Author Archives: Russ

False Dichotomy

Last week wasn’t a good one for the cause of network engineering. United Airlines grounded flights because of a router failure, the New York Stock Exchange stopped trading for several hours because of a technical problem, and the Wall Street Journal went off line for several hours due to a technical malfunction. How should engineers react to these sorts of large scale public outages? The first option, of course, is to flail our arms and run out of the room screaming. Panic is a lot of fun when you first engage, but over time it tends to get a little boring, so maybe panic isn’t the right solution here.

Another potential reaction is to jump on the “it’s too complex” bandwagon. sure, a lot of these systems are very complex — in fact, they’re probably too complex for the actual work they do. Complexity is required to solve hard problems; elegance is choosing the path with the least amount of complexity that will solve the problem. Far too often, in the engineering world, we choose the more complex path because of some imagined requirement that never actually materializes, or because we imagine a world where the solution we’re putting in Continue reading

Review: Being Logical (Logical Thinking)

being-logicalBeing Logical
D. Q. McInerny

This review is a little off the beaten path for most engineering blogs, perhaps — but I consider logic to be one of those “must have skills” for engineers. Being able to pull an argument apart, to understand the concept of a syllogism and the flow of logic, along with the various logical fallacies, adds greatly to your ability to write and process arguments for and against technologies and solutions (as well as in larger life). For some time, I’ve been looking for a concise description of the formal logic system I’ve encountered in philosophy a number of times, and a description of the many logical fallacies I’ve encountered in everyday life. Being Logical comes as close to fulfilling my desire for such a book as any I’ve encountered in my search.

Although this book is a trim 129 pages, it covers logic on a wide scale. The problem space is divided into five part; part one is preparing the mind for logic, which includes learning to observe, matching ideas to facts, matching words to ideas, and being mindful of the origin of ideas. It’s fair to note, at this point, that this first section Continue reading

Why certifications make me grouchy

While I support certifications, they also make me grouchy. Sometimes they make me really, really, grouchy, in fact — probably more grouchy than I have a right to be. You’ve probably heard the complaints a number of times.

For instance, there’s the problem of paper tigers, people who gain the certification but don’t have any real experience with the technology, or don’t really understand the technology. Paper tigers are bad, of course, but they’re generally easy to detect through a rigorous interview. In fact, paper tigers exist without the certification; it’s entirely possible for a solid resume to lead to a candidate that doesn’t have the skills advertised. Degree’s don’t really prove much, either, and it takes four years to get one of those (in theory), so I don’t know how much whining about this problem — as real as it is — is going to help.

Tony Li had a counter to this — he used to sit with a candidate’s resume in hand asking questions, and lining through skills he didn’t think the candidate actually had. At the end of the interview, he would hand the resume back to the candidate and say, essentially, “there, I fixed it Continue reading

Worth Reading: Networking with Fish

It seems like just yesterday I was at CiscoLive in San Francisco asking people I had met on twitter about their experiences blogging as well as hosting a web page. Today? Last week marked the 1 year anniversary of “Networking With Fish”.

If anyone ever asks me why I write, or why I work so hard to draw other people into the larger networking world, I’ll point them to this post. One of the biggest goals of my life is to help people learn and grow. I’ll never become a millionaire in the process, but I’ll have a million friends, and that’s infinitely more important in the long run.

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Reaction: SD-WAN and Multiple Metrics

Ivan has posted a reaction to Ethan, which prompts me to… Okay, let’s start at the beginning. Ethan wrote a nice post on SD-WAN and the “shortest path we always wanted,” covering some of the positive and negative aspects of software defined WAN.

Ivan responded with this post, in which he says several interesting things, prompting some thoughts from yours truly…

Routing in SD-WAN environment is almost trivial…

Depends on what you mean when you say “routing…” If routing here means the discovery of the topology, and computing a best path through a topology, then controller based (centralized) “routing” is almost certainly more complex than distributed routing protocols. If routing here means, “take into consideration a wide swath of policies, including which link is most loaded right now, which link has the shortest queues, and lots of other things, and compute me a best path,” then a controller based centralized system is most likely going to be less complex. Take a gander through my last set of NANOG slides if you want to see where my thinking lies in this area — or read my new book on network complexity if you want a longer explanation.

The question is — Continue reading

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