Do You Have an Architecture Review Board?

I've written before about the need for a written network architecture and about using network design templates. But, before any of this information can be written down, it needs to be agreed to. One of the worst things you can do it try to dictate network architecture from one or a few people. It needs to be a team process, garnering opinions and insights from across the enterprise. Network engineers in Europe and Asia are going to have different opinions and customer needs than in the US. Some engineers will be better at WAN while others bring a LAN and data center perspective. Your network operations team needs to ensure they can support what is being architected. And don't forget the security guys. Establishing an Architecture Review Board (ARB) is the best way to facilitate architectural discussions and agreements. There should be representation from the core network architecture/engineering team, network operations, and security. However, be careful to not invite everyone to your ARB. Architecture should be inclusive to drive optimal designs and consensus, but should not include everyone in the organization. Many people will not have the skills to develop architecture, but will still want to express their opinions. That will incredibly slow the process and discourage others, particularly the correct people, from participating. Once you have identified your core ARB team, then setup a recurring meeting (say every Wednesday at 9 AM). Try to stay away from Mondays since no one is thinking of work yet and Fridays since no one thinking of work anymore. Also, with a global team, be cognizant of international participants. 9 AM in California is 6 PM in Amsterdam. Then, before each meeting, publish a topics agenda with timeline. The topics will let everyone know what is being discussed beforehand and the timeline will ensure topics don't overrun. Next, you will need a leader for the ARB. This is generally the senior architect or team lead. This person organizes and sets the agenda for each meeting. Agenda topics should be requested from the team itself and tracked by the lead. The lead also conducts the call; keeping people on topic, organizing the discussion, and adhering to the timeline. The lead also drives decisions for each topic and assigns action items for follow-up. This provides structure to the ARB and ensures its effectiveness. Finally, after the call, someone (perhaps the lead) should send meeting notes that summarize each topic, lists the major points of the arguments, and documents the decision. These notes provide a written record for each ARB meeting and provide the input to update the written network architecture. Do you have an Architecture Review Board?

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