Rethinking the Network

Marten Terpstra

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Top Stories by Marten Terpstra

Through http://blog.ipspace.net I landed on this article on acm.org discussing the complexity of distributed systems. Through some good examples, George Neville-Neil makes it clear that creating and scaling distributed systems is very complex and “any one that tells you it is easy is either drunk or lying, and possibly both”. Networks are of course inherently distributed systems. Most everyone that has managed a good sized network before knows that like the example in the article, minor changes in traffic or connectivity can have huge implications on the overall performance of a network. In my time supporting some very large networks I have seen huge chain reactions of events based on what appear to be some minor issues. Very few networks are extensively modeled before they are implemented. Manufacturers of machines, cars and many other things go through extensive ... (more)

Network Services, Abstracted and Consumable

Perhaps not as popular as its brothers and sisters I, P and S, Network-As-A-Service or NaaS has slowly started to appear in industry press, articles and presentations. While sometimes associated with a hypervisor based overlay solution, its definition is not very clear, which is not at all surprising. Our industry does not do too well in defining new terms. I ran across this presentation from Usenix 2012 that details a NaaS solution that adds a software forwarding engine to switches and routers that provide specific services for some well known cloud computing workloads. I have ... (more)

Brainrules: a Different Kind of Attachment

I don't read nearly as much as I should. On plane rides I tend to grab a Vince Flynn, James Patterson or David Baldacci, they are usually enough to entertain me on the way there and back. One of the more interesting books I have read in recent years that does not include murderers, spies and explosions, is "Brainrules" by John Medina. A rather good leadership seminar at my previous employer had this on its reading list, and I tore through it. John Medina is a molecular biologist and in his book he describes how our brain works by breaking it down into several areas, each describin... (more)

Stateless Transport Tunneling (STT) Meets the Network

Last week I walked through the packet formats for VXLAN and NVGRE specifically focused on ways by which the overlay packets provide information to the physical network that help the physical network. Some of the initial extreme thoughts that the overlay and physical network can and should be completely ignorant of each other have softened more recently and more pragmatic thoughts of collaborating layers are being articulated. At Plexxi we have often mentioned that we believe the physical network and the overlay need to be closely orchestrated to get the most benefit out of the to... (more)

Fabric Engineering Is More than Traffic Engineering

It is human nature to try and relate new information and new ways of doing things to something that we know, something we are familiar with. Often when we talk about the way we fit traffic onto a Plexxi mesh network, the reaction is “I know what you mean, you are doing traffic engineering like we (used to) do in MPLS”. The response to that is usually “kinda, but not really”. In the most basic meaning, everything that has to do with the placement of traffic onto links, routing and forwarding choices being programmed, etc., would be part of Traffic Engineering. But like too many w... (more)