Getting Back In The Groove

Week notes Network Redesign 10/01/2020

Background & Recap

Let me start by welcoming everyone back after the Christmas break. I hope you were all able to get some rest and quality family time. It’s always a bit challenging getting back into the groove of things after some time off. However, there’s no time like the present so let’s get things underway.

For my new readers, the aim of the ‘Network Redesign’ is to enhance and future proof of the council network infrastructure. This will happen through the architectural redesign of the current council network and upgrading of associated hardware, (network switches & cables).

The new infrastructure design will have a ‘Web First’ strategy at its core and enable users (Council employees and members of the public to access council online services, from any of our offices without being bound to a local server but connecting directly to the cloud.

Last Sprint Goal

  • Complete cost estimates for potential firewall solution for the first quarter of 2020 (This has partially been achieved however due to sick leave elements of this task have rolled over into the upcoming Sprint)

Objectives for 2020 first quarter

Since the beginning of this project, I have had to up-skill my understanding of the different components which go into Wi-Fi installation and infrastructure redesign. From broadband cable installation, ‘Wayleave’ licensing to hardware purchasing of switches, to understanding the difference between these types of switches and their functions between a distribution and core levels. (See more on Core & Access Layer switches with this useful one-pager here)

The objective of our first quarter in 2020 will be to get the team and stakeholders for our project in a world where their understanding of our teams recommended solutions provide enough insight that they feel comfortable enough in their understanding to be able to order the relevant hardware solution fit for purpose and to meet a majority of our briefed requirements.

Sprint Goals

  • This current Sprint will see the team take a deeper dive into the requirements for purchasing a firewall for the data center and the distribution level.
  • Set up a Firewall test lab and review the results before submitting recommendations
  • Now that we have the ‘Wayleaves’ license approvals we are now doing the actual installation of the fiber optic cabals for our identified sites.

Pipeline Project Week Notes

Background & Recap

‘Pipeline’ is a government platform, which can be used by anyone working in digital from central or local government. Created to encourage sharing of ideas and best ways to do all things digital from a public servant perspective.

This project main goal is to make Pipeline into a valuable portfolio-reporting tool, which will serve these dual aims. The main focus of this Sprint is to complete the re-skimming of the front-end interface with a goal to make it more users friendly.

Sprint Goal

Last year we had reached a stage in development where we now wanted to deploy the work carried out into a live environment following on from the testing and some bug fixes.

Challenges

Since the completion of the work, we have been experiencing some issues with deployment due to some internal bugs within Pipeline.

Next steps

  • Bug fixes to remedy the issues with deployment into a live environment
  • Further talks with the ‘L.D.C. Unit’ (Local Digital Collaboration Unit) to sync up and unpack future developments for the Pipeline platform

DXW Cyber Security By Design Week notes

The DXW Cybersecurity specialist team is currently working with the ICT team to help to tease out a bespoke approach for ensuring we have put security in the workflow of our DevOps team.

Last Sprint Goal

  • Facilitate and successfully complete the DXW workshop session with the Universal housing team

Sprint Goals

  • Capture the outcomes from the workshop and circulate the tasks amongst the Universal Housing team

Network Redesign end of year update

Week notes Network Redesign 20/12/2019

It’s been a while since my last post and with good reason. I was away on leave but the time away offered some much-needed rest and reflection.

Background

If you’re new to the ‘Network Redesign’ project allow me to take this opportunity to provide an overview.‘Network Redesign’ in summary is a project with a purpose to enhance and future proof the council network infrastructure. This will happen through the architectural redesign of the current council network and the upgrading of associated hardware. The new infrastructure design will have a ‘Web First’ strategy at its core and enable users (Council employees and members of the public), to access council services from any of our offices without being bound to a local server.

Objectives

We have crunched and munched and explored every cost reduction opportunity in our quest to get the best value in our search for the best network distribution and core solution.

The main reason for the delay in getting this stage of the project over the line has been the desired increase of scope from the actual areas covered by the team’s recommendations.

We originally were briefed to complete a breakdown for the access layer switches, however, a new requirement to provide a similar analysis for the data center has now also been thrown into the mix as an urgent requirement, for good measure. As a result, the engineers have also been pulling together inputs to help shape a datacentre solution which also looks at the impact of cost reduction based on a percentage reduction in spend and an impact assessment to show on what the desired reduction will have on related kit spec and performance. Whilst also including things like projections on performance, maintenance, and installation.

We have also made some progress with the installation of the fiber cabling following on from the completion of the ‘Wayleaves’ permits. The Queens Bridge Road site has recently completed an outstanding survey for the installation of fiber cabling by service providers ‘Optimity’ and ‘Community Fibre’.

What we have found challenging

Once again the lack of resources has proved challenging in our push to bring the project to completion especially with Christmas approaching. Me being off on leave I am sure aided to some of our shortcomings in this Sprint. With that being said, we were still able to deliver on our main Sprint objectives of a cost reduction and impact analysis spreadsheet.

Next steps

  • Complete cost estimates for potential firewall solution for the first quarter of 2020

Week notes Pipeline

Background

‘Pipeline’ is a government platform, which can be used by anyone working in digital from central or local government. Created to encourage sharing of ideas and best ways to do all things digital from a public servant perspective. This digital space has been created to build a community where you can share all your amazing ideas for digital, best ways of working and valuable lessons learned on any ICT related projects across the board.

As the world of digital is such a fast-paced industry, it’s important to have platforms such as this, encouraging fail fast, upskill in an iterative manner, encouraging cross-team pollination.

Objective

We have been working hard with the digital agency ‘Rainmaker’ and Ben Cheetham from ‘Local Digital’ to improve the user experience on the platform. I have inherited the excellent work, which Nick Teeman has pushed through the development and we are now in the crucial roll-out phase.

Next Steps

  • We want to deploy the approved tested changes
  • We are having a round table meeting before we break for Christmas with Ben Cheetham and the ‘Local Digital’ team along with the good people at ‘Rainmaker’ to agree on the things we would like to focus on from a development standpoint as we approach our closing Sprint in early 2020.

Week notes DXW Security by Design

Background

Ask yourself the question “what makes good code and information security?” Now ask “what makes excellent code and information security?” This is a journey which we are poised to unpack in the New year.  Armed with the DXW Cybersecurity specialist team helping to tease out a bespoke approach for ensuring just that. Making sure the temperature is just right for baking this thinking into our current workflows.

Objective

After a very productive workshop session with DXW Cyber, we were able to hash out our requirements and a proposed a timeline for the roll-out of some exciting, brave new ways for developing excellent security within Hackney. (If we said any more it would compromise security, so ‘Watch this space’).

Next Steps

-Lockdown and confirm the date to kick-off sessions with teams

As this is the last week note from me in 2019 may I take this opportunity to wish you all a well-rested and enjoyable festive season and a prosperous 2020.

Pulling into gear Network Re-design week notes 15/11

Background

This week I would like to provide any new readers a general overview of what ‘Network Redesign’ is all about. The purpose of this project is to enhance and future proof of the council’s current network infrastructure design. The architectural redesign of the current council network and upgrading of associated hardware will make this possible. The new design will be the launchpad for the council’s new ‘Web First’ strategy which will enable users to access the council’s services from any of our offices without being bound to a local server instead users will access our services directly through the cloud.

Objectives

Pulling into gear would be one way I would describe this week. The learnings we come away with during the test lab sessions have now finally come into fruition in the form of a review document. This document highlights our recommendations not only from a pros and cons perspective but also from the thinking and rationale behind our decision-making.

Network Redesign pulling into gear

The finding of the port density audit has actually evolved. Originally we created a document, which was designed to show the number of ports, which existed in the Council’s hub sites. This then was distilled to provide a deeper understanding as to which sites we could then afford to lose phone ports as a result of under usage.

We have peeled back another layer in our insight to reveal the sites, which only require 8 port switches as opposed to the current spec of 48 port switches. This reduction from 48 to 8 port will have a significant impact on the overall sum total cost for the purchasing of hardware. All findings are showing scope for a potential win in cost reduction so the team feels it is important we exhaust this possibility.

Wayleaves contracts have finally been approved! Once again a big thank you @peter.burt for all of the efforts he and his team have shown in helping to get this approval over the line. For those readers who are not clear on what exactly the Wayleave contract is and it’s important for network cabling installation, you can read more about it here.  

What we have found challenging

We are now getting closer to what we see as crunch time and the most challenging thing we are finding is having resources available. We are quite a small team so being one man down has a huge impact on this project. With the current phase we are in, we really need all hands on deck to push through and get the procurement phase dusted before Christmas. If I had one cry for help it would be to relieve our engineers where possible from support duties for at least one Sprint.  

Next steps

– Arrange cable installations now we have Wayleaves approval

– The finish of remaining bits of port density recommendations

– Get the choice of vendors confirmed

– Order hardware

DXW Cyber Security First project

Background

Security is everyone’s responsibility this is why we must embed good security practices in everything that we do, not as a ‘bolt-on’, but as part of good engineering practice. The ICT  security team is working in conjunction with DXW Cyber to deliver a security piece that will amongst other things help to evangelise this practice of ‘security first’ throughout the ICT teams as a way of working.

Objective

We have had a ‘Discovery Phase’ which was useful and insightful. Having reviewed the findings of this phase the team has decided to have a re-hash. This means an opportunity for the team and DXW Cyber to basecamp our thinking on how we can best roll out our strategy.

Next steps

– Roundtable discussion with the DXW Cyber team to sync up our thinking on the best way forward

Meet me at the port to see real fireworks

Network Redesign Week notes 01/11

In the last couple of weeks, we have been fairly quiet with the ‘Week’s notes’. I wanted to regroup with the team to get a better insight into the direction we are steering towards. The whole ‘Port density’ thing can be a bit overwhelming even for the most tech-savvy person, so it was important to check in to ensure we were all on the same page.

cartoon

Objectives

Following the last sprint, our engineers have concluded the testing from the Cisco test lab and workshop. The goal for these workshops is to agree on the best vendor network and switch solution for the current Hackney network infrastructure. All hardware and network providers have been tested against rigorous performance criteria that, among other requirements, review boot loading, ease of configuration, trouble-shooting and remote diagnostic solutions alongside, naturally, the best kit for the money spent. 

What we have achieved

To date, we have reviewed three vendors, namely:

  • CISCO
  • HP
  • Open compute

Based on the outcome of the review, our engineers will then advise on their recommended solution, which will be presented to the rest of the team. This recommendation will be drafted to help aid the final decision for our distribution and core solution for the web first project.

We have also been adding the final touches to the port density audits. At this point, I understand that you might be asking what is a port density audit? In summary, this is basically a manual count of all the network ports located at all the work stations throughout the Hackney council buildings.

By obtaining this information the team will be able to understand the number of ports that are used for actual incoming calls and the ones which are dormant so we can sum up the total number that can be decommissioned. 

Our recommendation document has now been adjusted to include a filter, revealing a recommended switch reduction grand total based on the current total usage of switches within council network hubs versus the total number of ports available.

We have also worked on the completion of our recommended ‘Firewall’ design which will provide security to the network connection for the cloud and the data center.

What we have found challenging

Obtaining approval for some proposed cable installations has been challenging due to a lack of understanding of the upfront requirements. Many thanks to @peter.burt and the rest of the planning team for the hard work and diligence towards helping us firm up a better understanding of the application process for such installations. We are now picking up momentum and gaining some traction in this area.

Next steps

  • Complete legal authorisation documentation for the Wayleaves contract
  • Present the final report recommendations on the proposed distribution and core solution to the team in accordance with our architectural design
  • Align hardware requirements with ‘VOIP’ strategy requirements ‘Voice Over Internet Protocol”



Network Redesign “Safe as houses”

Week notes 18/10
Getting our house in order
It’s a common perception that a building that is built on a solid foundation is something that cannot be knocked down easily. This week we have seen the closure of SPRINT 14, which I am happy to report our team has delivered on a majority of the tasks bar two, which is a huge improvement from the last SPRINT.

Getting the basics/foundation right
Two of the fundamental reasons for the turnaround which shifted the odds into our favour, were:
1. Resource – Our manpower was back at an optimum with key members of the team returning from leave.
2. Planning – The team has been encouraged to begin to look at SPRINT planning with deeper thought and from a different lens. The key rule of thumb being,
‘Only commit to what we can deliver on within the lifecycle of a two-week SPRINT.’

Value to business
The direct value to the business, as a result of this SPRINT, has been the following:
• Port density report (This will be used to help stakeholders decide the cost estimate and number of new ports required. Also a steer on potential ports which can be decommissioned)
• First draft Firewall design (High-Level design security configuration network. This allows the business to understand how security can be configured from both the user network and the main data center security configuration)
• Mapping Procurement process steps £5K level under (This will streamline the process for future vendor contract procurement that falls under this criteria)
• Comparative vendor network solution discovery phase complete (This report will help validate the final vendor solution for the network redesign project)

What we have found challenging
Legal authorisation of vendor contracts – This is an important step in the progress of the project. Historically, the progress of similar projects has slowed down at this point in the cycle. This may be unavoidable, however, our team is keen to find any workarounds or new ways of working to produce a better workflow with legal and reduce the bottleneck which we are currently experiencing. This, in turn, will have a huge impact on our ability to deliver all our procurement requirements

Next Steps
– Compile 1st draft recommendation vendor report
– Have a decision made on the ‘Port Density’ recommendation
– Agree on proposed procurement steps
– Begin looking at a new proposed workflow with legal