Rethinking the Network

Michael Bushong

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Top Stories by Michael Bushong

Big Data is quickly overtaking SDN as a key phrase in today’s networking lingo. And overused already as it may be, it actually has a lot more meaning and definition compared to SDN. Big Data solutions are designed to work on lots of data as the name suggests. Of course they have been around forever, talk to any large bank, credit card company, airline or logistics company and all of them have had applications running on extremely large databases and data sets forever. But this is the new Big Data, the one inspired by Hadoop, MapReduce and friends. High performance compute clusters specifically created to analyze large amounts of data and reduce it to a form and quantity that human brains can use in decision making. What makes today’s Big Data solutions different than its more traditional large database based applications, beyond the sheer datasets being analyzed, i... (more)

Silicon: Merchant vs. Outsourced

If you talk to folks in the networking industry about switching hardware, you probably don't get more than a few sentences in before you hear the words merchant silicon, typically followed closely by commodity hardware. There is some confusion in the dialogue about these topics, and I think it stems from a lack of clarity around why this matters and how silicon development actually works. Let's start with why merchant silicon matters. When people talk about merchant silicon, most of the time they fail to really clearly specify what it is they want. There are basically two reasons... (more)

Controller Federations: Cluster by Proximity or Service?

As SDN moves closer to large-scale deployments, the issue of controller scaling is becoming a hotter topic. The consensus seems to favor some form of distributed cluster environment, likely in the form of federated clusters. But how should these federations be formed? The first thing to think about is the blast radius for controllers. Even if a controller could scale to manage every node in the network, it is unlikely that you would want that to be the design. It simply creates too large a maintenance and failure domain. Even with a redundant controller, the issues with expansiv... (more)

Automation through workflow state

The benefits of automation are well understood: more agile service provisioning, faster time to insight when there are issues, and a reduction in human error as manual interaction is reduced. Much of the premise behind long-term SDN architectural advantages is steeped in the hope that SDN will help enable and ultimately promote automation. But while centralizing control has significant operational advantages, by itself, it doesn’t actually address the most important requirement for automation. If automation is going to be more than just reducing keystrokes, there will have to be... (more)

Plexxi on Cisco on Arista

[This post is intended to examine potential strategic implications. I am not trying to evaluate products or determine the relative value of competing solutions.] John Chambers was quoted in a Barron's blog last week talking about Arista. The entire article is worth reading (it covers a lot more than just Arista), but I want to highlight his comments specific to Arista: When I pose to Chambers that Arista Networks, the Santa Clara, California startup that is storming the data center with very successful products, is the “most serious competitor” the company has, he replies “Not ev... (more)