Category Archives: Campus

White Box switch readiness for prime time

Matthew Stone runs Cumulus Networks switches in his production network. He came on the Software Gone Wild podcast recently to talk about his experiences. Cumulus, Pica8, and Big Switch are the three biggest proponents of white box switching. While Pica8 focuses on the Linux abstractions for L2/L3, Pica8 focuses more on the OpenFlow implementation, and Big Switch on leveraging white boxes to form taps and, more recently, piecing together leaf-spine fabric pods.

I believe white box switches are years away from entering campus networks. Even managed services are not close. You won’t see a Meraki-style deployment of these white box switches in closets for a while. But Stone remains optimistic and makes solid points as an implementer. My favorite part is when he describes how Cumulus has rewritten the ifupdown script, to simplify configuration for network switches (which typically are roughly 50 ports as compared to 4-port servers), and repackaged it as ifupdown2 to the Debian distribution. Have a listen.


Introducing the HP 5400R zl2 Switch Series

I’m very proud to launch the HP 5400R zl2 Switch Series at HP Discover this week in Las Vegas. I am the Product Manager of this switch, which is a line extension to the HP 5400 zl Switch Series.

The 5400R offers enterprise-class resiliency via redundant management and redundant power. Like the HP 5400 zl and HP 8200 zl switch series, it is available in 6-slot and 12-slot chassis, and as a base switch as well as in five bundles with v2 modules. A new management module offers non-stop switching and hitless failover. The nice thing about this capability is that customers are not bound to the chassis type up front. If they decide on redundancy later on, they can attain it simply by adding a second management module.

Three new power supplies are introduced that offer N+1 and N+N redundancy. Moreover, full IEEE 802.3at PoE+ power (30W per port) can be supplied to a maximum of 288 ports simultaneously.

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With a production-grade HP 5406R zl2 switch, less than two months before launching it.

The HP 5400R zl2 switch is the only modular (chassis) switch available at the price of a stackable switch. It outperforms the Cisco Catalyst 4500 in nearly every category and comes with HP Networking’s renowned hardware Lifetime Warranty (and 3 years of free software support). Add to that the rich OpenFlow 1.3 capabilities that are offered by the custom ProVision ASIC (with support for SDN applications such as Network Optimizer and Network Protector to name a couple) and you have what it takes to beat Cisco in the Campus.

A photo at Interop 2014

Interop 2014
This photo of me outside the Interop conference at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas in front of a large screen display of my product , the HP 3800 Series switches, was taken by one of my customers.

I was at Interop at the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas last month to meet some customers when, to my pleasant surprise, I had noticed a large screen display on a wall outside the conference in the hotel dedicated to my product, the HP 3800 Series switches. This was outside the entrance to the conference, so anyone in the hotel could see it. I am very proud to say that I am the Global Product Manager for this product at HP. We recently introduced support on this product for two SDN applications – Network Protector and Network Optimizer for Microsoft Lync. You can find out more about the HP 3800 Series switches here.

A War Story on STP

I’m a big fan of the Packet Pushers. The quality of the content covered is unmatched and I make every effort to keep on top of their podcasts. In a recent two-part podcast just before the Christmas 2013 holiday, the hosts of the show, Greg Ferro and Ethan Banks, brought together a few network engineers to relive some of their worst nightmares on the job – the moments when the network went down unexpectedly and all hell broke loose. This made me think back to one of my experiences as a network engineer on a steamy afternoon in 2008… Continue reading A War Story on STP

An afternoon with the inventor of Ethernet – Bob Metcalfe

Earlier this month I had an opportunity to attend a talk by the most well-known co-inventor of Ethernet – Bob Metcalfe. In May, the networking world celebrated the 40th anniversary of the invention of Ethernet at the Computer History Museum, where Metcalfe was honored and invited to speak to employees of the company that he had founded in 1979 – 3Com. Of course, HP acquired 3Com in 2010, so he had really come to HP to talk on the evolution of Ethernet as well as what has kept him busy the past 40 years.

Metcalfe began by stating that the design behind the Ethernet protocol he co-invented in 1973 had changed so significantly that he is often given far more credit than he deserves. Amusingly, however, he said he will not give that credit back. He believes that there is very little in common between the types of Ethernet standards we have today from the IEEE (Gigabit Ethernet, Ten Gigabit Ethernet, 40 Gigabit Ethernet, 100 Gigabit Ethernet) and the original 2.94 Mbps standard that he came up with with the intent of printing 500 dots per inch with a speed of one page per minute. The day of 1 Terabits per second Ethernet is not far off, with the dependency being on the IEEE assessing the availability of components in a timeframe so that devices can be made economically.

Metcalfe spoke of the battles Ethernet had with Token Ring in the early days. Token Ring was heavily backed by IBM, but had rigid standards and was inflexible to the growing needs of the market. Ethernet, on the other hand, was able to spread widely because it constantly adapted, the prime example being the opening up of media support from thick-net coax to twisted pair cable. Ethernet also sought support for higher speeds, soon from 10 Mbps to Fast Ethernet (100 Mbps) by which time Token Ring with it’s support for just 4 Mbps and 16 Mbps was proven obsolete. Another reason Ethernet thrived, he claimed, was that it was not designed to solve every problem. For example, in the ISO hierarchy, Ethernet does not address Security (mainly because he felt it was not appropriate to solve that problem at the hardware level). Of course, now it is standard design to be cross-checking the source address field. He then went into a tangent of how he believes the Internet has an ideological problem in that anonymity is given a high priority, which is a mistake. Metcalfe feels the ability to have anonymity should be an exist, but not as the default.

He talked at length of the pervasiveness of Ethernet into various horizontals. For example, while Ethernet was designed to be a LAN in a building, it has also entered the WAN by killing SONET, an accomplishment he has taken significant pride in. SONET and T1 were both introduced by AT&T, the other ‘big bad corporation of the time’. At 1.544 Mbps, a T1 circuit was half the speed of the original 2.94 Mbps standard, and it was only a matter of time before future Ethernet standards would prevail despite the emergence of X.25, Frame Relay, and ATM. Today, across the WAN, Ethernet is represented as Carrier Ethernet in a $34 billion market of equipment. And of course Ethernet has also manifested itself wirelessly as WiFi.

Today, Bob Metcalfe is a Professor of Innovation at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously he was a Venture Capitalist at Polaris Ventures for 10 years. On the topic of innovation, he also spoke of a few models, including one he coined – Doriot Ecology, named after George Doriot, one of the first modern VCs from Harvard Business School. The premise of the Doriot Ecology are briefly:

  • Startups out of research universities are the most effective at innovating. However, they also depend on funding agencies like NSF and DARPA, research professors, graduating students, scaling entrepreneurs,  strategic partners (such as the large network vendors like HP), and early adopters.
  • Startups need partners to scale. Large companies need to practice open innovation, and be receptive to ideas that come from the outside.

He related a few other models with the way businesses were run in his days at 3Com and Xerox PARC:

  • Intrapreneurship – Here, innovation comes from inside the company. 3Com never had a research division, but tried to push its product groups out to find a prospect. In such cases often the money making groups try to kill off the research group because they don’t generate any revenue and there is pressure at every budget cycle.
  • Spin-in, where efforts to come up with innovation are put up outside the company with the understanding that if it succeeds, it will come back to the parent company. We’ve seen that with Insieme.
  • Spin-outs, where the company has to decide whether it will be hostile to the spin-out or supportive. Metcalfe talked about how Xerox noticed that Adobe, Apple, Sun, 3Com were all exploiting technologies (such as the mouse and the GUI) that were developed at PARC. At that point Xerox started investing in their spin-outs rather than being hostile to them.

Metcalfe said corporate research has deteriorated a lot since his days and should not be reconstituted. While Xerox PARC is now known as PARC, it is nothing like it was forty years ago. For its strength of 25,000 employees, the now defunct Bell Labs ‘only’ had the transistor, Unix, the Princess telephone, and DWDM to show for. (I’m not the first one to note that Bob Metcalfe tends to make controversial statements!) He argued that the only companies that can afford to undertake research (not development, but science) are monopolies. And as was seen at Xerox PARC, monopolies are the least motivated to scale up technologies that they develop. Funds should not be put in corporate research labs or government research labs. In his opinion research should be left up to research universities, such as UT Austin, Berkeley, and Stanford. Professors should be encouraged to start more companies.

He claimed to have a short attention span to re-spin his career every 10 years, from 3Com to Venture Capitalist to Professor. Isn’t it fun going up a learning curve? He finished by saying he recently learned Python in a Massively Online Open Course (MOOC) that he took with his son and 60,000 other students (he got a 90, his son got a 70).