Building Network Mom for Systems Engineers

“A network engineer’s key job is to keep the network up.”

“The best way to improve your network availability is to know your network availability,” says Darrell Root, a retired network engineer who spent part of the last year developing and promoting Network Mom Availability, a desktop application that monitors network performance.

“A network engineer’s key job is to keep the network up,” he says.

Retraining in Retirement

Root, who retired a couple years ago from a 20-year career as a full-time work network engineer, has been retraining himself by taking app development classes. Initially he signed up for UCSC Silicon Valley Extension Mobile App Development courses with his teenage son, David, and they learned together. While David was preparing to head to college, Root was quickly polishing up his rusty programming skills.

Although the app development courses focused on mobile apps, Root learned the Swift programming language he needed to create a similar desktop OS framework. He researched competition. Some programs on the market monitored networks to see if they were up or down, they provided alerting features, but there were no programs in the MacOS App Store that provided a report on overall statistics, such as whether a network was up 99.9 percent of the time. He saw an opening in the market.

“The probability that the network is up—the availability statistic—lets the engineer know when systems are up and down,” Root says, noting that it generates audio and email alerts. “Without the tool you won’t know whether you’re achieving it.” His app stores up to 400 data points per data set reporting on five-minute or daily intervals.

Launching a New App

There were technical challenges getting things to work. One of the biggest challenges was that documentation and tutorials for MacOS were harder to come by than for iOS. His first app, Network Mom Availability, which included about 7,000 lines of source code, won him accolades at his UCSC Silicon Valley Extension App Development course.

Network Mom was initially rejected due to a bug, then again, due to a rejection of a recurring subscription business model. The third time it was rejected due to a violation of Apple’s human interface guidelines. By February, Network Mom Availability was public and ready for download. Root began getting the word out. He emailed friends and posted a LinkedIn article. He encouraged friends to review it. He posted a video about it on his YouTube channel.

darrell-root-blog-2-NM
Darrell Root’s Network Mom Availability app shows network engineers how much systems are actually up and running.

Combining Learning Modes

While Root has learned a lot on his own, it’s helpful to take a class in person, he says.

“It’s hard to learn this stuff just from books. On the other hand, you don’t learn enough in the class, so it has to be a combination. There has to be a human who can help you. The discipline of actually having homework that you have to get done helped me get my rear section in gear.”

Network Mom Availability is the first of many new projects. In July, Root announced his new MacOS Cisco ACL Analyzer, also available on the MacOS App Store. This one finds Cisco router and firewall access-list errors and analyzes TCP and UDP sockets to determine if they are permitted or denied by the access-lists.

 

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