Modern Network Architecture

Apr 22 2012   1:26PM GMT

Modern Network Architecture – The girdling effect

James Murray James Murray Profile: James Murray

 

When planting a new tree a gardener will setup structures around the treed to help the tree stand up in the wind.  These structures should allow the tree to move in the wind, but not move so much that the tree falls over.  This movement helps the tree grow stronger.  The idea is that

as the tree grows, the supporting structure is loosened over time and eventually removed.  Leaving a strong healthy tree that can stand on its own.  The problem occurs when the gardener forgets about the tree. 

 

As the trunk of the tree grows, the structure that started out loose and flexible for a small sapling is now constricting.  Like wearing a belt that is too small, the trunk of the tree will actually grow around the supporting structure.  This constriction is called girdling.  If this structure is never removed the tree will eventually choke itself and fall over under its own weight.  This is what happens to networks as well.

 

Technology that works great for a small network, will act as a girdle to organizational growth.  Choking off the business until eventually the business topples over under its own weight. 

 

To combat this girdling affect modern network architects build scalable networks.  A scalable network just means that the technology of the organization grows at the same rate as the organization.  Maybe even a little faster than the organization.  This doesn’t mean just throwing more money to the technology group.  It means the CIO and the Network Architect need to understand the growth rate of the company, the changes of the company and propose changes that expand the technical capacity of the organization.

 

I find it interesting though how little technology departments understand the business they are supporting.  I see technology groups actually get lost in the day to day tactical management of the network.  As the business grows the technical teams insist on maintaining the integrity of the system but refusing to accept change. 

 

From a tactical standpoint, it is essential to maintain the integrity of the day to day systems.  One of the problems with a network is when people do their own thing on the network.  The more undocumented changes to the network has the same girdling effect on business productivity.  So how does the network maintain the tactical day to day integrity of the technology, while at the same time build in the flexibility to grow and change with the business?

 

I’ve found that there are natural conflicts in any organization.  As long as we maintain an even balance in the conflict, the overall system remains healthy.  What I find happens though is the human factor.  Not human failure, but the natural human nature to be competitive.  In an IT group there is a natural conflict between Incident management and problem management.  Incident of course resolves known problems and Incident resolves unknown problems.  When things stay the same, problems are always known.  When things change, new problems occur that are by their very nature unknown.  When there is growth within the organization, there are also unknown problems.

 

The key to business stability is to maintain the present system and avoid unknown issues.  The key to business growth is to initiate growth and solve the unknown problems that will inevitably occur.  The two goals are in conflict.  So too Incident management and problem management are (and should be) in constant conflict as well.  So the real problem isn’t with the conflict.  The problem is when on side of this conflict has more power than the other. 

 

The girdling affect in a network is not really a technical problem.  The girdling affect is actually a symptom of a political problem.  Where Incident Management or Problem Management has gained the upper hand politically and now has reduced the ability of the other group to push back.  The gardener needs both the strength of the tree and the conflict of the wind to balance the growth of the tree.  Helping too much or too little can affect the growth of the tree and the business organization.

 

I’m curious how this type of conflict might be benefiting or girdling your organization?

 

When planting a new tree a gardener will setup structures around the treed to help the tree stand up in the wind.  These structures should allow the tree to move in the wind, but not move so much that the tree falls over.  This movement helps the tree grow stronger.  The idea is that as the tree grows, the supporting structure is loosened over time and eventually removed.  Leaving a strong healthy tree that can stand on its own.  The problem occurs when the gardener forgets about the tree.  

As the trunk of the tree grows, the structure that started out loose and flexible for a small sapling is now constricting.  Like wearing a belt that is too small, the trunk of the tree will actually grow around the supporting structure.  This constriction is called girdling.  If this structure is never removed the tree will eventually choke itself and fall over under its own weight.  This is what happens to networks as well. 

Technology that works great for a small network, will act as a girdle to organizational growth.  Choking off the business until eventually the business topples over under its own weight.  

To combat this girdling affect modern network architects build scalable networks.  A scalable network just means that the technology of the organization grows at the same rate as the organization.  Maybe even a little faster than the organization.  This doesn’t mean just throwing more money to the technology group.  It means the CIO and the Network Architect need to understand the growth rate of the company, the changes of the company and propose changes that expand the technical capacity of the organization. 

I find it interesting though how little technology departments understand the business they are supporting.  I see technology groups actually get lost in the day to day tactical management of the network.  As the business grows the technical teams insist on maintaining the integrity of the system but refusing to accept change.  

From a tactical standpoint, it is essential to maintain the integrity of the day to day systems.  One of the problems with a network is when people do their own thing on the network.  The more undocumented changes to the network has the same girdling effect on business productivity.  So how does the network maintain the tactical day to day integrity of the technology, while at the same time build in the flexibility to grow and change with the business? 

I’ve found that there are natural conflicts in any organization.  As long as we maintain an even balance in the conflict, the overall system remains healthy.  What I find happens though is the human factor.  Not human failure, but the natural human nature to be competitive.  In an IT group there is a natural conflict between Incident management and problem management.  Incident of course resolves known problems and Incident resolves unknown problems.  When things stay the same, problems are always known.  When things change, new problems occur that are by their very nature unknown.  When there is growth within the organization, there are also unknown problems. 

The key to business stability is to maintain the present system and avoid unknown issues.  The key to business growth is to initiate growth and solve the unknown problems that will inevitably occur.  The two goals are in conflict.  So too Incident management and problem management are (and should be) in constant conflict as well.  So the real problem isn’t with the conflict.  The problem is when on side of this conflict has more power than the other.  

The girdling affect in a network is not really a technical problem.  The girdling affect is actually a symptom of a political problem.  Where Incident Management or Problem Management has gained the upper hand politically and now has reduced the ability of the other group to push back.  The gardener needs both the strength of the tree and the conflict of the wind to balance the growth of the tree.  Helping too much or too little can affect the growth of the tree and the business organization. 

I’m curious how this type of conflict might be benefiting or girdling your organization?

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