Networking Thoughts to Start 2014

SIWDT is my second blog.  My first blog lasted few years from 2005 to 2007.  I created my first blog, which can still be found on the Wayback machine, after having an unexpected breakfast with Dave Winer in 2006.  It was at a conference in San Diego and if you do not know who Dave Winer, please stop reading now and go back to whatever you were doing before you thought to read this blog. 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

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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Are You Building a Company or Managing an Engineering Project?

Earlier today I read this post titled “SDN is Not a Technology, It’s A Use Case.”  Shortly after, I found myself in a conversation with one of our lead algorithmic developers.  We were discussing recent developments in the deployment of photonics inside the data center and papers we had read from Google researchers.  At Plexxi, we have already begun the thinking around what our product architecture will look like in 3-5 years.  In the conversation I was having with the algorithmic developer, it occurred to me that we sometimes become so immersed in what we are doing on a daily, weekly, quarterly basis that we lose track of whether we are working on a project or building a company.

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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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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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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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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



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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Looking for a Few Good Networks in 2013

I am looking for a few networks in early 2013.  I need a Hadoop/MapReduce network and a couple of networks with NAS.  I have a lead on a ~400 server Hadoop cluster and we are already doing testing with one of the leading cloud storage vendors, but if you have production or semi-production network, probably configured in traditional leaf/spine layout, and you would like to see a Plexxi network in action, contact me. Continue reading