Encountering the Hamilton Manifesto

More than five years ago James Hamilton of Amazon fame, posted on his personal blog a presentation he gave about networking called Datacenter Networks Are in My Way.   Here is a link to his post and my last check showed that the slides to the presentation are still available. I copied four of the slides in the thumbnail to the left to save the reader from a click out. Continue reading

The Evolving Role of the Network Engineer

A few weeks ago I posted a blog on what I have experienced over the past four years at Plexxi.  That post led the Packet Pusher team of Ethan and Greg to reach out and we recorded a podcast about the changing role of the network engineer and IT silos. In preparation for the podcast, my colleagues Mat Mathews, Mike Welts and I collaborated on the following that I edited a final time after the podcast. This post started as a dialog about what we are seeing in the market, what our customers and prospects want to engage about, how we position Plexxi to the network engineer and where we see this all going now that market clarity has begun to emerge. 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

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

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

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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Emerging Modern IT Force

These are some rough, non-distilled thoughts around the concept of an emerging modern IT force.  This is a continuation of a prior post, but the genesis of my thoughts reach further back to a breakfast on December 11, 2009 with Charles Gave.  It was at this breakfast I was introduced to their idea around the model portfolio company.  In December 2009, the equity markets were well off their lows and we had endured only the first round of QE from the Federal Reserve.  From my memory, the model portfolio company looked like a company that had strong brand awareness, with a strong balance sheet, essentially self funded with no reliance on government or public sector funding, it developed their product set (i.e. intellectual property) in the US, manufactured overseas in low cost centers and was able to optimize their tax burdens by collecting and retaining cash in overseas markets.  There was a back and forth discussion on corporate tax laws, where a company should be domiciled, where it should develop IP to best be legally protected and what the modern construct of the corporation would look like in the coming years. Continue reading

Future Generations Riding on the Highways that We Built

When I was in high school and college, I never thought about a career in networking; it was just something I did because it was better than all the other jobs I could find.  I worked at my first networking startup in the late ‘80s and twenty-five years later, I am still working in networking. Continue reading

Just to tell our souls we’re still the young lions…

I am listening to Mellencamp’s Lonesome Jubilee album, which provides a flood of memories from 1987.  I had the morning drive slot as a local DJ at tiny college radio station when the album debuted and I was heavily into U2 at the time.  One morning the station director surprised me a little after 6am one day to ask why I was not playing more John Cougar?  This was a time when we were still using cart players for ad insertion.  Check it Out and Cherry Bomb are two fantastic songs from that album.  I had two Twitter exchanges collide (one on OpenFlow and the other on thought leadership) this past week which provided the framework around this post, but I could not channel the energy to write until I put on an old playlist and much to surprise, I found myself listen to Mellencamp after a decade long hiatus.  That is how SDN and thought leadership met Mellencamp one day and became a blog post. Continue reading

The Week Ahead: June 24, 2013

The most read post on my blog was written on February 22, 2012.  It was about the Cisco spin-in called Insieme.  It has been read thousands of times and still holds the single day read record for my blog.  I do not consider it the best post I have written, but I am looking forward to reviewing it and measuring the accuracy of the prediction this week.  I really do not know what Insieme is building, but if these reports here and here are true, we should all have some form of clarity this week.
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Fluidity of Network Capacity, Commoditization, DIY Openness and the Demise of the Network Engineer

Be forewarned, this post is a bit of rant on variety of subjects that typically get asked of me at conferences or I see written by analysts, sycophants and self decreed intelligentsia.  The four most frequently asked questions or suppositions inquired about are:

  • Will network virtualization result in fewer network elements (i.e. switches and routers)?
  • The network is ripe for commoditization, so will this commoditization process result in lower margins for network vendors?
  • If end users are adopting DIY network devices via open source software, will network vendors still be around?
  • Will the network engineer or network administrator still be around in a few years? 

This is my attempt to write down the answers.  I think I have been answering these questions over the past two years on this blog, but perhaps I was somewhat indirect with my answers.  I will try to be direct. 
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The Bigger Picture – Beyond Incrementalism

I was on a panel (with Chris MacFarland of Masergy and Thomas Isakovich of Nimbus) at the Jefferies technology conference in NYC this past week, when a question from Peter Misek caused me to pause and think about the answer.  The question was about about the bigger picture of IT change, adoption, the next big thing, etc.  I provided an answer to the question and later had time to reflect on the answer through various airport delays and airplane rides.  I think the narrative goes something like this….
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SDN, It’s Free just like a Puppy!

I have written both and will post at the same time because I believe we are conflating many issues when it comes to networking.  For example: SDN, ONF, OpenFlow, Overlays, Underlays, Tunneling, VXLAN, STT, White Box, Merchant Silicon, Controllers, Leaf/Spine, Up, Down, Top, Bottom, DIY, Cloud, Hybrid, NetContainers, Service Chaining, DevOps, NoOps, SomeOps, NFV, Daylight, Floodlight, Spotlight to name a few.  Both of these posts are intended to be read back to back.  I wrote them in two parts to provide an intentional separation.
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Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love SDN

If you have not seen the movie Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, you should.  It is an important point of cultural reference in our contemporary history.  I have been thinking about all this SDN stuff and various technical and business strategies over the past few weeks.  Today, a colleague made reference to movie Dr. Strangelove in a passing conversation about network design.  It occurred to me that there are a lot of humorous parallels between the movie and networking.  This is a blog and I think it is a place between unfinished thoughts and longer form content.
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Self Similar Nature of Ethernet Traffic

With all the debates around networking at ONS 2013, I found myself reading competitive blog posts and watching competitive presentations from vendors.  It was the most entertaining part of ONS and it has certainly invigorated InterOp this past week with a new sense of purpose.  Many vendors announced new switches and products ahead of the InterOp show.  There has also been a steady discussion post-ONS on the definition of SDN.  With all the talk around buffer sizes, queue depths and port densities, I think  something has been lost or I missed a memo.  I often hear people talk about leaf/spine networks, load-balancing, ECMP and building “spines of spines” in large DC networks.
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Demonstrating AWESOME in the Pursuit of the Optical Data Center

This week at OFC, Plexxi and Calient are showing the power of SDN and optics.  The idea to use some sort of optical or hybrid optical architecture for the data center has been pursued for years.  Here is a link to a 2010 paper called, Helios: A Hybrid Electrical/Optical Switch Architecture for Modular Data Centers, written by a number of people, but the most notable author is Amin Vahdat.
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How Does Change Occur?

I was having a DM conversation (140 characters at a time) the other day with network architect.  We were discussing the reluctance of networking people, especially at the CxO or leadership level to do something different.  Personally, I have heard from ~50 people at the leadership level over the past 18 months that state they want to do something different with their network infrastructure.  The network has not changed in twenty years and now the time has come to change the network.  What is the result of all the pent up desire to do something different?  More network incrementalism; at least in the near term.  The DM conversation I was having was around the subject of getting network people to do something different.  Why do people say they want to make big changes and fail to seize the day?  That is the subject of this post.
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Talking SDN or Just Plain Next Generation Networking…

Tomorrow in SF, I will be talking about SDN, or as I like to call it next generation networking at the Credit Suisse Next Generation Data Center Conference.  It will be a panel discussion and each participant has a few minutes to present their company and thoughts on the market adoption of SDN.  Explaining the next twenty years of networking in fifteen minutes is a challenge, but I have been working with a small slide deck that helps make the point.  Here are those slides (link below).  I posted a variation of those slides few weeks ago that I used in NYC, but I tailored this deck to strict time limit of 15 minutes.  I will post more frequently after Plexxi is done at NFD #5 this week and around the time of OFC.

CS Next Gen DC Conference

 

/wrk

Notebook 02.19.13: Merchant Silicon, Insieme, Controllers, Portfolio and stuff…

Before the week is over, I am going to write a blog post entitled “Imagine that SDN Did Not Exist, What Would Do with All the Free Time?”  That is something I will find the time to crank out either on my current flight to SFO or the return flight.  Until then, here are a few things I have been collecting in my SIWDT Evernote to write about.
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