Homeward bound – Final musings from Cisco Live 2012

My Cisco Live “Road Trip” concludes its fourth and final day. For those who think trips to San Diego are all glitter (!!!!), picture the ten plus hours spent inside a convention centre each day embracing the latest and greatest messaging from the world’s leading networking vendor.

It was interesting to hear Padmasree Warrior (Cisco CTO) still refer to herself as a “Technology Geek”, that’s definitely not me. I have an expectation that technology implemented well will work so am less interested in the how or even the why. I am compelled to find ways to make technology enhance the human existence and experience (in both work and play) which means it has to be relevant to the outcome expected or even fundamental to it. Technology for technology sake is simply a waste of money, but more importantly a waste of time (you can recoup lost money but can’t recoup lost time). To that end Cisco Live equips, energises and inspires me to think differently about the challenges faced by customers both now and in the future. If I do my job which is to listen to, understand and advise customers, Cisco can continue to design and build technology I expect to work.

Presenting live to large audiences is an extremely difficult skill that can be taught / learned (but it’s not easy). Practice does make perfect (or at least better), but some are far better than others. As mentioned in the blog earlier this week, John Chambers nails it for me. Every word he says is scrutinised across the world, the audience size is often unmatched and again he uses minimal on hand notes but presents so so well. Padmasree Warrior has potentially one of the most difficult and coveted roles in IT as the CTO of Cisco but manages to deliver the most complex messages in an effortless and highly entertaining manner. And lastly the new kid on the block Chris Young Senior Vice president for security on the biggest of stages at his first Cisco Live sailed through the security keynote. Really great presentations by all that will be interesting and educational to view on replay.

Wednesday night saw the now obligatory trip to a stadium for the evening customer / partner gathering (common with US events as the “in town” stadiums are normally so good), and resulted in a walk across the road to San Diego’s Petco Park. For someone from the UK aware that some of our well known sports stadiums (Wembley, the Emirates, Old Trafford to name a few) are pretty good it’s always an eye opener to visit US stadiums and find even average venues are often as good as our best. The welcome event was an entertaining evening of food, more food, more food, beer and more food (Ok a few live performers too). As a non drinker I succumbed to way too much Crackerjack popcorn and sadly had to cry off early due to my increasingly suspect knee.

I am well known as someone who doesn’t fanfare the cloud journey. As a realist when discussing the cloud impact, I make it relevant when it delivers the business outcome required but not as a silver bullet to everything. The Cisco cloud messaging of the week with an emphasis on the network as the real enabler of cloud success is highly encouraging. Cloud computing (current industry version and definition) is an on demand service consumption and delivery model but it’s often forgotten without a secure, performant, resilient network, no cloud outcome whether public or private can be realised. The Cisco cloud play is taking a business eye view of the network and how it securely connects users, applications, systems and organisations to unlock the benefits of a cloud like approach. In the Cisco strategy “placeholder” platforms now seem absent and it is now clear to see how the addition or adoption of appropriate Cisco cloud connect solution stacks take an organisation closer to cloud reality.  As an increasing amount of information about Cisco Cloud connect is released I would encourage you to invest the time to really understand it.

I can’t conclude my Cisco Live roundup without a few messaging takeaways (there were many more than this but the list the follows worked for me)

  • Cloud – Cisco cloud connect, CloudVerse and Cisco cloud security will take up many press inches over the coming months. The cloud connector strategy and alignment with Openstack can if executed correctly simplify and accelerate the use of enterprise cloud provisioned networked services.
  • ISE & BYOD – Identify services engine could be a real silver bullet for the broader enterprise BYOD challenge which is greater than basic connectivity of a mobile or tablet device. With access, authentication, remediation, MDM awareness, management and context, ISE could be an essential BYOD networking and security first step.
  • Security – Chris Young the new SVP for security is adding warp speed to the Cisco security playbook. New solutions, increased integration with the wider Cisco story and alignment with the customer agenda has put Cisco back on the security map.
  • Intelligent Networks – A catch all for all that is good in the Cisco solutions portfolio that when implemented correctly and “business aligned” delivers an intelligent network that will underpin and propel the intelligence of an organisation. Expect to see increased messaging around the intelligent networks concept.
  • Business Video – The rise of business video has been a false dawn a few times but played a major role in the success of Cisco Live. Digital signage solutions presented content and session information throughout the conference centre, educational sessions were captured live via standard Telepresence camera installations and keynote sessions were recorded and broadcast quickly for all to engage with. Business Video is more than conferencing.   

Enterprise organisations now face some tough decisions. It’s a topic I spent long periods of time in deep thought at Cisco Live. In this generation of IT it’s quite difficult to find really bad networking and security products due to commonality of chipsets and manufacturing techniques, but easy to find badly implemented solutions. It’s increasingly hard to find really poor technologies but easy to find poorly implemented and aligned solutions. That makes the role of Computacenter as a vendor independent, highly accredited, market aware and personnel rich organization even more important than ever before. Organisations no longer have the luxury of time to try and fail but recover – in that period the competition can capitalise on even short term absence and deliver and equivalent customer satisfying solution. Computacenter is perfectly positioned to leverage the messages radiated at Cisco Live of cloud, business video, multi platform integration, intelligent networking, compute & security to add Computacenter best practices and deliver personalised solutions to an increasingly challenged customer. And as Cisco also highlighted an ecosystem approach where relevant partners are leveraged to maximise the customer outcome, the whole approach aligns with validated Computacenter strength as the industrys leading infrastructure systems integrator with one of the richest enterprise vendor portfolios in the industry.

In summary Cisco Live continues to be a great event whether in the UK or US. For the deeply technical person no door is closed with everyone from Cisco press book authors to the most distinguished technologist on hand to answer the most cryptic questions (and extremely keen to do so). For business and strategy types like me, the executive interaction is very useful as is the opportunity to discuss go to market and customer specific outcomes with peer personnel within the Cisco team.

Just like my last time at Cisco Live US I leave with more than enough ideas and opinions to take me though until the next year.

Homeward Bound …

Until next time

Colin W

Twitter: @colinwccuk

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About Colin Williams

Colin is Computacenter's Practice Leader for Networking, Visual Collaboration & Security @colinwccuk

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