I seem to have this conversation many times, so I thought it would be useful to write it down. Ultimately I’m a very lazy person, and will work very hard to avoid work. This is part of that plan…..don’t need to repeat the conversation, just look at my blog!
I have been a network infrastructure architect in various technical areas in a large enterprise for many years, and I’ve learned there are three key goals when designing a new system. These goals may appear to be more personal in nature, and there’s some truth to that. One interpretation of Work/Life balance would be “self preservation.” If I am happy, healthy, and have some kind of life outside work, I will work harder, enjoy life, and live longer (ultimately allowing me to work more years). Having said that, these personal goals are consistent with design goals that ultimately provide value to the business.
The first goal: Don’t get called at 3 AM, ever.
What does this mean? Design good infrastructure. Pick good products, and test them well in the lab. Put together good design docs and job aids, and train all the stakeholder teams on the technology. Follow KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid); complexity can be your enemy. If requirements dictate it, put HA and DR in your designs. Make it good, simple, robust. You do all of this, and support teams will not need to wake you up in the middle of your night to request help.
The second goal: Remember you may be handing this off to a green employee right out of school/training.
What does this mean? As an architect, you are charged with being the technical expert (the Subject Matter Expert, or SME) on the technology you design. However, at the end of a project, you must hand this off to an operations team who might not know a lot about this technology, and who is doing support for many infrastructure components (not just this new one). While many support teams are great folks and very sharp, you cannot expect everyone to be a rocket scientist on your technology. And, after the project is over, you have to move along to the next technology project. I cannot put enough emphasis on KISS here. Often architects will devise very creative, unique solutions that on the surface appear to save us money by reducing capital spend or the like. In reality, complexity injects its own costs, and these are much harder to track. Complex infrastructure is harder to troubleshoot and often take more SME time to troubleshoot.
The third goal: Don’t break the bank.
What does this mean? If you do the architecture job correctly, you match up business/functional/technical requirements, the support team’s capabilities, and the best products & technology to form a solution in the most cost effective manner. Of course you want to try and put in the best possible option, and it is easy to focus strictly on the technology. But, cost must always be a consideration. At the end of the day, you either make money for the business or you cost money to the business, and you need to help that equation no matter which side of it you are on. In network infrastructure, you are often a cost center. Granted, we need to run the business in a robust manner, but you will have a hard time justifying a Ferrari to your boss when a Honda Civic will do the job just fine.
Of course all new designs are a balancing act between these goals. But, if you can achieve these three for an infrastructure design, you are in good shape! Plus, you’ll get more sleep, and your project might have a little more funding for a steak dinner.