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

What a week for learning

Week ending 11/10/2019

From embarking on a journey to uncover the best value technology for network core switches, to understanding the audit for the desktop port density in Hackney office sites.

The discovery of new technology took the shape of another workshop lab test session hosted by the ‘Open Compute’ vendor. The lab test consisted of a brief presentation showcasing the Open Compute network capabilities, followed by a workshop session in which our engineers were given access to a virtual staged environment giving them the opportunity to carry out a range of networked related stress test and any other common problems which they may typically encounter within our network environment in order to establish if the ‘Open Compute’ network solution will be able to adapt and indeed surpass our network needs.

What we aim to deliver

The primary deliverables for the team in SPRINT 14 will be the audit for the port density, finalising and shortlisting the discovery to core and distribution level network vendor options, first drafts of firewall design and to begin mapping and streamlining the procurement steps for this project. 

What we have found challenging

Cisco vendor solution: Currently the one thing we are finding challenging is organising Cisco test lab. They tend to want to steer the direction of our requirements. I put this down to a legacy vendor relationships in which we have been lead by the vendor.

Procurement Process: We are currently experiencing a bit of back and forth in the procurement process. Our current bottleneck is the internal legal department who are currently in receipt of a vendor agreement pending approval. No clear indication of the turnaround.

Next Steps

  • Organise the Cisco test lab
  • Complete the port density audit
  • Hash out the mapping doc for the procurement steps

Swings & Roundabouts Week notes 04/10

Swings & Roundabouts

At the start of this week, my team seemed optimistic and keen to deliver on the forthcoming SPRINT, which we were all keen to make a start on. The team sat down with the product owner and had a very productive SPRINT, planning session. After sizing up each task by order of complexity using a story point system. (More on story points and their benefits in future posts.) As a team, we were equipped with our newly found individual superpowers in hand and ready to tackle the challenge that was identified as “SPRINT 13”.

The first day in the 2nd week of SPRINT 13 looked great but by day 2 and 3, emergency service desk calls resulted in half of my team being pulled off the project which ultimately had an impact on our outputs for the closing week of the SPRINT 13.

What did we deliver
Despite the limited resource availability, in the sense of team members, the team did manage to pick up some momentum and make a start on some tasks which we had agreed to deliver. Unfortunately, the tasks we were unable to deliver on will be rolled over into the next SPRINT.

Despite the challenges we successfully completed RFQ cabling for delegated sites. We have begun developing and designing a firewall for the data center satellite site campus network, as well as the design for the data center connectivity.

What did we find challenging
This phase in the project lifecycle is strongly based on procurement. We are currently having some challenges understanding the steps for procurement approval for some of our new vendors, which has caused some slight delays in costing approval turnaround. Unfortunatley the team hadn’t really factored in this constraint in their planning.

How do we plan to overcome the challenge
The team has agreed that one of the key focuses for the next upcoming SPRINT will be to fully map out, document, then cross-check for approval the relevant stakeholders on the correct steps for new vendor procurement. This should prove to be not only helpful to the team but the business as a whole.

Next Steps

  • Map out the procurement process
  • Look into solutions on how we can plan better in the unfortunate instance when team members are pulled into emergency engineers’ cover. (This will be hashed out in the next team Retro)
  • Prep for the next team Retro
  • Organise and plan the VOIP desktop audit
  • Kick-off SPRINT 14