Now that I’ve had a chance to settle in after five weeks on the road, I wanted to take a moment to write about our visit to Interop in Las Vegas this year.  While SolarWinds always exhibits at Cisco Live including a couple of international editions, and a host of other events, we haven’t been to Interop since 2007.  In a way it’s an anniversary of sorts for me; my first time staffing our booth was at Interop 2007.
It WasSmaller but Better Than 2007
Interop was a bit smaller than during our previous visit, but the majority of the absent vendors weren’t really missed, putting the focus back on real admins solving issues. After working CeBIT this spring, if I never have to walk past another row of 10x10s featuring exactly the same looking WICs from vendors I’ve never heard of I’ll be happy.  With many of the single issue solution vendors gone, most attending were companies like SolarWinds that know what they’re doing, have been around for a while and solve real problems without vaporware.  There were a few startups looking to snag for their first whale, but by in large it was a great environment for attendees to take their time and engage vendors in low pressure conversations about.. well Geek stuff. Like how products really work not the pretty graphics on the booth.

Another outstanding feature of the show was the network.  I’ll put this in bold because it’s earned.  The Interop Network Team (InteropNet) delivered the greatest, most stable and highest performing network of any tradeshow I’ve ever connected the booth to.  60 down, 12 up with <12 latency and almost no jitter.  DHCP terminated into Fe0/0 on my trusty 2800- done and done.  I don’t understand why everywhere else exhibitors have to pay $1900 for ADSL speeds. That it’s staffed largely by volunteers is all the more amazing.  Great job guys!

Mandalay Bay – Most Improved Hotel Internet

Once upon a time the casinos did everything they could to keep you inside, including of rumors of cell phone interference and certainly poor WiFi.  Apparently the word is out that BYOD isn’t just for enterprises, and that humans prefer to hang out where they have good internet.  For my last six shows there, Mandalay Bay has been a black hole of connectivity, especially for geek events when we arrive in masse to pound the APs.  This year was completely different.

BYOD rule #1- it has to be stupid easy to use.  For example if you own a huge structure hundreds or thousands of feet from other networks, you don’t need passwords on your SSIDs.  Great improvement there.  Also, use your controllers and thin clients to shutdown rouge networks.  My Dell, Air and phone were all online and happy in moments. BYOD rule #2- Create an edge where the network is available but controlled access as long as it’s still pretty easy to use.  In all the areas outside the rooms including the casinos floor they now offer free 3m/1m with your name and room number.  Smarter, they also upsell to even faster speeds.  Provide visitors with bandwidth or we go elsewhere.  They got the message.

NSX Was (REDACTED), More from Cisco Live

I’m a huge ESX fan and love the idea of a combined console that virtualizes everything.  I’ll talk about this more in another column because it’s really important, but want to chat more at Cisco Live and balance that discussion with Cisco ACI.  I’m not saying I was unimpressed with the technology for SMBs, but more research is needed before prognostication about the future of the non-huge datacenter.
The IT Beast Is Dead Long Live the IT Beast

With all the great customer conversations, and special sights in the booth, like watching customers spontaneously demo our products to non-customers on the big screen, I'm a bit sad to see our current booth theme retired.  We typically keep a theme about a year and the big, green, betentacled beast has been an eye-catching conversation starter in booths from Cisco Live to RSA.  Interop was his last outing.  His piercing red eyes and sharp teeth will be missed.

However-- we’re bringing all new fun to Cisco Live in San Francisco, so be there to check it out. It’s your first chance to get this year’s new t-shirt before anyone else does.