Network Brouhaha

Networking, Cloud, Automation, Infrastructure, Containers and General Geekery

CLUS 2018 recap

For the first time in seven years, I had the opportunity to travel to Cisco Live 2018 in Orlando, FL. In this belated blog post, I’ve got a few thoughts, a few tips, and a bit of geeking out.

There’s a thrill to registering for Cisco Live: scheduling sessions, RSVPing to party invites, planning to meet friends, and booking flights. The most important part, by far, is creating a reasonable schedule. CLUS is a marathon, not a sprint, and you have to be careful to not overburden yourself. I was at packed 8:00am sessions every day but Thursday, and up fairly late most nights. There is simply too much to do. Below is a list of sessions I attended, to get an idea of my week.

Here is the approach I took to building my schedule:

  • I went through the course catalog, filtering by technology, and marked every interesting course as a favorite. All favorites are saved, so you can go back and watch recordings for sessions you missed once they’re posted.
  • I noted 5-6 “must attend” sessions, and registered for them as soon as registration opened.
  • Filtering by time slot and favorite sessions, I filled up the rest of my schedule. I didn’t worry about leaving time for lunch at this stage.
  • After some internal deliberation, I dropped between 1/3rd and 1/4th of the courses I’d registered for. This provided time to eat, rest, socialize, and attend some of the “meatspace only” opportunities (DevNet, Walk-in Self Paced Labs, Tweetups etc.)

I knew I’d made good picks when I walked into my first session and sat down behind Terry Slattery and Wendell Odom. My favorite session was Troubleshooting OSPF, by Nick Russo. The room was packed, and Nick put on a master class. If you missed it, do yourself a favor and watch it now. You don’t need to be an OSPF guru to keep up, but I’m willing to bet that even the most seasoned CCIE R&S will gain something from this session. Overall the session content across the board was top notch, with only a couple sessions that I found mildly disappointing at worst.

Almost every session recording is posted online, so there is no reason to have Cisco Live session FOMO. Most of us go to CLUS to learn the latest and greatest in our chosen technology stacks, but I find far greater value in the human connections I formed. I’m an extrovert, so being surrounded by a throng of people gives me energy. As I walked down the halls I would look around and think to myself, “Yes, these are my people!”

I made a concerted effort to connect with as many online friends and personal inspirations as I could. Here’s a incomplete list of folks I was either able to meet or learn from: Russ White, Jordan Martin, Eyvonne Sharp, Terry Slattery (plus many other NetCraftsmen I sat in sessions with), Wendell Odom, Scott Morris, Lukas Krattiger, Hank Preston, Jason Edelman, Nick Russo, Daniel Dibb, Dmitry Figol, Katherine McNamara, Denise Fishburne, Humphrey Cheung, Quentin Demmon and Tony Efantis, not to mention all the fine folks I met from RouterGods. This is a prolific group of networkers. If you want to improve yourself, what better way is there than learning from people like this? I’m also a believer in spreading gratitude, so I made sure to personally thank folks that had helped me grow technically and professionally. Every single person I thanked seemed genuinely appreciative to hear it. There’s never any harm in spreading the love!

My only regret is that I did not hunt down Drew Conry-Murray, as I am an avid Packet Pushers listener and I love The Network Break. Hopefully I can remedy this next year!

I have to give special attention to the DevNet Zone, and the folks that put it all together. This area was filled with some of the best content of the conference. Network Automation, Programming, APIs and the future of Networking in general was on full display. There were hands-on labs and experts willing to whiteboard anything you wanted to discuss. Watching Wendell Odom geek out like the rest of us as Hank Preston presented on NetDevOps was a particularly cool moment.

You’ll notice from the list of sessions above that I only attended one keynote. There were DevNet sessions that I wanted to attend instead, and the keynotes are posted online, so it wasn’t a tough decision. The closing keynote, featuring Amy Webb and Dr. Michio Kaku is a different story. By Thursday I was running on fumes, so I took the day easy. About an hour before the closing keynote, I made my way towards the entrance and saw a huge line had already formed. I had no interest in standing for an hour, so I found an empty seat nearby and waited for the doors to open. For some reason they didn’t open the doors where folks had queued - they opened the doors directly behind the seat I was sitting in. I was surprised and felt bad for the people that had been waiting in line, but I’m no dummy. I grabbed my stuff, walked in, and got seated in the front row almost directly in front of the stage. Talk about good luck! To top it off, as I was sitting there, one of my tweets was flashed up on the uber-displays. It was an amazing and surreal way to end CLUS. Both Amy and Michio gave great keynotes to wrap up CLUS.

Closing thoughts and tips

I had a great time at Cisco Live 2018. It was so fulfilling to meet and hang out with everyone, learn new things, explore the DevNet Zone/World of Solutions, and attend several great parties. I will admit to feeling somewhat overwhelmed the whole time I was there. There is something bright and shiny to grab your attention at every turn. Keeping up with twitter is a job within itself, and the Cisco Social Media team really deserves kudos for the great job they do during CLUS. However, I cannot disagree with anything Tom Hollingsworth wrote in his Cisco Live Recap. CLUS is a great event, but there will always be ways to improve and provide better value. In the end, like most things, you will get out of it what you put into it.

Here’s a few random tips to wrap up this post

  • Take breaks - you will need time to decompress.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Come prepared to learn a lot, and keep a notebook handy. You may find yourself wanting to take notes when least expected.
  • Put yourself out there. Go out of your way to introduce yourself to peers in sessions, during meals, and at parties. Bring business cards.
  • If you’re social, hit the Tweetups. This is a great place to meet people and network.
  • Go easy at the parties. You’ll do yourself no favors by trying to make it through the next day hungover.