Behind Every Good Network is “The Guy”

We live in a world of cloud-connected services, ever-expanding workforces, and consumer apps and technology — and it all adds to the complexity of network connectivity.

Things like: linking remote sites, allowing access from home offices or mobile workers, and providing managed access to hosted services are all top of mind, and all require secure, reliable connectivity — but there has been no one-size-fits-all approach that’s easy.

I mean — that’s what I am told. See, back when I was an IT pro, I always had the perfect solution. I kind of cheated — I worked in an IT organization with an annual budget larger than most small business revenues, and we were able to buy more gear than your average local data center, but the real secret to my networking success? I had “the guy.”

I had a certified networking genius in the desk across from me — a dedicated LAN/WAN guy. This guy was a real CCIE and had the certificate on the wall and everything. He dreamed in IOS, always had a crossover adapter in his pocket, and could tell CAT5e from CAT6 by smell. You know the type.

While I was busy maintaining our servers, storage, desktops and phones, “the guy” configured BGP between our edge routers, decided where to run leased lines, and where we needed MPLS to better support real-time traffic. And you know what? I never once thought networking was a problem. In fact, it was fantastic.

My guy had backup site-to-site VPN for the times our MPLS links took an unexpected day off. We had at least two service providers in every building, and more junk in our VLAN trunk than I knew what to do with. When the helpdesk phone rang, he would holler out, “It’s not the network!” and he was nearly always right. One-guy-fits-all networking. He had the eye-watering amounts of dough he needed to buy all kinds of gear and services, and the knowledge to make it sing. And me? I had it made. Our network was bulletproof…. until “the guy” left to go work for a bigger company.

I didn’t panic at first — I just figured I’d have to hire the occasional contractor. Well, our first contractor broke the living daylights out of an office in record time. I mean, one second it was connected to HQ, and the next second — after a “real quick” BGP route update — it was just gone. Poof. In just 10 seconds they were off the network.

We brought it back — and we should never have been messing with that router anyhow — but it took a whole freakin’ day: A day without email for 50 people, a day without Internet for 50 people. They were left with nothing but a local printer, and each other.  No good.

I quickly found out that a network guy makes networking look easy, but it’s HIS network.  The designs, workings, and configuration were made to HIS specifications.  I learned that “Wr mem” really meant into HIS memory, and I had not thought to “copy run start” into my own.

And that’s what I learned. My super complex, full-mesh, n+1 redundant, high-availability, high-speed network hadn’t seemed so complex when I just paid the meter to the tune of a six-figure salary, plus hardware and maintenance cost for each of my sites. Having “the guy” was the secret to my networking success, but it was also the single point of failure for the whole shebang. And when it failed, it failed spectacularly.

But times are changing.

Today, we are looking to an inflection point. Cloud-services have paved the way to increased network reliability and redundancy — and the Internet is omnipresent. All that’s missing is the security and networking intelligence in the cloud to connect your resources, and a policy to manage it all.

What does a network look like when all your employees are mobile, and everything is in the cloud? Stay tuned. As virtualization is applied to the WAN using the power and pervasiveness of the cloud, great innovations are on the horizon.SRC

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