Interviews


Interviews by Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P., MVP, DF/NPA, CNP

Diane Teare, Top International Authority/Author in Networking, Training, and E-Learning

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P., DF/NPA, MVP, CNP has an exclusive interview with Diane Teare.

Diane TeareDiane Teare is a professional in the networking, training, and e-learning fields. She has more than 20 years of experience in designing, implementing, and troubleshooting network hardware and software, and has also been involved in teaching, course design, and project management. She has extensive knowledge of network design and routing technologies and is an instructor with one of the largest authorized Cisco Learning Partners. She was also the Director of e-Learning for the same company, where she was responsible for planning and supporting all the company's e-learning offerings in Canada, including Cisco courses.

Diane has a bachelor's degree in applied science in electrical engineering (BASc) and a master's degree in applied science in management science (MASc). She is a Cisco Certified Systems Instructor (CCSI) and currently holds her Cisco Certified Network Professional (CCNP) and Cisco Certified Design Professional (CCDP) certifications. She edited the Cisco Press titles Authorized Self-Study Guide Designing for Cisco Internetwork Solutions (DESGN), first and second editions, and Designing Cisco Networks. She also coauthored Campus Network Design Fundamentals, the three editions of Authorized Self-Study Guide Building Scalable Cisco Internetworks (BSCI), and Building Scalable Cisco Networks.

Diane's latest book is the above-mentioned second edition of Authorized Self-Study Guide Designing for Cisco Internetwork Solutions (DESGN), published in October 2007.

The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.
http://blogs.technet.com/cdnitmanagers/

Index and links to Questions
Q1   There are a high percentage of business/technology managers amongst our readers. What are your most important current roadmap-level tips involving networks and network design?
Q2   Take the prior question and apply it to the next 3 to 5 years.
Q3   What are your practical suggestions for improving security in networks?
Q4   Can you extract the key lessons from your latest book that would be of benefit to managers?
Q5   The Industry is changing. What advice would you give to IT professionals to stay on top of what is happening in the industry in order to position them (from a career standpoint) and their organization to benefit from these trends?
Q6   Profile your current specific role.
Q7   In your current role, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions? How does this relate to business?
Q8   Please share a story (something surprising, unexpected, amazing, or humorous) from your work?
Q9   Provide your predictions of future IT/Business trends and their implications/opportunities?
Q10   Which are your top recommended resources and why?

DISCUSSION:

Opening Comment: Diane, you bring a lifetime of proven experience and accumulated valuable insights to our audience. Considering your impossible schedule, we thank you for doing this interview with us.

A: It's my pleasure, Stephen.

Q1: There are a high percentage of business/technology managers amongst our readers. What are your most important current roadmap-level tips involving networks and network design?

A:

  1. As a manager, ensure that you have at least a high-level understanding of the basics of IT; if you understand it, it will be much easier to manage it.

  2. Design, then implement your network. Just like in any other project, spend time understanding the requirements first.

  3. Recognize that the requirements and the available technologies will change over time. Change is a normal part of IT life, and we have to accept it.

  4. Networks are becoming more intelligent and complex and can include a wide variety of technologies. Ensure that your staff has the resources to keep current and to understand these technologies and how they work.

  5. Again, because networks are complex, it is a good idea to break the network design into smaller parts (we use the term "modularize").

Q2: Take the prior question and apply it to the next 3 to 5 years.

A: As networks become more intelligent and an integrated part of the business, understanding the business requirements and associated metrics will become essential components of the network design process. Thus, it will become crucial for IT personnel to understand the language of the business personnel, and vice-versa.

Q3: What are your practical suggestions for improving security in networks?

A: Network security should start with developing a security policy that specifies both the requirements and responsibilities related to network security, and sets the framework for implementation. It's important to note that risks are not eliminated by network security; rather they are reduced to levels deemed acceptable to the organization. Therefore, as part of developing a security policy, a risk assessment and cost-benefit analysis should be performed.

The network security policy could be produced as a series of documents, such as an overall policy, a network access policy, an acceptable use policy, and so forth. These policies must then be disseminated to all employees (and contractors, etc); training on the policies should be mandatory for all. Policies should be written such that they are enforceable, and wherever possible automated ways to enforce them should be put in place. For example, companies should have a policy that nobody should surf "objectionable" websites. To enforce this, URL filtering software could automatically prevent users from visiting websites that have been listed as "objectionable". However, if users need to get to one of these listed sites (for work purposes), they should be able to make a special request to have that site removed from the filter's list.

Since risks, technologies, and requirements may change, the security policies should be living documents that are updated as necessary.

Network security implementation does not just mean putting a firewall on the Internet connection; security should be integrated into the network. For example, routers and switches with features such as integrated firewall, VPN, and intrusion prevention and detection are available, as are stand-alone security appliances. These devices can work together and with other devices and applications, to defend against threats both from within the network and from external sources.

Q4: Can you extract the key lessons from your latest book that would be of benefit to managers?

A: Along with the security suggestions we just discussed, here are some of the other key points from the book.

For network design methodology: Identify requirements first, assess what you currently have and how it will need to be changed to meet these requirements, and then create a detailed design. The requirements should reflect both the business and technical aspects of the network. While techies may want to start by analyzing the technical side of the network, reviewing the business aspects first will ensure that they understand what the network will be used for, why the network is being changed, what parts are most critical to the organization, and so forth.

For structuring the network: Modularize the design. For example, if you have multiple buildings on your campus, there will be many common aspects among the design of the network in each building, and they all in turn may connect to a common campus core. Network applications (such as IP telephony) tend to span many modules and are enabled by a set of common services (such as security, quality of service, and so forth).

For campus and data center design: Key considerations for campus design are the applications that need to be supported, the building locations, and the characteristics of the devices and cabling selected. Data centers are ideally evolving from server-centric to service-centric, with resources that are pooled and virtualized.

For WANs: There are a wide variety of WAN technologies available. Trade-offs are sometimes necessary when selecting which WAN to use; considerations include the requirements of applications that will go over the WAN, technical specifications (such as bandwidth), and cost.

For IP addressing and routing: The network's IP addressing plan should be hierarchical, and should easily allow route summarization (to reduce routing traffic and routing table size) and growth. This requires planning!

For voice: Although the network can view voice as "just another application", it's an application with specific requirements that must be implemented. Your voice network may be managed by another group of people; before implementing IP telephony, ensure that you have people with voice expertise on the team.

For wireless: Wireless, including wireless security, is evolving. There are various wireless architectures available, from stand-alone autonomous wireless access points, to lightweight wireless access points controlled by a centralized device. So again, before implementing wireless, ensure that you have expertise on your team.

Q5: The Industry is changing. What advice would you give to IT professionals to stay on top of what is happening in the industry in order to position them (from a career standpoint) and their organization to benefit from these trends?

A: From an individual perspective, I think that it's crucial to accept that there will be continuous change and to try to stay current. One of the ways that you can demonstrate this to your current employer (and of course to prospective employers if necessary) is by getting a certification. Sure, if you're not certified it doesn't mean that you can't do your job, but it's a good way to demonstrate your level of knowledge. And when you do get your certification, whatever it is, take note of any expiration dates! For example, Cisco career certifications (such as CCNA, CCDA, CCNP, etc.) are valid for 3 years - if you don't recertify in time, you lose it, and you're back to the beginning again. I've met a couple of people who had their CCNP and lost itů so they were painfully starting all over again.

From an organization's perspective, encourage continuous learning. Allowing employees to take courses is an obvious way to do this, but there are others: for example, start up a library of relevant books, get access to some e-learning courses, set up a lab that your employees can "play" with, etc. And, most importantly I think, give them time to read, take the courses, use the equipment...

Q6: Profile your current specific role.

A: Currently my time is split between writing and training. I have been fortunate to be involved in many aspects of both, including writing and editing technical books, teaching, course development, e-learning, management, and project management.

Q7: In your current role, what are the biggest challenges, and their solutions? How does this relate to business?

A: I think one of the biggest challenges for all of us is keeping up with the rapid changes in technologies. I try to read as much as I can, attend conferences, and talk to others in the industry.

Specific to my current role, a big challenge is thinking of ways to explain often difficult topics in a way that they will be understood. I've found that using analogies helps keeps people's interest, and gives them a different view of a topic.

Getting the facts straight is another challenge - there is a lot of "misinformation" out there! I have learnt to question, or to test the facts myself.

Q8: Please share a story (something surprising, unexpected, amazing, or humorous) from your work?

A: One thing that I find amazing is that I've never actually met any of the people that I've worked with at Cisco Press ... and I've been working with some of them, including the Executive Editor of my current book, since 1998! Our work is done electronically (with only the occasional phone call); we're using the network to write about networks.

Q9: Provide your predictions of future IT/Business trends and their implications/opportunities?

A:

  • Trend 1) Learning and knowledge

    Implication/opportunities:  We're in a knowledge-based industry and there is ever more to know and to learn about. Continuous learning is a must.

  • Trend 2) E-learning

    Implication/opportunities:  I don't think that e-learning will ever replace classroom learning, as some predicted years ago. However, as people are becoming high-speed connected 24/7, I think it is a viable alternative as part of an overall training strategy linked to business objectives. Some reasons I think it hasn't taken off as predicted are a mismatch in expectations and a lack of support; for example, we usually don't expect to attend class on our own time, and therefore we shouldn't expect to "attend" e-learning on our own time either.

  • Trend 3) The network as an integral part of the business

    Implication/opportunities:  As I mentioned earlier, I think it will become even more crucial for IT personnel to understand the language of the business personnel, and vice-versa. Thus, from an IT perspective, learning about business concerns, understanding financial metrics, learning how to explain IT issues clearly (without too many acronyms) and so forth, will go a long way to helping to break down the communication barriers.

Q10: Which are your top recommended resources and why?

A:

  1. Cisco's web site. Since most of my work revolves around Cisco products and technologies, I often find myself searching for information there. One of the most useful features they've put in is what I call "go/". For example if you want to find the latest and greatest links to voice technologies, you can just go to www.cisco.com/go/voice; this saves me a lot of time.

  2. Various Cisco Press books. Again, since most of my time is spent in the Cisco world, I find my collection of Cisco Press books to be very helpful. End-to-End QoS Network Design by Tim Szigeti and Christina Hattingh is one I often recommend to students.

  3. Network World, among other trade magazines and sites, to keep up with the latest goings on in the industry.

  4. The Code Book by Simon Singh, for understanding cryptography.

  5. Colleagues. I am fortunate to work with some very talented and knowledgeable people, who are also always willing to share their expertise.

Closing Comment: Diane, we will continue to follow your significant contributions. We thank you for sharing your time, wisdom, and accumulated deep insights with us.

A: Thank you, Stephen.