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Rethinking the Network

Marten Terpstra

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Top Stories by Marten Terpstra

For as long as I remember networking has struggled with the balance between aggregated and individual traffic flows. Following the abilities of the technology components we use, we have been forced to aggregate, only to be allowed to de-aggregate or skip aggregation when technology caught up or surpassed the needs of today. The vast majority of networking equipment is driven by specialized hardware. For datacenter switches, speed and port density are driving the requirements and physics and our technology capabilities create trade-offs that ultimately lead to some form of aggregation. Higher speed and more ports are traded off against memory, table space and functionality. These trade-offs will always exist, no matter what we are trying to build. Networking based in servers will have oodles of memory and table space to do very specific things for many many flows, m... (more)

Complexity Kills Networks

In reviewing some opportunities for Plexxi this week, I was reminded that we have made things very hard on ourselves. Through no one’s fault but our own we have created monsters of networks that are impossible to maintain, debug, diagnose and understand. I have been lucky in my career. Most of it has been in an R&D organization for a large network vendor, but always in positions where I was close to customers, close to customer networks, and of course with that comes the “close to customer networks that are not working well”. And while there are always exceptions, in most of the... (more)

Scripting Is Automation, But Automation Is Not Scripting

Last week Greg Ferro (@etherealmind) wrote this article about his experience with scripting as a method for network automation, with the ultimate conclusion that scripting does not scale. Early in my career I managed a small network that grew to be a IP over X.25 hub of Europe for a few years providing many countries with their first Internet connectivity. Scripts were everywhere, small ones to grab stats and create pretty graphs, others that continuously checked the status of links and would send emails when things went wrong. While it is hard to argue with Greg’s complaints per... (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)

Network Design in a Virtual World

We get quite caught up in high level architectures at times. It is good to read some posts that focus on design and implementation and the practicality of taking higher level architectures to reality. Two of Ivan’s posts caught my eye this week. In the first, he discusses the difference in how application and network folks look at the deployment of tiered applications and what that means for the security between them. In the second, he asks a question that our entire industry has under delivered on for more than a decade: why can’t we have plug-n-play networking? They may appear ... (more)