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Leon's Log: Adios Barcelona! (CLEUR 2018 Part Two)

Level 18

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It was a very full week at CiscoLive--not to mention an additional full week in Spain, which I'll get to in a minute--and I have a lot to share.

First and foremost, and this is not meant to be a slam on Munich, I had an amazing time just BEING in Barcelona. Sure it was a little warmer. Sure, I speak a little Spanish as opposed to zero German. And sure, there were three kosher restaurants instead of the one in Munich. But even beyond that, the pace, the layout, and even the FEEL of the place was different for me in a very enjoyable way. I was incredibly happy to hear that CLEUR will be in Barcelona again next year, and hope that I get to be part of the "away team" again.

The Big Ideas

At every convention, I try to suss out the big themes, ideas, and even products that make a splash at the show. Here's what I found this time:

DevNet! DevNet! DevNet!
I think I talk about DevNet after every CiscoLive, but gosh darn if it's not noteworthy each time. This year, my fellow Head Geek Patrick Hubbard rightly called out the announcement about IBN. No, read it again: NOT big blue. Intent-Based Networking: https://blogs.cisco.com/datacenter/introducing-the-cisco-network-assurance-engine. The upshot of this announcement is that the network is about to get smarter than ever, using data, modeling, and (of course) built-in tools to understand and then ensure the "intent" of the networking you have in place. And how will you interact with this brave new intent-based world? Code.

This leads me to my second big observation:
The time for SDN has come

Every year (since 2014) I've been trying to figure out how SDN fits into the enterprise. Usually when I talk to a group, I give it a shot:

    • "How many of you are thinking about SDN" (usually, most of the hands go up)
    • "How many are using SDN in the lab?" (in most cases, one-half to two-thirds of the hands go down)
    • "How many are using it in prod?" (typically all but three hands go down, leaving just the folks who work for ISPs)

This time I had a ton of people--enterprise folks--coming and asking about SDN and Cisco ACI support, which tells me that we have hit a tipping point. I have a theory why (grist for another article), but it boils down to two main things. First, Cisco has done a kick-ass job pushing "DevNet" and teaching network folks of all stripes not to fear the code. People came to the booth asking "does this support python scripting?" Scripting wasn't an afterthought; it was a key feature they needed. Second, SDN experience has filtered down from networking engineers at ISPs to mid-level technicians, and companies are now able to enumerate the value of this technology both on a technical and business level. Thus, the great corporate adoption of SDN is now starting.

Being a NetVet is every bit as cool as I thought it would be
Besides causing vendors to stare at your badge for an extra two seconds, the biggest benefit of being a NetVet is the lounge. It is quiet. It has comfy couches. It has it's own coffee machine. It. Has. My. Name. On. It.

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The View from the Booth

So that sums up the major things I saw at the show. But what about the interactions in the SolarWinds booth? SO MUCH was packed into the three days that it's hard to pick just a few, but here goes.

TNG, and I don't mean Star Trek
One of the fun things about a show like CiscoLive is getting to show off new features and even whole new solutions. Three years ago I got to stand on stage with Chris O'Brien and show off "something we've been playing with in the lab," which turned out to be NetPath. This time, we had a chance to get initial reactions to a new command line tool that would perform traceroute-like functions, but without ICMP's annoying habit of being blocked by... well, just about everything. While we're still putting on the final coat of paint, the forthcoming free "Traceroute NG" tool will perform route analysis via TCP or traditional ICMP,  show you route changes if the path changes during scanning, supports IPv4 and IPv6 networks, and more. Attendees who saw it were blown away.

Hands Up for BackUp!

We also got to take the lid off an entirely new offering: cloud-based backup for your important systems. (https://www.solarwinds.com/backup) This isn't some "xcopy my files to the cloud" kludge. Using block-based backup techniques for screaming fast (and bandwidth-friendly) results; a simple deployment strategy that supports Windows and Linux-based systems; granular permissions; and a dashboard that lets you know the disposition of every system, regardless of the size of your deployment.

Survey Says?
A great part of booth conversations is comparing experiences and discovering how frequently they match up. This frequently comes out as a kind of IT version of Mad Libs.

  • I was discussing alerts and alert actions with an attendee who was clearly part of "Team Linux." After pointing out that alerts should extend far beyond emails or opening tickets, I threw out, "If your IIS-based website is having problems, what's the first thing you do?" Without even a pause they said, "You restart the app pool." That's when I showed SAM's built-in alert actions. (Afterward we both agreed that "install Apache" was an equally viable answer.)
  • When Patrick asked a group of four longtime SolarWinds users to guess the most downloaded SolarWinds product, the response was immediate and emphatic: "TFTP Server." I could only laugh at how well our customers know us.

"I'm here to ask question and chew bubblegum (and it doesn't look like you're giving out bubblegum)"
As I have noted in the past, CiscoLive Europe may be smaller (14k attendees versus ~27k in the United States), but the demos go longer and the questions are far more intense. There is a much stronger sense of purpose when someone comes to our booth. They have things they need to find out, design choices they want to confirm, and they don't need another T-shirt, thank you very much. Which isn't to say we had swag left at the end. It was all gone. But it took until the last day.

More Parselmouth's than at a Slytherin Convention
This year I was surprised by how often someone opened their questions with, "Do these solutions support Python?" (For the record, the answer is yes: https://github.com/solarwinds/orionsdk-python) Not that I was surprised to be asked about language support in general. What got me was how often this happened to be the opening question. As I said earlier, Cisco's DevNet has done an incredible job of encouraging the leap to code, and it is now framing many networking professional's design choices and world view. I see this as a good thing.

La Vida Barcelona

Outside of the hustle and bustle of the convention center, a whole world awaited us. As a polyglot wannabe, the blend of languages was multicultural music to my ears. But there wasn't much time to really see the sites or soak up the Spanish culture because the convention was demanding so much of my day.

Which is why I decided to spend an extra week in-country. My wife and I traveled from Barcelona to Madrid, and even spent a day in Seville to visit the apartment where she was born and spent the first few months of her life.

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We saw some amazing sites:

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Including some views that GoT fans like jennebarbour​ will find familiar:

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web_GOT_ceiling.jpg GOT_ceiling.jpg

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Ate some incredible food:

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And generally just enjoyed all that Spain had to offer. The only hiccough was the weather. It was kind of like this.

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For Clevelanders like us, it's pretty normal. But I'm pretty sure the locals suspected we brought our weather with us, and were glad to see the back of me when we finally packed up and headed back home.

Until next year (which will be in Barcelona again), and until the next trip.

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(pictured: patrick.hubbard​, ding​, andre.domingues​, and the inimitable Silvia Siva.)

16 Comments

What a nice story!  Thank you, Leon, for brightening our day when the news and politics seem so depressing.

"Intent-based networking" is a great buzz-phrase and bit of jargon.

Boss:  "Why did we get ransomware inside the network?  I thought the firewalls and Anti-virus/anti-malware solution were supposed to prevent that?"

Person-on-the-hot-seat:  "Remember when I told you we needed Intent-based Networking?  Our intent is to prevent ransomware, and shut it down and isolate it if it's found.  But our network doesn't know that because it couldn't read our intent.  You should have bought IBN when I told you we needed it."

Boss:  "Why can't I get out to the Internet with anything but ICMP?"

Security:  "We installed Cisco ISE with the intent of preventing unauthorized access, but we didn't intend to shut down your computer, boss.  It's too bad we didn't buy IBN so the network would know you weren't supposed to be locked out of everything but ICMP."

Boss:  "OK, we bought Intent-based Networking.  Now tell the network we intend everyone to have full access to everything they need to do their job.  And tell it not let anything happen that's against company policy or against best practices or that violates PCI, PII, SOX, or PHI.   And then tell me what the network says to that."

You:  "Uh . . . ."

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Level 20

Yeah this AI stuff is getting out of control now.  I get the idea and it may eventually bear some fruit but so far most of it to me is semi-vapor ware.

Level 9

Another great article Leon.  I’m also a big fan of Spain. I’ve been fortunate enough to visit both Barcelna and Seville and can’t wait to go back!

MVP
MVP

Nice

Level 14

The last time I saved someone's life was in Spain.  A friend passed out in a paella and I stopped him from drowning.  Good times. 

We've had no snow in my part of the UK this year, perhaps you need to come and visit?

This was my first thought too. But I will read on what the technology does and doesn't do behind the "intent" label.

Level 13

Cool!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Level 14

Very cool stuff!!! thanks for posting!

It's 77 degrees here today in Baltimore. Can you send some of that Barcelona weather up here? Something ain't right when it is this warm in Feb.

Level 20

Ironically it's been cold in the desert of Arizona all of sudden!  It's totally backwards weather right now!!!

MVP
MVP

70's yesterday and 30's today here in DFW area.

MVP
MVP

How many Thwack points to ride along with you on the next trip?

Level 21

Great story and great pictures, thanks for sharing!

One question I would be interested in, aside from the questions about Python support (and of course "monitoring"); is there any one thing that you find folks coming to the SolarWinds boot are more interested in above others?

Level 18

yes and no.

Yes, there is often a "theme" to the visitors to the booth at each show. In fact, at the end of the day everyone who worked in the booth does a roundup of what the major areas of interest were.

No, in that the theme is not the same show-to-show, or even day-to-day. One day may see a huge run of people interested in NCM, or Perfstack, or DPA. The following day the majority of visitors may have SAM-on-the-brain.

It makes every day an interesting series of conversations, which is 100% fine by me.

- Leon

About the Author
In my sordid career, I have been an actor, bug exterminator and wild-animal remover (nothing crazy like pumas or wildebeasts. Just skunks and raccoons.), electrician, carpenter, stage-combat instructor, American Sign Language interpreter, and Sunday school teacher. Oh, and I work with computers. Since 1989 (when you got a free copy of Windows 286 on twelve 5¼” floppies when you bought a copy of Excel 1.0) I have worked as a classroom instructor, courseware designer, desktop support tech, server support engineer, and software distribution expert. Then about 14 years ago I got involved with systems monitoring. I've worked with a wide range of tools: Tivoli, Nagios, Patrol, ZenOss, OpenView, SiteScope, and of course SolarWinds. I've designed solutions for companies that were extremely modest (~10 systems) to those that were mind-bogglingly large (250,000 systems in 5,000 locations). During that time, I've had to chance to learn about monitoring all types of systems – routers, switches, load-balancers, and SAN fabric as well as windows, linux, and unix servers running on physical and virtual platforms.