There is a currently private beta site for Network Engineering here:


The beta is new, but seems to be garnering a decent following so far, and will probably ramp up participation when it becomes a public beta site. I think this new site should exist...as this is a core role/area within IT. But only if these topics aren't to be covered by ServerFault. After all, why have a separate site at all if the topics can and should be covered here?

Given that the ServerFault FAQs state that a question can be about:

Network routing, switches, and firewalls

and the site name is Server fault...is the idea to get back to a core based on the name of the site, centering around questions regarding server/application administration and moving networking questions to their own site, eliminating this from the FAQs and acceptable topics? Or do sites like this new Network Engineering one exist as supplements to the larger sites like SF and SO for more granular or specialized help?

If so, what happens when these questions overlap (ie. serverA cannot communicate with serverB)?

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    IMHO the real question should be "Should there be a Network Engineering site?"... – voretaq7 May 15 '13 at 17:15
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    The name may be Server Fault, but the site is not just about servers. Likewise, Stack Overflow is not just about stacks. – Stefan Lasiewski May 20 '13 at 22:09
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    @voretaq7 IMHO no. – Zypher May 21 '13 at 23:28
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    @Zypher: You're not alone. – user9517 May 23 '13 at 14:58
  1. Don't get hung up on the name. Seriously, servers are a small fraction of our topicality. I've heard this argument many times now and it's getting really old.

  2. If we made subjects off-topic here when another site covered them, there'd be nothing left.

  • 2
    So why have a Network Engineering site at all then? Why wasn't it told "SF already covers all of this...no need for another site"? – TheCleaner May 14 '13 at 14:58
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    Others and I brought that up while the site was being proposed. A similar site proposal was already closed as a Dupe of SF. Apparently the Network Administrators are completely hung up on the name "Server Fault" and that they're not specifically mentioned in the FAQ as belonging (where System Administrators are). This was largely the same logic as the DBA site; which is active and healthy, though I believe largely at Server Fault's expense. Also, Unix & Linux is completely overlapped with Server Fault and Super User. – Chris S May 14 '13 at 15:03
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    FYI, the biggest problem with status quo (before the beta site proposal) is that theoretical networking questions fall through the cracks of both SO and SF... neither community truly embraces them, although sometimes you can sneak one through on SO (and Jeff officially said they are welcome there... different story for close-voters who love to hammer anything pure networking on SO)... disclaimer: I have not even signed up for the beta, but I am a professional network engineer and I've been somewhat frustrated by options for supporting my profession on SE to date – This May 21 '13 at 3:44
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    NE specifical says "actual problems that you face", theoretical are explicitly off-topic there. So... try again? – Chris S May 21 '13 at 3:47
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    You're choosing to focus on minutia instead of the point of the statement: no SE site embraces theoretical networking questions. Regarding your comment about networking is off-topic for SO, that's technically wrong. Theoretical networking questions are part of Computer Science, which Jeff endorses for SO participation – This May 21 '13 at 4:05

The name is, and always has been, a bit of a misnomer. As near as I can tell it was crafted by programmers wanting a non-programmer site.

The whole notion of StackExchange encourages community fragmentation with site overlap, and this isn't really any different. There are two real questions that should be asked should Network Engineering survive:

  1. Would that site take significant content from ServerFault?
  2. Where should the line be drawn with respect to migrations?

PeterGrace made some pretty good arguments, largely anecdotal but that's the only data we'll have available for a while, that seems to indicate the impact due to fragmentation will be limited. For the other we'll have to make that call based on how the community works itself out. There will definitely be some overlap, but it seems like the real hardcore expertise has always been hesitant to come to SF in the first place, so it will largely exist over there anyway.

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    The name is a common error code from back in the day - it's the same source as "Stack Overflow". Unfortunately, few people are still familiar with it - lost in translation I guess. – Chris S May 14 '13 at 15:19
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    @ChrisS: Then I propose we rename the site to be Guru Meditation. – Scott Pack May 14 '13 at 15:45
  • Why not "Ignore, Retry, Fail?" – Chris S May 14 '13 at 15:51
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    @ChrisS: Not nearly as sexy. – Scott Pack May 14 '13 at 16:26
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    I'm in the beta, and trust me - 99% of these questions would never attract any attention on ServerFault. We're talking about pretty high-end networking questions regarding unified fabric, MPLS and so on. Regular sysadmins almost never do the field work on those subjects. – pauska May 15 '13 at 6:56
  • @pauska That fits with my hope. It'll be worth watching to see how the public beta turns out. – Scott Pack May 15 '13 at 11:42
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    @pauska They might not attract attention from the "regular" SF crowd, but that only seems to be true as Network Administrators seem to avoid SF as if they're off-topic here. I really don't understand the dynamic, but if a working site has the numbers who am I to call them out for being cliquey. – Chris S May 15 '13 at 16:41
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    I hate the site fragmentation. Rather, I hate that they're completely separate sites. If they were, say, views of the same question pool, I could dig that... – gWaldo May 16 '13 at 18:50
  • @gWaldo: I waffle quite a lot on that. As a security guy with a systems background I like being able to decide whose viewpoint I can get. Due to the differing responsibilities of the jobs a dedicated security person may give a very different answer from a dedicated systems admin to the same question. Having the different sites allows us to explicitly seek different expertises. However, it also means that people with multiple roles, or multiple interests, have to spread themselves around. Either way you slice it the solutions are non-ideal. – Scott Pack May 16 '13 at 19:36
  • @gWaldo The only relatively minor reservation I have with that is that theoretical questions are off-topic on SF across the board (though we do entertain them frequently). If we had views and opened SF to theoretical that would allow all the fragments to be complete overlap with SF. Doing so would require better input filtering however, as we already attract enough BS from those who ignore the FAQ. – Chris S May 21 '13 at 3:50
  • @ScottPack The main problem I have is that by fragmenting the sites Server Fault is largely deprived of the security perspectives we used to have (and security.SE can lean toward the Ivory Tower, lacking the real world practicality that Server Fault's community could bring -- though that's less of an issue from my casual perusing of security.SE). In a way it encourages cross-posting even though cross-posting is officially frowned upon: If you need more than one viewpoint you need to ask on more than one site... – voretaq7 May 22 '13 at 3:39
  • @voretaq7: The cross-posting problem is tricksome to be sure. Ideally the entire network would be one nebulous glob with some kind of meta tagging and dynamic views to include what's relevant. For instance, even with grumbles of Sec.SE being a complete overlap of SF it's really more a subset of SF, SO, DBA, WebApp, Programmers, NetEng, RE, some others, and some of it's own. With SEI doing the Area51 model they've officially blessed and encourage fragmentation. It's definitely a hard thing for us to figure out how to work in. – Scott Pack May 22 '13 at 4:19

No we don't have to drop the networking questions any more than we dropped questions related to security, databases, and other topics. If it relates to professional system administration it can be asked here. If the question will get better answer over there we will migrate them.

Looking at the questions so far on the Beta, I think many of the questions would fit here, but probably would not receive much attention. I don't know if it will work, but the Network Engineering people think that another site will attract more experts that will be able to answer the types of questions that were not getting much attention on serverfault. I signed on to the Network Engineer proposal to see if believe is true. If the site doesn't gel, then I expect many of the questions will get migrated back to here. If it does work well, then we can migrate the networking related questions over there, we they don't get enough attention, over here.

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    The only reason those questions wouldn't work here is because the audience there flatly refuses to come over here to ask or answer networking questions. Self-fulfilling prophecy... – Michael Hampton May 21 '13 at 4:57

The original tag line for the site said

Network Engineering

... network engineers and administrators

This has subsequently been edited to remove the and administrators

so now it reads

Network Engineering

... network engineers

So it looks like they want to focus on the engineering rather than the administration...

Hopefully someone from the site will pass by and give us some guidance.

  • 1
    The vast majority of their example questions I would consider "administration". Seems like when HR gets a hold of a job title and want's to snazzy it up without considering the industry definition. – Chris S May 14 '13 at 15:22
  • Yup the purest definition is that an engineer makes network products rather than uses them. If an engineer is someone who sets up a network, then what is there left to be administration? – JamesRyan Nov 26 '13 at 12:55

You might not like my opinion (i.e. answer), but I think SF concensus will eventually be sending users to the networking SE for networking problems. Similar to what has happened when the DB SE opened. Seems logical to me. SF cannot be all things to all people without losing its focus on professional systems administration.

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    I believe it will be hard to get an "SF consensus" on this topic, but speaking for myself, I would send questions over to Network Engineering if I think the question has a better chance getting a good answer there. This would even be the case if I were to answer it. – the-wabbit May 21 '13 at 7:56

That would be "not entirely". There is a pretty clear division IMHO:

  1. network protocols and the "ought to" questions (gig to NE);
  2. configuration/behaviour of hosts participating in protocols and the "what actually does occur" questions (gig to SF)

There will be some lore that falls between the two stools:


"what's the best way to approach the implementation of this network protocol in situation X comprised of hosts A, B, and C to achieve outcome P?"

For pragmatic "here's how to get it working", SF gets the question. For theoretical "here's how it would ideally work, assuming hosts actually obeyed the protocol and provided appropriate configurable features", NE gets the gig.

[SF question] "how do I setup X on router Y?"

Answer: "you get your head around [ref to NE], and then you take these concrete steps ..."

  • 2
    Protocol questions have historically been asked and answered on Server Fault, too. What the NE crowd is claiming are protocols which do not have that much expertise at Server Fault - which is pretty much everything in the area of carrier networking. It goes to show that NE is able to attract the experts in these areas at short notice, otherwise all the site is going to be is a network-topic fragment off Server Fault without real added value for anybody. – the-wabbit May 26 '13 at 12:31
  • The number of downvotes is rather amusing, for what is a fair attempt at answering the question. It's as if on SF, a downvote means "I don't like what you had to say", whereas on SO, it is generally reserved for "this answer does not add any value to the question". I guess maybe in the end it'll probably wind up as a case of "on NE, at least I get some respect from my peers". – David Bullock May 28 '13 at 12:04
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    @DavidBullock This is meta.sf, where just like on meta.so a down vote means exactly that - I don't agree with what you are saying. See: meta.serverfault.com/faq#vote-differences – Zypher May 29 '13 at 1:04

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