Cisco Live: Connecting Thousands

Recently 14,000+ technology geeks invaded Las Vegas for Cisco Live! 2011 at Mandalay Bay Convention Center. For me this was my 4th year in a row attending Cisco Live! and the 2nd in a row at Vegas. If you have never attending a Cisco Live! event in person I strongly suggest that you try to budget for it next time around. Not only is this the best week to jump head first into all areas of Cisco’s product portfolio but it is also an opportunity to see how the products can come together to provide connectivity for devices and people.

For every Cisco Live! event that is held Cisco builds their own network to support the conference attendees, sponsors, and speakers. This gives Cisco the opportunity to get a large set of data points regarding their products performance in abusive conditions. Lately we have seen or heard about the BYOD (bring your own device) phenomenon that is sweeping across the enterprise network and there is no better place to see that than a large IT conference. One can safely assume that for all the 14,000+ in attendance each person will have at least 1 Wi-Fi connected device. Now let’s assume that a large chunk of those in attendance are like me and also have their laptop and a tablet with them, that’s a lot of connected devices to support! Whenever I talk with customers about wireless deployments the first thing I will say when we get to the point of turning on a network is that the client will cause the best wireless network to fail. We always push to make sure that the latest drivers are applied to the devices going to be used to ensure proper roaming and performance. But how do you manage that when you have no control over the devices being used? In the future we’ll use tools like Cisco NCS and ISE, for now we just hope it works!

Throughout the conference I was switching between my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook Pro all utilizing the wireless network, whether it be to connect with friends using the Cisco Live! event app (think Foursquare but just for attendees), downloading slides from, or using FaceTime with the family. The wireless network allowed all of us to stay connected while roaming across 191 Cisco CleanAir APs with at times over 200 clients connected to a single AP! I’ll admit Monday was a little rough on the RF with some people experience data rate shifting but most of the issues that arose were from the backend services: DHCP, DNS, and some routing issues. To quote a common phrase amongst us in the wireless business on Twitter “It’s not the wireless!”

By the end of the conference you truly saw the power of the need for a wireless network to be pervasive and complete, the upcoming generations expect to be always connected and have access to the resources they find useful to complete a task at hand, after all this is “the human network” and the only way to achieve that is to provide a means for communicating.

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