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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ONS 2013 Thoughts…

I had every intention of producing several long posts about ONS 2013, but events in my hometown coupled with a busy meeting schedule at ONS resulted in not finding a lot of time to focus on writing.  I think my colleague Mike Bushong summed up much of my thoughts here and I would like to add a few other thoughts I have about SDN after ONS 2013.
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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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It is all about Doctrine (I am talking about Networking and that SDN thing)

Last year, I wrote a long post on doctrine.  I was reminded of that post three times this week.  The first was from a Plexxi sales team who was telling me about a potential customer who was going to build a traditional switched hieracrhical network as test bed for SDN.  When I asked why they were going to do that, they said the customer stated because it was the only method (i.e. doctrine) his people had knowledge of and it was just easier to do what they have always done.  The second occurrence was in a Twitter dialog with a group of industry colleagues across multiple companies (some competitors!) and one of the participants referenced doctrine as a means for incumbents to lock out competitors from markets.  The third instance occurred at the at the Credit Suisse Next-Generation Datacenter Conference when I was asked what will cause people to build networks differently.  Here are my thoughts on SDN, networking, doctrine, OPEX and building better networks.
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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



On the Road the Next few Weeks…

I will be on the road a lot the next few weeks for Plexxi.
Plexxi will also be engaging in a host of events as well.
 Here is a list of events:

  • March 5: Credit Suisse Datacenter
Conference in SF.  I will be on an SDN panel with two friends
from Big Switch.
  • March 7: Plexxi presents at Network Field Day
#5.  I will be in NYC/NJ that day presenting to
  • March 13: I am on the Cloud & Software-Defined
Panel at the Pacific Crest Technology Forum event in Boston.
March 15: Plexxi and Boundary at SDN
Central Demo Fridays.

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Notebook 01.24.13

On board the train heading out of a cold NYC.  Had a super cool day at the Oktay Technologies SDN conference.  They had an A-list line up of speakers with the CEO of Arista, Martin Casado of Nicira/VMware and others.  I presented yesterday’s blog post in PPT format.  That is enough networking for the day.
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Networking: Time to Change the Dialog

I am off to NYC to present at an SDN gathering hosted by Oktay Technology.   I am going to change up my standard pitch deck, so I am curious to see the reaction.  I have decided that I have been too nice and I plan to be more provocative and change the network dialog from speeds, feeds, ports and CLIs to a discussion about the network as a system and orchestrating the network from the applications down – opposed to the bottom up wires approach.
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Ich bin ein SDNer!

I am an admirer of John Kennedy and I think he was a wonderful speaker, especially with gifted writers such as Ted Sorensen.  Kennedy’s administration changed social culture in America.  It ended the era of JFK 1957the fedora.  The White House went from functionary to glamorous.  America transitioned from the antiseptic 50s to the dynamic 60s.  The country embraced big aspirations, from the moon to human rights.  I included a picture of JFK stopping by a news stand from 1957.  It was taken by the father of a family friend, six years before his famous speech in Berlin.  I saw the picture again a few weeks ago at a show for the photographer in Boston and it made me wonder how many people were Berliners in 1957.
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Notebook 12.18.12

The last few months have been a blistering pace at Plexxi and it has impacted my time to write.  Writing is important to me as it is my method of thinking in depth without the interruptions of email, calls, text and tweets.  Outside my window a Biblical rain is falling and I have Zac Brown playing.  As with past notebook entries, here is collection of topics I have been reading and thinking about over the past few weeks.
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Working Thoughts on SDN #5: Infrastructure as a System

I received a few comments and several emails from my last post, which was a surprise.  It seems I am always surprised as to which posts receive responses and it is not something I am good at predicitng.  My last post was just a quick post written somewhere over the middle part of the country on a VA flight from LAX.  I actually posted it to my blog using MarsEdit while drinking a scotch and glancing at the TV.  For all the complaining I do about traveling, contemporary travel is far better than my early career years when I had a choice of a smoking seat.  Here is one of the comments from my last post that got me thinking: Continue reading

Vignettes I Heard this Week….

Another week in a startup, means another week on the road.  I was in BOS, NYC, SFO and Palo Alto this week for a mix of customer meetings, conferences and networking.  I enjoy spending time in PA because I always get a good mix of topical conversation with VCs, entrepreneurs, colleagues, customers and others.  Here are some things I overheard that made me think:
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