While I sit here alone in this Webex room waiting a few more minutes for someone to show up, I’d like to tell you the story of my first technical job experience.
I recently heard someone say $150k (US) was a lot of money years ago (the late 1960s), but it’s nothing now. He then gave some context explaining that people who work dayjobs for an employer are “stuck in a cage” and “losers.”
A network cutover is often the culminating event for networking projects. All of the planning, staging, testing, and configuration leads to this brief yet critical change window. Though there are a variety of cutover types and activities, I’ve found that there are some fundamental principles that apply to all of them.
Imposter syndrome is the topic du jour for blogs and podcasts, so I’m almost reluctant to write about it. However, I want to share something I realized about myself that breaks from the conversation at large about this popular subject.
I believe continual professional development is absolutely necessary for workers in the IT industry, and for a network engineer like myself, blogs and podcasts have helped with my own professional development as much as formal training courses.
Below is a list of the technology-related podcasts that have been my go-to when driving the many miles I travel per month. Most are networking-related, but some cover information on security, cloud, virtualization, etc.
There are more out there, but these are the handful I always seem to gravitate to. I’d love to get your recommendations for podcasts I should be listening to, so please let me know in the comments.
There’s a lot of hype around intent based networking. Some vendors seem happy to slap the term on anything that moves. But intent based networking, apart from the marketing hype, is a very compelling shift in network operations that I truly believe network engineers, architects, IT managers, and CIOs must pay attention to.
You see, especially in large environments, network operations is difficult to do well because of inconsistent practices, a lack of visibility, inefficient device-by-device configuration, and limited vendor tools. It’s a real problem that needs to be solved.
I got very interested in intent based networking a few years ago when the term was relatively unknown. However, in the last year or so the term has been adopted by a variety of networking vendors and applied to technologies that I believe have very little to do with intent based networking.
The term has become part of the current marketing narrative leaving a bitter taste in the mouths of many engineers and technical individuals. However, I believe it’s very important to consider that intent based networking is not simply the use of a new buzzword by networking vendors. IBN stands on its own as a new networking paradigm, despite it being hijacked by marketing teams.
As much as I love to call out a vendor on marketing nonsense, Ramesh Prabagaran, Director of Product Management at Cisco, made some compelling marketing statements about SD-WAN at Networking Field Day 19. In particular he said:
Deploying the new Cisco 9800-CL wireless controller is fast and easy, and by using the built-in workflows, a new wireless network can be deployed in only a few minutes. In this post, I’ll review how to deploy the virtual wireless LAN controller in VMware ESXi and stand up a very simple WLAN. We’ll also take a look at some potential gotchas and some noteworthy differences between how the new WLC is configured compared to the AireOS WLC.
A phrase that really bothers me is “not my problem.” Usually I hear it in conversation with someone who learns of a problem but immediately seeks to absolve himself of any responsibility for the cause or responsibility to help.
I believe a networking professional, whether in pre-sales or working in the field, should have a deep understanding of networking concepts and strong technical experience. But also important are the soft skills necessary to build trust with customers, encourage strong relationships with account managers, and develop camaraderie and collaboration among teams. The words “not my problem” undermine those relationships and therefore shouldn’t be on the lips of a networking professional, let alone any sort of professional.
Only a few years ago, Cisco tried their hand at a converged access wireless platform with, among other devices, the Cisco 5760 Wireless LAN Controller. To this day, I have nightmares about that box. It wasn’t fully functional, and it had huge code issues. Today, in spite of AireOS being a stable, highly functional, and well-known WLC platform, Cisco is trying it again with a range of WLCs in the 9300 and 9800 series.
However, will this brave attempt prove to have the same fate as the 5760?
This week I taught my last class as a part-time adjunct instructor at a community college. I’ve been there for six years – 12 consecutive semesters. Each term, alongside the actual curriculum, I incorporated my work experiences and lessons learned about the reality of working in IT. Making the class meaningful from a real-world perspective was very important to me.
For my very last class, I chose not to cover anything in the textbook or any of the bullets on the syllabus. Instead, I introduced my students to systems and network automation. What may seem old news to you and me was brand-new to my class, and I don’t believe this is the exception.
Recently I upgraded a customer’s wireless controllers to the latest Cisco 5520 WLCs, but because their environment had a mix of brand new access points and somewhat old ones, I had to use an outdated version of code that resulted in some weird client issues on the new APs.
As part of a larger Cisco Firepower project, I had to install the Firepower Management Console for a customer recently. I was using FMC version 6.2.3, and the customer was running ESXi 6.5. I’ve had issues deploying OVFs in ESXi 6.5 before, but this one required some new adjustments I’ve never had to make in order to get FMC to install.
I know a few engineers who get down on themselves for not being part of certain online networking conversations or not being part of particular slack groups. I like to be reasonably transparent with my friends, so it’s been humbling to have folks be transparent in kind and share that struggle with me.
I had to deal with an issue with a wireless network guest portal for a customer recently that had me and TAC stumped for a month. The splash page seemed to load fully, but there was always a small spinning circle in the center suggesting something on the page didn’t quite finish loading. It resulted in end-users seeing an intermittent but frequent error when they connected to the guest wireless getting the redirect URL to the guest portal page on Cisco Identity Services Engine 2.3. The error was
[ 400 ] Bad Request,The request is invalid due to malformed syntax or invalid data
and here’s what I did to troubleshoot and eventually fix it.
Working for a VAR means that I’m quickly moving from customer to customer, from project to project, and from technology to technology. Often there’s an expectation that I’m able to configure anything and everything on the fly, and with little to no knowledge of a customer’s network. However, moving at this pace and having to touch so many technologies means that I’m sometimes working with tech I’m only vaguely familiar with and without enough hours to dig into training.
Recently I was in the midst of setting up a simple two node Cisco ISE 126.96.36.1998 cluster and got to the stage when I registered the secondary node through the GUI of the primary. At that point, things wouldn’t work.
I’ve been an active part of the networking community on social media for only a few years. Before that I was a passive consumer of tweets, blogs, and videos. A previous manager inspired me to be more active, and very quickly after engaging directly with bloggers, podcasters, and engineers, the value of being an active participant became very clear to me.
I’ve been doing quite a few wireless networking projects lately, and often that also means Cisco ISE, Prime, location services, and that sort of thing. I really enjoy it, but it’s a funny story how my heart changed from loathing wireless projects to looking forward to them.