Proposal: Networking has been tried in various forms (all of which are gone now) many times.

All have been closed as duplicates of Server Fault.

Why do we need another networking proposal that overlaps completely with Server Fault?

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Besides, I noticed that most of the followers here have 51 rep and no other accounts anywhere else in the SE network. This means that this proposal might never get the needed traction to reach a beta once it leaves the definition stage. – Renan Mar 15 '13 at 13:13
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I can't see how 'Server Fault' completely overlaps with 'Networking'. Can you elaborate? Nick – NetDonkey Mar 15 '13 at 13:23
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@Renan - Have you considered the number of newbies may be because there isn't a reliable home for network admins on the SE network now? – Blake Johnson Mar 15 '13 at 13:38
    
The beauty of Area51 and SE is that we will figure out automatically if this is SE site is a good idea. – Craig Constantine Mar 17 '13 at 19:44
    
No the beauty is that five users have decided that we will not figure it out. They just closed it. – Sebastian Mar 19 '13 at 13:11
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The proposal has been reopened. Many people have lauded the incubation process here; we're just asking for them to let it work. – Jeremy Stretch Mar 19 '13 at 13:50

14 Answers 14

Network design and engineering has almost zero overlap with systems administration, which is why there is so little networking content on Server Fault. Search for terms like "Cisco" and "router" there and you'll find very few questions and even fewer answers. This is because the very name of the site, Server Fault, implies that its focus is on systems administration.

Network engineering is its own category of profession and includes disciplines ranging from routing and switching to security to voice to data center technologies, and deserves its own site if Stack Exchange ever hopes to draw in network engineers as it has programmers and sysadmins.

And yes, most of the people supporting this proposal are new to Stack Exchange, precisely for the reason I've described: Prior to the potential of a networking-focused site, there simply hasn't been anything of general interest to us on the SE network.

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Why not take this up with the existing Server Fault community ? Maybe suggest expanding the scope. If they refuse, then you are most certainly guaranteed a site. You will also need some high rep users from the network to support this proposal as otherwise it wont make it through commitment. – AsheeshR Mar 17 '13 at 13:27
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Network engineering is an entirely separate topic from systems administration; apples and oranges. Trying to wedge it into Server Fault is a non-starter. – Jeremy Stretch Mar 17 '13 at 15:53
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Perhaps Network engineering is separate when you are working on the backbone or large Enterprises. But most of the world works at small and medium sized businesses. Any sysadmin working at small-medium org is certainly going to know routing, switching, security, voice, and so on. – Zoredache Mar 18 '13 at 22:20
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Zoredache: I work for a managed services provider and meet SMB admins daily. Most grasp only the most basic concepts of networking: IP networks, MAC address, VLANs, and maybe firewall policies. Obviously there is much more to networking than this, but Stack Exchange currently has no suitable place for such discussion. Easily 90% of the example questions posed here in the definition phase would go unanswered at Server Fault. Why? Because network engineers don't use Server Fault, and never will. This site will fill that gap. – Jeremy Stretch Mar 19 '13 at 13:54
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In my opinion though there will be the expected number of SMB questions here, the types of people pushing to make this site happen are going to handle larger-caliber questions related to heavier theories and practice of networking. QoS, path selection, traffic architecture, and the like are not the topics that a sysadmin is going to handle. That this idea has gained momentum should show that there is an opening for this type of forum outside of scattered vendor-specific offerings. – Ed Summers Mar 19 '13 at 23:33
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I think that the sample questions would be on topic at server fault - don't get too lost in the name - you don't need to be a "super user" to use superuser.com and you can ask about other programming issues besides stack overflow bugs on stackoverflow.com. Having said that it might still be better to create an additional site that is dedicated to networking. Networking questions are on topic on SF. Networking engineers & topics are welcome on SF... but if a dedicated site improves the overall level of networking knowledge in the SO network then I'll support this additional site. – Rob Moir Mar 20 '13 at 10:27
    
My thanks to Jeremy for leading me to this site! As a current Network Engineer, formerly (and labbing at home) server/virtualization/security admin, and future converged data center geek, I'd love to have a Network Engineering slice of StackExchange. Those who are network-focused can geek out to their hearts' content. As for me, I plan on cross-pollinating between Network and Server. Surely there are others out there like me who would be drawn to both sites? Bueller? Bueller...? – Eric W. Anderson Mar 21 '13 at 15:38
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cisco, routing and router on ServerFault all have over a thousand questions, the large majority of which are answered. That hardly seems like "very few questions" – Ben Brocka Mar 24 '13 at 13:09
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I keep seeing comments that networking questions are welcome at SF. To turn this thought on it's head, I wonder how many of the server folks would visit a "Network Engineer" website regularly, even if server questions/answers were considered on topic? – YLearn Mar 30 '13 at 4:20
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@YLearn I would, because in 2013 - a SysAdmin must have a good base level understanding of networking to stand any chance at all. The days of individual teams (Storage, Networking, Server) segmenting themselves are well and truly over in todays world of virtualisation and 'cloud' style engineering. – Dan Apr 18 '13 at 8:46

Maybe thats your answer. When you say most people have a 51 reputation score and no other accounts its because most Networking People don't use the site because Server Fault doesn't provide adequate coverage of the topics that I work with like routers, ASA firewalls, ToR Switches and so on...

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there are more than 1000 Cisco questions on SF already – warren Mar 15 '13 at 20:44
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I wouldn't consider 1000 out of 144,000 to be a significant participation by a major field. Perhaps there are other networking related questions, but server TCP/IP stack questions are not directly related to Networking in the realm of transport. I would expect the numbers of "low-rep" individuals to be new users to Stack Exchange. I hadn't participated before because of the lack of a focused Networking area. Participation here may lead me to sample some of the other areas, too. – Ed Summers Mar 17 '13 at 19:48

Networking topics are explicitly on topic on Server Fault. From the FAQ:

If your question is about…

  • Server and Business Workstation operating systems, hardware, software and virtualization
  • Enterprise storage, backup, and disaster recovery
  • Network routing, switches, and firewalls
  • Operations, maintenance, and monitoring

There are a decent number of questions (networking is the 6th most popular tag on the site), and there are certainly a number of active SF users who know their stuff when it comes to networking.


Given all of that, I think having a separate site is a good idea. The Cisco tag is included on a little over 1% of the questions on SF, which is pretty slim - a lot of the networking tag is more on the server side of things. Actually working with the design and administration of networks is present on SF, but it's not thriving.

Having a focused site for the network engineering community seems very similar to the situation with DBA and IT Security sites. Both were always on-topic on Server Fault, but were created afterward in recognition of the experts in those fields doing better with a separate community.

There will certainly be some overlap with Server Fault, but that's fine - we have overlap with several other sites already.

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And who says that Server Fault's focus couldn't be narrowed a bit more. When I hear Server Fault, I do NOT think of a network problem, but rather any of a number of server-related problems. In bigger companies, you have a small number of specialized networking experts and a larger number of server admins. I would expect the numbers of messages and users to be smaller in a networking site compared to a server site for that reason. – Willscrlt Mar 28 '13 at 11:11

To Warren and Renan

I am one of those low rep individuals that you are speaking of and to be honest, I had never heard of Stack Overflow or the Stack Exchange network of sites until Jeremy Stretch brought it up on Twitter. Our field of networking is quickly becoming more involved as a community and I think this site would be very beneficial to help others and get help from others. That is the reason I signed up and support this cause. I hope you all understand and just let the process speak for itself.

Regards,

Keith

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This really doesn't address how "Networking" isn't covered by Server Fault already. SF caters to System, Networking, Storage, and other Administrators. All the sample questions are on-topic there. This proposal is a complete duplicate with absolutely no reason to fragment the community. – Chris S Mar 23 '13 at 15:39
    
Being new to the site, I'll take your word for that but there have been several members from SF that have supported the fact that we as network professionals would like to have our own site to go into more depth regarding networking technologies and principles. I see there are definitely 2 perspectives here and I appreciate your thoughts and anyone who agrees with you. – packetologist Mar 25 '13 at 19:55
    
Why can't you "go into more depth" on the existing site? I admit I may be missing something; as there seem to be a lot of people who think it's necessary to further fracture our community in order for them to be participate. I just don't see any particular benefit in creating yet another overlapping site, with one exemption that there's confusion over the name "Server Fault" (people not reading the Posts or FAQ there, assuming it's only for Servers). I am adamantly against this as I know quite a bit about DBs and Security, but asking anyone to actively participate in 3+ sites is too much. – Chris S Mar 25 '13 at 20:10
    
The point is that nobody wants and has the time to bother with mentally filtering all the server noise out. Yes, network engineering might be included in SF, but it is only a small subset there. If the majority of topics is not interesting, people will continue to rather not follow it at all. – Kallisti Mar 26 '13 at 14:49

I work at a major University. We have a systems group and a network group for a reason. They are different disciplines. The network is more than the switch port. At Server Fault I'd expect someone to talk about creating trunks for VMs. maybe some VPN remote access methods. In Networking I'd expect to find answers on Layer 3 VPNs, dual hub single cloud DMVPN, and To discuss the finer points of Nexus deployment methods or Load Balancing. Server guys will not have these answers just as I can't answer stuff on the finer points of Debian or making Apache dance. We may all be Doctors but you don't see a GP for heart surgery.

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Don't let the name fool you, Server Fault is not for Servers only. All the topics and equipment you mention are on-topic for SF. – Chris S Mar 23 '13 at 15:40

Trends within the SMB market lead to a lot of "folks with many hats" types of roles. There is nothing wrong with that, and some folks prefer that route. In that realm, the concept of system administration typically also envelops the networking infrastructure - thus, your routing/switching infrastructure, your SAN, your IP telephony system, etc.

The influx of new users (like myself) are specialists in the umbrella of networking technologies - perhaps operators in larger enterprise teams, NOC engineers, consultants in the VAR space, etc.

There is a line between day to day operations and the planning/implementation/operation of larger scale (or perhaps just unique/complex) infrastructures. The relevance to sysadmin work is there, so I can see the argument from both sides. As others have pointed out however, the majority of the content in Server Fault pertains to sysadmin operations/planning/design versus network infrastructure.

I support the move for a separate designation, but if the stack exchange community disagrees, so be it.

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I think the best test of this would be to re-post some of our example questions to ServerFault and gauge the quantity and quality of responses. In my opinion SF includes networking in-name-only.

Questions like the recent "When multicast client has obtained the first data packed (pim sparse) and switched to SPT, what happens when another multic source appears on the net?" may fall on deaf ears there.

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This is a bit of a chicken and egg issue. Of course networking questions that require a high level of expertise will fall by the wayside on SF if all the people with that level of expertise are standing by the side of the stage with custard pies and soda bottles with squirt-nozzles in hand. That's not helpful. I'd personally make a point of avoiding a question I could answer but which I knew was a test. A better question might be how much attention would those questions and answers get from the larger networking community if one or two experts were already answering them. – Rob Moir Mar 20 '13 at 10:33
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It's not that we "stand by the wayside." Most people will contribute to a community when they get some benefit in return. There needs to be a community that gives both ways, and whether people like it or not, that ship has sailed for SF and network professionals. V-Poll: Network professionals, how many times have you found useful answers to a network problem on SF? How many found a SF link while searching for a network problem and wasted your time? How many now see a SF link and move directly to the next search result? Want to guess the results? – YLearn Mar 30 '13 at 4:44

I am at 51 rep as well so probably not going to get a lot weight behind this response, but there is a huge difference between a true network engineer and your IT generalist who happens to plug a few switches in or configure a firewall via the GUI. There is years upon years of expertise that goes into becoming the caliber of engineer that can design large telecom or massive datacenter networks. It is that type of expertise we hope to congregate and tap into here. I don't put myself in the former pool, but I do hope to be there some day, and feel that a community like this would be most helpful all of us who are involved networking.

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High caliber network engineers are more than welcome to contribute to Server Fault answering networking questions, which are on-topic. Why divide the potential overlap between two different sites??? – Chris S Mar 23 '13 at 15:43

If it has a hard drive in it, i am not interested in it.. i am wanting a community to discuss Cisco enterprise routers, switches, Cisco IOS command help, and certifications. Server fault does not address any of these. The above subjects are the only reason why i would frequent stackexchange. If this "networking" does not go through, i will not have a reason to go to stackexchange.

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There's at least one Cisco router platform I can think of that can have a hard drive fitted ;) – Tom O'Connor Mar 19 '13 at 14:27
    
All that equipment and questions about them are on-topic on SF. They do "address" all of these. – Chris S Mar 23 '13 at 15:44

I'm a new "low rep" member here on stackexchange.com as well. I also heard about this proposal as a result of a tweet by Jeremy Stretch on twitter. I'm interested in Cisco (and to a degree Junos and other competitors) networking questions and answers. I just took a look at the Server Fault section mentioned above and see absolutely zero overlap in topics that network engineers would be interested in. Moreover, looking at the front page I do not see a single question that would be of interest to me as a network engineer. Sorry, server guys and network guys are not even close to the same in my book.

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Okay,

I don't know what happened. This was closed and now the proposal was reopened. On with it:

Just to make it clear: I think the network engineering field and the server administration field have no real overlap. They have well defined intersections but no network engineer would identify with a site like "ServerFault" and so this site will never attract networking traffic. There are over 200 people here, many of them networking professionals who committed to answer questions on the new site. That is a remarkable start.

If there is a dedicated site for network engineering and there are many professionals answering them then this will generate additional audience and I think will help this new site to get traction very fast.

For example, just look at http://blog.ioshints.info/ and see how many of these articles would be relevant to ServerFault audience.

On the other hand, no network engineer I know would ask questions at ServerFault because we KNOW that server administration is not our field of work. It's not OUR community. We would be allowed entry (as per the FAQ) but could not identify with it.

Please support this proposal to create a central place where network engineering questions can be asked in our own community.

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I think the question domains (technology) is different enough to warrant two different question sites... I do server admin as well as network admin, yes, there is some commonality on the interface point between the two, but vastly different knowledge needed to admin the two. So I don't think this site would "steal" the server admin crowd away from ServerFault; they may even be glad to have our esoteric netadmin q's on another site and not crudding up their server questions site :)

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I think a possible answer to your question could be answered with this type of example.

If you take a look in the enterprise's network field in this last years, subjects like BYOD became one of the majors topics & preoccupation to our managers and IT teams. Is true, that in some cases a NAC solution based only on 802.1X with a radius server will fulfill the security requirements of some companies. For this case, maybe ServerFault was enough to comment about various radius servers or for a Freeradius configuration... but, where should I look for the difference in the configuration on a Cisco, Juniper and HP switch in order to apply the 802.1X config?

At last, now let take this one step further and think that you need to check the device complies also some security policies or you need to do a MDM (Mobile Device Management). In order to resolve this situation, you will surely face today some issues with the design & configuration in a multi-network vendor environment. I do not think these questions could be resolved for example in the ServerFault forum.

We could continue the list with subjects like firewalls, load balancing, proxys, traffic classification, VoIP, wifi etc...

For my part I think a networking forum could have this place here.

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I'm one of the higher reputation users on Server Fault and there are plenty of times when the front page has nothing of interest to me. Use the tags system, you can easily find questions interesting to you. It's there, you just have to put more than a 'first glace' into it. – Chris S Mar 23 '13 at 15:45

Network engineering is a different area than system admin. One forum fits all doesn't work well. One field is irrelevant from the experience of the other. If a company let the system team do networking the result is pretty much a totally messed up network. Network engineers (especially in service provider) does not necessarily need to do much server admin and some server admins (at least those I met) don't think they need to know how traffic engineering works to do their job...The questions are at different level (network vs system).

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