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So You Want to be a Network Engineer. Here’s Where You Should Start!

First lets talk about what a Network Engineer is. According to The Free On-line Dictionary of Computing. Retrieved April 27, 2015, from website a Network Engineer is:

“A high-level LAN /WAN technician who plans, implements and supports network solutions between multiple platforms. A network engineer installs and maintains local area network hardware and software, and troubleshoots network usage and computer peripherals.”

Network Engineers can wear many different hats. I believe the more “Traditional” Network Engineers mainly work on devices such as Routers, Switches, Firewalls, Wireless Access Points and Controllers, Load Balancers, Intrusion Detection and Prevention Systems as well as some server maintenance involving virtualization and network management software. Next we should discuss the overview of the differences between Network Engineering and Administration. Keep in mind I am just talking from an industry general view/standpoint. Some companies may not differ between the 2 titles. Engineers and Admins tend to share a lot of responsibility when it comes to maintaining and troubleshooting a network. The dividing line seems to be in the design/installation area with the bulk of this work generally being done by the more “experienced” engineers. Admins usually fall under the NOC (Network Operations Center) which in large companies/agencies is usually staffed 24x7x365. I have also seen the difference broken down into tiers when it comes to troubleshooting escalation. Network Admins usually fall in the Tier 1-2 range with Engineers being considered Tier 3. Read More »

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Is Networking Cool — Again? Yup!

I don’t think that anyone can deny that being in the IT industry at this time is exciting and interesting. It’s also exhausting. There is a ton of hyperbole floating about on Twitter and the Blogosphere concerning the need for network engineers to become programmers, and that ‘whatever’ technology du jour is only minutes away from capturing the market and being the de-facto standard. Oh by the way, all networking gear will be white box gear too — didn’t you hear? I’ve tried to NOT write a post that I fear will be read and dismissed as mere rhetoric, but here I am anyway.

As of late, I’ve had the awesome opportunity to work with some very cool customers who are Read More »

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We all start at Square One

I’ve been thinking about what to write for a while now.  I’m involved in some really cool projects right now, pervasive wifi in a theme park, using CMX with many zones at that same theme park and upgrading some public schools to newer equipment with full coverage wifi in the classrooms.  I think each of those would make a great post and I plan to touch on them soon, but this post will be on a comment that an intern made to me while we were upgrading a school recently.  “I can’t believe a Sr. Network Engineer is helping me cable a rack.”  I didn’t think much of it at the time but I did start thinking about it on the way home. Read More »

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The “Next Gen” Network Engineer

A subject very close to my heart at the moment is what skills I will need to have in order to support the Next Generation of Software Defined and Application Centric networks.

It is of no surprise that Networking like most other towers in IT has embraced abstraction as the way forward to provide levels of flexibility and agility never before seen in the Network.

What is perhaps a bit of a surprise, is the speed in which these new concepts are being developed and deployed. It seems like only last year terms like SDN were still viewed as “Way down the line” technologies. But here we are at the start of Q2 2014 and it seems like if you don’t already have an SDN plan you’re already behind.

So what skills will we need in order to design, support and deploy these new networks? Read More »

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Guest Blog: Migrating High Density University Networks to 802.11ac

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Joe Rogers, Associate Director of Network Engineering for the University of South Florida (USF). Hear Joe speak about his experiences with next-generation wireless in high density environments on next Tuesday’s webinar:  “Migrating Enterprise Networks to 802.11ac” at 10am PST (Dec 17) (Register here)

Joe RogersJoe Rogers is the Associate Director of Network Engineering for the University of South Florida.  He is a graduate of USF’s Computer Science and Engineering program and has worked as a network engineer at USF for the past 20 years.  He is currently responsible for all aspects of USF’s network which provides connectivity to over 100k devices across three campuses.  He’s held a CCIE routing and switching certification since 1999.  When not working, he’s an avid mountain biker (if you can call it “mountain” biking when you live in Florida).


Universities face some of the most complex design challenges in wireless networking.  Our user population is highly mobile, bandwidth-hungry, and often simultaneously using at least two wireless devices in rooms with hundreds of their classmates.  The wireless network isn’t simply a convenience to them.  It’s critical to their educational success as many of the students are taking tests or working on assignments across the network.

At the University of South Florida, we support over 20,000 concurrent wireless users on our network of over 4,000 access points.  We have more than 90,000 unique devices registered this semester.  Our biggest challenge is designing the wireless network for the device densities in our large classrooms and popular study areas.  In these locations, we often have a thousand devices in a few hundred square feet of space.

We heavily rely on band select to place as many devices as possible on 5Ghz where more channels are available.  Unfortunately many devices such as older tablets and smart phones simply don’t have an 802.11a/n radio.  So we must carefully RF engineer the environment with smaller cells to provide the necessary coverage density. Read More »

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