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Interview with Top NetPros - Rajagopal Sivaramakrishnan

Rajagopal Sivaramakrishnan

sachinraja - Rajagopal Sivaramakrishnan, India

During his networking career Rajagopal Sivaramakrishnan has worked for an Internet service provider (ISP), an outsourcing firm, and now with Wipro, a Cisco Gold Partner in India. "As a technical consultant with Wipro, I meet with the customer before implementation to fully understand their needs for switching, security, IP telephony, wireless, and routing, and make recommendations," he says. "It's a pre-sales function."

Q. How long have you been in the networking industry and why did you get involved in it?
A. I've been in the networking industry for nearly six years. It's funny, but I had no intentions of working in networking when I graduated college. At that time, software was the hot industry. Fortunately, after college I got an offer from Sify Limited (Chennai), the largest Indian ISP, to work as a network engineer. Accepting the job was the best decision I ever made. If I'd stayed in software, right now I would be doing coding, which is not nearly as exciting.

I worked with Sify for two-and-one-half years. I was fortunate to begin my career working with one of the most complicated, largest networks in India because it gave me such good experience and exposure to such a variety of technologies: WANs, LANs, firewalls, IP telephony, wireless, and caching, to name a few. SIFY was the first company in India to implement MPLS, and I was part of that team.

While at Sify I studied for my CCIE® in Routing and Switching. I didn't pass the first time but never gave up. The happiest moment of my life came when I completed my CCIE in February 2004. I have to thank NetPro, because the answers in the forum helped me prepare.

Due to personal reasons I had to leave Sify, and so I looked for a job that would give me more technical exposure. Just four days after I passed my CCIE exam I got an offer from Kuwaiti Danish Computer Company (KDCC), a Cisco Certified Silver Partner. A few days after that I landed in Kuwait to manage a project for the Central Bank of Kuwait. Working for a bank network gives you great experience in routing, switching, and security. My favorite project with KDCC was a security consulting and implementation project involving SSL VPN, which was new at the time, as well as intrusion detection and intrusion prevention systems.

Around six months ago I joined Wipro, and am currently providing consulting services for large companies in southern India. If you're an Indian company interested in expanding your network, identifying and correcting flaws, or expanding to a new facility, you come to Wipro. I talk to the customer's technical people and advise them on the design from both technical and business points of view.


Q. What were the specific business problems and challenges facing your work that influenced you to use NetPro?
A. I first used NetPro around four years ago, at Sify, when I was experiencing major problems with ISDN and didn't have a clue as to the answer. Normally, when I have a problem, I call my friends to see if they have encountered it. One of those friends recommended NetPro and gave me guidance on how to use it. I logged on, queried "ISDN problem," and it immediately rewarded me with a huge list of practical answers. I found my solution in five minutes and wondered how I had missed the site for so long.

What I like about NetPro is that it doesn't talk about theory, or how E1 or T1 works. Instead it focuses on practical advice, such as “If this doesn't work, follow steps 1-4." NetPro is one of the best resources that Cisco offers.

Of course Cisco also offers documentation and the technical assistance center (TAC) for troubleshooting, but with TAC you can expect a time lag of 30 to 60 minutes. My analogy is that NetPro is like a first-aid kit, providing immediate relief. It that treatment doesn't work, then you go to TAC, which is more like the hospital.

Q. What other tools do you use in order to get answers to your networking questions?
A. NetPro is the first place I look, and then I might call friends who have worked with the technology. Before I found NetPro I would have called my friends first.

Q. What is the most useful or inspiring conversation you have found on NetPro to date?
A. For the first two years I didn't have the confidence to answer questions because I worried that my answer might be wrong. But when someone asked a question about ISDN technology, I was confident that I knew the answer, which got me my first five points! It was particularly nice that the question had to do with ISDN, because that was the topic of my first query on NetPro. I felt like I gave back.

Q. What was your toughest issue you had resolved on NetPro?
A. The toughest issue that I resolved for another forum member had to do with WebVPN, an SSL VPN service module. I had implemented it for the Kuwaiti bank customer and shared my experiences. I got a lot of thanks.

The toughest issue that someone resolved for me was just three days ago when I had a problem with a crucial network, having to do with a parameter in the Cisco Catalyst 4500 Supervisor Engine. I immediately logged into NetPro, and within one-and-one-half hours had the solution, from Cisco's Krishnan.


Q. How often do you come to NetPro?
A. My home page is I check NetPro every day even before I check e-mail, which shows the level of bonding I have with Cisco. I log on to NetPro as soon as I come into the office every morning and check it throughout the day to see if there are any queries I can answer, especially about security. I use it from home, as well. Basically, I check in whenever I have an Internet connection.

Q. Which features do you find the most helpful?
A. I like the way NetPro is organized according to broad technology categories, such as routing, switching, security, and wireless. If you have a question about firewalls, it's easy to see where to go for answers, which is not the case in most forums. The NetPro search engine is great, as well. You don't have to waste any time looking for information.

Q. Overall, do you have any suggestions for possible changes or modifications to the site?
A. Cisco's thought process in forming a community group is fantastic. The flaw is that many people don't know about NetPro. Most people find out about it only through their friends. And getting into the site is difficult to NetPro because the link is so small it's easy to overlook. Why not add a banner to that says something like, “Problems? Visit NetPro."

Q. Do you have a message for your fellow NetPro users?
A. I have a request that people who post with a problem let us know how our suggestions work out. Only ten percent of problems are closed; people put in a query and vanish. We're anxious to know the result, and if I don't get an answer I'll never know if my suggestion was right or wrong. It's good to close the issue.

I thank everyone for the time they're willing to spend resolving problems by e-mailing and chatting. I especially thank my fellow NetPro experts— Shanky, Rick, Kevin, Patrick Iseli, Georg Pauwen, and others—for their contributions. I hope they continue sharing their expertise forever!

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