Modern Era Networking

How do you know you are talking to a person who knows very little about modern networking? When they tell you that they think next-generation networking is about building a spine/leaf networks with legacy protocols so they can have some OS portability like the webscale companies. If you have been reading this blog for five years, I would first like to say thank you and second I am certain that you know the answer is not reinventing the past. I have been writing about the emerging Modern Era of networking for a few years. Continue reading

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

Four Years Later…

Today is my four-year anniversary at Plexxi. I was in New York the week before Christmas to attend an investor conference focused on security and networking. It was a two-day trip that I expected to go by quickly as it was full of meetings and dinners. A colleague and I met with a number of crossover investors, analysts as well colleagues in compatriot companies. In our very first meeting an investor asked “four years in, how has it turned out compared to how you thought it would go when you started?”

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Five Years Ago Everything Made Sense…

The best quote in this article is “Everything made sense except that nobody gives a shit.”   When I think about trends in the networking space over the past five years, that is how I would summarize most of the efforts labeled “disruptive” or “revolutionary.” When I can, I attend various local Meetups, which like a quasi-sales call. I get to hear end-users talking about what they are working on, what issues they are facing, etc. Meetups are kind of like fishing, some days they are a complete waste of time and other days you catch a lot of fish and in my world information is fish. I like to hear what end-users are saying, what they are working on and what keeps them up at night.

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Over The Top Service?

Most consumers are familiar with the availability of over the top (OTT) content. Examples are Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and we could even include gaming services in the description. The model for an OTT content provider like Netflix is to ride over a user’s data plan, and that data plan can be DSL, FTTH as well as wireless to deliver content. The consumption model is disaggregated between the data plan (i.e. internet) provider and the content (i.e. service) provider. This is also the point at which there is tension between both parties in terms of the cost to deploy bandwidth and which party profits from the services that ride over the bandwidth. That is not a topic for this post.
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Plexxi Event in NYC on August 14 – Hyperconverged Rack Scale Systems

Note to readers this is a self-promotional post. On August 14, Plexxi will be hosting a morning discussion in New York City at The Cornell Club, located at 6 East 44th Street. I will be the speaker for Plexxi. We will serve some food and talk networking for a couple hours.

The primary agenda will be around how to transition legacy networks to hyperconverged rack scale systems using a controller architecture, which is often referred to as SDN.

If you are interested in attending, please register here.

 

/wrk

Remember to do difficult things…

I took a day in May to spend on the corporate development function at Plexxi, which means I spent a day in Boston with a sell side analyst meeting with buy side clients of his firm. It was a really fun day talking networking with new acquaintances and old colleagues alike. In one meeting, I was greeted with “I read your blog,” which was reminded me that I had not written a blog post in few months. My writing time is correlated to the pace of work at Plexxi. When the pace is fast and the activity levels are high, I need a break from work and the blog suffers. Continue reading

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

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

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

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

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