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Based on an interview for the Living on the Edge Podcast

You’re at the register, ready to pay. You swipe your payment card…and….you wait. You wait, because the POS system is authorizing the transaction.

Well, if you’re Michael Wynston, you’re actually counting off the seconds in your head. Why? Because Michael is Director of Global Network Architecture for Fiserv, one of the world’s largest Fintech companies. And they play a critical role in many banking and credit card systems, including POS processing.

On the Living on the Edge podcast, Michael shared his views on training and certifications; Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and SD-WAN, amongst other things.

We try to always like the best of breed technology. One of the things that we really try to emphasize is no shiny object syndrome, I’m not buying something because the vendor said it’s what you need.”

Never Stop Learning

Just as networking technology continues to evolve, it’s important to keep expanding your level of understanding. Michael’s a believer in the value of ongoing education. “Part of that mindset of never stop learning is to not pigeonhole myself into one particular type of infrastructure. It’s not only about the network, it’s not only about the compute, not only about security. You have to really make sure you understand all the layers to really be a subject matter expert in any one of them.

He sees Cisco’s CCNA/CCIE program as a valuable foundation for any network engineer, even if their organization isn’t fully focused on Cisco gear. It’s the only program that embraces the full end-to-end process – and once you have that basis, you can broaden your skillset into any area that interests you. And to truly add value, a network engineer should also focus time on developing interpersonal skills. “It’s really hard to find the person that you can put in front of a customer or a consumer or the end-user, the requirements team, and actually communicate with them in a way that they understand

Network Resilience Means Adaptability

Adaptability is an important concept for Michael and his team at Fiserv. Since the network infrastructure is constantly changing, the features and functions of that network must be able to adapt, and so that means not necessarily doing something today, simply because that’s the way you did it yesterday.

The idea of relying on redundancy also doesn’t thrill him “because quite often redundancy wastes money. You’re building something only in case of fire. I like to build infrastructure so that in case of emergency, resiliency comes into play, rather than dedicating something to just sit and wait for something else to fail.” In other words, design a network that has an inherent layer of resilience, rather than relying on a secondary set of gear – an approach that may work in the data center, but just isn’t cost effective at smaller remote sites.

Opengear’s own solutions align nicely with this. An out-of-band management network can be used as an independent management plane to manage critical devices on a daily basis, not just for emergency access.

Network Function Virtualization

Another approach to adaptability is the use of NFV to provide a flexible and cost-effective network, minimizing abandoned or outdated infrastructure. As Michael explained “we really looked at network function virtualization, not because we wanted to get rid of all of the routers and firewalls and load balancers, but because we wanted to decouple the function that they provided from the actual hardware that you use to provide that particular function.” The NFV approach ensures a more dynamic network, and also allows them to continuously evolve and improve the functionality, while reducing the reliance on a single vendor.

The Pandemic and SD-WAN

Michael has been interested in SD-WAN since the early introduction of the technology. SD-WAN’s initial claim to fame was improving the efficiency of branch locations and reducing the cost of dedicated MPLS lines. But in the last few months, with the sudden pivot to Work From Home, Michael sees a shift from some vendors to address public cloud connectivity, while others are approaching the home office market, with “executive VPN” solutions. It’s another example of how networks and networking vendors must be able to constantly adapt.

And that bring us back to the subject of Shiny Objects: “If you’re just starting to look at SD-WAN, make sure that you start with the understanding that you need a minimum viable product and feature set, to deploy for your first SD-WAN deployment…. There are so many features and functions, and if you try to deliver all of them on day zero, you’re going to end up delivering nothing, simply because it’s just too much to consume.”

Let’s face it. When the world is waiting on your network to let them checkout at the store, avoiding those distractions makes everyone happier.

Hear the full interview here: Avoiding Shiny Objects: Talking SD-WAN, NFV and CCIE






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