What does VisiCalc and SDN Have in Common?

I was listening to an episode on Planet Money last week regarding the first spreadsheet program called VisiCalc. If you listen to the podcast there is a discussion of the accounting profession before and after the creation of the spreadsheet. Before the creation of the program VisiCalc a spreadsheet was really a spreadsheet.   “If you ran a business, your accountant would put in all your expenses, all your revenues, and you’d get this really detailed picture of how the business worked. But even making a tiny tweak was a huge hassle.” Teams of accounts and bookkeepers would spend days reworking sheets of papers to maintain the accuracy of the books. Continue reading

If a Butterfly Flaps Their Wings, Should You Care?

When should the incumbent pay attention to an upstart competitor?

A couple of weeks ago Arista Networks (ANET) reported their quarterly numbers and they were fantastic. No need to sugar coat the numbers, they were excellent. A decade ago I worked at Ciena and I remember when we started to see a new competitor in our market called Infinera. At the time Infinera came to market, Ciena was recording ~$100-120m quarters. Within a year of seeing them, Infinera was recording $8-20M quarters that had grown to $40M a quarter by mid-2006. Running a $500M business is vastly different than running a $150M business, which were the annual revenue runs rates for CIEN and INFN in 2006. Looking at the Arista results, the thought occurred to me to look back a decade. Continue reading

An Open Letter to Hobbyists

  • Bandwidth is the Software of the Network
  • Regulating the Single Network Pipe is Driving Forward while looking in the Rearview Mirror

With age and experience, time provides the ability to clearly spot irony. In 1976, Bill Gates sent an open letter to computer hobbyists expressing his displeasure for software piracy. The letter even has a Wikipedia page.  When I read the FCC proposals regarding new neutrality, I feel like we have been over and over this ground before. Thirty-nine years ago Bill Gates wrote his letter to hobbyists and the majority of it is worth reading in the context of the net-neutrality debate: Continue reading

Running to Stand Still

For me the last several weeks of 2014 had been running to stand still. I made one last sales call before Christmas Eve and then eased into a long beak till the New Year. I had some interesting sales calls over the past year. I wrote about the perfect Clayton Christensen, hydraulics versus steam shovels moment here. I learned a lot from that sales call and went back to using a framing meme we had developed a couple years earlier. That meme I posted in this blog here, seven months ago. In this post I am refreshing that meme and highlighting a few insights I read and thought were meaningful. Most if not all of the mainstream tech media is some technology company’s marketing message in disguise; hence it might be entertaining, but it is not informative and or thought provoking. Continue reading

Deflategate and the Absence of Malice Dilemma for the NFL

There is an enjoyable Sidnay Pollack movie called Absence of Malice. The plot of the movie is about an investigation of a murder and how press leaks are used to manipulate people via public opinion. As I watched the Deflategate drama unfold over the past few weeks, the whole affair reminded me of this movie. No one has died and we are not talking about Federal crimes, but from the coverage of the affair a person in another country not immersed in our football culture, would think we were discussing high crimes against the state. Continue reading

Amateur Analysis of 31 Years of the NFL Draft

Do you have that annoying friend who absolutely hates your sports teams? I am describing the person who sends a weekly barrage of emails full hate and over indulges in schadenfreude when your team loses. I have that friend and he is a Miami Dolphins fan. I am a Patriots fan and season ticket holder for more than twenty years. The Tom Brady era has been toxic for the Miami Dolphins and the AFC East in general. This toxicity manifests itself in a weekly barrage about Patriot cheating, film crews, playbook theft, hometown refs, video recording innuendo and general hatred towards Bill Belichick. Continue reading

Beginning with a Different Perspective

The seminal achievement of SNA in the late 1970s to mid 1980s was to make minicomputers viable from an enterprise market perspective. Enterprise computer networks were completely dependent on the mainframe computers supplied from IBM or one of the minor mainframe suppliers. SNA was a proprietary solution implemented by IBM, but it was an open source solution. This enabled the suppliers of mini computers such as DEC, Wang, Prime, Data General, Apollo, and others to use SNA technology to deploy their systems into the network. Open source meant that competitors as well as providers of non-competitive systems had access to the technical implementation of SNA and thus could use SNA to add their computers to an SNA network.   The mini-computer vendors implemented a PU_Type 2 node capability on their computers, which enabled these machines to seamlessly interact with mainframe computers as well as each other. This was the genesis of distributed computing (Platform 1.0). It was a seminal moment that gave birth to the commercial network within the enterprise market and started the progression towards the client/server network, which is Platform 2.0. This occurrence may not have had the dramatic overtones of Roger Kildall flying his plane while IBM waited in his lobby to license CP/M for the personal computer – but it is significant because networking of computers started with IBM. Continue reading

Essay on Decision Loops – Part 3

In order to understand Boyd’s model for operations, we must understand his premise that there is a fundamental need for decisions. He states, “Against such a background, actions and decisions become critically important. Actions must be taken over and over again and in many different ways. Decisions must be rendered to monitor and determine the precise nature of the actions needed that will be compatible with the goal. To make these timely decisions implies that we must be able to form mental concepts of observed reality, as we perceive it, and be able to change these concepts as reality itself appears to change. The concepts can then be used as decision-models for improving our capacity for independent action. Such a demand for decisions that literally impact our survival causes one to wonder: How do we generate or create the mental concepts to support this decision-making activity?” [see Boyd, Destruction and Creation]. This quote highlights the basic contribution that Boyd provided. He developed a model that can be extrapolated into a process for decision-making. Boyd called the model he developed the O-O-D-A loop. Continue reading

Essay on Decision Loops – Part 2

Post the end Vietnam War and the entrance of America in the 1970s, it seemed that America had lost their way. The mathematicians and hard science was again in decline and the philosophical and social sciences came to the fore. It would be in the 1990s, that hard science and mathematics would once again gain a dominant position in thought leadership. Out of the counterforce debacle in Vietnam and the dominance of defense and public policy by neoclassical theories, emerged John Boyd who developed a philosophy and process that formulates strategy based on all data and uses dynamic analytics to continuously evolve strategy to achieve objectives. This is not a game theory strategy that mathematically outlines various outcomes based on strategies employed. It is not a precise mathematical formula that defines risk. Boyd believed that strategy is an ever evolving and highly iterative process designed to achieve victory. It requires assumptions of risk with constant analytics of the operating environment. Boyd believed that the real target was your enemy’s perception for it is enemy who decides when they are defeated – not you. Keynes would describe this as the participants in the financial market who decide when you have won or lost – it is the not the companies. In the business market it is the companies competing for market share who decide when they have lost. Continue reading

Essay on Decision Loops – Part 1

In 1928 a young, brilliant mathematician named John van Neumann, devised a theory that would affect economic and military thought for many years to come. The theory that Neumann developed was based upon several observations he made during a game of poker. The first observation was that wining and losing was the interdependent on all players. A wining strategy was not solely based upon a single player’s strategy – but rather the product of all the player’s strategies. In order to devise a winning strategy, Neumann had to account for other player’s strategies, assuming that each player’s objective was to win the game. From these observations Neumann developed what became known as game theory and he applied the theory to economic markets. Previous economic models used traditional neoclassical economic assumptions that a seller and buyer acted solely on the mission to maximize their gains. A seller is looking to maximize profit and a buyer wants the maximum value for capital spent. The contribution that Neumann made was to define a seller and buyer as a transactional unit that was dependent upon each other, but not necessarily to achieve maximize profits and value for capital. Continue reading

Premature Optimization of SDN

On day when we can read the story of the Barbarians at the Gate that SDN created for Cisco and EMC; I look back over the past four to five years as time wasted on the premature optimization of SDN. I spend a good a portion of my time selling networking solutions based on SDN, or as I refer to it a modern controller architecture. My conclusion is the past few years have been a SDN anti-pattern. We have gone from a problem statement about the network to a bad solution and along the way we attempted a premature optimization of SDN around narrow use cases. SDN fits the definition of the anti-pattern. Continue reading

It is Hard to Grow Large Cap Tech Companies

I am often asked what my opinion is of Cisco. Is it going out of business because of white box? Should they buy Arista? Should they buy NetApp or EMC or Citrix or RedHat? The news today that HP is going to break into two companies tells me that we have reached a point where it is difficult to grow large cap tech that have multiple business units. No CEO of a large cap tech company wants to be the AOL/Time-Warner of this market era. A few thoughts on the subject of large cap tech companies. Continue reading

There is No Like Button in the Real World

The 80s were magical, but that time is lost and gone forever. We may never get that feeling back and if you missed the 80s, you may never know what it is like to live in the risk on world and that fucking sucks. I feel sorry for all you who were raised with all these good intentions about happiness and a place in the world, but you will never know the liberation that comes with traveling south crossland. Continue reading

Does SDN, DevOps and Agile Infrastructures Require an Abandonment of Taylorism?

I posted last week about a sales call gone wrong and an innovator’s dilemma moment. Since that time I have had additional customer and internal engagements that caused me to think about what I call institutionalized impedance, which might be more familiar to a broader audience if I called it Taylorism or scientific measurement. Continue reading

Hallway Conversations and Peer Reviews – Circa 2014

A question I am often asked by people outside of tech industry is: why do I use Twitter and what is it good for? Most people think that Twitter is good for following athletes, musicians and actors. Now that Google Reader is gone, it has for the most part replaced my RSS reader application. I consume news via Twitter. I actually like that I can choose to tune in or tune out. Continue reading

A Thought on the SDN Early Warning

At dinner a couple of weeks ago with some industry colleagues I found myself thinking and then stating that I think the SDN community did itself a disservice by being vocal and derogatory towards the incumbent supplier vendor community. If you read the previous post that would be the steam shovel companies. Continue reading

Sales Call Gone Wrong and the Innovator’s Dilemma Moment

Absolutely horrific sales call today with prospective client. It started down the wrong path when customer said they just wanted the technical details regarding the Plexxi solution and did not want any marketing messages. To a sales team, this is red flag because customer is telling you that they have complete working knowledge of your product without ever taking the time to listen. In this case, the customer just wanted to ask “technical questions” to “ferret out the holes” which is an interesting directive because it assumes a working technical knowledge around our product set as well as controllers, photonics, switching silicon, network architectures, switch design, graph theory, etc.
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Completely Unscientific Study of Consumer Internet Prices

Bandwidth is deflationary and I find any arguments to the contrary to be foolish. This is a subject I have written about before here, here, here and here. Over the past few weeks, I have been reminded that it is always easier to solve most networking problems by applying bandwidth. A few weeks ago I found myself reading one of Marc Andreessen tweet streams of conciseness and I replied (see below). After making the tweet I wondered if I was correct?

Screen Shot 2014-09-07 at 9.31.41 AM
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Do It Again Part 3: It is Easy to Believe in Self-Referential Data Sets

A component of my job requires me to interview people and one effect of the successful Arista IPO has been an increased number of CVs from Cisco employees. I am interviewing a candidate from Cisco about a week ago and this person tells me that Plexxi seems to have copied the theme from Insieme. That is nice. I find it to be a good exercise to look back and review writings from a year or two ago. Is it still accurate? What has changed? Do you still believe what you wrote? I think this is best way to avoid self-referential data sets.
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Do It Again Part 2: My Thoughts on the State of Networking June 2014

My perception of 2013 is a year lost in noise with regard to networking and SDN. It seems that after Nicira was acquired by VMware in 2012, the velocity of SDN and networking noise increased to unexpected levels and it had a detrimental effect on the market. If I worked at an incumbent networking company, this is exactly the effect I would have desired. Freeze the market in a state of confusion and sprinkle in as much disinformation as possible. Well played if you have market share to protect.
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