I spent most of last week with a great team of fellow networking and security engineers in a windowless room listening to good, bad and plain boring presentations from (mostly) Cisco presenters describing new technologies and solutions – the yearly Tech Field Day Extra @ Cisco Live Europe event.
This year’s hit rate (the percentage of good presentations) was about 50% and these are the ones I found worth watching (in chronological order):
Tony Carmichael and Omar Ontiveros did a great job explaining how you can automate Meraki deployments. They were also extremely straightforward documenting what has and has not been implemented yet and what they plan to do in the near future.
Roland Acra did a nice introduction to data center presentations explaining Cisco’s Data Center vision and strategy.
Andy Sholomon did the usual great job presenting new Cisco ACI features, this time focusing on Cloud APIC configuring AWS infrastructure.
Hyperflex presentation wasn’t too bad, although it contained some claims that tempted me to call bullshit (like 30% compression improvement with hardware acceleration). Max Mortillaro (who knows way more than I do about storage and HCI) wasn’t exactly impressed.
Mike Herbert and Victor Moreno did a nice job explaining how they’re trying to integrate APIC and DNA Center – it’s just that I don’t believe in humongous pile of layers of abstraction with too many moving parts. Leaky abstractions will inevitably bite you.
Forward Networks had by far the best presentation of the whole week. Focused, technical, honest and straightforward.
Peter Jones and Dave Zacks did another interesting talk on campus switching ASICs. It’s always nice to hear some interesting silicon details.
The rest of the presentations were not as much bad as they were boring – and it’s really a shame as all presenters were good and knowledgeable. It was just that it usually took a bunch of pointed questions to wake them from marketing-induced stupor… but unfortunately nobody had the guts to say: “Let’s dump this boring slide deck and talk about interesting stuff I’m passionate about.”
I know Tom and Ben do a great job briefing the presenting vendors (unfortunately with mixed results because sometimes the message gets lost in transit or people simply refuse to listen), and I doubt there’s anything more they can do, but just in case someone might listen to yet another opinion: the extra in Tech Field Day title is there for a reason. Reshuffling your vanilla marketing slide deck or your introductory Cisco Live breakout session is not going to cut it. Feel free to point people who need that level of material to where they can find it (particularly considering we can watch all Cisco Live sessions online), but please don’t bore us with it – we came to the event to hear the stuff we can’t get anywhere else.
And finally: demos are great, but if you feel the urge to explain to us that your GUI allows you to add users, groups and access rights there’s something wrong either with your demo or your product.