The Riverbed Blog (testing)

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Anatomy of a live stage demo at Interop – Side-stepping Murphy’s Law

Posted by bobegilbert on December 2, 2009

With my 17+ years experience working with various technology companies, I should have known better that the live demo I signed up to both prepare and present during Interop 2009 in NYC would be much more challenging than originally anticipated.

The request from my boss was simple and the task at first sounded relatively straight forward.  I was asked to demonstrate our new "Virtual Steelhead" technology at our Cloud 9 launch event in front of a large room of customers, partners, press, and analysts. What made this request sound simple was the fact that this was a product that was currently running in a demo environment already and all I needed to do was to dial in remotely to San Francisco from New York and use a remote desktop environment to run the demo remotely.  This would allow me to use an environment that has been relatively stable.  My engineering team agreed that this would be the best conservative approach to take.

I could have stopped there, packed up my laptop, and proceeded to New York with a configuration I was 100% confident in.  Instead, I decided to do the unthinkable.  Why not setup a live production environment and use my laptop to participate in the demo instead of simply running a remote session?  After all, the demo is all about accelerating the public cloud by having both a client-side acceleration device (Steelhead appliance or Steelhead Mobile) work with an in-the-cloud Virtual Steelhead product to provide dramatic speed-up of hosted public cloud applications.  I got my engineering team to agree and proceeded to prepare a demo configuration for the Interop event that was starting in three weeks.

The following three weeks leading up to the show were extremely busy around the office so not too much time was available to dedicate to setting up a demo environment.  Thanks to my crack engineering team (primarily Nitin and John); a working configuration was up in no time.  A week of testing before the event and I was ready to head to the Big Apple confident and ready to give a compelling demo.

Upon arriving in New York, I immediately started planning the week's activities:  customer meetings, booth presentations, daily blogs, Twitter updates, customer videos, etc.  My demo was set and I was looking forward to the host of activities coming.  I settled into my hotel room, fired up my demo one more time, and that's when things started to fall apart!  My demo laptop decided that it did not want to connect to the public cloud file shares that I was to use for the unoptimized comparison.  I tried just about everything and after a few hours and many calls back to my engineers in San Francisco, it looked like there was potentially an issue with the hotel blocking the Windows file sharing traffic.  But how could I be sure?  The big public demo was scheduled for the following day and I could not be confident that it was a hotel issue.  My first thought was to use my 3G card to make a connection as this would obviously circumvent the hotel WiFi.  After inserting the 3G card into the demo laptop, it would not register as a device.  Bad card slot!  Looking at the clock, it was already 2am so I decided to wait until tomorrow morning when I could try another hotel where I had a customer meeting scheduled.

I arrived at the other hotel the next morning and after purchasing $20 of WiFi, the same issue occurred.  I still could not connect!  Two hotels in a row?  Could this be a coincidence or is there a problem with my laptop?  Murphy's Law to be in full effect.  My stage demo is in a few hours and I don't have a working demo!  At this time I was getting desperate.  After my customer meeting, I decided to take a walk around looking for WiFi access to test my demo connection. 

This place looked promising, but it wasn't WiFi.  They had PC's that you insert quarters in for access. 

24hourinternet

I decided to walk to Time's Square and try to find another WiFi connection.  Apparently, Yahoo was offering free WiFi so I took a seat in the middle of Time's Square, and powered on my laptop.

Timessquare

I immediately got an alarm that the batter was at 1% and the laptop powered down!  What?  This battery had been charging all night and this was the first time I turned it on.  Bad battery and I had no place to plug in the power.  Can this get any worse?  I decided to head back to my hotel and try once again.  When I arrived, I booted up my laptop (with power cord), and immediately got an error that my date is set incorrectly.  Apparently, it is 2009, not 1988.  This laptop is killing me!  After fixing the date issue, I booted up and still could not connect to the Internet share.  Looking at the clock, it was getting close to rehearsal time so I headed to the event facility, crossing my fingers that the Internet connection waiting for me would work.

Cloud9

I arrived on time for rehearsal, swapped my demo laptop's battery with my colleague's, booted up, and got that stupid wrong date warning in the BIOS.  After setting the correct date, I booted, connected the Internet drop, and was able to connect!

I proceeded with a successful demonstration of our groundbreaking technology for accelerating public cloud environments.  After spending some time with customers, I headed back to the hotel and got what I considered some well-deserved sleep.  

If you are interested in seeing a version of my live demo, you can view my TechWebTV interview here

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One Response to “Anatomy of a live stage demo at Interop – Side-stepping Murphy’s Law”

  1. Article interesting.All a pleasure to read.

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