This week is a first for me. I’m at Cisco Live in San Diego. It’s been pretty awesome so far I have to say!

Full Disclosure, I was brought here by Cisco to talk to Analysts about ACI. However, I should also point out my only session was closed door feedback on why we chose the solution, and how its helped us to date. Since we are only at the early stages, it was a short conversation. I thank Cisco for their hospitality, and for allowing me to access Conference Level sessions that my explorer level pass would not normally allow.

So the events started for me Monday where I was up with the birds attending a Breakout session on ACI coding. That started off a little dry, but I was pleased to say by the end of it, I had started to understand concepts that were not previously clear to me, and learned a few new things as well.

The Keynote was an unsurprising surprise. OK GO opened the show, which I loved. The Marketing VP has the most confused accent, and you could tell she had been briefed to sound trendy, and that never works for anyone. Be yourself! Then Chambers was hilarious. The content was good, the engagement was great, his conversational style was a little neurotic truth be told, but the messaging he had was remarkably close to the stuff we have in our business; innovate or be left behind, transform now and transform regularly - act fast. What was a little difficult to swallow however, was the handover to Chuck. It felt too staged, and it left me (and others) thinking that he was literally a JC sock puppet. I doubt that is the case, but that’s what it felt like in the room unfortunately. Time will tell, but I expect that it was just a midguided introduction…

Tuesday was also pretty good. More sessions, more content and whilst sometimes the sessions didnt live up to the billing in the notes, it was all useful stuff. The revelation for me has been the DevNet zone. Its my firm view that ACI’s success relies on the ecosystem around it expanding at a pace equal or higher than the market consuming it. Thats a tough nut to crack, but so long as people are going to get what they need on demand rather than chasing release notes and providers, the sales will continue to come.

As I made my way through DevNet I could see plenty of walk up desks with access to labs and sandboxes, and an engineer nearby ready to assist as you pick things apart. I spent a good few hours bashing out ideas with engineers and have even made some tweaks to part 4 of my CUCM API series.

In the evening we were invited to the Analyst dinner, which was surprising not least because we were sat on a table with the so called MPLS quartet (Mario Mazzola, Prem Jain, Luca Cafiero and Soni Jiandani), who collectively are responsible for the success of the Datacentre product line. Not all of them made it, but it was a great discussion, and the food wasnt bad either!

On Wednesday I decided to make DevNet and the Hub my home for the day. I started with the loot scoot and proceeded to wander around to pick up random codes. However, it wasnt long before I was stopping at each pod to listen to the guys presenting their wares. I naturally gravitated to the SDN pod and ended up spending about an hour listening to Chad Peterson talk about all the cool things he had built for NXAPI. What impressed me more than anything else is that he is a CCIE Route/Switch guy. He is not a Developer at all. I then sat in on some coding classes with Mike Maas, and did some time in the sandbox labs. The most exciting news there was that APIC-DC is going to be in the freebie sandboxes very soon.

Today is a half day for me, as my flight back to the UK leaves at 4pm, so I went to one last breakout, and spent the rest of my time in DevNet.

In short, CiscoLive has been incredibly useful. The Technical Seminars are good quality, and well timed to balance content depth and being able to stay awake! I also think that the explorer pass grade content is an absolute steal for $49. My colleague an I discussed the merits of the full conference pass, and whilst I found value in it, we both struggled with the difference in price between the two. He made a good point that much of that technical seminar detail could be obtained for free via your SE on a one to one basis, so I guess its a margin call there. The extras like the Customer Appreciation Event and some of the Dinners are great, but I wouldn’t buy a Full Pass just for that obviously!

If you are in any way a Cisco shop, then you should be here on an explorer pass as an absolute minimum. You will definitely fill your time with content at that level. If you have any particular plans for expansion, migration or significant change, then the uplift to the Full Pass is a good idea. At both levels you can do meet the engineer and buy tectorial time as well, so honestly, you should put it on your radar. I fear that it wont be long before the DevNet zone becomes its own pass level with associated costs. Do not make the mistake of thinking that’s purely for VARs/Third party devs however. There is a lot of content targeting engineers that need to bridge the gap.

In the meantime…