I was lucky enough to attend this year’s Cisco Live in Barcelona with my colleagues Kath (EN Manager) and Tony (EN Principal Consultant). Over the four days that we were there, we squeezed in loads of different sessions including technical labs, products updates and client stories, I’ve written a short blog to give an overview of the highlights.
Day 1 – 27 January 2020
Capture the Flag technical labs
We arrived on Monday morning and Kath and I quickly got stuck into the Capture the Flag competition. These games simulated real life scenarios and practical use cases of Cisco DNA and Meraki technologies, where we assumed the role of a network administrator responsible for making changes to a live system all whilst competing against other players. Kath got a bit hooked and was still quite high on the leader board when we left for the day.
Circular economy and social impact
This talk explained how Cisco were embracing circular economy practices to reduce the amount of materials they used, and CO2 emitted.
Some of the approaches discussed included:
- Making products grounded in circular design – ensuring that the whole life of the product is considered during the design phase.
- Build products at zero waste factories.
- Running a world class returns programme, with a commitment to making 100% of Cisco products returnable.
The City of Copenhagen was highlighted as they’ve been using Cisco technology to meet their ambitious target of becoming carbon neutral by 2025.
This talk demonstrated several interesting use cases, including tracking workspace utilisation and eliminating time wasted looking for a free meeting room. Block clients intu and Westfield were both highlighted as key users who have benefited from the Cisco DNA spaces solution.
In line with Cisco’s new CX programme we were shown the new customer and partner dashboards. These dashboards provide insight into technology adoption, technical issues and product lifecycle information, making it easier for partners and customers to make sure they get the most from their investment in Cisco technology. These new dashboards are currently in limited BETA testing but should be released to ‘Early Field Trials’ in the coming months.
Kath and I both had a go on some cool technology which uses Cisco and Amazon Web Services AI to estimate how someone is feeling. It was able to guess with reasonable accuracy who we were and what we were feeling. For those that can’t quite make it out in the picture Kath was ‘Exhausted but calm, Pushing it but chilled’ Exhausted and it’s only day 1, oh dear!
Day 2 – 28 January 2020
I spent the morning with some like-minded individuals learning how Cisco approach designing solutions to their customer problems. The example they gave was a retailer, who were looking to get better insights into shopper experience and store performance. We split into groups and worked out what individual stakeholders (business leaders, store managers, CIO and customers) would care about and how they might impact the overall business goals, before evaluating what products or services could create gain or relieve pain for the business. This approach was very much in line with the way Block approach our client engagements – looking beyond the technology to find solutions that deliver true value to users, organisations and their clients.
Cisco Live used Mazemap to provide real time location services and the really neat ‘find my friends’ solution. As we were all attending different talks, we used the map to meet up afterwards and it worked perfectly, very impressed! Block was recently introduced to Mazemap when looking to develop a location analytics solution for one of our NHS clients. We can see this technology having a lot of use cases in healthcare, not just for patients and visitors, but for staff and contractors who are new to the site. Having spent a lot of time working in hospitals ourselves, it is often up to another member of staff to direct new starters to where they need to go, which can take up quite a lot of time.
This talk highlighted one of the key advantages of Cisco DNA Centre, Assurance, making troubleshooting proactive rather than reactive. We can now see the exact reasons a client was having a problem, whether it was the end device, the wireless coverage or the physical network infrastructure. Block are already leveraging Assurance for our clients and this session was an opportunity to get face to face with experts and dive into some advanced and lesser known features.
Day 3 – 29 January 2020
In pursuit of that elusive team photo, we had a walk through the Cisco World of Solutions and got ourselves some pictures in front of a huge Cisco logo. We also took some time to go under the Cisco Rain Wall. This was an immersive experience which is a visual representation of Cisco’s commitment to positively impact 1 billion lives by 2025.
Cisco Catalyst 9800 Wireless
We all spent a lot of time getting more details about the new Cisco Catalyst 9800 controllers. We’re currently deploying these for many of our clients and we got some useful tips and tricks from Cisco experts throughout the day. As more and more of our clients adopt Cisco SD-Access, we need to be considering how to layer wireless services on top of it, the benefits of doing so are massive. By having Cisco SD-Access wired and wireless, clients benefit from a single security policy regardless of how they access the network, making it easy to pick up their devices and move freely around their organisation. In addition to its SD-Access capabilities, the Catalyst 9800 makes wireless an ‘always-on’ technology, with non-disruptive software upgrades and new levels of analytics and visibility.
Cisco DNA Centre Advanced Features
This session highlighted several new and upcoming features of Cisco DNA Centre, designed to make the lives of our clients easier. One interesting feature is the use of Machine Reasoning to identify when a security vulnerability exists in a managed network device, and crucially whether the device is at risk from the vulnerability. Traditionally we would get a generic notification that software may be vulnerable under certain circumstances, and it was left up to us to work out whether the device was impacted or not.
Day 4 – 30 January 2020
We didn’t get a full day on site but managed to cram some extra information into our minds!
SD-Access: Lessons Learned
During this breakout session, the Cisco Customer Experience team shared some insights they had gathered from deploying SD-Access. While most of the people in the room were new to the technology, there was still some interesting information I gathered from it that applies to some of our own projects. As we’ve learned from our own experiences, there is a balance to find between end user experience, network stability and bleeding edge features, something I believe Block does well already through our consultative approach to network transformation!
Kath and I took a bit of respite, attending a talk on how to optimise wellbeing and performance. Unfortunately for me, the advice was to drink less coffee and get more sleep! This was an interesting session though and certainly got us reflecting on how to strike the right balance in our lives.
As I mentioned at the beginning of the week, social impact was a big focus for Cisco Live. Given the scale of the conference, we were all really impressed with Cisco’s commitment to recycling and reuse. They even had a facility where we could recycle our badges at the end of the week.