Cisco C Scape Conference - Field of Dreams

Based on the first day here, I'd say this is a really well done analyst conference. People are well looked after, and the WiFi access is pretty good. Cisco has mixed up the format and made things a bit more interactive and conversational, instead of straight up presentations.

The overall content has been fairly high level, but still some good takeaways. I only cover a small amount of Cisco's world, so I can't really comment on everything in detail.

I also got some photos and a video clip to post, but I don't have the tools with me to upload to my PC unfortunately. I'll get those up here when I get back on Thursday.

John Chambers gave the opening presentation, and he sure is fun to watch. He knows how to work the room, and roams all over, constantly moving, and never misses a beat. If you want to see for yourself, come back in a couple of days when I get my video clip posted.

If anyone can build a field of dreams - and sell you on the vision, it's Mr. Chambers. As you'll soon see, I mean this both literally and figuratively.

He talked about the big picture roadmap, and of course, it's a very exciting future, with Cisco being a key driver. There's definitely a global vision there, and he talked at length their collaborations and acquisitions in markets like India, China and Singapore. At the heart of this is a world where, as he says,the "network is the platform". The network is beyond being "plumbing" now, and a lot of the growth is going to come from the applications that are powered by the network. So, that's good news for companies like Iotum, whom you should be familiar with by now.

The future is also about the "human network", and Cisco is going to help us do more in ways we can't yet imagine. Well, he gave us a concrete example, and that's the literal Field of Dreams I was mentioning earlier. As you may know, Cisco is a key sponsor of the new ballpark that the Oakland As will be getting - built on land owned by Cisco. And surprise, surprise, the new ballpark will be called Cisco Field.

So, when this field is built, they will come, and not only that, they'll pay to come. You may think they're coming to watch baseball, but what we're really talking about here is a big sandbox where Cisco can showcase its technology, and turn the ballpark into a giant test lab and demo site. Given that we're in Silicon Valley - maybe not exactly in Oakland, but close enough - it's a fitting place to do this. I think it's pretty neat, and will be another reason to come out and see the As - unless you really abhor tech. They're going to do lots of cool things like Telepresence and digital signage that will actually enhance the experience of being at the ballpark, with all kinds of interactive features - just like Gamecube, or TV, but in real time and in real life. There's a vision there, and to me, it's all about making the network relevant and real in human terms.

I also have to note the Canadian angle here. Did anybody out ther pick up Mr. Chambers' passing reference to the Rogers Center in Toronto, where the Toronto Blue Jays play? I sure did, and he was about 10 feet away from me at the time, so I couldn't miss it. For those who don't know, Rogers is Canada's biggest cableco, and they own both the Jays and the stadium, now known as the Rogers Center. Well, Rogers is a pretty tech savvy company, and his reference to them was notable, for two reasons.

First, he's citing an example of another pro franchise that's owned by a media company that would/could follow the vision he's talking about, so, I guess, we should feel lucky in Toronto to have all this potential in front of our eyes. Secondly, am not sure if that was a subtle pitch to Mr. Rogers. I don't know how close Cisco's business relationship is with Rogers, but if Ted could just do a Telepresence call with John, surely he'd see the light, and turn the Rogers Center into Cisco Test Lab North, and really show us how to enjoy a ball game, not to mention create new revenue opportunities for the ball club and Mr. Rogers. Anybody listening?

That's the main message I want share here. By now, the mainstream media and bloggers have given the blow by blow details of the presentations and technology angles, so I won't rehash that here. I do want to echo the idea, though, that Cisco didn't have any big announcements or launches to talk about, so maybe that's why they devoted so much attention to the vision and roadmap. I'm not complaining.

Other highlights of note:

- Charlie Giancarlo gave another engaging overview of where tech is going, especially with a focus on the youth market. Not to mention a hilarious "home video" sendup of how kids are using tech - that was great. Lots of good messaging there about collaboration, community-based communication and covergence across all forms of media, especially video. Underlying all this is a theme that I'm quite attached to - consumer demand is now driving innovation and tech trends, and vendors can no longer work in a vacuum. They have to pay attention to how people experience communication and make a personal connection with their technology. I'll second that one.

- Mike Volpi gave a very strong presentation on the service provider market and really drove home the importance of QoS, esp in the context of Net Neutrality. That's a real can of worms, but he reiterated Cisco's position that network operators have a right to derive a fair return on their investment, and so long as all subscribers have access to basic connectivity, they should be able to charge a premium for premium quality service. He used the airline analogy to good effect - all passengers are treated equally on a basic level, but exec class fliers just get treated a little better - but they pay for that.

-The panel discussions were quite good as well, and Cisco brought out some high profile names to make it interesting. One session was on how the network will evolve over the next 3-5 years, and included Chris Anderson of Wired/Long Tail fame, and the CTO of MySpace. Another session focusing on media and entertainment had execs from Disney and NBC. These are not the kinds of people you'd normally expect to see at a Cisco conference, but in today's market, they fit right in. Things sure are changing quickly, and kudos to Cisco for keeping on the right side of the curve. Am sure we'll see more of the same next year, and I sure hope to be there to see it.

This post is getting pretty long, and I could go on quite a bit - but I need to stop and get back to the sessions. Plus, my battery is running low!

So, that's my take, but please come back later this week if you want to see the photos and video. Your comments are welcome!

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