As you may have already read, I broke my promise to write a post every night while at Cisco Live. Some of you may have laughed when you saw that I intended to write every night. I guess we will chalk that up to a first timer mistake. My original plan was to blog about things I learned and high points in the sessions I attended while at Cisco Live. I still plan to do that but the sessions were NOT the greatest take away of the event. Although the event as a whole and the sessions themselves were GREAT it was the people, by far, that made Cisco Live an event to remember. So, please be patient with this post. It is lengthy and I went against peer recommendation to break it up and just write one single post.
I met my buddy Brian at Dulles airport. We checked in and made it through TSA with ease. I grabbed a bite to eat and relaxed for awhile in the terminal since we had some time to burn. When our plane finally arrived we boarded quickly and began our journey. The flight to Vegas was great. I took the time to write a quick blog post about the week to come. I was also able to read through my latest copy of QST magazine and do some research on my newly purchased Icom 7300 HF radio. The flight from Virginia was roughly 4.5 hours. Upon arrival in Vegas we were picked up by our driver Mark. He drove us to Mandalay Bay and dropped us off so that we could check in. Check in was smooth and we soon retreated to our rooms. After settling in Brian and I met up with Rob Boardman and we hit the buffet. Rob is kind of a big deal. You may know about his now essential piece of wifi equipment, the Hub Holster. Please check out his site and pick up a set for yourself. You will thank him later. After a nice dinner Rob said he would show me around the Vegas strip since he had been there before and I hadn’t. We spent several hours walking and taking in the sites. Needless to say, there are a lot of life lessons roaming the strip. We finally retired to our rooms sometime after midnight.
I woke up close to noon on Sunday. I guess I needed to catch up on rest from the hike Rob took me on the previous night and the time difference. It felt good to just wake up on my own since there was nothing really planned for Sunday. I began my Sunday by studying for the “Conducting Cisco Unified Wireless Site Survey” exam which was scheduled for the following day. I spent 3-4 hours reviewing my quick reference guide before I decided I had enough. I decided to walk across the street and grab a burger from McDonalds.
While I was sitting there eating I realized that the Quarter Pounder I was eating was the most normal thing I had seen over the last day and a half in Las Vegas. I had some time to kill after I ate so I walked around the outside of Mandalay Bay. I touched base with Sam Clements to see when he was going to arrive so we could go get registered and pick up our badges. Soon there after we met up, registered, and picked up our badges. We walked over to Social Media Central where a bunch of the “wifi guys” were beginning to accumulate. This is where I met Blake Krone, Ryan Adzima, Vic Nunes, Richard McIntosh , Stew Goumans, and Wes Terry in person for the first time. We shook hands, introduced ourselves, and chatted for awhile. It was here where I was formally introduced to Pokemon Go.
Some of the fellas had been playing so we decided to give it a try too. You know what they say, “If you can’t beat em, join em,” or “You gotta catch em all,” or something like that. After a few minutes all of us that had gathered at Social Media Central were herded together for the opening “TweetUp” picture.
After our picture, us wifi guys decided to hit up Cantina for some Mexican food. After some good conversation, catching some more Pokemon, and eating some tacos, we decided to hit the strip for awhile before retiring to our rooms to get some rest for the first day of Cisco Live!
I awoke Monday morning still fairly tired. I still wasn’t used to the time difference but it didn’t make much of a difference because I was excited to begin my sessions. My first session was “Design and Deployment of Wireless LANs for real time Applications” with Jerome Henry. It was here were I was also first introduced to the one they say is from Saskatchewan, Brennan Martin. Jerome offered up a great session. He gave many real life examples of client TX power, designing cell sizes, etc.
Here is a link to Jerome’s presentation:
Design and Deployment of Wireless LANs for real time Applications
After the first session Rob, Brennan, and I made our way to the opening keynote with Chuck Robbins. Chuck did a great job of inspiring us to be awesome and buy more Cisco stuff. After the opening keynote we proceeded to the World of Solutions area for the first time. Upon entering World of Solutions your senses are immediately stimulated by the very large booths, bright lights, and piles and piles of swag. I would venture to say that I collected most of my swag on the first day. My newly acquired Cisco Live backpack was nearly full by the end of our visit that first day. I didn’t get to spend a great deal of time at WoS on the first day because I scheduled my exam for that afternoon. Feeling pretty good about my previous day’s review, I strolled down to the exam area to give the “Conducting Cisco Unified Wireless Site Survey” exam the good ol’ college try. The exam area was very well organized and the helper people were well prepared. They quickly got me registered and my photo taken. I was then ushered to my testing workstation where I began my exam. I felt great during the exam because I had realized that the previous day’s review was just what I had needed. I finished up my exam and realized my confidence had proven true. I passed the exam!
I met back up with the fellas and proceeded on to the second session of the day, “7 Ways to Fail as a Wireless Expert” with Steve Heinsius. Here is a link to his presentation:
7 Ways to Fail as a Wifi Expert
Steve spoke on wireless evolution, modulation techniques, RF physics, and AP placement to name a few things.
After a great session by Steve we made our way back to World of Solutions. We visited and met new friends at the NetScout booth where we drooled over the new AirCheck G2. If you haven’t heard of or read up on the Aircheck G2, do yourself a favor and do some research. The device is amazing. In the couple weeks since Cisco Live I have met with a rep and we are checking into purchasing one for ourselves. While at the booth we met the lovely Kendall Hershey who is the creative genius behind the tweets of the NetScout Twitter handle. We tried to convince Kendall that we were big time bloggers and that we would write all about the AirCheck G2 if we were given one to test. ***The jury is still out on whether or not it worked***. All in all, the whole gang at the NetScout booth was great! We continued our stroll around WoS collecting more and more swag. We stopped to take a break at one of the many small tables around the area where we found ourselves chatting with another lovely lady who we discovered was the voice of the Cisco Twitter handle, Laura Babbili.
We talked with her for awhile, discussing the ins and outs of being in charge of such a prolific social media medium. We may or may not have also tried to get her to specifically mention us from the Cisco Twitter feed. Either way, we still liked meeting Laura! We cruised around WoS for a little while longer before finally heading to Ri Ra Irish Pub for some more socializing. Overall, a great start to Cisco Live!
Tuesday’s sessions began with “Understanding RF Fundamentals and Radio Design for 802.11ac Wireless Networks” featuring Fred Niehaus. My new friend Rowell and I were in a live tweet war during the session.
Both of us trying to bring you the cutting edge information that Fred was speaking about. Fred is a legend in the wifi industry. It was great to hear his take on the technology and how it began and how far it has come. It turns out Fred is also a fellow amateur radio operator. Fred spoke about operating modes, the evolution of radio technology, micro vs macro cell, FRA, and the very cool new DART connector.
Here is a link to Fred’s presentation:
Understanding RF Fundamentals and Radio Design for 802.11ac Wireless Networks
Fred showed us very early versions of wireless access points. He demonstrated how durable they were built. He used an old Cisco Aironet 350 as an example by dumping water on it and throwing it across the room. He also had some early versions of the most recent Cisco 3800 series APs. At the end of the session I threw out a frivolous tweet to have an autographed Aironet 350.Needless to say, Fred delivered by answering me later in the evening.
After the session we met up with Ekahau’s very own Jerry Olla to talk Ekahau Site Survey. He wanted to meet with us and discuss how we were using ESS, what we liked, and what we thought might need attention. He also showed us some cool toys he had been playing with in his spare time. It is quite remarkable what Ekahau does for the wireless community. Not only do they make an OUTSTANDING product, but they also reach out to the community for feedback. This is what I think makes Ekahau so great! They are always willing to hear our voices and take our requests very seriously. They continuously strive to make the ESS experience better. They truly are an example of a customer first company that designs a product that makes their customer’s jobs easier. If you don’t use Ekahau currently, I strongly recommend reaching out to them to see what they can do to help you. They are first class…even if they make you eat their “candy.”
After meeting up with Jerry, the small group of us returned to World of Solutions to meet up with the Ekahau folks manning the booth.
We had heard that they were handing out “special swag” to people who were giving ESS testimonials so we needed to get in on that action. It was great to meet Jussi, Hannele, and Anastasia in person. My apologies (on Rob’s behalf) for nearly taking down your booth :). Here is Rob and Brennan’s first attempt that did not make the cut:
Here is the testimonial that did make the cut (thanks to Hannele for the great camera work):
Like I said in the video, I will not hold it against Jussi or Ekahau for the assault on my mouth that their Finnish candy did.
After Rob nearly destroyed Ekahau’s booth and we gave our interview, we headed towards the lunch area but were quickly side tracked be a huge line that was weaving in and out of the conference area. It turns out that Cisco Live was handing out a Raspberry Pi Zero to everyone during that time.
After we picked up our Pi Zero and grabbed some lunch we continued through the World of Solutions area. Our first stop was at the AccelTex booth were we visited our boy Brian Smith, or Smitty as he is more affectionately known.
I’ve known Smitty for a couple of years now and use his antennas pretty much exclusively. AccelTex definitely has an antenna product line worth checking into. They have an antenna solution for any scenario. After spending some time hanging out with the AccelTex folks we moved along back to the NetScout booth to visit with Kendall again. Rob and I were still desperately trying to get some units to evaluate.
We decided to take the next best thing and listen to NetScout give a preso. We enjoyed the time so much we graffitied their table. After the presentation by NetScout we moved over to visit the fine people at Solarwinds. We talked with them for awhile grabbed some of their swag and continued on our journey. Rob and I decided to go check out the Cisco store and see what kind of gear they had. After all, my nine year old son asked me to bring him home a Cisco shirt (made a Dad proud).
I was on a mission to meet someone who has been part of my Cisco journey since I decided to start down the Cisco road back in 2007. Jamie Shoup has been an awesome resource for Cisco Press information and has allowed me to review several Cisco Press books (I swear I will write some feedback one of these days). When I found out I was definitely going to Cisco Live this year, I knew I had to make it a point to meet Jamie. She was one of the first people I met along my Cisco journey several years ago. Meeting Jamie was truly one of the coolest parts of going to Cisco Live.
As you can probably already tell, the group of us wifi guys are heavy on the social media. It was pretty cool early in the week when we began to notice that we were making an impact with the Cisco Live social media people. We frequented their area several times throughout the week and appreciated them interacting with us on a regular basis. As you can see there were several people that had the responsibility for keeping the social media flowing for the @CiscoLive Twitter handle. They did an exceptional job keeping people apprised of events and interacting with people who were active on Twitter. Kudos to this group of people…Cisco, you should pay them more.
Another cool part of my Tuesday at Cisco Live was running into Marcus Barman. As many of you already know, I do not use Cisco wireless products at my day job…(yeah, I know…). I became known as #MeruMitch amongst my peers at Cisco Live. Yup! I am that guy. The Single Channel Architecture guy. You can hold the commentary because I have probably already heard it :). Anyway, I digress, Marcus and I have been interacting with one another on Twitter for a few years because he was, what seemed like, the only other guy in the world that used Meru (I know there are more but the SCA guys don’t seem to be very vocal\social). As I was walking through WoS I received a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and found Marcus who said, “Aren’t you that Meru guy?” Yeah, it has gotten that far. I am “that Meru guy,” aka #MeruMitch. It was nice to meet Marcus because for a period of time it seemed like he was one of my only allies. After a brief chat and a handshake we continued on with our day.
Every year at Cisco Live they put on a party just for CCIEs to attend. This year was no different. Although I had no plans on going because I am a lowly CCNA-W (aspiring CCNP SWITCH and Wireless), my good friend Sam asked me if I would like to use his +1. Of course I jumped at the opportunity to go rub elbows with the elite\famous network engineers. The party was located at the Hard Rock Hotel. When we arrived we grabbed some food and drinks and mingled with other engineers who we correspond with on social media. It was here that I had the pleasure of meeting Amy Arnold . Most of you know her as amyengineer .
She referred to me as “that funny guy” which made my evening.
After a little more socializing and food we decided to move on to the next event. Before we left the CCIE party we had to do one more thing. We had to get our picture taken in front of the green screen.
This photo was titled, “This is what happens when you hang out with Canadians.” The Canadians taught me many new things like what a Bunny Hug (look it up) is and the ins and outs of Canadian Football to name a couple.
We boarded the bus and headed back toward the strip where we continued on to the Cisco Canada party. Yes, you read that correctly, I had to act as if I said words like “eh” and “Saskatchewan.”
I was looking forward to sampling such local delicacies like Poutine, Molson, Canadian bacon, and Maple Syrup, but instead I found tacos, stuffed potato skins, and hot wings. Not what I expected, but satisfying nonetheless. And that was my Tuesday. After writing this I realized that Tuesday was my busiest day. I have to admit I didn’t think my days would fill up like they did. It was a pleasant surprise!
After my previous big day, Wednesday settled into a nice slower paced, but full day. I started my day by attending a session by Jim Florwick entitled “Improve Enterprise, WLAN Spectrum Quality with Cisco’s Advanced RF Capabilities.” Here is a link to his session presentation:
Improve Enterprise, WLAN Spectrum Quality with Cisco’s Advanced RF Capabilities
After Jim’s session we made another quick trip to World of Solutions. WoS was typically our hangout between sessions. We also took time to grab some lunch.
The second session of the day was another presentation by Jerome Henry. Jerome presented “CCNA Wireless, Master the 802.11 Protocols.” You can view his presentation here:
CCNA Wireless, Master the 802.11 Protocols
Although I have already achieved CCNA Wireless, I could not pass on the opportunity to listen to Jerome speak again. He gives a great presentation and you will learn something regardless of your status. I ended up having to leave the session early because I had to go pick up my autographed Aironet 350 from Fred Niehaus.
I was pretty excited to meet up with Fred and talk amateur radio with him for a couple of minutes and get the autographed AP. I arrived back where he was presenting his session just in time for it to let out. He was talking with some fellow attendees so we waited patiently. Brennan suggested that I go pick the Aironet 350 up off of the floor because Fred had dumped water on it and tossed it again. I found it leaned up against the front wall.
I finally got a chance to meet Fred. He saw me walking towards him with my Sharpie at the ready so he knew what I was after. We talked for a few minutes about amateur radio and had a nice eyeball QSO. You can tell Fred is one of those guys who you can just sit and listen to him talk and learn a ton of stuff.
On our way back from our last session of the day we again collected near the Social Media Central location. It was here where I had a chance to meet Stephen Foskett. He is one of the fellas behind Tech Field Day which is an event where vendors entertain delegates with presentations based on their products. Tech Field Day is divided into sub-categories of which mobility (wireless “stuff”) is one. The presentations usually spark great conversation. Stew introduced Rob, Brennan, and I to Mr. Foskett and we let him know our interest in becoming a delegate for Field Day. I know we all look forward to potentially being picked to be a delegate for Mobility Field Day.
Wednesday night was going to be a big night for us. We had the Customer Appreciation Event at T-Mobile Arena where Elle King and Maroon 5 were set to perform. After the CAE we were going to attend a live Whiskey and Wireless show.
Stew hooked us up with tickets for a suite which was loaded with food and drinks. We had a great view of the stage and enjoyed several songs by Elle King. We had to peace out early to get back in time for the Whiskey and Wireless show so we didn’t get to see Maroon 5. We hustled back to Mandalay Bay because we were running a little behind. We arrived a few minutes late…then it happened. Sam saw that we had arrived and he called out to me to come sit with them at the table where the recording was taking place.
I knew what was about to happen. It was time for the world to know. It has been mentioned a few times that I should speak on how Meru and it’s single channel architecture work for us. I have been nervous about this because I know the strong feelings of some about Meru.
I wasn’t nervous anymore so I poured myself some whiskey and hoped to not sound like an idiot. The podcast will be released soon and I am excited to see how I did. The unedited recorded stream was up for a day or so and I received some positive feedback on it so I think I did ok. Thanks to Sam and Ryan for having me on and for not being to hard on me. Special thanks go to Robert Bartz for the encouragement to speak on the topic. I stuck around to listen to the rest of the show and I am glad I did. Sam and Ryan do an excellent job of entertaining and talking wifi at the same time.
The last day of Cisco Live was upon us. I had two sessions remaining. The first session was “Advanced Wireless Troubleshooting” with Tim Smith. The presentation can be found here:
Advanced Wireless Troubleshooting
After the session Rob, Brennan, and I decided to hit up 5.11 Tactical to check out their gear. We grabbed an Uber and headed off strip. I wanted to check out their satchel offering, and an offering they did have.
Brennan and I both picked up a new satchel and then we met up with Rowell. Brennan and Rowell had a deal to make and the transaction happened in a fairly empty parking lot in Vegas…that is all.
After the deal was done we grabbed another Uber back to Mandalay to have some lunch. We decided to get some food from Nathan’s Hot Dog stand. We picked up our food and decided to eat back at Social Media Central. We tore into our meals and then it happened. Peter Jones, Mr. Catalyst 3850, himself passed by our table. He stopped to talk with some other people but all of us noticed who was standing right beside our table. I waited for Peter to end his conversation and then we introduced ourselves. Our small talk quickly escalated and Peter began showing us all kinds of cool things about
the IEEE Ethernet roadmap and explaining how the Unified Access Data Plan ASIC worked inside the Catalyst 3850. We were all hanging on to Peter’s every word. He was super interested in how we used the 3850 so we each gave examples of how we use the product. He was truly interested in how customers were using it. You could hear his passion for his work in the way he talked. He then reached into his backpack and pulled out a bag of loose UADP ASICS and gave us each one. Along with the autographed Aironet 350, this ASIC was one of the coolest souvenirs I got while at Cisco Live. Before I could even ask, Peter stopped me, pulled out his Sharpie, and signed the ASIC for me.
We talked for a good amount of time and before I knew it my next session was quickly approaching. I thought about it for a minute and decided to stay and hang out with Peter because it isn’t everyday you get to talk with a guy like him. The time that we got to spend with Peter talking about the 3850 was great but the coolest part was that he wanted to hang out with us at the closing keynote! We all had to go drop off our gear but agreed to meet back in the lobby 15 minutes later. We all walked together down to the closing keynote where Kevin Spacey was going to talk about story telling.
While we were waiting for the keynote to begin, they were showing pictures from social media from throughout the week. We made the big screen a few different times. Brennan had an extra special picture show up on the screen. I hope he will write about it in his blog post. Kevin Spacey did a great job entertaining us. He was very funny and just listening to him speak so well made me think back to Public Speaking class in college.
After the keynote, the Canadians, Rob, and I departed for Gordon Ramsay’s BurGR for our final dinner together. Our food was great and we took time to reflect on the week and just hang out. Our boy Steve had to leave early to go meet his wife so that just left the three of us to go meet up with the rest of the gang and have one last drink together. We concluded almost right where we started, at Ri Ra. We met back up with Peter and had a drink. It was cool to just sit and have a cold one with my new buddies. We were all very tired and decided to turn in at a fairly decent hour to get rest for our travel home the following day. We said our goodbyes, shook hands, gave bro hugs and retreated back to our rooms one last time.
I woke up around noon which felt great! My flight wasn’t until later in the day so I was afforded some time to sleep in. I got all my things packed and met Brian down in the lobby. We met up with our driver Mark again who delivered us to the airport. When we arrived we realized our flight had been delayed an hour which really wasn’t a big deal. It allowed us a little time to relax before boarding the plane. I took that time to write down all the events of the week in a small notepad so that I wouldn’t forget all of the highlights. I am glad I did because it would have been tough to remember all of it. We eventually boarded our plane and had an uneventful trip back to Virginia. We arrived back at Dulles late in the evening. Brian and I said our goodbyes and parted ways.
I went to Cisco Live looking forward to learning a ton. I assure you I was not disappointed. What I thought was going to transpire was drastically different than what actually happened. I was still able to gain a bunch of knowledge and attend great sessions by leaders in the industry, but the biggest thing I took away was new friendships and solidified existing ones. These friendships will last for my entire career and maybe longer. The wifi community has something special going on. It is really hard to explain until you experience it first hand. Everyone wants everyone else to be successful in their wireless endeavors even if you do it just a little different (#MeruMitch). The relationships in our community are very unique and I am glad to be a part of it. I am by no means a big player but I know I have certain areas where I can contribute for the betterment of the community. I only look forward to what further events will bring. Cisco Live was definitely a great way to begin what I hope will be many events to come. A special thanks to Sam for his help preparing me for Cisco Live and answering all the questions that I had. Also a special thanks to my new Canadian friends (Brennan, Stew, Steve) and Rob. You guys definitely helped make my week great. It goes without saying that I have a new appreciation for our Canuck neighbors to the north. Canada, I salute you! And last but not least, thank you to my management at Loudoun County Public Schools for affording me the opportunity to participate in an event that has been a dream of mine for many years.
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