Cisco Live London 2013 – part 1


As promised in my preview post, I will be delivering some technical blogs relating to what I’ve picked up at the Cisco Live London 2013 event but a few people were kind enough to get in touch and tell me that they appreciated the summary posts that I did last year too so I thought I’d do a couple, this being the first. Nothing to do with being in a jolly mood, I just like to deliver!

Up until a couple of weeks ago, I wasn’t going to Cisco Live. At that point, the generous folks at NextiraOne who had been working with our parent company, offered us a ticket which I was only too happy to snap up. I wasn’t able to get my company to stump up the extra for the technical seminar on the Monday so arrived late on Monday night in readiness for Tuesday’s fun and games.


As regulars to Cisco Live will know, Tuesday morning is keynote time. This is available for viewing online if you want to see the full event but the key announcement seemed to be the Catalyst 3850. This is effectively a souped up 3750 with built in Wireless LAN controller. The stacking technology has been seriously improved, both in terms of physical connections and throughput. I was told that pricing is comparable to the 3750, before you take any WLC licensing in to account. A pair of these switches at the core of the office network that I upgraded last year with a 3750 stack and a 2504 WLC would have done the trick. What was a little strange was that the news of the 3850 was of no surprise to most attendees. Even Cisco’s website had been showing tantalizing clues in the run up to this week. It’s been harder recently to work out what is leaked information (e.g. ACE deprecation) and what is clever use of bloggers, social media and the web to get the rumour mill buzzing.

I had three technical sessions on Tuesday, a UCS deep dive, Remote Access using Clientless VPN and Advanced AnyConnect Deployment and Troubleshooting with ASA. All three were very good and have given me lots of food for thought. I am currently studying towards my CCNP Security so the VPN sessions were a natural fit as was the UCS deep dive in light of my company recently installing our first UCS domain. I plan on doing a post on each of these, perhaps with at least one having a demonstration video. Yikes…that could go horribly wrong for me!

After seeing Greg Ferro’s invitation on his website to meet at the Fox for network beers, I decided to wind him up a bit by having a T-shirt printed at one of the World of Solution vendor stalls. I think he’s finally changing his opinion on the platform…

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It was a good turn out and there was lots of nerdy discussion and everybody picked up a few more online followers. Had it been later in the week, I’m sure it could have degraded in to a drunken mess but three hours later and most people sensibly called it a day.


Wednesday’s schedule got turned completely on it’s head. I changed my first session for the one in the adjoining room based on a gut feeling. It was about data centre and virtualisation management and included a fair bit about various programmability options. Being a lightweight these days, I was still feeling a little sensitive from the night before but it was a good session.

The second keynote of the week falls on the Wednesday but I had decided that, after only paying lip service to the World of Solutions last year (or should I say pen, cup, mouse mat and yo-yo service), I would give every booth a quick visit at least and stop off to ask some searching questions of those who offered something that tipped my interest. That’s not to say that I didn’t pick up yet another bountiful booty as I went. Mia had sent me down with a mission to pick up a load of rubbish and bless her, that’s what she’ll be getting. She won’t want for a pen for the next 10 years and should we ever have a power cut, I have enough torches to make any IPv6 analogy relating to grains of sand seem insignificant.

The afternoon was thrown up in the air too. I was booked in for an advanced firewalls session but found most of the content was quite dry and was beyond what I needed to know. With that in mind, I cut my losses half way through and used the remaining time before my  final session down in the walk in labs, playing about with EEM and Tcl scripts. Looking through the lab ‘menu’, I’ll be popping back in tomorrow for a couple of other labs.

I had planned on going to an SDN for Service Providers session at 16:30, but after bumping in to a couple of people I had met the night before and attending a vendor demonstration, I ended up missing it, buying some books from the book store and calling it a day at just after 17:15.

The Scottish Cisco team always invite Scottish based company attendees to a night out during Cisco Live and after having a good laugh and some great food last year, I was keen to attend again. As many fellow engineers have stated before me, the social networking at Cisco Live is as important, if not more so, than the sessions. Whereas last year, I had to trek half way across London to get to the restaurant, this time I had less than a five minute walk from the company flat. Being Scottish and being on Cisco’s moolah, these guys know how to have a good time. The Scottish networking community is quite small so even in my relatively short time in the world of Cisco, I’ve met the Cisco guys on a number of occasions and they are all a good bunch, despite Paul Quinn turning up having borrowed one of Noel Edmond’s shirts.

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There were others from Scottish Government and Scottish Power too. Apologies to the others not mentioned. A good time was had by all and the food was ‘right tasty’.

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I got back to the flat in time for Match of the Day and headed to bed to try and get a good night’s sleep in advance of my last full day, and the Customer Appreciation Event tomorrow evening. Last year I opted out of this in favour of heading to the pub with Jody Lemoine (@ghostinthenet), Ron Fuller (@ccie5851), Jon Still (@xanthein) and J Metz(@drjmetz) and then later a curry with Jody, who is sorely missed this year. Tomorrow, I plan on hitting the party and consuming several thousand calories.

Till the next time.

Cisco Live London 2013 – preview


It’s that time of year again, Cisco Live London 2013. Last year, I was a virgin to Cisco Live but my cherry was popped about 30 minutes in to the technical seminar on the Monday. By the end of the week, I had learnt an incredible amount of useful information, not just technically focused but also about how the event works. Things like when is best to visit the World of Solutions, how the waiting lists for sessions work and how to survive on four hours sleep a night (this latter point, to be truthful, was learnt during the 1st six months of my daughter’s life).

Up until very recently, I thought I would be joining the sessions via Cisco Live 365 online and then out of nowhere came an offer of a ticket. I got the chance to create my account only six days before the event but, after an initial fear that I would have nothing but the dregs to choose from, was happy to see that I could fill my schedule with things of interest to me.

Last year’s agenda

In short, I will be avoiding the following topics that I hit heavily last year:

  • WAN optimization. Working for an ISP, we have many customers coming in to our core network via WAN links for either Internet access, Inter-site traffic or to access hosted clouds
  • IPv6. I needed to get up to speed on this quickly for my CCNP studies. I don’t think there is going to be much movement towards adoption in the UK over the next 12 months. If I’m proved wrong and, as a company, we decide to make a move to deploy in that time, last year’s sessions will hold me in good stead regardless and I’ll be able to hit the ground running
  • WiFi. I had a WiFi deployment project coming up at this time last year so I squeezed a few related sessions in which were most useful

I also attended some routing based labs and sessions. I found that once I came back from last year’s event, my motivation to complete my CCNP (I still had the ROUTE and TSHOOT exams left) went through the roof.

This year’s agenda

With all of that in mind, I’ve broken this year’s sessions in to the following broad topics:

  • Security. Those who read my blog know that I am currently studying towards my CCNP Security. I’m booked in to a number of related sessions that cover ASAs, IPS and advanced remote access configuration. I’ve no doubt I’ll get the same motivation to get cracking with my studies upon my return
  • Data centre. I sat in on a few related sessions last year, including a monster technical seminar on the Monday that blew my mind. At that time, it was more out of interest that I attended these events. This year, we have UCS in our data centre with Nexus on it’s way so it is imperative that I turn up the heat. There are even a couple of SDN sessions in there. I’ve had so much SDN thrown at me over the last 12-18 months from various sources that I am hoping to let some of this finally crystallise in to understanding!
  • Keynotes. I found last year’s quite interesting. I’ll be keen to see how Cisco are viewing the world right now and what their vision of the future is
  • Socialising. An extremely important aspect of any event such as this. Last year, I met some great people and learnt things outside of the sessions. I ate curry and drank beer and a good time was had by all. I fully expect to top this at 2013’s event


Watch this space for some related blog posts. Last year, I was like a giddy teenager who had stolen the keys to his dad’s sports car and was blogging every night in to the wee hours. This year, rather than talk about the event in summary daily posts, I plan on putting together some more technically focused posts, which may take longer but will hopefully be of value to some readers.

If you are going, give me a shout and we’ll meet up.

Till the next time.

Cisco Live London 2012 Day 2

Day 2 at Cisco Live London 2012 began with the immediate realisation that lots of attendees didn’t come to yesterday’s technical seminars. It was absolutely heaving with wall to wall nerds and geeks with the dweebs sitting in the corner.

The first session of the day was the week’s first keynote speech, given by the CTO of Cisco Padmasree Warrior. There was a big show with performers waving some light wand things about that generated different flags of the world on them and lots of loud music before an introduction by some bloke that I should probably know. Whilst Padmasree’s talk wasn’t anything revelational (by that I mean it was pretty much all known or expected), it was good to hear a fairly complete set of Cisco’s strategies reeled off in an hour session. There was a technical demonstration on the rather expensive looking kit below:

Demonstration Rig – a lot of kit

Apologies for the low quality pic but the lighting was being all funky. It is basically a UCS system sitting on top of an EMC VNX storage device with 6500 Catalyst switches and some ‘lower quality’ non-Cisco switches. It was a video conferencing demo but the cheese factor was turned up to 10 when the distinction was made between the Cisco super duper switches and the meh ones by showing a jittery video call being placed, the ethernet cable being taken out of the crap switch and in to a 3750 when the video was just perfect. I wonder how many other techie guys in the audience were like me and just wanted to console on to the crappy switch and check the config out!!

Another demonstration was carried out that was more impressive. The photo below doesn’t really do it justice but it was a video suite that acts like a greenscreen (but without being green, a more business like grey was acceptable) and allows you to put in an active backdrop e.g. perhaps a studio with a TV screen with active content such as a video or presentation). They then ‘teleported’ one of the female UK 5K atheletes on to the screen next to them from another video suite so they appeared side by side. I say you cant beat just picking up the bloody phone but I was impressed by the technology nonetheless. The ‘real people’ can be seen on the far right, missing the athelete who appears on the screen.

As if by magic

After the keynote speech, I then had a couple of hours to browse around the various vendor stalls as I had cancelled a session late last night on an introduction to UCS which I felt was a duplicate of what I had learned in yesterday’s technical seminar. I will cover the entire ‘World of Solutions’ floor this week but today, there were two stalls that I thought I would talk to you about, and unfortunately do not have any photos so you will need to go to their websites for more information.

The first was a company called SevOne, ( who provide a network performance management tool in the form of pretty much an all in one appliance, each model sized for a certain number of objects (ports\interfaces etc.). You pick the polling period and the first 30 days of data are stored (along with the bastardised Gentoo distro OS) on fast SSD drives. Data from 30 days to 12 months are stored on normal spinning disks but the key difference from, say Solarwinds Orion, which I am more familiar with, is the device does not roll up any of the data, so in 10 months time, you can view the data as it was polled, not a hourly summary for example. Another good selling point was that buying the device buys you a high level of support too so if you need to update the software, they will do it remotely for you, they will help keep your database healthy etc. Finally, the fact that it has Netflow capabilities built in meant that you can use it out of the box. A nice touch to the one on one demo I got was a zoom in on a particular network spike, a button click brought up the Netflow data and the culprit flow was visible immediately. Quite a nice all in one solution from my first glance.

The second stall that I was impressed by were selling smartboards. I believe they may have been called Smartboard but my memory is failing me! The simplicity at which these things operate was what first occured to me. They were very intuitive and the guys hosting the booth knew it as they stood back and just let people play about with them. The collaboration possibilities stood out a mile as you can link multiple smartboards across physical locations for a true brain storming session. There is an iPad app that would allow users of those devices to consume the content as well as add to it. The devices are Powerpoint aware meaning you can open a presentation, add scribbles and notes etc and save the presentation in it’s amended state.

It was actually at this stall when the nice Canadian chap (another attendee) I had been speaking to looked at my name badge, then at his phone and said “are you Vegaskid?”. It turned out it was @ghostinthenet, Jody Lemoine. It seemed slightly surreal to me to have been ousted in such a manner, especially as I had replied to a tweet of his not more than an hour earlier. It’s always nice to put a face to a name and we had lunch and a good chat. There was mention of net beers which I believe is a tradition at such events so looking forward to a couple of those!

I won’t dwell on these points too much but a couple of disappointments today were the WiFi and the fact that one of my sessions on fast routing convergence was over subscribed. The WiFi issue ran on all day but the event organisers are reporting that it should all be fixed for tomorrow so fingers crossed. The over subscription issue was a little annoying, but thankfully it wasnt on my ‘must go to’ session list so I didnt let it annoy me too much.

Later on, I also bumped in to Ron Fuller (@ccie5851) at the Nexus stand and introduced myself. It’s quite interesting how keen and good network engineers can be at the other kind of networking. We are quite the social animal!

I had a two hour session in the afternoon based on enterprise WLANs, which whilst not deep dive enough for me, considering my recently acquired project to implement a two controller, eight AP solution, it gave me enough to get on with it with a little more confidence. Below is a picture of the presenter who was very comfortable with his subject matter.

Enterprise WLAN presenter
Sujit Ghosh – WiFi guru

That took me to 17:45, when the drinkypoos started. So what did I do? I grabbed a beer and a glass of wine and headed over to the walk in labs and decided to take on the CCIE OSPF lab. Not for the first time today, I found myself in a surreal situation with people getting merry all around me and these guys playing music just outside the lab area. Whilst good fun, I did find their musical talents a little stilted….oh dear, back to the day job Matt!

Words cannot describe…

I realised about two questions from the end of my lab that I hadnt rang my wife and daughter to see how they were so did so before my iPhone battery gave up the ghost. Having got about 75% of the way through the topic of OSPF for my ROUTE exam, I found the CCIE lab at quite a good level to keep me on my toes. I think I’ll maybe pop in for another one before the week is out.

Finally, the car attempting to break the world land speed record (at 1000mph apparently) was on display. Wouldn’t want to reverse park it!

OK, it’s now already Wednesday and I am goosed so that’s it for now.

Till the next time…