Where the puck is going

One of the joys, and challenges, of being the CTO of a network consulting company is trying to determine where we should be focusing our attentions, where the industry is going, and the time frames to wider deployment and the ramp up time so I can factor for “skilling up” of my engineering resources.

Where the puck is goingOne of the main reasons I started getting more involved in social media, blogging, and the Packet Pushers community 18 months ago was to try and get a better understanding of the next phase of the networking industry, and computing in general.

At times like this, I often think about a great quote from legendary hockey player, Wayne Gretzky (#99 The Great One), and despite the fact that these days its starting to become a cheesy catch phrase, the principle still applies…

“A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”

- Wayne Gretzky

The same policy applies equally to network engineers. In a world full of mission critical networks, and that number growing rapidly, there is certainly enough work for very skilled engineers to design and maintain networks to the general understanding of “Best Common Practice”. Don’t get me wrong – you can certainly remain comfortably employed, and put food on the table for the family by “doing what everybody else is doing”.

So what if you want to differentiate yourself from the majority of the industry? Gretzky himself states that he “wasn’t naturally gifted in terms of size and speed”, but he worked very hard and practiced to put himself where he was.

The story goes that one day when he was starting out, Gretzky sat in front of a game of hockey with a notepad in hand drawing out the path of the puck for the entire game. At the end of the game he analyzed the data in front of him. He concluded that the the darkest spots on the page were the areas that the puck went most often – and this is where he needed to be!

Where do you see your career going in the next 18 months? Will you be where the puck is, or where its going?

Mop and Bucket – Cleaning Up!

I spent a large part of last year, and more intensely over the Christmas break, trying to pick where the industry would be headed. Where I wanted my own career to go, what interested me most, and then how I could position my company to take advantages of those opportunities.

Now while our company is still a networking focused company, it would be foolish to put blinders on and ignore what is happening in the industry around us. To this end I have been researching “market adjacencies”. For myself, I have chosen the following three areas to supplement my current busy workload plus JNCIE and CCIE studies:

I have taken an interest in the OpenStack Project in the last few months, and have spent quite a bit of my Christmas break reading up on Amazon’s AWS services – and more importantly how to appropriately design systems to operate in these environments. A lot of this is old school sysadmin skills, but with a twist aimed at speedy deployment and scalability.

Big Data is another interesting area, that has very particular needs for network design and scalability, so I have spent some time reading up on Hadoop in particular. I can see some uses for even some small scale Hadoop clusters in my future for some network management and auditing systems I have “in development”. Brad Hedlund has written some really good posts on Hadoop over on his blog so make sure you check them out

“Devops” is another great buzz word right now, and I’m sure its nothing more than a pseudo-official name for all the scripts and duct-tape that Systems and Network Engineers have been kludging together for years now. Never the less there have been some interesting developments in this area, so I feel I need to brush of my “hack-job coding skills” – this time by learning Python (I used to be a dyed in the wool Perl coder).

I think Greg put it best in his recent post “Suck Less, Be Better”. Sometimes just moving “up and to the right” on the skills chart is enough – even if it is just in small steps. To this end, I have set some small steps to progress myself along in these areas. I have purchased, and have been working my way through the following books:

I recommend everyone should purchase this book, as the author manages to cram an awful lot of experience into this book, and still teach you a thing or two!

I would highly recommend these books to anyone looking to learn more in these areas.

Brian Gracely, from The CloudCast.NET Podcast has also released a good introductory video series on Cloud Computing. Its a pretty good overview and the related/linked videos provide some great information.

Leave your comments and let me know what areas you are looking at, and what industry rumblings are taking your fancy right now!

Kurt Bales
Kurt is a Network Engineer based out of Sydney Australia. He is Senior Network Engineer at ICT Networks where he spends his time building Service Provider networks, and enterprise WAN environments, and Security solutions around the Juniper product portfolio. He holds his CCNP and JNCIP-ENT, and currently studying for his JNCIE-ENT and CCIE R&S. Find out more about Kurt on his blog at http://network-janitor.net/ and you can follow him on Twitter.
Kurt Bales

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  • kevin myers

    As an avid hockey player for the last 20 years and Network Engineer, I really enjoyed seeing a tech/business hockey analogy for once instead of the multitude of other sports. Good post. 

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