As Cisco Live opened in San Francisco in May, Moscone Center West was packed. At 8:00 a.m. on Day One, developers were filling the DevNet Zone, a sub-conference that gave them hands-on experience with software.
The DevNet organization “didn’t get funded until August” and didn’t really hit the web until December, says Rick Tywoniak, DevNet’s director. “We decided in January to go to Cisco Live, but we had no marketing. We couldn’t get onto the Cisco Live calendar. People kind of discovered us once they got there.”
But after that Cisco Live event, developers are already in the know. The DevNet Zone did get listed on Cisco Live’s online calendar, which is one way that so many people, including me, could find out about it. Part of the attraction was certainly the chance to use APIs that hadn’t officially shipped yet, such as the Application Policy Infrastructure Controller Enterprise Module (APIC-EM). (Which, as Cisco announced today, is going to be available for free.)
And the DevNet Zone wasn’t small. Moscone West is the newer branch of San Francisco’s convention center. It feels more spacious and airy and modern. It’s got higher ceilings and plenty of natural light, as opposed to the underground confines of Moscone North and South.
To fill the space, you need quite a crowd — and quite a budget, which Cisco had. Cisco CEO John Chambers and President Rob Lloyd gave the initiative strong support, making it a priority for fiscal 2014, which ends this month. “They validated that to have a software strategy, you need a developer strategy,” Wee says.
Don’t Forget the CCIEs
DevNet offers SDKs, tutorials, and reference materials, but it’s also trying to help developers find APIs in the first place, considering so many are springing up from different business units. DevNet also provides a cloud-based zone for developers to try out new ideas without having to build a test network — a nod to the fact that “some of this technology is not cheap,” Tywoniak says. (This isn’t unique; Juniper does something similar.) An app store is also due to launch sometime in the next 12 months.
The goal is to get developers more comfortable with Cisco’s software, especially the new platforms coming out around mobile, the Internet of Things, and software-defined networking (SDN).
Included in the target demographic are the Cisco Certified Internetwork Experts (CCIEs), the people who have been educated on Cisco’s traditional networking platforms. The rise of SDN has led many to wonder whether CCIEs could be replaced by automated configuration tools and a handful of programmers.
Cisco doesn’t want CCIEs to feel left behind, and it certainly doesn’t want them to think their chances of employment are better if they defect to other vendors’ SDN environments. There’s motivation to bring CCIEs and new-age DevOps types together.
What CCIEs can contribute is their experience in running networks, something coders haven’t necessarily picked up. “You go to this DevOps world, and you say, ‘Who are you going to trust to run your network?’ Are you going to trust that hotshot developer?” Wee says.
Wee wants to increase Cisco’s developer community by 55 percent during the next year (growth was 40 percent during this first year), with an eye toward 1 million developers by 2020.