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

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

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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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

Framing Exercise:::What if we Turned the Network Off?

While I was out at VMWorld, I was telling my colleague @cloudtoad about how I learned to sell multi-protocol networking to SNA shops.  This conversation started me thinking about network.  Since that conversation, I have been reading some recently issued RFXs that we need to respond to and it led me to an interesting framing exercise that I thought I would share on the blog. Continue reading

Working on Mysteries Without Any Clues

Heading out to VMworld for a second time as member of the Plexxi team.  I am really looking forward to the SDN, networking, overlay, switching banter during the show week.  During my first year at Plexxi, I spent a lot of time presenting to end-users in the financial, web scale and cloud provider communities.
Over the past six months, not so much.
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Go Back There is No Place for You Here in the Future

I was reminded of a scene from Field of Dreams the other day.  The scene I was reminded of occurs when Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) meets Terrance Man (James Earl Jones) in his apartment.  I am thinking of the part when Terrance says “Oh my God, you’re from the sixties!” with a smile and excitement and Ray says “yes.”  Terrance picks up an insect sprayer, starts spraying and yelling at him to get and go back as there is no room for him here in the future.  He slams the door, but Ray stops it and says “you changed.”  

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Market Mea Culpa, DevOps, Opco Tech Conf and Summer 2013

My July market call did not work out.  I am long some equities and long some vol (which is not working out), with a high percentage cash position.  The Yen short worked.  I am looking forward to the upcoming Cisco results as they will be the first to report a July month and if their guidance for enterprise spending is positive, I will go long high beta tech growth names.
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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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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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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

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
customers.
  • 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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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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