A few years ago, I did something bold: I visited Istanbul—solo. As one who speaks no Turkish, and on my first visit, every cell and fiber was tuned into new sights, sounds, tastes, smells. New customs. Perhaps best of all, no one was around to filter these for me. It was one of the richest experiences of my life.

While feeling alive with risk and possibility may be exciting on an overseas trip… it's not a fun way to live with a network. What makes a network ‘exciting’ is unflinching predictability. Reliability. Availability. No drama—especially when rolling out a strategic service your organization is counting on to secure new revenue and market share.

Fortunately for my Istanbul visit, I was able to lean on one of my best friends from college, who had lived there for years, and who gave me tips before my visit to steer me toward off-the-path treasures and away from tourist traps while giving context to things. It was a rich experience made better by a trusted insider.

While feeling alive with risk and possibility may be exciting on an overseas trip… it's not a fun way to live with a network.

Similarly, top-tier network solutions providers like Ciena often offer ‘insider’ services like these to act as your expert advocate, helping make sure your network always operates at its peak. Let's take a look at three of these services:

Solution Validation helps you minimize risk when you introduce new services or features by validating new capabilities before implementing them in your production network. Here, you're leveraging your partner's technical expertise and even their lab facilities to enable a risk-free 'dry run' to ensure everything performs as expected. And the benefit isn't just risk mitigation; it's also about getting to market faster while lowering the cost to launch. Solution validation with a seasoned pro is a prudent best-practices alternative to a 'fingers crossed' DIY approach.

Managed Services is about handing over the critical tasks of managing your or your customer's network to another expert so you can focus on your big picture. Also known as 'Managed NOC,' this is monitoring and managing your physical and virtual devices and the traffic that flows through them in accordance with industry standards and strict SLOs and SLAs. A true managed services expert is capable of overseeing your full network rather than just that vendor's piece of it. In the same way, you'll want to work with someone with expertise across a broad range of technology domains, from IP and optical, to virtualized, to broadband. Ultimately, it's about whether you bear the burden and risk yourself or share it with a trusted partner.

Resident Engineer is a dedicated in-house expert on a network vendor's technology, generally provided by that vendor, and located either on your premises, remotely, or some combination. Because they intimately know both their technology and your network, they can mitigate risk better than anyone. And because they are part of your day-to-day team, they enable 'over-the-shoulder' staff training and knowledge transfer—and without the cost and effort of training and hiring dedicated staff. 'Res Eng' is the ultimate insider expertise.

So, what should you consider when looking for an 'insider' vendor partner?

  1. Track record: Most significantly, you want to work with someone with a strong reputation for partnering (rather than dictating) and trustworthiness over a long period. As with any relationship, compatibility, and alignment are more valuable than what looks good on paper.
  2. Dedicated resources: It's important to work with someone who knows you—not because your contact info popped on their screen, but because they know you, your network, your history, your goals. And because they know the technology cold. We have experts who are dedicated to working with you all day, every day.
  3. Scope: Look for someone with the people, tools, processes, and expertise to see and address your full scope of need  —core to access, optical and IP, physical and virtual, their own equipment and third-party. That way, you work with someone who hits the ground running on day one, focused on your priorities.

With each of these services — Solution Validation, Managed Services, and Resident Engineer — you benefit by augmenting your team with a partner who delivers the deep 'insider' expertise that would be difficult to replicate organically. Like with my trusted friend for my trip to Istanbul, it's about bringing in an expert who knows the landscape — including where the hidden treasures and potential traps are. It's about taking sound, proven steps to minimize drama and assure your network is reliable and working at its peak.