What would happen if you mixed a big smile, warm personality and an extensive technical knowledge? You’d meet Yuriy Yershov, Head of Engineering at CompTek and one of our esteemed Extreme Heroes in Russia!
Hello Yuriy, thank you for taking the time to talk to us! Especially now, during the end of the year fever…
Indeed, it’s a quite busy time for our business, although 2021 does not particularly stand out in that regard. In our country, not only the calendar year, but also the financial year is coming to an end, so both our partners and our customers strive to complete their current projects as soon as possible. And if a project comes up now, in most cases it’s super urgent.
At the same time, end of the year is probably the most interesting and exciting moment for me, personally. Most of the projects are coming to their final stages. Equipment tuning is underway everywhere, acceptance tests are carried out, complex integrations are launched. Almost every day you have some problems that need to be addressed and troubleshooting happens to be one of my favorite tasks!
CompTek has been in the networking business for over 30 years. What is the company’s competitive edge?
Honesty and openness in relations with our partners, suppliers and even the competitors. Our candid approach allows us to develop trusting, long-term relationship. Also, we have a very strong engineering team, which is not that typical for distribution companies.
We may not have as many vendors in our portfolio as other distributors do, but we know the products and solutions that we offer like the back of our hands. In fact, we have helped save complex projects of our partners more than once now. One time we even got scolded by one of our vendors for opening too few support questions, as they thought we were slacking off! But the truth was, we figured out most of the issues by ourselves.
Do you remember how did your partnership with Extreme begin?
CompTek officially became an Extreme partner in 2018, although you could say our acquaintance began earlier, back in 2010. Around that time our vendor Avaya acquired the Nortel networking business and that's when we got to discover what is now called Extreme Fabric Connect. With this excellent technology in our hands, we participated in the construction of the network infrastructure for the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
The technology impressed us so much that when it moved to Extreme with the acquisition of Avaya in 2018, we did not want to part with it. And then came the famous purple switches, Wi-Fi solutions, IP Fabrics etc. We plunged into a new world.
And how do you feel the relationship has evolved over the years?
Frankly speaking, it's hard to wish for more. From the very beginning we have developed a very positive and constructive partnership. Our colleagues at Extreme are always very responsive, always ready to help and they’re all very competent professionals. Even the sensitive or controversial issues are discussed openly and frankly, always ending up finding a good solution. Such vendor relationships are not common and are definitely very valuable.
And this applies not only to professional, but also personal relations! The folks at Extreme team are all very nice and interesting people, I greatly enjoy being in touch with them. Hope you guys aren’t too tired yet of all the photos with my dog I’m sending you! 😄
What do you think are the most ground-breaking moments in the networking world that you have observed throughout the last decade? How did they influence your approach to designing and building networks?
As I’ve mentioned earlier, Extreme Fabric Connect was a true game changer for us. Although it is already a mature technology, it many cases it’s still an unusual novelty for many network engineers who are accustomed to classic switched Ethernet. With arbitrary channel topology distributed by Control Plane, and in recent versions with nearly fully automatic self-tuning out of the box, it really changes the way you can design and build networks.
I also see a lot of promise in the SD-WAN technologies, especially that Extreme has recently acquired the Ipanema SD-WAN business. In my opinion, it is still a very young technology – different vendors imagine it and implement it differently. There are no common standards yet. But it will definitely change our understanding of how to build a WAN network. It’s all the more interesting to see what Extreme will come up with here in the near future.
I also keep a close eye on the ExtremeCloud IQ. Cloud technologies are now actively penetrating the networking industry. While I don’t think they will change the actual principles of building the networks, they will greatly change our understanding of network management and maintenance.
If you had to choose only three Extreme solutions to work with for the rest of your career, what would your “Top 3” look like?
If I had to choose only three, then I’d go with Extreme Fabric Connect, Universal Platform and WiNG-based wireless solutions.
But that’s a scary thought! One of my favorite things about this work is the constant need to understand, learn, and apply new things. Actually, that’s what’s gotten me into the networking business! I just mentioned new SD-WAN solutions are about to appear and Extreme will surely come up with something interesting. I'm definitely not missing all the action!
Is this why you joined the Extreme Hero club?
The Extreme Hero community consist of people who understand Extreme technologies, so it’s useful and easy to exchange ideas, knowledge or questions with each other. In addition, everyone in the club is “one of our own”, so to speak. This allows you to be open and frank and enjoy the interactions with other Heroes.
Participation in the program has proved very rewarding. Extreme arranges quite deep technical sessions for the Heroes and invites us to interesting places like Athens 😉 The company shares with us their plans and future products beforehand, allowing us to be prepared and stay “on top” when the new solutions are released or simply understand the current ones more deeply.
What do you consider your greatest success – both in professional and personal life?
That’s a difficult one. You see, every time I achieve something, I get to the top of that proverbial mountain, it no longer feels like an achievement, like something difficult or even noteworthy. Basically, all my thoughts are already focused on what still needs to be done, the new mountains to climb.
If there’s something I’d call my professional achievement, maybe it’s having created several training courses for our training center. Over these 20 years I have trained around 1500 people who are now successfully applying their knowledge to real-world projects. In this vein, I raised and taught my son, who, one might say, followed in my footsteps and has already become an excellent engineer, appreciated and respected by his colleagues. I think you can definitely call that an achievement.
But the truth is, none of it would be possible without Lena – my wife and my tower of strength. I know for sure that no matter how big a success, it would not bring me joy if I couldn’t share it with her. Lena – you are my most important achievement. Love you! 😊
All work and no play… what is your recipe to wind down after the work is done?
I don’t think I’ll be very original here. After some hard work, I need to clear my head and spend some quiet time alone or with Lena. We love walking with our puppy Aiza. We have this new big park which I also cross every day on my way home from work. Turns out, it helps switch my brain from work mode to the relaxed one much better than a fleeting car trip.
And by the way, we love traveling spontaneously. I don't really like to plan our trips in advance. When everything is meticulously planned out, it no longer feels like an adventure. One day me and Lena found ourselves stuck in a traffic jam on the Minsk highway on our way home. The road in the opposite direction was completely empty and… very tempting. At some point I asked, "maybe we could go to Smolensk?". Lena, the miracle wife, answered, “Let's go!”. We didn't have anything with us at all, because we got out of the house for literally an hour. When we left Moscow it was 35°C, Smolensk “welcomed” us with 10°C and rain so I had to look not only for a hotel and some museums, but also for warm clothes and shoes.
But this is what I call adventure, it's much more fun than when everything goes according to the plan!
If a film was made of your life, what would be its title and who would play you?
I think my work is very similar in many ways to House, M.D. We’re both kind of detectives, collecting evidence, ordering tests, piecing the facts together, building and testing different hypotheses. We also interview people who don’t always tell the truth, sometimes out of ignorance, sometimes on purpose. I see many similarities, although they would probably need to pick Danny de Vito instead of Hugh Laurie to play me 😄
But actually what I’d like to see more is a parody film about our work in the networking business, along the lines of “Airplane” or “Naked” with Leslie Nielsen!