Picture this: A well-known company has run into IT trouble and is forced to fire its incompetent IT staff. As part of the new IT team, you’re hired to fix the problems left behind, building up a new IT infrastructure and delegating tasks to other team members, but with little to no information to go on—all while simultaneously patching holes that are being penetrated by the bad guys.
This is just one of the scenarios GlobalNOC network engineer Nathan Miller likes to immerse himself in when time permits. He regularly participates in competitions to figure out how best to navigate some of the many challenges of being an “IT guy.”
In fact, Miller has led a team of students in various IT and cybersecurity competitions, even placing first in Ohio and 10th nationally in the 2010 CISCO NetRiders challenge. Miller’s also taken part in the Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, which has an emphasis on both networking and cybersecurity.
He started competing during his BA and MA studies in computer information systems at Youngstown State University, Ohio. He discovered there was a void in the informatics scene at the commuter school, so he created a student group to fill it.
“I have an interest in cybersecurity, so I started to get involved with that,” said Miller. “There was no formal program for this type of skillset at my school, which led to me starting a student organization on hacking and penetration testing.”
Miller was first introduced to GlobalNOC as part of his studies, completing an internship with the former Indiana Center for Network Translational Research and Education (InCNTRE) SDN research group, which was under the GlobalNOC umbrella.
After he graduated, Miller applied for his current position at GlobalNOC as a network engineer. “I help maintain the equipment that decides the most efficient path to get network data where it needs to go,” said Miller about his job. “My team manages the core routers and switches that make all that happen, as well as the transport equipment for the long-distance fibers between geographical locations.”
As part of the Internet2 team, Miller works on Internet2 network security, often collaborating with Internet2 engineers. Other projects involve network infrastructure upgrades and capacity augments, by consolidating network hardware to make space for additional hardware.
Infrastructure changes have been part of Internet2’s network evolution, which has led to a lot of customer feedback. That’s also where Miller and his team come in. “There’s a wide spectrum of feedback that we might receive from customers,” said Miller. “It could be anything from them seeing slow or poor performance to not being able to get onto Google. Some of those interactions can also be related to turning up new services.”
Miller’s team occasionally works directly with researchers who might be working on a new way of testing performance, or a new idea for network protocol, for example. The team will then work with them to fine tune the network, so it operates under the parameters of what their research project requires to be successful.
“My favorite thing is that the work we do helps scientists and researchers make new discoveries,” he said. “New breakthroughs in climate science or high performance computing, for instance. Just to have some part in that feels like my job here has a little bit higher meaning. It’s a community, and everyone works together and shares knowledge.”
To read more about job opportunities within GlobalNOC, check out the Careers page.