(Network) Engineering a Merger

Earlier this week, my employer purchased another company in a $1.5 billion deal. The company we purchased is about 10% of our size in workforce and sales revenue. They have 820 employees and $274 million in sales. So, while this is not a merger of equals, it is more than a purchase of a startup. There will be significant communications (networking) issues to deal with.

An interesting side note: merger is one of the testing scenarios in the CCDE Practical Exam. You could be presented with a merger and deal with the network engineering aspects of the merger in the form of test questions. A useful application of training and certification to a real world event.

Being the manager of a Communications Engineering team, I have responsibility for not just the network engineering (WAN and data center), but also IP Telephony, SAN, Network Security, QoS, and the Contact Center. All of these areas will be impacted by this merger/purchase. I have an initial brainstorming meeting with the team this week, but here are some of the issues I've listed already:

  • IP Addressing – how much you want to bet they are using 10.x.x.x space? Do we NAT? If so, at which point in the network? NAT must be symmetrical to preserve state which will affect traffic patterns. Can we just renumber their offices and data centers?
  • Routing – what routing protocols do they run? Can we incorporate them into our BGP backbone? Is their routing mature enough so as to not cause instabilities in our routing domain? How do they handle default routes and summarization?
  • Network designs – do they have design templates for each office. How about a written architecture that details each technologies standards and processes. What about an architecture review board?
  • Network Tools – how do they monitor their environment? Open source probably? Is it well managed? Since they are a small/medium company, do they even have anything?
  • Network Hardware – is it Cisco? Might be another vendor. In any event, probably not as well standardized and documented as ours.
  • WAN - where are their global offices and what is their WAN now? Based on the size of the company, it's probably a combination Internet VPN technologies. Do we need to get them onto our MPLS network? Can we do that with the current hardware at the offices?
  • Labs – they are going to have labs since they are a high-tech firm. How do we integrate those labs to our own? What about the Lab MPLS network?
  • Network Security – what hardware vendor do they use? Do they have an Extranet and a DMZ? What do they use for user VPN?
  • Internet Access Points – do they have centralized Internet or decentralized?
  • Inbound Customer Applications – where is their WWW site? Do they have a support site or call-home features? What about e-mail?
  • QoS – they will have a different QoS model than we use. Strangely, our best bet might be that they don’t have any QoS right now. But, if they do, how do we incorporate their QoS into ours?
  • Type of phone systems and dialing plans – Cisco IPT? Perhaps another vendor? Is it VoIP even? Maybe it’s outsourced. What’s their dialing plan? How do we integrate with them?
  • Conference calling – do they use an external service like Verizon or AT&T? Or is it all in-house?
  • Contact Center – I’m sure they have a call center to handle customer technical support issues. What’s the Contact Center technology? Where are the call centers? How quickly will tech support be moved to our call centers?

And finally, what about the people? Users and their current IT Network Engineers? Are the users demanding or understanding? Are the network engineers experienced? CCIEs? How many are there? Will they transfer over to our company? This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to integrating these two company's networks and communications systems. Over the next several months I'll blog about our experiences, issues, processes, and problems. Should be a great experience!

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