After almost 20 years at Bowdoin College, I’ve decided to move on. This has been one of the most difficult decisions of my professional career. I thought it might be nice to mark this milestone – or is “fork in the road” a better metaphor? – with a bit of a retrospective of the projects I have initiated, led, and been involved in. In short, this has been a way for me to reflect on my experiences and process this life transition.


Most day-to-day internal communication has moved to Microsoft Teams (and before that, Slack), but for many years our primary communication was via email. Out of curiosity, I analyzed my sent mail folder (I only had back to 2007) and came up with the following statistics:

  • number of unique recipients: 3763
  • number of recipients: 671
  • number of sent messages: 37900

Counting business days only, that’s an average of over 8 messages a day (with a standard deviation of 7.28). That sounds about right.

A histogram of the number of messages each year shows an interesting trend, especially with the rapid adoption of Teams across IT in early 2020.

2022: ************
2021: *************
2020: ***************
2019: ***************************
2018: ********************************
2017: *******************************
2016: *************************************
2015: ***********************************
2014: *****************************
2013: ************************************
2012: **************************************************
2011: ***************************************
2010: **************************
2009: *******************************
2008: *********************************
2007: ************************


When I started at Bowdoin, we were running a single flat layer 2 network with an IPv4 /16 stretched across the entire campus. There was no segmentation between server and access networks, a single core switch, and one edge firewall and Internet circuit. Network outages were a regular occurrence. In those first months, the “firefighting” and stress were so bad that I seriously considered leaving.

The network had grown organically, and was on a “upgrade a few buildings each year” budget cycle. With over 100 buildings, we were falling further and further behind. After spending the first six months learning about the organization, the infrastructure, visiting every single network room, and interviewing users from many different parts of the College, I set to design a new network. Having a supportive CIO was critical, and in another six months we had the network completely replaced. I am eternally indebted to the folks that helped make this happen, especially the dedicated staff and students that helped with the physical deployment during the two weeks of round-the-clock installations. This, more than anything, formed the foundation (in both the infrastructure and the team unity) of reliability for years to come.

When the time came, a decade later, to refresh the equipment, I had already been planning during the previous few years to address what we had learned from our experiences operating the network as requirements changed and usage evolved. The charge from the CIO was “build another 10-year network, and reduce dependence on our on-campus datacenter.” This time, in addition to upgrading everything as before, we also re-cabled the campus datacenter, added a ten-rack datacenter at a remote collocation facility, connected the datacenters with a path-diverse DWDM fiber network, replaced the aging campus fiber plant, and migrated our compute infrastructure to a new blade vendor. The week before we presented this plan to the board, US News [published][usnews] their inaugural “Most Connected Colleges” report, listing us as number one based on our existing network. It was nice to be part of a leading organization.

This network is still running today. Over the past year, I have been working on the design of the third 10-year iteration of the network. Applying our learnings over the past decade and bringing new technologies to bear will hopefully make this iteration a continuing success. I worked closely with our vendors to hand off a working first-pass design and bill of materials, and worked internally to secure funding. My hope is that this opportunity for my successor to take on the project and make it their own will allow Bowdoin to attract a great candidate to lead the team and infrastructure into the future.

IP Telephony

Back in 2006, we replaced our aging Rolm PBX with a (then) state-of-the-art Cisco phone system. Despite having lots of telco experience in my dialup and DSL ISP days troubleshooting PRI configurations, this was not my area of expertise. I looked for a company to assist us with the design and migration, hiring and firing a few that promised and failed. I eventually found a small company in New Hampshire that set up a proof-of-concept for seamless calling between the two systems, and we hired them for the full campus migration. Their company has been acquired a few times since then, but we’ve kept in touch over the years and have regularly hired those original engineers to consult on the evolution of the system.

One of the interesting tasks of this project was to have accurate data about network jack locations for E911 calls. Cisco’s Emergency Responder could collect this information from the switches, but we did not have full, accurate data. I procured some handheld Sony computers, with touchscreen, wired ethernet, wifi and cellular; installed Linux on them and wrote a perl/Tk app that listened for CDP frames, queried a database for location information, and presented the user with a graphical interface for verifying or updating the data. During that summer, we formed teams to physically visit and plug into every one of the (then) over 14,000 ports on campus, and set up procedures and audit scripts to operationalize keeping this data current. Having standardized interface descriptions with this location information has not only been required for the rare E911 call, but extremely useful for day-to-day troubleshooting.

Over the past year, we’ve worked to migrate from that on premises phone system to Microsoft Teams Calling, which dovetails nicely with our increased adoption of Teams for non-voice services. I completed an interesting project writing some NetBox customization to store and generate the location information for integration with both the Teams API and the Intrado emergency gateway.

Cloud Connectivity

In early 2019, we instituted a “Cloud First” policy in IT. This explicitly meant to consider cloud solutions first, but still use the right tool for the job – not the “cloud at all costs” that some organizations have taken it to mean. It was evident to me that network connectivity and provisioning would be critical to our successful adoption of the cloud. Using the Internet2 Cloud Connect L3VPN service, I was able to extend our internal network to AWS regional Transit Gateways via Direct Connect and an Azure “hub” vNet via ExpressRoute circuits. This gave a topology where traffic between cloud providers, such as a front-end AWS lambda querying an Azure MSSQL managed database, would not have to hairpin back through Maine. Since all this infrastructure was defined as Terraform workspaces, connecting new VPCs or integrating new services was straightforward.

One of my last projects at Bowdoin was to add Megaport to this build. In the original topology, primary and secondary connections were provisioned as an EVC on each of our two 10Gbps Networkmaine circuits via Northern Crossroads to Internet2. If both of these paths failed (and we did have two separate incidents where that happened), traffic would fail over to IPsec tunnels over the Internet. This worked without issue, but was difficult to support operationally. I was able to simplify the network by purchasing connectivity to Megaport via one of our other transit providers, and provisioning a cloud router (MCR) and virtual cross connects to both AWS and Azure. The MCR has a flexible BGP configuration to be able to de-preference this path so it is only used when the I2 path is unavailable.


As the organization’s adoption of cloud services increased, we decided to form a Cloud Center of Excellence, a team with representatives across the different groups and disciplines within the IT department. Its charge is to foster coordination and collaboration between groups and provide guidance on common decisions and strategy. Our biggest deliverable was a “Bowdoin Tagging Standards” document, detailing required and recommended naming and tagging practices for the organization. I really enjoyed working through these discussions with some of the most passionate and opinionated folks in IT, learning from their different perspectives on technologies and approaches to building and maintaining cloud infrastructure and services.

Network Simplification

There used to be many separate physical “networks” for services such as environmental control systems, door controls, and security cameras. I was able to move every one of them to the highly-available campus network. These “legacy” networks of ARCNET over dedicated multimode fiber, BACnet serial over long-reach twisted pair, and other protocols over various private wireless and wired connections were no longer ignored but converted to be part of a continuously monitored, and managed IP network. Migrating these services wasn’t always easy. I learned a lot about lighting controls, managing and troubleshooting a BACnet network across per-building subnets, and proprietary wireless technologies.

The process of “converging” all these disparate networks took many years to complete. The longest holdout was the Cable TV network, a physical plant of coax, splitters, and amplifiers to every building on campus. We investigated and tested many solutions that would encode the video for transport over the IP network, but each had significant drawbacks. In the end, we migrated to the Xfinity on Campus service where Comcast connects to campus via a 10Gbps peering circuit and content is delivered to client web-based and mobile applications or set-top boxes in the common spaces.

One of the most recent projects was a two-way radio network used by a few groups on campus, including public safety. This involved adding point-to-point microwave links in addition to our dedicated fiber links, so that each site could reach campus via multiple independently-operated paths. The company we contracted to design and implement the radio system usually deploys it on a flat layer 2 network. I learned a lot about modern digital radios and we had a great learning experience working with them to manage the radio system’s multicast media across a routed enterprise network.


My true passion through it all has been network automation. For the servers and services managed by the networking team, I was an early-adopter of puppet for the declarative configuration language and the ease of separating data and code. In the past 15 years, our HPC and Systems teams have each adopted the tool for managing their respective systems. Similarly, Terraform has been an integral tool in our provisioning process for cloud (and eventually on premises) resources. Coupled with Terraform Cloud, it has enabled collaboration and transparency between and among different IT teams.

Early on, I introduced version control using Subversion and later taught sessions on migrating to Git and set up our GitHub organization. Many of the provisioning, monitoring, and audit scripts that I’ve authored are in perl, and I’ve spent some time in recent years migrating them to more modern python frameworks – or, where appropriate moving them to a cloud-native deployment model. It has been immensely helpful to be able to track changes in the infrastructure. No one remembers the details of a change a decade later, who made it and why. Having the data for our systems such as DNS, DHCP, and network configurations in git has enabled not only tracing of change history but also workflows with pre-commit hooks for testing and validation before the changeset is deployed on production systems.

In both designs and day-to-day operations, I took every opportunity I could find to demonstrate the value of this way of thinking. Not everyone was an immediate convert, but I believe that I’ve been able to teach an appreciation for automation that will carry forward as the network and systems evolve.


One of the most rewarding parts of my job was our Networking Internship program. The College was able to forge partnerships with the local community colleges to offer a full-time, year-long, paid internship. This work was typically applied to the student’s senior capstone project, but far exceeded the handful of required work hours. The intern was with us for an entire year, and after only a short introduction period functioned as a full member of the networking infrastructure team. While performing this work, they learned about how a real-world network was designed and operated, studied and obtained a CCNA certification (some also added JNCIA and others), and participated in any troubleshooting or new project work.

I’ve treasured the relationship with each of them, and have watched with pride and awe as their careers progressed after their time with our team. The program has been on hiatus for the past few years. Hopefully, someone else will be able to take up the mantle of this valuable program. It made such a difference to not only the participants, but to the dynamics of the work environment and to the lives of everyone they worked with.

Student Staff

Shortly after I started at Bowdoin, I took on leadership of a group of about a dozen student employees in the networking department. They proudly called themselves “The Monkeys” and handled a lot of the day-to-day grunt work, such as troubleshooting physical connectivity issues for end users. Many were quick studies and were soon doing operational tasks such as using subversion to update DNS and DHCP configurations, managing firewall rules, as well as write automation scripts, CLI and browser-based tools for the rest of the team.

I’ve felt privileged to have a small part in their college experience. I have stayed in touch with some, but remember each of them for their unique contributions. I hope they remember their time as “monkeys” as fondly, now that they have gone on to have amazing careers in their chosen fields.

Facilities Management Liaison

Early on, I established a relationship between IT and our Facilities Management division, who are responsible for managing everything about the physical infrastructure of the College. This began informally and was later made an official role. It entailed attending weekly “Shops” meetings, mainly to share (and hear about) upcoming projects, but also to be available for any questions. It was evident that many projects went much smoother and saved the College significant funds and effort due to this collaboration, from the simple, “let’s add some conduit while the ground is already open for another project” to the more complex coordination of multiple projects.

In recent years, I’ve delegated this role to a very capable team member. It is comforting to leave this in capable hands, and I’m confident they will continue to evolve this position.

Building Projects

I have had the privilege to be involved in the design and building of over two dozen new buildings and at least a dozen “complete” renovations of existing buildings. I have learned so much going through this process with all the dedicated engineers, architects, and project managers that made these projects a success. By authoring and maintaining our Division 17 and 27 standards documents, we were able to document and streamline coordination about our requirements for all communications infrastructure in these construction projects.

One of the greatest benefits of working at an established institution like Bowdoin is the long-term outlook. With a planning horizon of 50 years, I was able to build the network topology and fiber plant to be ready to support future growth and expansion. It was so rewarding to be presented with a networking need, and be able to say “we were expecting this,” and to have already prepared the infrastructure years ago to be ready to address the need with minimal effort.

Of course, the unexpected happens and project funds aren’t immediately available. Flexibility and patience are essential. Despite starting to deploy single mode fiber to all new/renovated buildings since the day I started, we had many other buildings with legacy multimode outside plant fiber. Using mode-conditioning patch cables, we were able to run 1Gbps optics over this plant until the next network refresh 10 years later when all multimode was replaced with single mode fiber (and provide dual 10Gbps to each building). Later, I was able to complete a 28km fiber build from campus to a remote island site to give full connectivity to campus for research and learning.

I leave with two new building projects underway, and two renovations in the planning process. I look forward to visiting after their completion, and watching the continued evolution of campus in the upcoming years.

My Take-away

After writing all of this, I’ve realized that the most enduring part of the work and projects – and the part that I will most miss – are the relationships. I will remember all the wonderful people that have been with me on this journey. Some have stayed lifelong friends, but all have taught me something. Whether that teaching is about technology, leadership, or about myself, I will treasure it. Thank you to everyone that made these last two decades such a special time in my career.

What’s Next?

As this chapter ends, another one starts. I am really excited about where I’m going next, and will focus my extra time and energy in getting up to speed there. I don’t yet know how this will impact my blogging, but I have found tremendous personal value in sharing some of the things I’ve worked on and learned and will work to continue that practice as time and policy permits.