For IT pros who don't have it all: The network manager's wishlist
by Gina Narcisi
Network managers share their holiday IT wishlists for 2015.
As the holiday season approaches, children aren't the only ones getting excited about the prospect of their wishes coming true. Network managers shared their IT wishlists with SearchNetworking, including the products and features they'd love to receive from their vendors. They are also wishing for some general changes in the industry that would make their jobs easier in 2015.
Wi-Fi wishes for 2015
Joe Rogers, associate director of network engineering at the University of South Florida, spent 2014 buried under wireless upgrade projects. For 2015, he wants to see the NBase consortium put their heads together with the IEEE to standardize 2.5 Gbps and 5 Gbps Ethernet technology so that all vendors can implement the same technology and IT departments can provide more wired bandwidth to their access points.
"We are predominantly a Cisco wireless shop, but we have Cisco and Brocade switches. If the industry ends up pursuing competing standards, then we'll have compatibility difficulties as our wireless networks begin needing these higher wired uplink speeds," Rogers said.
Like others in the education vertical, Rogers and his team are also looking forward to the availability of 802.11ac Wave 2, and the multi-user [multiple-input, multiple-output] MIMO support that comes along with it in 2015. "It's difficult to provide sufficient throughput in our very high-density classroom environments. So, the more efficiently the APs utilize the spectrum, the better for us," he said.
Network engineers want more from less
Topping the wishlist for Jonathan DiBiasio, IT director for an East Coast-based health insurance provider, is a more robust monitoring infrastructure for his networking and server hardware.
"I'm sure high-end products include what I'm looking for, but for small to medium businesses, this can be a real pain," he said. "Our switches and servers do log errors but you always need a [Simple Network Management Protocol] SNMP monitoring tool to gather it all [together]. There are tons of free [SNMP tools] out there, but they are a huge pain to set up, and any update made to the equipment can break the connection. At the end of the day, you end up wasting resources trying to get the alerts all set up. If all my gear has these logs that say [things like] 'fan just turned off,' 'space running low' and 'wow, it's hot in here,' I wouldn't need a third-party appliance to alert my team. If I buy the same brand of equipment, it should all tie together into a nice management console that I can configure alerts in," DiBiasio said.
John Iraci, vice president of enterprise infrastructure at medical device company DJO LLC, based in Vista, Calif., also wants easier network monitoring and management across fewer tools.
"This is a big one for us as we have acquired many companies and along with that comes their tools. The other piece of this is that we need a tool that isn't resource intensive," he said.
And speaking of fewer tools, Eric Hawley, CIO at Utah State University (USU) believes that one of the biggest challenges in IT is complexity. USU would like to be able to shut off old services that might be ineffective before deploying new services and network toys in 2015. "In IT, we are very good at adding new services and things into what we are already maintaining, but I would love the magic button that would allow us to start turning off systems -- I want Santa's guide to minimalist IT," Hawley said.
Giving IT -- not elves -- the do-it-yourself guide to product ordering and implementation
Ordering extra, or complimentary parts, to a particular product can be a challenge. Website product pages are often a source of frustration for IT professionals, said Matt Norwood, solutions engineer for Bedroc, a systems integrator based in Franklin, Tenn. Next year, Norwood would like vendors to make product ordering easier, and for vendors to deliver what they promise on time.
"One of my biggest pet peeves is knowing what it is I need, but not being certain what the item looks like, or if it is compatible with all particular hardware models it is going to be used with," he said. "Apart from a line item on a pricing list, I often can't seem to find anything about that part in terms of what it looks like, technical specifics, etc. I would love to see vendors put a full listing of their products on their websites along with pictures of those products."
I want Santa's guide to minimalist IT.
Eric HawleyCIO, Utah State University
Vendors should also strive to be on time with their product releases, Norwood said. "If [a vendor] announces a date [for a product release], they need to hit that date -- it just annoys people if you keep postponing," he said. "Additionally, when you launch a product, make sure there is enough documentation -- install and configuration guides, as well as design guides -- around that product to where most people can implement it on their own."
Licensing and billing makes the naughty list ... again
A line item that appears on almost every IT wish list each year is simplified billing and licensing. It's the age-old issue that most vendors still have not addressed.
Licensing shouldn't require hours to figure out, Bedroc's Norwood said. "I would much rather see vendors reduce the different types of licenses required for a given platform [or] device and just increase the price of each license. Vendors know that it is a problem, but until customers walk away, they won't change anything," he said.
Billing can also be simplified with the help of an online console to keep everything organized for network managers, DiBiasio said. "If I can pay my credit cards or cell phone bill quickly and easily online I shouldn't have a problem at my business. I receive sheets of confusing paper that rival CVS receipts, [and] if I ever have a question, my reps always ask what bills I'm talking about because they don't know how it works and I get routed to a separate department -- this happens almost across the board for all my vendors," he said. "I agree that invoices or checks need to still be written up, but I just want a nice console where I can look up past [and] present bills, and full details on what I'm billed for. Let's save some trees, and my sanity!"
While many vendors are guilty of archaic licensing and confusing billing, Microsoft is one of the biggest offenders.
"As [Microsoft] has shifted to more cloud offerings, the licensing only gets more confusing," DJO's Iraci said.
In fact, USU declined to use Microsoft 365 entirely because its licensing is so complex, Hawley said. "Microsoft has brought its licensing complexity into the cloud models, as opposed to making them simple," he said. "If I have one Christmas request, it's for Microsoft to do some spring cleaning to their complex billing in 2015, because right now, it's not unusual for staff to spend a fifth of their time trying to figure it out."