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

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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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

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

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

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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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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Do It Again Part 1: My Past Comes Full Circle

When I was a young corporate system engineer (CSE) I helped a field sales team in the mid-west close a large deal at an insurance company. This was during the transition period from SNA to Client/Server networking and the deal included core, regional and branch nodes. The deal was the biggest in the company history and it provided me with a promotion to be the CSE manager. All was well in my world until six months later when the COO told me I had to go back and fix the account because we were having serious issues and we were on the verge of losing it.
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Charles VIII and the Emerging Modern IT Force

I am careful with the use of the term revolution.  This discipline comes from my academic studies and too many years studying actual revolutions and revolutionaries.  We can debate the impact of technological advances on the field of battle, but these advances would be limited if they were not organized, trained and led with purpose.  I understand the impact of the percussion cap and rifled barrel, but it is the adoption and use of the technological that is important — not the invention of the technology in isolation. Continue reading