Monday, October 10, 2011

When long tenure is bad..

I'm pretty lucky, most of my staff has worked with me for 10+ years. There are some great benefits to that, like the wealth of institutional knowledge in the group, and the fact that we can eliminate a lot of bureaucracy and that frankly we work well together.

There is a dark side to though. We are pretty spoiled with our network management toolset and don't even realize how lucky we are. Two examples came up the last week when we we're talking to customers. They were really excited to see these features and frankly we were shocked that other vendors don't have them. In some cases we have had this ability for almost 20 years

If you are a long term Enterasys customer you have probably used these features a lot too and you may also be surprised that not everyone has these.

The first one is "compass". At it's simplest it lets you find a device on the network. You can locate them by MAC or IP address or if you use authentication you can find them by name. Now this is very helpful if you have a device behaving badly. You can simply type in the address and find out which switch and port it is plugged into.

Or if you have a user that calls in with an issue, you can simply search by their username. Most people know their username, very few actually know what a MAC address is and even less have memorized theirs. I know mine has an 8 in it, but that's as far as I remember. Being able to search on username just makes it that much easier and quicker to resolve a users issue.

History lesson on Compass: Many years ago it would list all of the ports, including uplinks, that the device was seen on, but over time it's gotten pretty good about just showing the one port that it is physically connected to.  The early prototype was a unix shell script that required the user to manually convert the MAC address to decimal and enter it that way. It's way better now.

Third Party devices
The second "feature" is the ability to manage third party devices in our network management software. I sort of thought everyone did this but several people told me the product they are using (I didn't ask whose it was) only supported their products. To me that seems odd since SNMP has been around for a long time.

Now the fact that we can manage the entire network as one entity, whether it is wired or wireless, I can see that being unique, but being able to add something like a printer or UPS, seems pretty basic to me.

I'm glad I have these two things but honestly I've gotten so used to having them I can't imagine trying to run a network without them. I almost want to go run a competitors network for a few weeks so I can appreicate how lucky I am.


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