Know Thy Boundaries

Every mid-sized company usually has legal counsel on staff (we have two lawyers for ~100 employees, but we might be a bit specific), that will escalate to an external law firm as necessary. Usually this would be when dealing with extraordinary events such as lawsuits or negotiation of a complex agreement.

Most companies generally have a marketing department, but will engage marketing agencies for major product launches.

Whenever an organization generates more than a few hundred invoices per month, it has an accounting department. But it isn't expected that this department would have expertise regarding international tax treaties.

Companies with significant cash flow have a CFO … and yet most companies go public with significant assistance from investment bankers.

Brick & mortar retailers have their own architects and interior designers, but you wouldn't expect them to draw the detailed plans of new building.

Every IT department has someone with networking skills … and expect that individual to know every possible architecture, network design and configuration option a vendor's equipment supports. This put-upon network professional usually toughs it out through help from the Great Oracle of Google, eventually getting some kind of Rube Goldberg concoction working.

There's something wrong with this picture. Work smart, not hard. Realize the limitations of your expertise and ask someone who specializes in the technology you have to deploy for help when appropriate. Your network will be grateful, although your vendor might not be.


  1. Very nice post, Ivan and as we all know 100% true!
  2. It is difficult to find expertise that is really independent. The companies will advise you tou use the product that they have a partnership with. I don t find any independent architect here in Switzerland for example.
    1. Do keep in mind that selecting/buying equipment represents only a very small portion of all new things we have to introduce into our networks. I totally agree that it's nice to have someone independent when buying new gear, but you don't need someone vendor-independent to help you (for example) design and implement BGP connectivity on your Cisco IOS boxes.
    2. That's true -- but you might also need to be told that choosing the Cisco IOS boxes for your BGP deployment may not be the best idea for your specific situation, and the best decision for your network might be $Other_Vendor's box; while the vendor-dependant person is not equipped to alert you of this.
    3. Winner! We need an army of agnostics to take the customer requirements and identify the best solution without respect for vendor.
  3. In software development we are told to analyze the problem domain, not the solution domain. From the analysis of the problem we should be guided to the appropriate solution. The issue of looking at it for the solution domain is that I now everything about vendor X's box, so how can I leverage it. This is how kludges get built.

    This all stems, I agree, from not knowing or being firm about your boundaries. For some reasons the networking people fall victim to this. In many cases the network engineer title is a synonym for "jack of all trades" but still not as bad as a "system administrator".
Add comment