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Rethinking the Network

Marten Terpstra

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Top Stories by Marten Terpstra

About 8 years ago at my previous employer we started a project related to Autonomic Networking. Autonomic Networking is modeled after Autonomic Computing, an IBM initiative from the early 2000s, targeted at creating self managing computing elements. The network version intends to create a framework by which network elements become largely self managed. It does so by defining discovery, awareness and analytics that build some sense of state. Once a network has a sense of its expected state, anything that alters that state can be reacted to following a set of defined or even learned rules. Autonomic Networking can be as simple as reacting to threshold alarms. In many of our network switches today, there are basic reactions to error conditions. Loop detection mechanisms shut off ports when a loop is detected. Specific error conditions may lead to pre-emptive switchov... (more)

The Silence of The Lambdas

We still see quite a few eyebrows raised when we explain how we use WDM optics in our datacenter solution. In the various descriptions of the Plexxi solution it is often mentioned and referred to, but it is worth explaining what that optical infrastructure actually looks like and why it is part of our solution. One of the key attributes of the Plexxi solution is the ability to create network topologies at L1, L2 and L3 that meet the need of the workload offered, calculated based on the load on the network, and the Affinities created that describe the needs of specific applicatio... (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)

Multisite Fabrics: Distance Does Not Have to Be a Challenge

Not entirely unexpected, the optical capabilities in our switch have provoked questions from customers and potential customers on whether the Plexxi solution could be used to create campus, metro or even long distance multi site fabrics. The answer to that question is a resounding yes, and with the newly introduced switch 2 platform, some of the connectivity options added to that platform make it extremely flexible to do just that. The whole topic of Data Center Interconnects tends to attract strong supporters and strong opponents at the same time. In a world without constraints... (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)