From the Trenches: Rampant MacGyver-ism

Here’s a response I got from Simon Milhomme on my Why Is Network Automation So Hard article:

I totally agree with you on all you're saying. I've been in the field of network engineering and a bit of system administration for quite some years and I've seen exactly what you're describing.

The snowflake factor and legacy ramification of the network makes it hard to automate, and make the MacGyver engineer look so clever and indispensable.

Medium-sized organizations I deal with are totally immature in terms of IT except if they make money out of IT. I mean, as long as IT is seen as a cost center, MacGyver will rule it, have fun and keep his reputation... glad to work long off hours just to prove he's worth what he's paid for.

So, unfortunately, I don't expect much automation for those... in fact, we have a hard time finding repetitive work to automate... because of... the snowflake network!

Let me conclude with a snarky sticker Lukas Krattiger sent me a while ago:


  1. You all are only looking for excuses to hide from automation. Just do it. Start small and than tackle the bigger challanges. Snowflakes are just job savers. You have to fire the designer of the snowflake to solve the problem. There is no other possibility.
  2. Cisco is the name of a snow machine product.
    1. Haha... I like Cisco as a company... We complain about it, but compared to many other industries, it's definitely not a bad market leader. But this comment is funny and profoundly true!
    2. We as networkers should look at what happened in the world of software in the last years. Networking is walking the same path with a few years of delay, mostly because hardware lifecycle makes harder to throw away the old heavy stuff - but I'm not assuming that replacing old code is easier.

      We shouls learn from the history and be prepared for what will come next.
    3. @Ivan: It doesn't make it any better if you delete my request for clarification (RFC). I still don't unterstand his comment.
    4. Recently it's pretty hard to distinguish anonymous trolling from (some) valid comments coming from the "same" source. Maybe if some anonymous commenters would stop behaving like frustrated kids we could have a decent discussion.

      Alternatively, you could start using your real name... Nah, not likely.
  3. The network space has a lot of amateur snowflake builders. You need to work in systems engineering to build the ultimate snowflake... so beautiful and incredibly fragile. Even better, there are numerous configuration (so called orchestration) tools to pretend as though you are building something to stand the test of time. Hopefully, networking can avoid this in the long run.
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