BLOG: Cisco Live 2011 Melbourne (Australia)
Date: from 30 March 2011 to 01 April 2011
What to Pack?
Since it was my first time to go to an extra-ordinary event like this, I really didn't know what to pack: casual (T-Shirt and Jeans) or formal (tie, slacks, black shoes, etc.). I managed to bump into someone who's been to a few of these when I asked him this fatal question. He nearly fell off the chair laughing and he threw back an answer in a question: Think about it. A techie like you going to an event like this dressed up with a tie, black pants and black shoes. What does that make you look like?
And he's right. Only the "suits-n-tie" wear suits-and-tie. Techies wear techie's "suits": Casual t-shirt and jeans. This is, after all, Cisco Live 2011. And in Melbourne.
The exhibit were held in the World Of Solutions Hall (Hall #3) and the Breakout Sessions were held in Hall 6, MECC staff were polite and courteous to direct me the registration kiosk. Registration was like a well-oiled machine. In one lane, you are greeting by more MECC staff and Lenovo laptop. I was directed by the staff to enter my name into the laptop and in a few seconds a printer spit out a printout of my Attendee tag and a bar code. Welcome to Cisco Live 2011 Melbourne.
Exit another lane and get into another one so I can pick up useful mercandise: a laptop bag, notepad, pen, sweets, stress cube and an aluminium water bottle. I thought to myself: Would've been nice if a thermal mug was included. It would be very, very handy particularly when attending the morning Breakout Session after a night in town. Triple shot coffee, motor-oil-black, no sugar, no milk. As a matter of fact, can you just grind the coffee beans so I can shovel them into my mouth? He he he ...
Opening Keynote Speech
Fate dealt me a cruel hand: My flight arrived late and taxi ride from the airport to the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre (MECC) and I did not hear the start of the keynote speech by Cisco CIO Padmasree Warrior. In it she explained Cisco's direction of convergence.
Converge, according to the iPad application Dictionary.com, "to tend to meet in a point or line". THE magic buzz word, in the IT world, for the 21st century that can mean the merging of two (or more), and sometimes, disaparate technologies to form a harmoneous system. Huh? English please. Think of it as mixing oil and water to get perfume.
Opening World of Solutions
The World of Solutions was declared open when Ms. Warrior's speech was over. We all headed down to Hall 3. The hall was caverneous. Exhibit booths filled half of the hall (half of the hall was the dinning area). The layout of the booths weren't packed tight. There was more than enough room to walk four or five abreast comfortably. Along two sides of the walls were lined up with CP-9951 and Lenovo internet booths. A number of open spaces for "human networking" are distinguishable by the presence of tea or coffee facilities manned by smartly dressed and smiling MECC staff. Available to Cisco Live 2011 Melbourne attendee was wall-to-wall wireless internet which probably covered the entire MECC complex and not just Hall 3 and 6. Those staying in at the adjoining Hilton probably got coverage up to the top floors!
(I was like a proverbial child in a candy shop! I made a beeline towards the phones and to call my colleagues to brag. While I was waiting for the phone to be answered one of the atendee looked at the phones and asked me seriously if he could make international call! I don't think our host and the sponsor would look at you too kindly, I thought to myself. I didn't or couldn't answer him. I just told him how to use the phones.)
Being the major sponsor, Telstra's booth (I'd like to call it booths because it had the size of about four or five exhibit booths WIDE) was the first thing that you'll see. I heard my neck creak when I had to swing my head left to right. Telstra's booth was decked out right. And it shows when a huge crowd gathered in front of it causing a pile-up. I extricated myself and made myself to the back of the hall.
Cisco had three "big" booths. The blue booth were the Cisco Services. They were manned by Cisco technical and Sydney TAC personnel wearing blue shirts (technical speakers wear purple shirts). There was a "troubleshooting" challenge going on in this booth. This very mischievous puzzle was being headed by technical engineers Nicolas Meessen and Hendra (aka Mr. Soup #5) from the famous Sydney TAC. (What is "Soup #5"? Google it! I don't want this blog to be struck off.)
The second booth (I forgot the color but I believe it was orange or red) was demonstation booths for Cisco Digital Media (DMP), Tandberg/Telepresence, CiscoWorks/LMS, CleanAir and EnergyWise. The last booth was the lime green booth. This is the Goliath of `em all. Mock Nexus, ASR, UCS were the subject matter experts of this booth.
In a quiet corner and furnished with comfortable sofas and interactive whiteboards was the Cisco Meet The Experts. Cisco staffs and exhibitors were eagerly showing of their wares. They all have a personality of "Dude, do I have something to show you!" or "Wait `til I show you this and then you can let your jaw drop!".
When I got to the back of the hall, I saw three smaller Cisco exhibit booths. They were for Cisco Financials, Cisco Learning Solutions and Cisco "counterfeit". Huh? Cisco counterfeit? What's that? So this lady challenged me to identify three items that are "knock-offs". The first one is a ubiquitous WIC-2T. Something caught my eye with one of the two and correctly picked out the fake. Next she showed me a all-popular Cisco 2960. I picked the fake one without even touching it. The last one was a 1721 router and this I got wrong.
Impressed (she's probably been to alot of these exhibition so I don't see how she was impressed with my answer), she asked me how I could tell from the knock-off from the real one. With the WIC-2T, I told her that the country of origin sticker was the giveaway (I've never seen or heard a WIC-2T that's "Made in USA" before PLUS the fonts of the serial number is wrong) while the 2960 had the wrong screws and the manufacturing stamp sports the wrong font.
My first Breakout Session was "Wireless High Density Client Design Principles" and I must say that it was well laid out. The presenter answered questions very well and he even had the chance to introduct the new AP-600. Like the rest of the other Breakout Sessions I took down alot of notes and got some very good ideas to study. Even though I had less than adequate hours of sleep the night before (and succeeding nights), the sessions kept my wide awake. The rest of the Breakout Sessions I've attended "Deploying Advanced Wireless Services using the Mobility Services Engine," "Design and Deployment of Data, Voice and Video over Wireless," the jam packed "Wireless LAN Radio Spectrum Management Best Practices," "Managing an Enterprise WLAN with Wireless Control System" and "Troubleshooting Wireless LANs with Centralised Controllers" the presentations were well laid. The pace was not fast nor slow. Just right.
The Social Event
Before the first Breakout Session, I got a call from one of the manager of Sydney's Cisco TAC, Assad Badran and he and some of his team members would like to meet me. So we agreed to meet at the Services booth after the first session. Unfortunately, he got tied up with important work so I was warmly welcomed by Hendra (forgot his full name) and Nicolas Meessen. Soon we were joined by Steve Lawford, Glen Wilson, Derek Clothier (all from Sydney TAC) and a few more. Assad finally joined us and he was accompanied by the director Alan (didn't catch his last name). Y'know, I really thought the TAC guys/gals are very strict or serious lot of people. Gee whiz, how wrong I can be! There we were in bunch up together swapping stories and jokes while MECC staff were busy going making sure your hands are holding food in one hand or a bottle of drink in another.
Alan disappeared momentarily and when he returned he announced that he would like me to meet the VP and General Manager for Cisco Learning, Ms. Jeanne Beliveau-Dunn. Pictures, hand shakes, chit-chat (it wasn't a full-blown conversation because I was stunned). Wow. That was a memorable experience! I was so stunned at it all, I didn't even asking if I could get hold of a copy of the picture taken. Nuts! I remembered before going to meet her I expressed my apprehension because I was wearing a T-Shirt and Jeans. Alan and Assad looked at me from head to foot and assured me that my attire was sufficient enough. Techie indeed!
Customer Appreciation Dinner
When I got to the venue the door was closed but there was a long table with wigs. We were all invited to wear em on. I settled one that fits my head and took a picture and sent it to my office. Big mistake! Soon enough they printed an A4 and posted it on the board. When the doors were opened Cisco unvieled the theme for the event as "XLER8" or Accelerate. The place was decked out with F1 Grand Prix in mind (the Melbourne Grand Prix finished the weekend before). Forming an "honor guard" were the MECC staff holding platters of food and drinks. There were billiard tables and pinball machines in two corners of the hall.
Immediately pass the main entrance I was greeted with a remote-control race track next was an ice cream van. Opposite the ice cream van and dominiating the central part of the hall is a large "Accelerate" banner. Underneath this banner is a large circle of tables filled with more food and drinks. On the other side of the hall there were Grand Prix racing video machines on an elevated platform. This was situated between a "beer garden" (including matching white picket fence) and bumper cars. Half of the hall was a dance floor and stage. Entertainment were graced by the Hudu Gurus. The lines to these entertainment were long.
At the opposite end of the main door was a tent. There were no lines. Odd. I checked it out and it was a massage "tent". There was a massage table plus a number of massage chairs. Each of them were manned.
Approach any Cisco staff and ask them a question. There's no question they can't answer. Everyone you see, meet or greet has a natural smile on their. I took advantage of this and approached a number of the technical speakers with some questions and opinions. And when they say "I'll get back to you on this", before Cisco Live wraps up, there's an email waiting for me with the responses to my inquiries. Fantastic!
The only regret I had were too many "juicy" sessions to attend at the same time. Should I take wireless? How about stuffs about Nexus? CUCM? Arrrgggghhhhh!
All in all? Now I know why attending Cisco Live or Cisco Networkers is a must. I hope to attend next time!