make my job easier, faster or more reliable and my interest is hooked. And I'll want to learn more! That's what I love about DevNet and the Walk In Selfpaced Labs (WISP) is that they give you these easy first wins, and a great foundation on which you can continue to build. See you all next year! Colin

      Colin, thank you very much for the feedback! In the DevNet Zone the hands-on bite-size activity you just described is covered in our workshop sessions. Following the increased interest in the workshops in Barcelona we already made plans to bring more of them at CLUS Orlando this year.

    I'd love to see a visualized comparison of time/skill/overall-effort required to finish a given lab in a traditional old-school CLI way vs. the automated approach. Even a rough estimation would attract some attention. Also, as someone already mentioned, you can display real time statistics, including showing total hours vs. days (months, years, decades?) for all the labs taken during the event. Just a thought...

      @Ivan -- good idea. With automation, there may be some upfront investment in a script, but it's also possible someone has already written that script and put it on GitHub. So, let's say I spend 8 hours creating and testing a script. After that, you probably just have to input some variables (maybe 5 mins of effort?), and and then run the script. Whereas, doing things manually will take the same amount of effort each time -- and potentially introducing errors along the way each time. Graphically, I think you'd see something like automation going up rapidly at first, but plateauing. In the manual method, it would just always go up and to the right.

    DevNet at any event is a HIT....it should become into the Cisco Live Ritual

      Thank you Nicole! We always strive to do better. Your feedback is critical for us!

    - I'd love to see more stats about what is happening in the devnet zone. - The classrooms are great, there are never enough devnet classrooms! - Proximity information enabled in the Live app with detailed info about the stand / booth where you're located.

      Rob, thank you for the feedback! All valid points. We've added them to the list.

  4. I'd love to see more IoT innovation examples in the DevNet Zone - loved the connected bee hive demo in Melbourne last year!

      Freya, do we have a surprise for you this year at Cisco Live Melbourne! We will have an IoT Connected City in the DevNet Zone and learning content around it. Please drop by and let us know in person if you have any questions or additional feedback. Thank you!

    Would love to see more engaging activities such as escape room or competitions that involve coding at different levels e.g. beginner, medium, advanced. Also, if we could somehow indicate how many hours of education has been done during a CL DevNet time, that would be awesome! P.S.: Looking forward to CLMel DevNet Zone build. :)

      Nilram, thank you very much for the feedback! Following the resounding success we've had in Barcelona this year, we will bring the Black Hat White Hat challenge to Melbourne! More metrics and statistics coming up too!

    I stumbled into the first DevNet Zone at Cisco Live in San Francisco purely by accident and I remember feeling like I had just found the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Since then, I've spread the word as widely as I could - Cisco Live is better when you spend your time in DevNet. Most recently at CLEUR I spent some time speaking with the team in the Design Thinking zone and realized they had answers to things that had been missing. I would love to see more like the Design Thinking team at DevNet. The workshops and labs and hacking challenges are all great, but I think showing engineers how to refine ideas before they dive headfirst into code is just as important as the coding itself. Proving out an idea before you get up to your eyeballs in Python or Node can save a lot of heartache down the line. I think it also helps people recognize the bigger picture that they might not grasp in a 30 minute Spark Bot lab. Keep growing and offering more content. Keep providing the fundamentals. Find ways to help people pull their heads out of the sand and realize coding is critical to remaining relevant. Help those used to being apex engineers open up and allow themselves to be vulnerable - to be willing to learn something completely unfamiliar and new.

      Thanks for your comments, Paul! This CLEUR we tried something new with Design Thinking "zone" :-) I'd glad that you like it. We will surely do more at CLUS. Would love to get some of your ideas!

      Paul, this is great feedback! Thank you! We'll make sure to bring the Design Thinking booth and activities around it to CLUS Orlando this year and also to future events.

  5. I'm thinking like a "A day in DevNet" ... a challenge to manage a network already automated by controllers with REST/NETCONF with the goal to inspire how much more one can do in a day ... Compared to CLI slaves ;-)

      Thomas, that's an interesting idea. Maybe we can have a similar activity in one of our DevNet Express events or even at Cisco Live. We'll definitely keep this one in mind. Thank you!

    I’d love to see us leverage our fast lane technology with Apple IPhones and us augmented reality to help give people ideas of what api’s are in each booth or product. We could have do a pre Devnet session with the people sponsoring booths to creat the AR

    Appwise I'd like to see the Find my Friends/Colleagues thing working for the next iteration of CLEUR. Wehn it did work it was nice, but there were quite a few problems with the App this time. Also it would be great to just publish your own location to everybody if you want to. For Devnet everything about automation and scripting is interesting to me. Also it would be great if as much as possible is (if it isn't already) in developer.cisco.com too ;) I don't care too much about the technology area (ok I'm mostly into DC, SEC and Enterprise) but for a lot of things it's more important to know how it works in behind. Once you know that, it's easier to port that to your own situation. From my point of view, there could be much more advanced workshops! And please use a real seat booking system in the future! On a conference as big as Cisco Live you can't be always be there 10-15 minutes in advance ... For the last part "Do you want more NETCONF/RESTCONF and YANG, more Python or more ACI, UCS or even Ansible?" My answer is simply: YES! :) Girls and Guys please keep up the great work you're doing! You do make a difference and help us engineers to get more and more into developing!

      Martin, thank you so much for the feedback! We are super excited to see requirements for more advanced content! When we started 4 years ago with the DevNet Zone a lot of the feedback was that the content we were trying to present is too complicated. I'm happy to see that we are at a point now when we need to bring out more advanced topics!

  6. I would love to have the CISCO Live app enabled with proximity services and actually sending my feelings while I approach or being engaged in certain technologies and booths Examples could be Happy excited questioning opportunity risk idea frustrated empathy etc etc This way we could give personalized feedback in the sense of contextual elements that big data analytics could process later on, reports will be generated and customers or partners can be contacted to clarify maybe if things were not as good as we hoped This way we can improve services , interactions and knowledge sharing Everything will be better !!!!

    I would like to see some realtime stats of what is happening in the DevNetZone. Maybe include things like: - How many learning labs are being done? - How many API calls being made (e.g. number of spark messages :-))? - How many people are present (using location services)? There are probably other metrics too.

      I volunteer for a Silvia tracker, to save the Info Desk team from having to answer "Where's Silvia?" questions.

      • Silvia, I would also love to see the "Mariana tracker" :)

          If there is ONE tracker we need, it's the Mariana tracker! #CiscoLiveLA and beyond.

    • Agree with Adam. That would be very cool!

        Andre and Adam, we hear you! More metrics! Thank you for the feedback!