Cisco Live 2023: Networking Takeaways
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This was the first Cisco Live I attended post-pandemic and I was quickly reminded how beneficial yet exhausting they are! Being surrounded by 18,000 of your colleagues and peers is a unique experience that provides valuable face time for learning, relationship building and networking. Many announcements were made this year, including Cisco Networking Cloud and Cisco Secure Access. I believe these can be game-changers and am looking forward to seeing how they're adopted and affect the market.
I spent quite a bit of time meeting with various product owners, providing insight into what our customers are asking for and also gaining insight into where they see things heading. I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the ThousandEyes presence...it was everywhere! In the keynotes, the sessions and, of course, the World of Solutions. It was refreshing to see the ThousandEyes message integrated into the overall story as much as it was, and I know it's something many of our customers can or will benefit from. I look forward to taking what I learned this year, implementing it into our various go-to-markets and helping our customers continue to evolve their networks to be the best they can be.
I went to Cisco Live with an agenda of leaning more into Cisco's Routed Optical Networking (RON) solution and to learn more about the product roadmaps. However, I wound up learning more about the Cisco ecosystem and the vast number of products and services that surround Cisco, particularly those related to machine learning and AI.
I fell back into the idea that has been held for years: data focused on outcomes. Move, store, protect and now use artificial intelligence to make more and better decisions with the network's data.
Understanding the value of the information available to our customers and how it affects their purchasing decisions was eye-opening. I expect more of these types of solutions in the future. I also expect it to be a cloudy area for our customers and one that we can help them navigate.
I attended numerous Segment Routing sessions, including SR-MPLS, SRv6 and EVPN. The sessions covered SR-MPLS deployment considerations and SR Multicast implementations and troubleshooting.
Several sessions (SR-MPLS deployments, SR Multicast, EVPN and Cisco 8000) were 90 minutes which allowed for technology deep-dives. Especially beneficial was the sessions on Multicast Tree-SID. Also of great interest were the CNC sessions on closed-loop automation. Cisco 8000 sessions covered all the latest 8000 products available, and the 400G session explored all the latest optics available.
The one-on-one sidebar sessions with the CNC TME and SPBU SR TMEs on SRv6 and SR-MPLS were helpful. I learned that CNC 5.0 is available, and we plan to deploy it in our lab with Cisco CX in July-August. Dialogue with the SPBU IOS_XR product manager was incredibly insightful regarding the SRv6 deployments in Europe and Asia.
I went to Cisco Live this year with the with the intent of learning more about Cisco's Routed Optical Networking (RON) and observe how it is being positioned. It was refreshing to see that there were many sessions that included these technologies, and that Cisco has unified their messaging to include the optics, supporting routers and, most importantly, the automation needed to work in a multivendor environment. Last year, the optical line system played a more significant role; however, the drop in cost of 400G router interfaces has shifted the focus to the optics.
In addition to the breakout sessions, Cisco Live never fails to provide interaction with some of Cisco's product managers. I got to share ideas about how we can leverage our Advanced Technology Center and recent investment in Cisco MIG products that showcase the RON architecture in an actual multivendor environment.
Additionally, there were a lot of references to AI which was exciting. Networks traditionally have been set up to deliver what they were designed to do. Now, however, we are starting to see networks that can make some of their own decisions based on the needs of the people and devices they serve.
For me, Cisco Live was an incredible opportunity to learn from the best, and meet up with colleagues and customers. It is quite a humbling experience to be in the presence of many industry leaders and experts in all fields and walks of life. For the learning sessions, I was overly excited to see so many classes focused on and centralized around optical transport technologies. Understanding Cisco is investing heavily in Routed Optical Networking (RON) doesn't take long. In general, Cisco's attention around optical core transport is the disaggregation of the transponder into a pluggable digital coherent optic. These optics are being inserted directly into the router. As such, I am always interested to hear from Cisco customers during these sessions to gauge their questions and better understand the general absorption of the material and messaging being presented.
I observed a trend in customer questioning and overall confusion on the need and use of a traditional ROADM system across various sessions. Some presenters came up with a great message, "Route when you can, ROADM when you must." I feel this is a great way to approach this ever-growing technology. There are instances when a RON architecture perfectly fits the need; however, ROADM should not be ignored, and there are still plenty of situations where it works. It all boils down to that specific customer engagement's current and future needs.
I could go on and on about the various technologies presented on Digital Coherent Optics (DCO), the bandwidth transition from 100G through 1.6T, Private Line Emulation, and the automation of routed optical networks.
It was such a great year to attend. So much was learned and experienced!
This was my first time attending Cisco Live, and it did not disappoint! My primary focus going into the conference was on Cisco's Routed Optical Networking (RON) sessions and labs. These sessions were highly informative as to the direction, both strategic and tactical, that Cisco is moving in regarding combining the packet and optical layers of the network. I also attended great sessions that covered Segment Routing, sustainable router design, EVPN, advanced Flex-Algo, the push to Terabit optics, and solution deep-dives on the NCS 5500/5700 and Cisco 8000 product lines. In particular, I was extremely impressed with the "Walk-in Labs" that were offered, and how easy the process was to use them.
Cisco really did an excellent job of making learning very accessible. I was also immensely thankful for the wide array of opportunities to develop tighter relationships with Cisco's experts, other partner organizations, our own customers and even other WWT attendees.
Cisco Live is one of my favorite yearly events and this was my first time back after missing the previous three years due to the pandemic. As one of WWT's subject matter experts in all things related to SASE, this was a big year announcement-wise as Cisco released their updated vision and offerings around Cisco Secure Access, the company's cloud-delivered security platform. Cisco's previous direction gave their customers plenty of flexibility in piecing together the components of SSE that they were interested in, but it also left a lot of the integration work up to those doing the implementation. This sat at odds with other offers in the market.
Cisco Secure Access utilizes many of the well-established tools and capabilities that Cisco is known for, but now packages them up into a true cloud-delivered model with a similar level of simplicity that other SSE offerings have. I'm excited to see the evolution of Cisco's approach in this space and believe these announcements make a Cisco-driven SSE solution even more viable for many of our customers.
Beyond SSE, I was encouraged to repeatedly hear that Cisco is focusing on simplifying the implementation, operation and management of its solutions across the board. It's a balancing act to provide feature-rich capabilities without overwhelming the engineers that need to run them.
One example of such simplification is the Cisco Networking Cloud. Cisco Networking Cloud is essentially a portal of portals, limiting the "chair swivel" management that comes from moving between multiple interfaces when running a network. This direction is something that has been long asked for and provides the foundation for coordination between disparate management platforms in the future.
I have been fortunate enough to attend Cisco Live several times during my tenure with WWT. Each time, I have a common agenda: to learn how to be a better wireless architect and technologist. As per usual, Cisco Live delivered.
Some of the sessions I attended will be game changers for our customers across many verticals. One topic of particular interest to me was Ultrawide Band and location services. This will enable a very high level of location accuracy of people and things. The other is the open locate technology which will initially allow for auto placement of access points on maps, but the use cases and outcomes are endless and have potential to change the way we use our mobile devices.
At every conference I try to step outside my comfort zone and learn something different. This year, I took the opportunity to attend a few sessions on private 5G wireless. For me, one of the biggest takeaways was how Wi-Fi 6/6e and 5G can work together for a better wireless experience. The identification of specific use cases was invaluable and paralleled many concerns we hear from our customers.
It was particularly interesting to see how the presenters were able to breakdown many of the marketing terms we hear every day, such as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Smart Buildings and Hybrid Work into actionable steps. Not only that, but they were able to express the vision and technology behind the terms and how these technologies will merge and evolve to change the way we live and work.
I look forward to utilizing the lessons learned with our customers and my co-workers throughout the rest of the year.