Cisco Live Europe – Day 2

Ok, the day 2 here has been a slightly better one for me than the 1st, and I aim to provide a brief summary of my day below.

I attended the morning keynote presentation which was about a new video conferencing and collaborating platform Cisco has introduced alongside WebEx called Project Squared which looked pretty awesome and I can see myself using this to do video conferences with my customers. you can sign up free here.

I had 2 events I had specifically planned to attend on day 2 both of which I managed to do. First one was a 1-on-1 meeting with a Cisco engineer to have a pure techie discussion without marketing BS about ACI. It was Bradley Wong from the Insieme Network business unit (ACI) I met up with and the meeting was very useful for me to understand the underlying architecture of ACI without having to put up with marketing / presales buzzwords. We also discussed about key features on the roadmap and the below key additions (due out soon apparently) would be worth mentioning I think.

  • Stateful packet inspection with the AVS (Appliance virtual switch) – AVS is a kernel module that sits on the hypervisor, similar to a nexus 1000v or a VMware distributed switch (or a logical switch if you are talking VMware NSX). One thing NSX has today, (marketing buzzword is “Micro Segmentation”) is the ability to do packet inspection at vmnic driver level and any packets that are bloked based on firewall rules are blocked at the vmnic driver level (packet never enters the virtual wire). This is achieved through the distributed firewall, which effectively relies on a special kernel module, which is a VIB added to the ESXi kernel during the host preparation stage. This is not something available today on ACI but with the above update due soon, that is going to be available within ACI also apparently.

Another thing we discussed was the co-existence of Cisco ACI along with VMware NSX (which I think would be a very common use case going forward and would be quite complementary of each other). While this was something Cisco internally anticipated too, not much testing had been done internally early on. However they are now testing this deployment internally and soon, we should start seeing more contents from Cisco, such as validated design guides, best practise guidance…etc. This should be really cool as I personally see places in the enterprise for both.

After the meeting with Bradley, I spent some time at the Cisco DevZone in the north wing and came across some really, really cool development projects, some of which are in the making within Cisco, and some 3rd party startups using Cisco development tools. Given below are couple of the ones I really liked

  • Relayr – Relayr is a small startup that has manufactured this awesome piece of circuit boards called a Wunderbar as a practical way of creating IOT (Internet of Things). It includes 2 modules, a master module and 6 independent mini modules (A tiny Light/Color/Proximity censor, Accelerometer/Gyroscope, Bridge/Grove censor, Sound censor, IR transmitter and a temperature/Humidity censor) each with an integrated Bluetooth chip and is powered by a small replaceable battery. The master module as a Bluetooth to WIFI bridge. You can buy this online and create an app on any supported API (Android, Windows, IOS…etc) using the free SDK (guidance available on their site) to capture the readings off of those mini units and do something with them or event post them on to the cloud via the master module. For example, there was another startup who had made a baby monitor using these circuit boards with an App on your phone to monitor readings which was awesome. Innovation is aplenty with these guys…. (I might even buy a one and try my own little project)

See the master board and mini board below (all come attached together which you can easily snap off,



  •  VIRL (Virtual Internet Routing Lab) – Again, a pretty awesome virtual network design & simulation platform that include VM’s running Cisco’s core network operating systems. You can use this platform to design, model and simulate a complete enterprise network, consisting of virtual version of the same physical Cisco networking kit such as routers that run the same code base. A potentially good dev and test platform. Apparently this could even be plugged in to your actual network and say, you had a VMware virtual network infrastructure with virtual switches, that it can discover those too to allow you to map and validate your entire network. Sounds pretty useful to the Networking folks (not so much for me being a Server, Storage & a Virtualisation guy). However the coolest part at Cisco live was that they had a modelled network on VIRL hooked up to a virtual reality system where you can, virtually enter the network and inspect each and every device (even interrogate them for information such as traceroute, ifconfig…etc. This required you to put these huge pair of goggles on and control your virtual walk using an Xbox controller but it was great fun, being able to walk from one router to another router in this virtual world and be able to run commands locally at each device. Fun aside though, I can see the real potential use of VIRL platform in the enterprise (doesn’t ship with the virtual reality bit of course :-))

After the DevZone experience, I attended my last planned session of the day which was a lecture by Ramses Smeyers from the Cisco Technical services center about Hypervisor Networking – Best practise for Interconnecting with Cisco switches. This was more of a refresher for me as I’ve done quite of integrating VMware systems with Cisco switches most my life, but a useful refresher nevertheless and it also covered other Hypervisors such as Hyper-V and Xen.

Al in all, it was a good day and having seen some interesting tech & Internet Of Things concepts being pioneered by Cisco on show, it was obvious that innovation is thriving at Cisco which is very good to see.



My first Cisco Live experience – Cisco Live 2015 Europe – Day 1

So, I’ve had the chance to attend Cisco Live for the first time this year and as a result, I’m now in Milan-Italy, attending the Cisco live Europe edition  during this week. Cisco live is an enterprise gathering for all Cisco enthusiastic, from across the Europe, be that you are a Cisco customer, partner, distributor…etc.

I’m usually a regular attendee at similar events from VMware (VMworld) and NetApp (Insight), and Cisco being another key vendor I often work with, when I was asked to attend Cisco Live this year, I was quite excited and was looking forward to a similar experience to that of  VMworld and NetApp Insight. I arrived at the venue for the first time on Monday evening through the Linate airport (closest airport to the venue in Milan) and unfortunately, there were no coach transportation from the airport to the venue provided by Cisco, unlike both VMworld or NetApp Insight. Once you arrive at the venue, you collect your badge from the registration desk which you need throughout the event for gaining access to the venue and everything else inside. Upon collecting your badge, you then collect a little back pack from the gift desk which seems to be customery for all such events (same with VMworld and Insight) which is semi filled with marketing leaflets (yeah…. mine usually go straight out of the bag to the bin 🙂 )

So Tuesday being my first full day at the venue, first event of the day was a general, opening key note speech from Carlos Dominguez and Jeremy Bevan from Cisco. I didn’t really sit through all of their speech as usually these key notes tend to have a bit of a marketing / salesy tone to them. I did listen in to some parts though and the general message seems to be Internet of things and software defined, application centric networking which is nothing new.

My first formal session was not due till 2:15 so I took the opportunity to browse around the World of Solutions  exhibition floor where Cisco and 3rd party Cisco partners were showcasing their products.  I’ve obviously been around the whole floor to see who’s out there with a view to go look at every solution stand in more detail during the course of the event, a notable absentee was Microsoft, which was suprising given that Cisco and Microsoft seem to have gotten a lot closer lately with their work together on areas such as FlexPod for Hyper-V…etc. There was a small (ish) EMC stand also highlighting the joint VCE alliance they have with Cisco and VMware and a NetApp stand highlighting their joint Flexpod solution which were probably the 2 key stands along with, Hitachi, Citrix and F5. There were lots of different Cisco stands, presumably from each different business unit within Cisco showcasing their technology offering which was good. however I was a little disappointed with the number of partner stands available as there weren’t many, at least not as many as I’ve seen at VMworld or NetApp Insight which was suprising. I expected the Cisco partner echosystem to be a lot bigger, especially with Cisco’s entry in to Unified Computing and SDN but most of the partner stands available were focused on traditional LAN, WAN and Switching products of Cisco and adding value around those products. I would have liked to have seen few more partner oferrings in the SDN (software Defined Networking-ACI) side of things such as Palo Alto networks and UCS (Unified Computing Systems) side of things (which, in all honesty are the areas of Cisco I am interested in rather than old school LAN, WAN, Switching and routing products)…. So overall, to me, it was little disspointing.

However, out  of the few 3rd party vendor solution stands I have explored closely so far, I did find this really interesting solution from Stratoscale, which I thought was a very interesting technology in what is supposed to be a true hyper-Converged Infrastructure software offering. (See my article about them here for more info)

As I had few hours to kill before my next session, I decided to attend the Cisco DevNet zone area and do some self phased labs. I had a go at one of the labs on REST API which was good. I’d encourage you to have a look at them online, they are kind of similar to VMware hands on labs if you are in to Development or DevOps side of things involving Cisco kit.

I attended the “Introduction to Application Centric Infrastructure” session (BRKAPP-9000) in the afternoon which was interesting and had quite a lot of content packed to a 2 hour session to give a good overview of the Cisco’s own SDN offering – ACI. I’m not going to mentioned everything mentioned in that lecture here, but one of the key messages was that ACI is a very good solution to co-exist with VMware NSX, contrary to popular belief that Cisco ACI and VMware NSX are always competing technologies, both technologies complement one another and its very much copete NOT compete which is good to hear. The content was very technical and not salesy or markettingy at all which was very good and I hope the other technical sessions I’ve planned to attend during the course of the next few are also as good.

After the ACI session, I headed straight back to the hotel (so I could put this article up) but there was a Welcome reception – a food and drinks filled gathering at the World of Solutions exhibition floor which I decided to take a rain check on.

All in all, day 1 has been a bit of a mixed day with the event so far as not being well organised as compared to VMworld or NetApp insight, not as well attended as those two events, lacked sufficient sessions or 3rd party solutions focused on areas outside of traditional LAN, WAN, Switching and Routing (which may not be an issue for the old school, traditional networking folks), but on the positive side, there were some interesting partner solutions on display along with good, technical lectures from Cisco engineers to attend.

Hopefully day 2 tomorrow would be more interesting…!!