I had barely recovered from Interop in time for Networkers, and in the same city at that, Las Vegas. Thank goodness Networkers is on the move again, to Anahiem for 2007. For a moment, I thought they had stalled in Vegas.
This is THE Cisco event en-masse. The theme this year was “Be Visionary. Be Successful. Be Connected.” Choice words. Let’s see how Cisco fared.
Cisco CEO John Chambers was the main keynoter. I chuckled when I saw his two clip-on microphones and two transmitter/battery packs - Cisco redundancy, true to form.
John talked about stuff like "network as the platform" (note the subtle difference from network is the platform), the network moving from merely a transport to providing “life’s experiences”, going from transactions to collaboration to “telepresence” or real-time video to experience events in multiple formats. Different views of a baseball game were demoed as an example as well as a discussion of “life-sized” video conferencing.
The problem as I see it is that we do not have real broadband everywhere. Looking at some jerky replay of a Twin’s baseball game on a dinky cell phone screen courtesy of Verizon just doesn’t cut it. And hey, how about those so-called broadband connections at hotels that throttle upload speeds to, say, a paltry 256 Kbps? How’s a guy supposed to do life-sized two-way video conferencing with that? Or upload a gig worth of photos? But I digress.
Here are a couple of Chamber's quotables from the keynote: “Technology Advance = Division of Change”, “Networking is the most scalable price/performance platform since the microprocessor”, and “Layers 1-7 are collapsing - middleware is moving into the network”.
Access to the network on a wired connection (via our booth as a Cisco partner in the World of Solutions showcase) was provided via a nice fast 1 Gig drop, with Internet speeds approaching 4 Mbps for downloads. Not bad for a show network.
Wireless, on the other hand, stunk. One of the reasons was due to their dependence on a sub-contractor that already had a lock on the convention center. Based on analysis using OmniPeek, it looked like they were having problems with their DHCP server. The bandwidth was also inadequate to handle the volume. It may be sufficient for a shower ring curtain salesman convention (think "Trains, Planes, Automobiles"), but not network engineers!
Wireless access at the Las Vegas convention center was way better last year when Cisco provided the infrastructure. Fortunately, there were a large number of internet stations where you could walk up to a laptop, scan your badge, and have instant access to your Networkers personal information as well as the Internet.
This year’s event has grown to over 8,000 attendees, up some 50% from last year, most of whom are the geeky Cisco certified engineer types (not that I mind) or wannabes. Despite the size, the event was remarkably well organized and controlled, provided that you signed up for break-out sessions in advance as many were full. All meals were included, so imagine the logistics just for that.
I tried to keep my session selection vendor agnostic. I know that sounds funny for a Cisco event but I picked sessions to deepen my knowledge of wireless (the LWAPP stuff was fantastic), protocols (same old for the most part), attacks (some pretty cool new stuff like VLAN hopping), etc. Some of the presenters even apologized for the occasional slide that Cisco marketing slipped in. I tried to avoid sessions that weighed heavily on configuring Cisco with IOS and CatOS commands, etc. although it was great for those looking to get certified.
See you next year!