Our WAN Transformation Engineering Conference is Great

Engineering Conferences are a Good Way to Work Through the Many Issues in Large Projects

This week in RTP, NC, we held a 3-day "off-site" for our global WAN Transformation Project.

Previous blogs on WAN Transformation:

Over my 6 years with my current company, I have participated in or led 4 other engineering conferences:

  1. Initial Templates and Standards in April 2005
  2. Current WAN Design in Summer 2006
  3. Virtualization in January 2008
  4. RTP Data Center in October 2008

Engineering conferences are a great way to bring the entire team together, isolate them in a large room with whiteboards and projects, and just hash out design issues. A lot of day-to-day work can be done on the phone or in 1-hour meetings, but some projects and network designs are so big and important that an "off-site" is needed. That's what we did last week. Engineers from California, RTP, Minnesota, Amsterdam, and India came to the engineering conference. Plus, our partner vendors in this project also sent engineers. In all we had 20 engineers at the conference. The first day and half was spent in working groups. These were smaller teams - 5-10 engineers - who worked on a specific area. In general, the three areas were:

  1. WAN Design - routing protocols, site network design, and WAN Acceleration
  2. Quality of Service
  3. Telephony

These smaller teams worked on specific topics inside these broader areas. This allowed the smaller team to focus the conversation more and have expertise in certain areas to move quickly. After the first day and a half, the working groups started to merge and topics were reviewed with the broader group. This allowed the network engineers to see the new SIP Trunking design to make sure it would work with the network designs. It also allowed the QoS engineers to see how much VoIP bandwidth would be needed. (etc, etc, etc) These combined meetings continued through day three. In the end, all 20 engineers would understand the designs of WAN Transformation and be prepared to do the detailed design work for each specific area. It also gave time for everyone to express their opinions and highlight problems. This is particularly important to gain buy-in from individual engineers for all the designs and to identify show stoppers. To give you an idea of the specific topics during the conference, the complete 3-day agenda is below.

Oh, and when you do these conferences, don't forget to (1) feed engineers well and (2) have fun! We had catered lunch each day, provided coffee/drinks/snacks throughout the meetings, and very nice dinners each night. On our last night, we played video games and laser tag.

While we didn't finalize every topic nor agree on every issue, we had a very productive week with good team building and have set the stage for a very well designed future network. A very good week.

More >From the Field blog entries:

Is Cisco Running for Governor in California?

A Troubleshooting Conference Call on the Weekend - That Hasn't Happened in a While

Facebook-Skype Alliance Could Drive Some Serious Video Bandwidth Usage

We Love Tunnels Too - EoMPLS to Connect Two Data Centers

Positive ROI is What Made WAN Transformation Possible

Cisco's Dividend Announcement and a Little Corporate Finance Shows How Cisco is Changing

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