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Build Your Own Service Provider Gear on Software Gone Wild

A few days after I published a blog post arguing that most service providers cannot possibly copy Google’s ideas Giacomo Bernardi wrote a comment saying “well, we managed to build our own gear.

Initially I thought they built their own Linux distribution on top of x86 server, but what Giacomo Bernardi described in Episode 59 of Software Gone Wild goes way beyond that:

  • Together with an ODM manufacturer they built their own hardware;
  • They pushed their hardware through rigorous safety, environmental and emission testing – after all, those boxes sit out there in the wild attached to a radio tower;
  • They build their own Linux distribution and hardened it as much as possible – sending a technician to a remote mountain to fix a failed software upgrade is a non-starter;
  • Using 6Wind library they implemented a highly distributed forwarding architecture using dozens of low-cost CPU cores;
  • Together with university researchers they built a central controller that solves the centralized traffic engineering challenge;
  • On top of everything else they implemented their own CLI and network management system.

Each one of those bullets would be good enough to trigger VC funding for a startup, but they did all of that with a team of just a few people… and deployed it in large-scale production… in approximately a year. Comparing what such a small team can do with all the hype and unicorn dust bursting out of Silicon Valley makes one really depressed.

For more details (and pictures of really cool and hot equipment) watch the video and slides of Giacomo’s RIPE69 presentation.

4 comments:

  1. Excellent podcast Ivan! It just goes to show, if there is a will there is a way - there were many obstacles Giacomo and his team had to go through, but with determination it shows that it is possible to build a (rather unique) network the right way - even while no off the shelf solutions existed in this case. And for the record, I hear you are often very critical when it comes to vendor network "solutions" or kludges as you mention many times in your blog posts. I must say, this is probably one of the first times I've heard you commend such a great effort and design placed by this particular ISP. You gave credit to where it's due :)

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  2. Holy crap on a cracker! :)
    That was quite a show. Thanks Ivan and congratulations to Giacomo and his assault team. That's an impressive job you did.

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  3. (I thought I had posted this earlier, apparently my submit did not work?)

    This was quite an episode, and this infrastructure sounds comparable to the much larger "SDN" stuff we hear about (Google B4, LinkedIn, etc). Mind boggling that you manage to build all this on a small team and limited time.

    Thanks Ivan for recording it, congratulations to Giacomo and his team for the good work.
    Dan.

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  4. What an inspiration! I wholeheartedly agree with Ivan - a product/open source release of what Giacomo and his team managed to build and iterate upon has truly enormous implications for the industry.

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