Clear Pricing for Network Services

I had to buy some switches recently and needed to gather a second quote from another vendor. I went to the Dell website and was pleasantly surprised to quickly find a clear price and a buy-now button for each device on their website.

Normally you’d need an account of the vendors portal to get this information, so it is refreshing to have straightforward access to clear hardware pricing. However it was the list of professional services options shown in the attached image that caught my eye.

Dell_ProServices_MenuYou can choose options for ‘rack and cable’ basic deployment or more comprehensive ProDeploy solution. The out-of-hours cut-over and other on-site planning options are a lot more expensive, but I’d imagine those tasks require more polished and experienced engineers to be engaged, and a lot more time-risk. Lastly you have the more tightly defined remote consulting options, with a 1-hour or a higher-priced 1-case options of the course of a single year.

You could quibble with some of the prices but I was really surprised to see fixed pricing for professional services, presented in an easy-to-consume and transparent manner.  I’ve always had an interest in business. Now that I’m more focused on network consulting I’m paying very close attention to how consulting effort is estimated and priced and delivered.

I love the idea of offering product-ized professional services. Of course there’s quite a risk with offering a fixed-price service. You need to put strong protections in place to avoid your engineers exceeding the effort you’ve priced into the offering. When it goes badly each engagement could become a loss-making opportunity.

On the other hand, offering a fixed-price for a well-defined task provides a clear incentive for process improvement. Any productivity gains you make from refining your deployment process goes straight to your profitability.

I’m going to dig deeper into this area. Do you have any experience with fixed-price or ad-hoc hourly network consulting engagements that you could share?

Writing elsewhere on the net

Hi Folks,

I write for a few other publications, so I’ve made this handy page to link to external articles. I’ll update this page as new articles are released.

Human Infrastructure Magazine

Issue 23 – How To Unblock Your Project

Issue 27 – Email Stinks For Process Documentation

Network Computing

Demystifying The 10x Network Engineer

The Broken Window Theory of Network Configuration

Packet Pushers

All my posts on the PacketPushers Blog

Enjoy.

 

Include the why

whyI recently stumbled upon an interesting speech from 1984 by Charlie Munger of Bershire Hathaway fame. Charlie is Warren Buffet’s right-hand-man, and a straight talking genius in his own right. It’s a fairly long speech and Charlie has a few very interesting things to say, but one particular section on ‘explaining the why’ really struck home.

Here’s a brief quote:

….if you always tell people why, they’ll understand it better, they’ll consider it more important, and they’ll be more likely to comply. Even if they don’t understand your reason, they’ll be more likely to comply.

So there’s an iron rule that just as you want to start getting worldly wisdom by asking why, why, why, in communicating with other people about everything, you want to include why, why, why. Even if it’s obvious, it’s wise to stick in the why.

The ‘why’ is notably absent from most conversations in our high-tech sphere. I’ve wasted countless hours interpreting solutions to ill-defined or undefined problems. I’m guilty of writing many ‘why-less’ documents and emails also. Upon reflection, I can recognise the folly of not explaining the problem at hand before launching into the solution.

When I drop the reasoning and background and go straight for the solution, I find that I trigger much frustrating communication, organisational friction and ultimately lost time.

Perhaps I feel I’m being efficient by banging out a quick email which omits the ‘why’, but it’s certainly not effective. Perhaps I fall into the trap of assuming everyone is on the same page and the ‘why’ should be self-evident.

I’m with Charlie on this one, I think we could all provide more ‘whys’ in our email, network designs, change control documents, etc. I’m going to try and add more ‘why’ to my communications over the coming weeks with the goal of reducing friction and improving the effectiveness of my communication.

What do you think?

Getting started with Network Packet Generators

bit blaster

A friend of mine has just ordered a shiny new packet generator for his network lab. I’ve spent some time working as a QA engineer in a network lab and wanted to share some advice.

You can purchase stateful and stateless packet generators from major vendors like Spirent, IXIA or Agilent. If you just need to test throughput, latency or loss, a stateless packet generator will do the trick. The test hardware will use an ASIC to produce line-rate 10G traffic or higher. The Cisco Enterprise Testing Book calls this a ‘bit-blaster’ which I love. In the wrong hands it can also be a ‘network-melter’.  Continue reading

5 ways to fail – WAN link acceptance

Ethernet WAN linkI’ve had an interesting few months doing WAN circuit turn-ups for a new Data Centre. I dealt with three major carriers, and each experience was worse than the next. I’m not sure why I held such high expectations but I was surprised by their hopeless inefficiency in delivering what should have been a standard product. In this post I’ll examine the problems I saw and their root causes.

In all three situations, 1Gbps Layer-2 ethernet circuit was ordered with a copper ethernet handoff from a rack-installed NID/NTU/whatever-you-call-it-yourself. Lets look at the five issues I hit whilst troubleshooting. Continue reading

Does your Wave2 AP need NBase-T?

Cisco recently launched the 2800 and 3800 series 802.11ac wave-2 access points. The 3800 Datasheet quotes a theoretical maximum throughput of 5.2Gbps when operating in Dual 5GHz radio mode (2 x 2.6Gbps). If you ran two cables to your AP you could use the second ethernet port to create a 2 x 1Gbps LAG. However there is still some debate about whether 2Gbps of throughput is sufficient for a single-radio Wave2 AP.

Some companies may not be willing to invest the time and expense to swap out their copper for fiber or run yet more copper to their APs. The NBase-T standard 802.3bz provides an alternative approach, promising speeds of 2.5Gbps or 5Gbps over Cat5e cabling over 100 Meter runs.

Continue reading