Game of Thrones, Network Manager Edition

The popular TV show provides seven lessons for those who work to maintain the network.

August 17, 2017

4 Min Read
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When the best-selling book series "A Song of Ice and Fire" by George R.R. Martin was adapted for television by producers at HBO, not even the most ardent supporter of the project could have foreseen the frenzy that was to follow. "Game of Thrones" has become a global sensation rarely paralleled in the world of television.

If you reside in the real world of network management, you may have noticed some striking similarities between the fictional land of Westeros and the hallways you patrol each day in the interests of network performance. In honor of the seven kingdoms and the show’s seventh season, I put together a list of the seven critical lessons network managers can take from the hit TV show.

game of thrones


  1. The biggest threats aren’t always beyond the wall. While the internet is certainly a scary place full of threats that can cause harm to the network, sometimes the greater risk resides from within. Carelessness, user error and mistakes can cause as much, if not more, harm than the malicious content lurking on the outskirts. While it's important to continue to man the wall, don’t forget about the threats emanating from within your own ranks. Because reaction time is vital during any attack, consider automating your runbooks for faster response times. This will strengthen your defenses and limit the damage.

  2. Even three-eyed ravens don’t see everything. Monitoring your network’s performance is critical, but don’t lulled into a false sense of security by a lack of alerts. You need to be constantly updating and patching potential vulnerabilities to stay ahead of the threats. Just because you don’t see potential danger doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

  3. No matter how prominent you are, you can be eliminated at any point. If "Game of Thrones" has taught us anything, it’s that nobody, or in this case, no network or application, no matter how big of a role they play, is safe. Constant vigilance is necessary for all critical areas of your network as the slightest change can adversely impact even the most prominent.

  4. Just when you think you have it figured out, you don’t. What makes "Game of Thrones" so compelling to watch is the constant plot twists and surprises. What keeps most network managers up at night is the thought of the unforeseen event. While you may understand your network, don’t ever make the mistake of thinking you have it all figured out. Map and document the network frequently and test often to ensure that surprises are eliminated from the network equation.

  5. Never underestimate the value of a strong ally. In the "Game of Thrones," going it alone will likely get you killed. In the world of network management, it will likely kill your project. Building a consensus among key players is always a good starting point for any project to increase its, and your own, chances of sustained success.

  6. Dragons are real. As Daenerys Targaryen taught viewers early on, dragons are in fact real. While in the mystical world of Westeros they are represented by flying, fire-breathing beasts, in the world of networks they are more commonly represented by powerful tools used by administrators to battle impending threats. Don’t be afraid to unleash the power of dragons in your battle for supremacy: They are your most powerful weapon and ally in ensuring the safety of your network.

  7. Winter is coming. This phrase in "Game of Thrones" is used to foretell the impending dark days ahead and the battles that loom. In our world of network management, we can refer to this as the impending complexity that's on our own doorstep. Technologies such as SDN and virtualization are conspiring to overthrow the life of a network engineer as we know it. This is why automation is becoming critical. You don’t want to be left out in the cold when the snows begin to fall. Winter is indeed coming.

For those who would be Kings and Queens, the allure of sitting atop the iron throne is a calling that guides their every thought and action. For network managers, ensuring a well-performing corporate network is a calling of equal challenge and persistence. Heed the lessons of Westeros and perhaps you will be better served in securing your rightful place amongst the network monarchy.

Grant Ho is an SVP at network automation provider NetBrain Technologies. At NetBrain, he helps lead the companies’ strategy and execution, with a focus on products, events, content and more. Prior to joining NetBrain, Grant held various leadership roles in the healthcare IT industry and began his career as a strategy consultant to wireless and enterprise software companies. You can follow Grant on Twitter @grantho and you can follow NetBrain @NetBrainTechies.

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