Tips for Considering New Technology

Terry Slattery
Principal Architect

I recently talked with a customer about selecting an approach for network automation; a new technology for them. I did some up-front planning, made some notes, and then we talked for an hour. The result was a small set of decision criteria that I thought would be useful to the busy corporate IT / network executive. The process is much the same as you would use for any important decision regarding the adoption of new technology.

What is Needed?

We started the conversation with a discussion about defining realistic goals for their organization. We talked about identifying the functions that were driving the need for network automation:

  • Initial provisioning for a big rollout
  • Enabling agile configuration management to track dynamic operations in the IT server space
  • Performing OS upgrades to close security holes in network hardware
  • Verifying operational correctness of the network against the network design documentation
  • Configuring and controlling of hardware from multiple vendors

Identifying what they needed allowed us to establish some boundaries around the problem space. It is just as valuable to know what you don’t want to accomplish — non-goals — as it is to define what you want to accomplish. By setting goals, you can create metrics against which to measure success.

Is the Organization Capable?

The next phase of our conversation established whether the organization could create a network automation system. How many people could be put on the task? What time frame was needed? What is the budget, both in time and money? How big is the network, in terms of the number and variety of network hardware boxes? What other projects will not happen (i.e. will be delayed) because of this project?

We were able to use the knowledge of the goals to estimate the size of the tasks. That let us get a handle on what the organization was capable of doing.

Possible Approaches

The discussion then turned to possible approaches. We considered three paths:

  • Build it yourself using open source software packages
  • Purchase a commercial product
  • Hybrid – build it using consultants and open source software packages

We spent the remaining time talking about the risk / reward tradeoffs of each approach. The goal was to gain some preliminary insights into each approach, not to come up with a solution (this organization didn’t need to make an immediate decision).


What was the final decision? Nothing yet, but they have a greater understanding of the problem space from which they can do more thinking and research. It gave the organization information that they had not previously considered, which is exactly what they hired us to do.

Consulting with trusted advisors is one of the functions that we provide at NetCraftsmen. The next time you’re trying to decide on a specific approach to a problem, consider getting some thoughts from one of our senior staff.

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Nick Kelly

Cybersecurity Engineer, Cisco

Nick has over 20 years of experience in Security Operations and Security Sales. He is an avid student of cybersecurity and regularly engages with the Infosec community at events like BSides, RVASec, Derbycon and more. The son of an FBI forensics director, Nick holds a B.S. in Criminal Justice and is one of Cisco’s Fire Jumper Elite members. When he’s not working, he writes cyberpunk and punches aliens on his Playstation.


Virgilio “BONG” dela Cruz Jr.

CCDP, CCNA V, CCNP, Cisco IPS Express Security for AM/EE
Field Solutions Architect, Tech Data

Virgilio “Bong” has sixteen years of professional experience in IT industry from academe, technical and customer support, pre-sales, post sales, project management, training and enablement. He has worked in Cisco Technical Assistance Center (TAC) as a member of the WAN and LAN Switching team. Bong now works for Tech Data as the Field Solutions Architect with a focus on Cisco Security and holds a few Cisco certifications including Fire Jumper Elite.


John Cavanaugh

CCIE #1066, CCDE #20070002, CCAr
Chief Technology Officer, Practice Lead Security Services, NetCraftsmen

John is our CTO and the practice lead for a talented team of consultants focused on designing and delivering scalable and secure infrastructure solutions to customers across multiple industry verticals and technologies. Previously he has held several positions including Executive Director/Chief Architect for Global Network Services at JPMorgan Chase. In that capacity, he led a team managing network architecture and services.  Prior to his role at JPMorgan Chase, John was a Distinguished Engineer at Cisco working across a number of verticals including Higher Education, Finance, Retail, Government, and Health Care.

He is an expert in working with groups to identify business needs, and align technology strategies to enable business strategies, building in agility and scalability to allow for future changes. John is experienced in the architecture and design of highly available, secure, network infrastructure and data centers, and has worked on projects worldwide. He has worked in both the business and regulatory environments for the design and deployment of complex IT infrastructures.