Feedback wanted: How important is the network at your company?

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Networking
Hi, I am an editor for SearchNetworking.com and I am looking for some insight into how networking professionals approach their jobs and the technology they work with. I read an article yesterday about the "commoditization" of the network. Do you feel that the network is being commoditized? In your job, is there less focus on nuts-and-bolts networking and more on the specific applications or services the network delivers? If so, what are those applications? Does your company have a different view than you do? Perhaps you are focused on the network on a daily basis, but your IT executives have different priorities? Thanks for your time -- any and all ideas and experiences are appreciated greatly! If you'd rather, feel free to respond to me at sfogarty@techtarget.com. Susan Fogarty Senior Site Editor, Networking Media Group SearchNetworking, SearchMobileComputing, SearchEnterpriseVoice (781) 657-1471 sfogarty@techtarget.com

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I have always seen the “powers that be” (those who sign the checks) tend to be quite pragmatic and expect information at that level. They need to know just enough so they feel justified putting out tens or hundereds of thousands of dollars for some project or an internal upgrade. Then we have the technical manager who knows the buzz words and trys to stay on top, but doesn’t really handle the equipment, but is expected to produce a project schedule and estimated man hours/milestones. Finally you have the hands on people and typically the senior ones need to relay back up the chain what is involved in actually performing the task. If this scenario is not followed then we run into cost overruns and various levels of this company getting frustrated and making quick decisions based on what they think they are aware of. Likewise maintenance of the equipment is typically NOT planned into the network design. (I have been working with networks since 1978.) In order to handle network communication effecivally you have to have GOOD people intra-communications where all levels need to get together first and everything is laid out on the table BEFORE starting. Yes! It takes longer…but the end result is what you wanted.

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  • Bobkberg
    I'd pretty much agree with HatcherBob (can't be much wrong with anybody named Bob :-) ).... Commoditization is not entirely a bad thing, but I don't think you're quite on the right track. What is essential from my point of view is for the people (like me, and other regular contributors to this forum) who implement the technology - to take the time, and make management take the time to understand the business objective. Too many people object to or propose things on technical points, and never understand what upper management is trying to achieve business-wise. When they use techno-talk to make their point - you can see the eyes glaze over, and they've probably lost the battle at that point. What's more important - and this is where middle management ought to be earning their money - is to make sure that all parties understand one another in plain English (or whatever language they speak) in terms of objectives desired. I've seen some pretty ridiculous things proposed by upper management, and accepted by lower echelons (with grumbling and ridicule) because someone read it in a magazine, or heard it from a friend, but didn't think to ask the technical folks if this was the best way. As with most other things - open communication about business objectives is the key to significant accomplishment. The technology should serve the business, not the other way around. Does that help? Bob
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  • SusanFogarty
    Thanks, Bob and Bob! That's a big help. Do you think that upper-level execurives realize the value of the network? Do they see is as a dumb pipeline, or do they realize its importance to the business?
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  • DrillO
    WOW!! The Bobs are a tough act to follow, but I will try to make my way through this. My network is absolutly critical....without it and the associated connectivity, I (and the organization) am completely out of business. Now, having said that, my big difficulties come in the people who hold the purse strings not understanding technology and failing most of the time to make the effort. All too often people seem to want to make the business fit the technology and not look at technology as a tool with which to impliment the business plan. I agree that good communication is paramount to the work we do. I too have been bit by the "cool" factor as in "WOW!! I saw this neat doo-dad in such and such a magazine and I think we ought to have one" (or 6 as it sometimes turns out) I spend a lot of my day trying to explain why something is needed or not needed as the case may be and am frequently over ruled. Am I a bad communicator? No, I don't think so. I do also find that the nuts and bolts take a back seat in a lot of instances right up until something breaks....then watch what happens. The addage about being proactive rather than reactive really plays here. Unfortunately, very few in upper stratosphere can abide replacing things they spent big money on and are now basically useless. The other huge problem for myself and some of my peers is someone making us impliment things that we are sure aren't going to work only to be blamed when it does fail because someone won't admit a strategic error. Our, or at least my, biggest challenge seems to be educating people who think they know this stuff. Sorry if I sound like I am complaining....I love my work and the challenges never let me down. This is, however my experience and a lot of my peers have similar troubles. Hope this helps some.... Best, Paul
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  • DrillO
    Oh boy....the follow up question came as I was writing. I will get into this one too... In my case, the upper management (three different organizations that I must contend with) know the importance of the network, but fail to grasp the ins and outs of it all. For example, when something dies upstream from here, the command is "I don't care who's fault it is, just fix it!" I am not helped by the fact that there is a person in one of these organizations that doesn't get it but has the ear of some of the big guys. So, yes, they do know that the network is important but until communication works better and the listening and understanding starts to get sorted out, we will still be where we are today far into the future. Again, I hope this helps. Paul
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  • Bobkberg
    How the executives see the network is going to vary widely. You are probably close in your description of seeing it as a pipe, but that would be dangerous to accept as a truth. Depending on whether or not they view the servers as part of the network is crucial - for the sake of argument here, I'll assume that they do... The network is not only a pipe, it is an access route to all the corporate resources. Those resources need to be protected, and kept confidential, and they need to be protected. Where management often comes up short is in forgetting two key factors: 1) The cost of failure and 2) The cost of lost opportunity (closely related but not the same). Bob
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