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Rethinking the Network

Marten Terpstra

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Top Stories by Marten Terpstra

Many years ago Gartner introduced their technology Hype Cycle, which maps visibility against maturity for new technology. The Hype Cycle in essence states that many new technologies get a large amount of visibility early in their maturity cycle. The visibility and enthusiasm drops significantly when reality sets in: technologies early in their maturity cycle will have low adoption rates. The vast majority of customers of technology are conservative in their choices, especially if this new technology is not (yet) fundamental to this customer’s business. I call it common sense reality, Garter calls it the Trough of Disillusionment, fine. It is that realization that the technology may have lots of promises, but isn’t ready to be consumed. That is where the real work starts, maturing the technology, driving solutions and use cases, creating the economic viability of the... (more)

Traffic Advisory: Your Packets May Be Delayed

The past few years have seen a dramatic improvement in the latency in network switches. Single ASIC based switches can all pretty much switch packets in less than a microsecond. Current 10GE switching silicon provides anywhere from 300 to 800 nanoseconds, specialized silicon shaves that to less than 200 nanoseconds when limiting the amount of searching that needs to be done by reducing the size of lookup tables. Even other solutions play some smart tricks by providing forwarding hints for intermediate switches make those lookups take less than 50 nanoseconds. Modular switches i... (more)

Different Shades of Invisible

We love analogies. No matter what the topic, analogies are a great way to explain something in a different context to make a specific point with a frame of reference that may be more familiar to those we are making a point to. There is one that seems to come back over and over again in our industry, the one that compares the network to the power grid, network connections to power plugs.  I had not heard it for a while but at Interop last week, I heard it used twice in booth demonstrations as part of plug and play pitches. And I really do not like that analogy. The comparison to ... (more)

There Is Cost Per Port and Then There Is Cost Per Port…

Earlier this week, Ethan Banks wrote a very nice article about Mellanox’s dual spine and leaf network in support of a large amount 10GbE access ports. After describing the scaled up network design, he reviews 8 observations about the design, not to point out good or bad, but merely to point out specific points to consider. Fully coincidental (Ethan lives close to us, but I am pretty sure he cannot peek through our windows) we had gone through a similar exercise this week, documenting the choices and limitations of spine and leaf networks. And as always, the conclusions are not on... (more)

Changing the Way We Configure and Provision Our Networks

Some people believe good or bad things always happen in threes. I believe you will always be able to find three (and probably more) things that are good or bad and somewhat related, but sometimes I get surprised by the apparent coincidental appearance of several closely related “things”. Last week the folks at networkheresy.com posted a second installment of their “policy in the datacenter” discussion, Cisco announced the acquisition of tail-f and internal to Plexxi we had several intense architectural discussions around Configuration, Provisioning and Policy management. Maybe we... (more)