Kevin Dorrell first began working in the field of data
communications in Italy in 1980, developing embedded firmware for
BSC2 based terminals. He then moved on to work in network product
development until 1993, when he relocated from the United Kingdom
to Luxembourg. Currently, Kevin works as a consultant Network
Administrator for the European Commission in Luxembourg.
Kevin earned his CCNP in December 2000, and re-certified in
October 2003. He says his "ambition is to qualify as CCIE, but it
is a tough certificate to win, and requires a very broad and
detailed experience." That said, he passed the written test in June
2005 and expects to sit for the lab exam in the not-too-distant
Kevin is also a regular, and valued participant in the Cisco
NetPro forum, and says one of his principal reasons for
participating is "to exchange ideas and experience" with other
network engineers. "I see it as a great training tool, and as a way
of assessing my technical skills."
We spoke with Kevin from his home in Luxembourg about his
professional experiences, and his participation on NetPro.
Q: Can you tell us a little about what you do, and the
organization you are working with currently? A: I don't really go much on titles, I think it's something
like "network experienced engineer". Basically, I work for a
consultancy who then sells the services of my team to a client. As
of today, I have been working on the same contract for three years,
but it happens to be for the same client I was working for
Q: Who is the client? A: I'm currently working with the Office of Publications of
the European Union. The office is responsible for publishing all
the legal framework and statistics that come out of the European
Commission. Because these are European-wide publications, we
publish in at least, twenty languages. All EU legal framework has
to be published in all the official languages of the European
Union. For example, if there is a government contract for any
country in the Union, it has to be open to all country members. A
call for tender has to be published in all the languages.
Q: What kind of services do you provide? A: I manage a team of five people who run the data, the
telephones and the e-mail services. We provide network services
according to a service level agreement that guarantees the network
will stay up 99.9% of the time. It also covers our response times
and times to repair.
Q: I understand you bring quite a bit of experience to this
contract. A: Yes. I first became involved with this client some 13
years ago, when they were installing a 10 Mbps, shared-segment
network from Cabletron. Since then, we have kept abreast of the
technology, and are now running Cisco Catalyst® switches and
routers. Today, we have something like 700 users, and three
different sites in Luxembourg that link back to the Commission
network in Brussels.
Q: Can you tell us about how you first became interested in
networking? A: I was always interested in communications technology. I
am a radio ham-amateur radio, not CB. I started when I was 15. At
that time, I had to build my own radio, but now you can buy them in
My first professional involvement in telecommunications and data
transmission was in 1980, so we're going back a long way. At that
time, I went to Italy to work on a project for Olivetti, who was
designing a terminal based on the BSC (bi-synchronous) protocols. I
designed the firmware that went into these terminals.
When I'd finished with Olivetti, after a period of designing
embedded firmware for printers, I moved back to England and joined
a company that had been set up to explore the possibilities of this
new "networking" thing that was going around. This was in
This whole notion of networking turned out to have a much greater
impact than I ever imagined. I didn't anticipate how much it would
involve everyone. Because, of course, the Internet didn't exist
then. Networks were just a business tool, connections were
dedicated. I don't think I could have foreseen what this would look
like today, how pervasive and integrated networking would become in
Q: How did you hear about NetPro? A: I was looking for technical resources on the Cisco Web
site when I ran across the NetPro forum, and I thought this would
be a useful thing to get involved in it. I really became heavily
involved when I decided to study for CCIE.
Q: How do you use NetPro? A: These days, I use it very much as a training tool, to get
information that I don't necessarily have access to daily.. In my
team, I don't really have many peers to talk to about networking.
We have an e-mail specialist, a couple of telephony specialists,
but for the most part I work on my own. So when I need to know
something, if I want to find out if I have the right ideas or if
I've understood a particular networking concept, I log on to NetPro
for feedback. I ask questions and answer them as well, with the
hope that if I haven't got the concept right, someone will tell me
Q: So you've used NetPro to find solutions to everyday
networking issues? A: I have. When I encounter a problem in my daily work, I
find it very helpful to get a variety of perspectives, and I can
get that on NetPro. By contrast, if I call TAC, I'll probably talk
to one person, maybe two. But I won't have the wide variety of
ideas that I get from NetPro.
Q: Are you a member of other networking
communities? A: I haven't really been involved in other communities to
the extent of my involvement with NetPro. There are a few Usenet
groups that I belong to, but my involvement on these groups is
nowhere near as intensive. I appreciate the friendly atmosphere one
finds in the NetPro community, as well as the knowledge base it can
provide. You get to speak to the same people several times, and get
an idea of who is more knowledgeable about what.
Q: What's the toughest problem you've ever solved with help
from NetPro? A: Oh, that's easy. The latest problem is always the
toughest! But I'll give you an example. Right now I'm having a
problem installing CiscoWorks, and I'm getting help with that.
Previously, it was with a Catalyst deployment. I don't think I
would have gotten a handle on that particular problem if it weren't
for NetPro, because it allowed me to tap into the in-field
experience of other network administrators, which enabled me to ask
TAC the right questions.
Q: What is your greatest accomplishment to date in your
networking career? A: I'm torn between two things for what I'm most proud of.
One is a custom, turnkey system I designed for a large government
customer in England, who wanted to migrate all its applications
from one mainframe system to another. I built a network system that
allowed them to migrate the applications one at a time. The network
itself made decisions about which applications were running on
which machine on that particular day. I wrote the code that enabled
the network to do that.
I suppose the other would be winning the contract I'm working on at
the moment. I designed the SLA, put forward the proposal and won
against some stiff competition. There was a huge call for tender,
and companies came from all over Europe to compete for the
contract. I assembled the team and put the proposal together, and
we got it.