It's an oft-cited factoid that the casinos on the Las Vegas Strip have no windows and no clocks, so as to cultivate an environment where you lose track, not only of time, but of the reality of the outside world.
Having been here for five days now, I feel I can confidently confirm that this is just one of many ways in which this, frankly ridiculous, city tries to disorient you. The two hotels I have stayed in this week - while varying wildly in both price and pomp - have at least one thing in common: they ushered me to my room via the casino, and its attendant assault on the senses of noise, flashing lights, scantily clad women, and hard liquor.
Even in the early spring, the weight of the afternoon heat is enough to beckon you inside, where the hard-to-resist combination of pervasive air conditioning and ice-cold beer awaits you. And, once you're in, it can be very hard to get out. The mind-boggling monuments to excess that are Strip hotel-casinos are crowded, noisy, and labyrinthine.
And if do you get out - no doubt by having to circumnavigate a cornucopia of attractive hostelries, restaurants, and high-end boutiques - you join a boisterous but slow-moving bacchanalian parade of party-seekers openly guzzling enormous novelty drinks, while you all run a gauntlet of the opportunistic and the down-at-luck aggressively competing for a little bit of your attention - and your money.
(As a native Londoner, I'm no stranger to the variable merits of buskers. But this week marked the first time a street musician has met my usual quiet disinterest with an invitation to physical confrontation. Such a characteristically excessive reaction is enough to drive a man - at least this man - to drink. And air-con. And a comfy sofa. And - oh, look: that slot machine's progressive payouts are building nicely - surely 10 dollars can't hurt...?)
All of which makes Sin City a curiously apt location for this year's Cisco Partner Summit; "We want to make you uncomfortable," CEO John Chambers told VARs this week.
The vendor has big plans to progress way beyond its roots as a belt-and-braces networking company, and has outlined its intention to be considered the world's leading IT player. Its vision of the evolution of this industry centres on the so-called Internet of Everything, a somewhat confusing but highly impressive world in which items as diverse as rubbish bins and stalks of corn become connected devices.
Rival HP - which, coincidentally, is holding its channel get-together down the road this week - provided a salutary lesson in the havoc that can be wreaked by bewildering and upsetting a vast network of partners with a strategic about-turn. Cisco must know that its plans are a huge bet that could see it win big, or lose the shirt on its back. But that's Vegas, baby.
And it openly admits that not all its current set of loyal partners will ultimately follow it on the path it has mapped out. Chambers told attendees that one in three of the companies gathered in Nevada - presumably including his own in that equation - would not exist in 10 to 20 years.
At least, unlike its competitor further down the strip, Cisco is giving partners plenty of notice of its intentions. This intended next phase of its channel development began - at least publicly - at this event last year. But, as it gets more serious about cloud, smart cities, and the Internet of Everything, partners are going to need to place their bets.
Just like a Las Vegas casino, Cisco needs to make sure that, for the channel, the world outside its walls is not where you want to be.
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