Dragnet in South Lake Union


Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to read may be true. Only some of the the names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Tuesday, November 02, 2010.

It was cool in Silicon Valley, there was a slight drizzle and a chill in the air.
We were working the day watch out of the city. The boss is Captain Glenn. My partner’s Ram. He’s a good player. I am Detective Sergeant Joe Friday.
We got a call about an unsavory talk at Stanford and a blog. We checked it out.  Looks like we were here only yesterday hauling Larry to the court
The perspectives talk was still going on. One of the networkers spoke with us.
It is terrible, officer,” she said. “He is talking about new business models, OpenFlow and even OPEN SOURCE … The world is coming to an end …
“All we want are the facts, ma’am”
“ Shh ..” said Ram, “Let us listen to what James has to say …”
“… the networks are in my way of optimizing my cloud infrastructure …”, said James
Ram was showing off his new iPhone 4 and pointed to James’ blog. What next, checking e-mails on cell phones ? I thought …

I remember hearing the same logic last year, as we were cruising the campus. But this year Hamilton has more conviction in his voice, may be the technologies have matured, I thought.
But just jerry-rigging merchant silicon and a multi-core CPU with open source software does not make a robust datacenter switch – even cops in this city understand that much technology, I mused. I remembered that the retailer had a big “gossip” failure some time back and a friend attributed it to having protocols not at the lowest optimum layer …
We hauled the complainants and the defendants to the court …
There was an Amicus Curiae filing for the complainants by a famous blogger waiting for us at the court …. I knew the blogger by fame – he has lots of “wisdom” especially about the clouds, so I listened …

“There is a common belief that routers are not power efficient because a fully configured router takes as much power four rack full of servers – but it misses the fact that that router has to handle all the communication between those 100s of servers. The density of work reflects the power consumption and associated circuitry …”, the brief said. I agree … almost my words !
“A MapReduce work load will shuffle the data across the network more than once”, the brief continued, “and Hamilton is correct asking for a flat fast network without the cumbersome of traditional network protocols. In fact, we have it in our big data/hadoop lab infrastructure; and some of our customers do just that; and our switches work optimally when configured that way … but then you need to give them enough power to handle that load …”

I remember seeing somewhere in the net that when you need Arnold, Danny DeVito in elevator shoes will not work … A Prius engine won’t be fit for an airliner …

So while the technical point about a versatile, orthogonally extensible, programmable network control plane with a cohesive and coherent programming model plus appropriate interfaces is the right direction, all the hype about open source and merchant silicon at scale looked like a red herring to me. Also the domain that the retailer is talking about is very specific, not yet main stream with the enterprises …

But Hamilton has lots of valid points and we should give credit where credit is due. The smart and innovative engineers at the retailer’s shop have done pioneering work in the cloud space. So we all should listen to them … and ignore the red herrings! No doubt, the issues Hamilton raises will definitely be mainstream challenges of tomorrow …

The judge was intrigued by a software defined network and ordered John and Kevin to add Open Controller Interface to their widgets. The engineers at the network shops seemed relieved, looks like they were expecting this for sometime…

His honor was not amused by the open source and new business model argument …
In his closing remarks, “As an advocate for open source at the network and server, will you open source your cloud implementation, in the name of a new improved business model?” he asked the retailer with the perspective … There was silence …

The court was adjourned with an advice to revisit this topic after six months …

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One thought on “Dragnet in South Lake Union

  1. Pingback: Network Issues in Data Centers « Pronto Systems

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