Many of the best network engineers I know have little to no network operation experience.
“What? How can that be?” you ask? Well it’s really quite simple.
Most of the best network engineers I know, and we’re talking some double and triple CCIE’s in this crowd, have never actually operated a network for any length of time. They were professional services guys, short term contract guys, some pre-sales or post sales guys. There are a LOT of paths to the top of Mt. Fuji after all.
Although I did a short term network ops. gig early on in my career, I actually feel I squandered the opportunity as I just wasn’t mature enough to understand the experience that I should have been gaining.
So this question came up with a college last week. ” How do you get network operations experience if you’re not in a network ops group?”
This blog post is dedicated to him.
A few years back, after I decided to really get serious about network management, I had the same issue. I wanted to get some experience in network management, but I had no large network to run. In my day job, I’m actually a pre-sales resource, so it’s not likely I’m going to get any experience in the near future, so it occurred to me that I could start a simulation to try and gain that experience.
At this point, I had already done some Ciscoworks LMS projects (long sleeve shirts to cover the scars to prove it!). I had successfully passed my ITILv3 foundations certifications, and I had even gained the honor of being one of the first Solarwinds Certified Professionals shortly after the SCP program was launched.
So with a bit of knowledge, I decided to run my home network as if it was an ITSM framework for a year. This means that I had to implement good network management hygene. Good Change management practices. Good fault management practices. Try to implement some of the ITIL processes around Service Strategy, Service Design, Service Operations, and Continual Service Improvement. Basically, run it like a business who’s success depended on the network.
So I had some ideas around the processes I wanted to put in place, but it always takes the three P’s to successfully implement any ITSM initiative. People, products and processes. Fortunately for me, I had access to HP’s Intelligent Management Center, as well as the trial versions of Solarwinds Orion NPM and NCM. but I was still missing some critical pieces to the puzzle.
Service Operations: One of primary activities in Service Operations is really around the help desk. How are tickets logged? How are they tracked? Escalations Procedures. Building out and growing the KMS (knowledge management system )
I didn’t have any help desk or ticketing software in place, so I decided to go the free way; Spiceworks.
For those of you who don’t know it, Spiceworks is a free IT Management app which ” includes a free IT management app for everything from network inventory and monitoring to help desk and more!”
It’s not what I would call a full FCAPS system, but it does have an ok help desk system, and it’s hard to beat free, right?
Note: I noticed last week that my Synology NAS now has a help desk app named OS Ticket in the available apps. I haven’t tried this, but considering it’s free and installs easily on the synology box, it might be a good option for those of you who are lucky enough to have one of these great little machines.
Financial Management falls under the service strategy volume of the ITILv3 core books. I’ll be honest, that this wasn’t exactly the strongest part of my little experiment, but I did try to implement some financial processes.
But unlike some of the helpdesk and change control procedures, this wasn’t exactly something that I could count on good self-discipline to track. Can you imagine that conversation?
“Hey Me… I’d really like this new synology RS812.”
“Hmm… Don’t we already have a 411?”
“Yeah, but this one has TWO gigabit ports!”
“Let me think about that… ok. Let’s buy it!”
As you can see, I had to come up with a different plan.
Fortunately, I’m married, so I merely formalized the process of having to ask my wife for permission to buy any new toys. I have to say, this was probably the year that I got the least amount of new techtoys, but I like to think the experience I gained was worth it. ( < – What’s the HTML tag for the sarcasm font again? )
So how did things go? Well, it was a little funny at times. Emailing myself a support ticket so that I could fix something that wasn’t working. I did try to get my wife to e-mail the tickets in, but that lasted about a week before she just said ” Can you just fix it!?!?!?!”
For the other things, it felt a little strange asking myself for permission so that I could make a change to the environment and then having to consult myself to see what the affects might be ( Change Advisory Board ). Implementing the RACI (responsible accountable consulted informed ) was pretty easy because I generally get along with myself. etc…
To be honest, I wish I would have been blogging back then, because I think it would have made for some interesting reading in retrospect. I’d like to say that I followed all the processes and ran a bullet proof network for the year, but I didn’t. Sometimes I slipped, made a change and locked myself out of my own gear.
But on the bright side… I did learn why change management is important.
Any one else gone through an experiment like this? Anyone willing to take up the challenge and blog on the experience?