Cisco Live 2021 guide: How to ‘Turn IT Up’ virtually

Cisco Live! for the Americas is March 30-31. BlueCat has all the details, plus top session picks and tips for getting the most out of this virtual event.

It’s that time of the year again: Cisco Live! for the Americas is coming up March 30-31. Although it won’t be the extravaganza in some amazing locale like we’re used to, it still represents a significant coming together of our community.

While we won’t be able to enjoy (or endure) the buzz from the crowds, the social events, and those chance hallway meetings that often prove invaluable, Cisco is doing its best to put on a lively and engaging virtual experience. And there will be plenty of opportunities to interact with both Cisco folks and fellow attendees—if you know where to look for them.

This year’s theme is “Turn IT Up”. Although we’ll be turning it up from our desks or couches this year, there’s still a lot to get out of it.

“This year, Cisco Live is going global and turning up the volume on innovation with great speakers, technical education sessions and a look ahead at what this next normal holds,” says Oleg Tolchinsky, Cisco Canada’s VP of Architectures. “With unique and engaging experiences for our customers and partners around the globe—and without the barriers of time and physical location—Cisco Live 2021 will give customers more access to sessions around the clock, more expertise and points of view from all over the globe.”

Registration options

First, you have to register. You have two registration options; regardless of which you choose, you will need to sign in to your Cisco account.

Heads up: If you still use a CCO or CEC ID username for login, refresh your memory about the email address you signed up with. Starting this spring (they’re not more specific than that), login and account management is changing and you’ll need to use that email address rather than your username. Once the change is implemented, if you use two-factor authentication you’ll need to set it up again—and you will only be able to use Duo or Google Authenticator.

There are two types of passes this year:

Explorer: It’s free! It provides access to keynotes, innovation talks, leadership sessions, inspirational and celebration sessions, the World of Solutions, Cisco Showcase, interactive features such as Q&As, plus three months of on-demand access to Anytime and broadcast sessions.

All-Access: It costs $349 USD or four Learning Credits. In addition to the above, it includes in-depth technical education breakouts, one hands-on lab, the option for one-on-one Meet the Engineer chats, and a discounted certification exam.

Screenshot of the Cisco Live 2021 website registration overview

Community and entertainment

Ultimately, BlueCat believes you’ll get out of this event what you put in. If you aren’t intentionally looking for where the good conversations are happening (some of the best social engagements will probably happen adjacently to Cisco Live!, not within it), you’ll miss out on the best part of what conference-going is about.

A few tips to help you best take advantage of social opportunities:

  • Take note of who is using the #CiscoLive hashtags on Twitter and LinkedIn. Tweet back at them or send them a DM. Meet someone new!
  • Drop in to Network VIP and other IT communities where the conversation might be a bit more intimate. These groups of people already have some level of comfort with one another. Start a conversation thread!
  • Keep on the lookout for adjacently organized events. For example, on April 13-14, Tech Field Day is hosting a virtual Tech Field Day Exclusive at Cisco Live Global 2021. Tune in to see some honest commentary and familiar faces.
  • Take the event as an excuse to host a video chat with folks you haven’t caught up with in a while. Free Zoom accounts give you 40 minutes per session, which is plenty of time. Or, you could always try the hot platform of the minute: Clubhouse.
  • Rope in your team and have a virtual viewing party. See who’s best at the virtual trivia Cisco has promised. Or, see what discussion you can spark around a relevant session or training workshop.
  • Participate in the Q&A and 1:1 sessions with engineers when offered. It’s not quite the ‘corner them over a beer’ chats we can have in person, but it’ll still give you virtual facetime with folks in the know.

Entertainment

Of course, it wouldn’t be Cisco Live! without a lineup of celebrity speakers and musical guests, and this virtual year is proving no different. Inspirational speakers include director James Cameron, tennis champion Serena Williams, tennis star and equality trailblazer Billie Jean King, ESPN SportsCenter anchor Hannah Storm, and chef and restauranteur José Andrés. Musical guests include Train and Black Pumas.

Broadcast channels and session picks

There will be six broadcast channels this year. The channel topics are: Innovation, Leadership, Transform Infrastructure, Reimagine Applications, Secure Data, and Empower Teams. Each will focus on content for specific audiences.

So far, the session catalog lists 63 sessions to be broadcast live, plus another 334 on demand. There are also 131 connected learning sessions such as hands-on labs.

The agenda is also interspersed with a host of keynotes by Cisco executives, including Chairman and CEO Chuck Robbins.

Tips for getting the most out of sessions

To watch all of this, you’ll need to be prepared. This conference may not need the comfy shoes that attendees swear by at the in-person event, but you’ll want to do a few things to make the most of your time.

  1. First, go through the catalog now and pick the sessions you want to build your schedule. Some have attendance limits, so book early.
  2. It’s tempting to try to cram everything in during the two days of the conference. Don’t. You will have three months to pick up extra sessions on demand. Instead, schedule breaks so your concentration remains at peak levels.
  3. Stay hydrated and sit somewhere comfy (gaming chair, anybody?).
  4. Turn off all but critical alerts on your computer and phone. Choosing to tune into Cisco Live! is, in some ways, an act of self-development. As much as possible, help yourself be mentally present for it.

Sessions to watch

What sessions to choose from? BlueCat has its eye on some:

BRKSEC-2415: The Future of Network Security is in the Cloud with Cisco SASE! Cisco Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) is built on Umbrella; this session focuses on the Umbrella-enlightened security stack.

P.S. Did you know that BlueCat integrates with Umbrella?

BRKENS-2599: Building for the Campus of the Future. This session will cover how Catalyst 9000 builds a strong foundation for a software-defined campus in the work-from-home era. It will cover the latest innovations in Cisco DNA Center, which is the centralized controller and management platform at the heart of Cisco’s Intent Based Networks. It will also touch on how Zero Trust provides secure access with endpoint visibility and how to contain threats with Stealthwatch and Umbrella integrations.

BRKENT-1888: Evolution of Network Infrastructure—Our Crystal Ball. Distinguished Cisco engineers and innovators will guide us through the future evolution of the next five years of Ethernet, including 400G, 800G, and beyond to 1.6T. They will also cover possible evolution “beyond the wire”—including advances in WiFi, the advantages 5G will bring, and even routers in space!

BRKSEC-1898: More Encryption, More Privacy, More Malware. New encryption protocols like TLSv1.3, DNS over HTTPS, and QUIC have clear benefits but also introduce new attack vectors. This session summarizes what’s new and useful about these protocols, and when and why you should use them. It will also explain their impact on network visibility, and the importance of defensive techniques such as TLS fingerprinting and the detection of Indicators of Compromise in network data features, with examples from the recent SUNBURST/Solorigate incident.

DBLINT-52: Between Innovation and Customer Value, There’s a Bridge. This session is all about sharing examples of how critical Cisco’s partners (like BlueCat!) are for digital transformation initiatives, moving to hybrid cloud and SaaS, and developing custom solutions on top of the Cisco platform.

But those are just BlueCat’s recommendations. Find what interests you!

Screenshot of the Cisco Live 2021 website registration overview

World of Solutions

No conference would be complete without a tradeshow floor. The World of Solutions digital floor experience includes an interactive Cisco Showcase and 3-D sponsor exhibits. There will be 12 booths, over 90 live and on-demand demos, hundreds of innovative solutions, and live chats with Cisco experts.

By now you should have a good sense of what to expect from Cisco Live! later this month. A virtual event is, of course, different from the in-person version we’ve all grown to love. But there is something to be said for groups of people—like Cisco’s—who push on in the face of a challenge, experiment with new formatting, and make an honest effort to bring folks together.

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