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Experts discuss stretched VLAN use cases, MEC and more

In this networking blog roundup, experts give reasons to stretch VLANs, discuss benefits of deploying private MEC with 5G, and differentiate between junior and senior IT engineers.

Clear differences exist between junior and senior network engineers, but all engineers, regardless of what level they are, may want to think about edge computing and virtual LAN techniques.

In this blog roundup, one networking blogger discussed the growing interest for operators to pair edge computing with 5G capabilities. Additionally, two other bloggers offered advice to network pros by giving examples of stretched virtual LAN (VLAN) use cases and distinguishing the roles of junior and senior IT engineers.

Use cases for stretched VLANs

The most important factor to consider about stretching VLANs is recognizing what issue needs to be fixed, wrote Ivan Pepelnjak, a networking expert, in an IPSpace blog post. According to Pepelnjak, network pros might stretch their VLANs for the following use cases:

  • they need more space;
  • they want a backup location in case of failure; or
  • they want an active-active architecture to protect their data.

For example, if network pros want to add a secondary building for one of the previous use cases, they can use stretched VLANs and even avoid adding routing to the second location, if there's enough bandwidth between the locations, Pepelnjak said. The two locations essentially act as a single data center. Stretching VLANs wouldn't be a problem in this case, nor is it uncommon.

"Most organizations actually want to have a second data center location for resiliency/redundancy purposes," Pepelnjak wrote. If network pros are looking to stretch their VLANs as a safeguard for their data, they should think about disaster recovery plans and know what specific issue they're aiming to protect against, he added.

Having a single VLAN can be challenging because there's little to protect an organization's data against possible damage. "A single endpoint going crazy can bring down the whole VLAN," Pepelnjak wrote. However, he added that if an issue occurs in a network with stretched VLANs across multiple locations, it can bring down all locations.

Combining 5G and edge computing creates opportunity

Multi-access edge computing (MEC) may still be in its infancy, but operators and service providers are taking steps to implement edge computing capabilities. Microsoft's deployment of private MEC could be a particularly game-changing approach, CIMI Corp. president Tom Nolle wrote in a blog post.

Instead of pushing for 5G itself, Microsoft is prioritizing its edge computing tools. It supplements that edge computing software with tools that enable 5G hosting. This approach also supports carrier cloud and white box networking. 5G is the most significant driver of edge computing, but it's not the only technology that can be implemented with edge hosting, Nolle said.

"If a public cloud provider can support edge computing and 5G with a nice tool set, allow users to deploy their own edge hosting based on that tool set and expand their own edge hosting resources as opportunities allow, they'd be in great position," Nolle wrote.

This is Microsoft's goal, and it becomes possible when vendors virtualize 5G for cloud deployment. Combining edge hosting and 5G becomes the most logical approach for the edge, Nolle added.

Additionally, Nolle wrote that 5G will frequently run on white boxes, which aligns with the potential for white box networking to integrate with edge hosting. Microsoft, with its recently acquired cloud computing vendors, Affirmed and Metaswitch, could be the first to create a pathway toward this approach, Nolle said. If this approach works, 5G could become a large-scale driver of edge computing.

Other providers see things differently, according to Nolle. They would prefer edge computing to work as a part of cloud instead of a competitor to cloud. However, they recognize the benefits of combining MEC with 5G. As Microsoft furthers its approach of deploying MEC, other providers are working just as fast to develop their own techniques.

How senior IT engineers are distinguished from junior IT engineers

Several technical and nontechnical skills separate junior engineers from senior engineers, wrote Ethan Banks, networking blogger and podcaster. Banks focused on IT engineers in his post, but wrote that his opinion remains the same regardless of which tech division an engineer works in.

"From a technical perspective, I believe a senior IT engineer is primarily differentiated from a junior in one word -- experience," Banks wrote.

Senior engineers have done more than junior engineers and have gained wisdom from their experiences. It's this wisdom that enables them to understand how to successfully use technology in their organizations. Banks added that he would rather hire an uncertified engineer with 10 years of experience in a senior role over a Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) with two years of experience.

Regarding nontechnical skills, senior engineers have a few necessary characteristics in their roles as leaders. They have a solid understanding of the organization's mission and goals and know how to use IT systems to accomplish those goals. They understand network issues better than a less experienced engineer. For example, Banks wrote that trouble tickets sometimes misrepresent an error that occurs. A senior IT engineer is more likely to quickly recognize what actually happened and know how to fix the error.

A senior IT engineer doesn't hoard all their technical and nontechnical knowledge, either. They can effectively communicate with their team, and they are willing to share information with and mentor the less experienced members. Overall, the differences between junior IT engineers and senior IT engineers is seniors have the experience and knowledge of how to move their organizations forward, and they are able to do it.

This was last published in July 2021

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