Code Bugs as Value Adds

Oh baby, oh baby 
Then it fell apart, it fell apart 
Oh baby, oh baby 
Like it always does, always does.
                            – “Extreme Ways”- Moby

Reliable code on network equipment is stodgy, unadventurous, even “lame”. What is life without surprises?

So you read the white papers, got hooked on impressive reports of blazing performance, and snagged a great discount on that new solution you’re about to get into. You’re getting features out the wazoo, but are you getting the right framework for code bugs? Where many organizations never give the notion of bugs and poor QA practices even a fleeting thought, you really should slow it down and put some time into making sure that you are getting your fair share of bugs.

Though it may be counter-intuitive, problem-ridden operating systems and code versions are actually gems in disguise. When the right bug hits at just the worst time, it’s like no other experience in the IT realm. What you should be considering:

  • Nerdy IT Folks Aren’t The Most Social Creatures. But get a few people all pulling their hair out over some issue that never should have made it into the release version of code, and the same introverts now have reason to come out of their shells and intermingle on social media and in support forums. Vendors supplying crappy code could legitimately charge for this service.
  • Bugs Let You Test Your Moxy. So your management system craps out for weeks and the vendor is stumped. Or network switch ports arbitrarily stop passing traffic. Or access points reboot whenever someone on another continent takes a sip of Red Bull. These are opportunities for you to show your managers that you can carve endless hours out of your already-busy schedule, relay with creative expression that even the vendor is stumped, and exercise great patience as someone you can barely understand guides you through days of debug to finally declare “oh that is a known bug.” Have you got what it takes? Again, this character-building could legitimately be billed as a service.
  • You Can Be Part of the QA “Matrix”. Although Keanu Reeves and that rather attractive young lady raged against The Man in the famous movie The Matrix, you’ll want to be part of the “crowd-sourced quality assurance” experience provided by the right vendor. More simple-minded customers might bitch about catastrophic bugs that should have been caught before code release, but many of us are thrilled to be able to donate countless hours to being part of our vendor’s Quality Army. Let ’em push whatever half-baked nonsense the developers can burp out, We’ll find the problems, and our clients trying to use the network can just shut up about it. Everybody wins.

But the notion doesn’t end with sub-par code. You also want to find a framework that provides for confusing, time-consuming upgrades as well. This is important if you are looking for “the complete experience”. Ideally, your upgrades to things like management servers or security appliances should fail or bring a whole new crop of problems, regardless of how methodical you are in your procedures. (Remember, the goal here is to really get quality time with the vendor’s support wing while minimizing uptime). As a minimum, you want to have to rebuild databases multiple times and ride the Licensing Merry-Go-Round until you almost get sick- that’s when you know you’re recognizing the full value of your investment.

So how do you know you’re going to get properly served the right allotment of bugs? Unfortunately, there are no guaranties. But you want to stick with vendors that prolifically churn out lots of new features before really fixing old bugs- that way the effect is additive and unpredictable. Search release notes for lots of problem conditions that look like they could impact you, and make sure there are a lot of “no workaround” and “don’t use the feature that you paid good money for” as suggested fixes.

These are exciting times in networking, and there are a slew of bugs to be had. Choose your vendor wisely, and make sure that you are getting your share of these exciting little bonuses.

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