Welcome to this week’s Ticket of the Week segment or TOW for short. TOW is where I cover a range of hot topics and trends from within the industry that include actual examples of tickets from previous employers and clients edited only for confidentiality reasons. Have a suggestion please use the contact page and someone will get back to you promptly and you may be featured in the segment.
Editor’s Note: For my technical readers excuse the obvious acronyms as I am trying to ensure that a bigger audience is able to connect with our world via my blog.
If you’re a sports fan I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase at least once that “we can’t keep beating ourselves” in some way, shape or form. What the players and coaches mean is basically that they are making things harder on themselves while attempting to win a game, that is already difficult, than it should be. While I’m not an athlete I can say without a doubt that in the field of Networking Engineering there are too many instances of beating ourselves. Managing a network is an arduous task and anyone who has ever worked in a NETOPS role would confirm this as fact. There are multiple factors ranging from hardware failure to mother nature and everything in between that are already beyond your control so why would you add your own unnecessary element that can be controlled? You wouldn’t, is what you’re probably thinking I’m sure, but unfortunately for a large number of us Engineers that isn’t the case and it isn’t our faults.
First let me say the systems themselves aren’t actually broken. The way the systems are integrated, presented and utilized are though in my very humble opinion. A quick google search while researching potential topics for this segment also agrees. Network Management Systems (NMS) are designed to facilitate our roles and make them easier and less stressful. Taking a very high level view the previous statement holds true but dig down into the weeds a bit and you’ll find a system that is broken. Let me run down the list of all the systems and tools you’ll find at any company with a dedicated Networking staff. Email (outlook), Instant Messenger (slack, Lync), System Performance Monitoring (SevOne or EHealth or both), Device Manager (HPNA comes to mind here) Ticketing System (Remedy, HPSM, proprietary system) Change Management System (same as ticketing system but can be separate), Document Library (SharePoint or wiki), Vendor sites and Carrier Sites are pretty standard. Some systems are proprietary, as you can see by the examples, while others are open sourced but that is NMS in a nutshell. Not all of them are specifically NMS systems but all work in harmony with us Engineers to manage the network so I’ve included them as well.
Honestly learning a specific company’s’ processes and procedures and navigating the tools is often more challenging than troubleshooting. Every system I listed in the prior paragraph requires their own log in, a separate window in most cases, and a working knowledge of how to operate them. All before you’ve even logged into your first router, switch or opened your machine’s command prompt window. It’s not an accident that most Engineers, especially in operations have a minimum of two or three monitors to work from. Personally my ideal number is four if I’m working in an operations role. Those working for a non-technology company may have it even worse when it regarding the number of apps which is my reality here in the finance currently. Streamlining these systems and reducing some of the redundancy would benefit everyone. Training new hires would take significantly less time, and in turn free up the trainer to assist with production (read customer affecting) issues. Overall workload is also reduced as the new hire would be integrated into actual operations sooner. The same holds true for the necessary information needed to process RMAs (read replacement parts) like addresses of locations, or MOPs for certain procedures and the list goes on.
The good news is there are solutions out there that reduce the complexity and number of systems. At the very least they offer them as a one stop shop where you can accomplish multiple task in the same application. Solarwinds Engineering Toolset and Whatsup Gold are two that comes to mind. Why they aren’t fully being taken advantage of I’m not sure. Apple and Bank of America use the former so this post doesn’t apply in all cases like most things in life, and a former employer of mine had a very nice suite as well that was developed in house and partially inspired this post.
In 2017 there is simply too much technology available and most companies do a great job of providing that to their customer base but now it’s time to apply that same logic back of the house as well. A great place to start would be obtaining insight from those that actually depend on and use the various tools on a day to day basis. Just like we have these VPNs but still are driving into offices all around the world to do work that can be done from anywhere but I’ll save that for another day.