Friday, July 2, 2010

Cisco Live 2010

This was my 6th consecutive year at CiscoLive (formerly known as Networkers), and as always I had a great time. I thought I'd write down a few brief thoughts on my sessions and other experiences this year.

802.1x 8-Hour Techtorial
This was the first time I've done a "techtorial" (Cisco's term for a 4 or 8 hour expanded seminar that costs extra) since 2006, and it was probably the best one I've done. All of the presenters were excellent, and they did a great job of keeping the class engaged by switching frequently between lecture and live demonstrations by three different instructors. They also included a real-world case study, presented by the actual customer involved (a large Canadian university). Cisco has a tendency to make up artificial case studies (or anonymize them to the point of making them pointless), so it was great to see a live customer on stage, presenting the entire implementation process, warts and all.

LISP - A Next Generation Networking Architecture
I have read a fair bit about LISP over the last couple of years, but this was the first time I've gone to a session on it. Basically, Dino and company are trying to solve three or four of the biggest problems in networking in one fell swoop: 1) global routing table size, 2) certain types of IPv4/IPv6 transport issues, 3) virtual machine mobility, and possibly 4) other mobility problems. I really don't have the background to evaluate a protocol that's designed to solve extremely difficult problems at a global scale, but it was fascinating to see the thought process and design issues involved.

Routed Fast Convergence and High Availability
I have been hearing about this session for years, and it didn't disappoint. I was already familiar with most of the tools discussed, but the devil is in the details, and I came away with a much better understanding of many techniques used to achieve fast convergence in routed networks.

Smart Grid: Developing a Communications Architecture for the Utility of the Future
I didn't intend to visit this session initially, but the speaker was late for my scheduled session, and I had no interest in sitting around waiting for him to show up. This session was happening nearby, and I knew that Bill Parkhurst is something of a network architecture guru, so it was an easy pick. Even though I have absolutely no background in the electrical utility world, this was a very useful session from a general professional development perspective.

Unified HA Network Design: The Evolution of the Next Generation Network
If I could recommend only one session on large-scale network design, this would be it. These guys are working on the largest, most failure-sensitive networks on the planet, and they're giving away what they've learned. What more needs to be said?

Advanced Security Management & Incident Response
This was my second time attending this session (the last time was in 2007), and it was definitely worth attending a second time. I really like operationally-focused sessions (as opposed to product-focused ones), and that's what this one is all about. The presenters are front-line senior incident responders in Cisco's internal security organization, and it's great to see how they deploy Cisco tools and even (gasp) non-Cisco tools to respond to actual security incidents. I really hope they can convince the powers-that-be to let them run this as an expanded, 8-hour techtorial on security operations.

Those are the highlights of my sessions. I didn't attend a single session this year that was actually bad, but those were the ones that stood out the most.

Other thoughts: the meals were above average compared to previous years, except for breakfast. I hate getting to a breakfast and seeing nothing but bread products and some random, lonely looking fruit. The CCIE party was great; probably the best one I've attended. The CCIE NetVet reception with John Chambers was also excellent. My biggest complaint continues to be the ominous warnings about a $100 fee to replace a lost conference badge. I've never lost mine, but this just seems patently ridiculous.

As always, though, simply meeting other networking-focused professionals and renewing friendships with people I've known from previous years was the best part of the show.

Hoping to be back next year!

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