Monday, July 13, 2009

Cisco Live 2009 Recap

Cisco Live Recap

Two weeks ago, I attended Cisco Live (Networkers) 2009 in San Francisco, CA. This is my third consecutive year attending Cisco's annual user conference. I was a two-time attendee awhile back (1999 in New Orleans & 2000 in Orlando) when it was a CCIE recertification requirement. Then I dropped off the social networking map for a half dozen years while I worked 12 hour days, including my commute. I didn't have time to attend training, or a company that would pay for it!

General Thoughts

This year's event seemed much smaller than the last two years, despite Cisco's attempts to make it feel otherwise. A simple view of the dining area made that pretty clear. It was maybe 1/2 the size of the one in Orlando. Anecdotally, I ran into far fewer former colleagues this year as well. In Anaheim, I couldn't walk from one session to another without getting caught up in conversation with a former co-worker. Not so this year.

Perhaps because of the lower attendance, I learned more this year than in Orlando. My personal preference is to have Cisco locate the event outside of a major tourist area. Anaheim, New Orleans and San Francisco were great; Orlando was tougher, probably because my family was nearby. Las Vegas should be interesting as well, as there are many distractions, or so I've heard!

Highlights

My favorite sessions this year were LISP and L2MP. Both gave glimpses into what network design is going to look like in the next 12 - 24 months, assuming ship dates don't slip! For me, L2MP is especially interesting, as my employer is currently building out a pair of Nexus-based Data Centers. In fact, I'm writing this on my way to Raleigh for a Nexus CPOC event. Like many, we'll be using vPC to take advantage of parallel links, but Spanning Tree is still going to block a number of uplinks. L2MP / TRILL will allow for much higher overall utilization of redundant DC links.

LISP is the future of Internet routing. It's primary goal is significantly reducing the size of the Internet routing table, while giving a secondary benefit of Internet tail circuit load balancing for everyone who signs up. There is some work to do on the pricing model, and the end user education component could be tricky, but once those are worked out, the solution should take off. It certainly appears that the basic technology has been hammered out.

Both LISP and TRILL deserve individual blog postings, which I hope to get to soon.

Keynotes

I was surprised to see that Guy Kawasaki was scheduled to give the closing keynote address. After two consecutive comedians, it felt like Cisco was getting a bit too practical. Fortunately I was way off-base. Guy Kawasaki was as funny as Ben Stein or John Cleese, and perhaps significantly more relevant to the tech audience. I still chuckle when thinking of his "Unique" and "Value" quadrant, especially the upper-left corner.

The two Cisco-based keynotes were interesting, but not especially 'new.' Most of the key points have been covered in previous events (30 market adjacencies, etc), and all of the technology was at least familiar. I guess that's the drawback of attending annually.

Customer Appreciation Event

This was probably the most disappointing part of the conference. I have to say that the Customer Appreciation Event seemed a little flat. Perhaps the 80s theme didn't quite appeal to me, although I am a fan of the decade. Devo was surprisingly energetic and fun, even if I only knew a couple of songs. The 70 minute, 4 mile bus ride might have warped my view of the event as well, so I might not be the best person to offer an opinion of the entertainment.

Takeaways

The biggest technology takeaway for me was that Performance Routing is definitely doable in our environment. I attended a pair of PfR sessions, and had a great one hour Meet the Engineer discussion where we covered our current L3 topology and figured out the best way to implement the technology. We're a typical two MPLS provider environment, and we've had more than our share of real-time traffic pain when our providers have issues. In its current implementation, Performance Routing can take our outage times down to 3 seconds, with plans to dial that down to 1 second in most cases. I will cover our implementation in future blog posts.

Other takeways include:

- IPv6 is still getting tons of hype.. I'm keeping abreast of the basic technology. No plans to implement or even pilot in the next 12 months though, so I didn't attend any IPv6 sessions. It's difficult to justify spending time on IPv6 without a business case for implementation.

- CCDE interest appears to be ramping up. That's a good thing, as I don't want the certification to 'die on the vine'. I was concerned that the low pass rate would drive interest down, but that doesn't seem to be the case.

- I'm looking forward to next year's event. The next time I attend, I'll have NetVet status, which should be interesting. I don't have anything specific to say to the Cisco CEO, but I've heard that the CCIE NetVet reception is worth attending, so I'll certainly make it part of my schedule. #cllv on twitter, or so I've heard.
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