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Category: design

Worth Reading: 10 Optimizations on Linear Search

Stumbled upon an article by Tom Limoncelli. He starts with a programming question (skip that) but then goes into an interesting discussion of what’s really important.

Being focused primarily on networking this is the bit I liked most (another case of Latency Matters):

I once observed a situation where a developer was complaining that an operation was very slow. His solution was to demand a faster machine. The sysadmin who investigated the issue found that the code was downloading millions of data points from a database on another continent. The network between the two hosts was very slow. A faster computer would not improve performance.

The solution, however, was not to build a faster network, either. Instead, we moved the calculation to be closer to the data.

Lesson learned: always figure out the real problem and what the most effective way of solving it as opposed to pushing the problem down the stack or into the cloud.

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Should I Go with VXLAN or MLAG with STP?

TL&DR: It’s 2020, and VXLAN with EVPN is all the rage. Thank you, you can stop reading.

On a more serious note, I got this questions from an Johannes Spanier after he read my do we need complex data center switches for NSX underlay blog post:

Would you agree that for smaller NSX designs (~100 hypervisors) a much simpler Layer2 based access-distribution design with MLAGs is feasible? One would have two distribution switches and redundant access switches MLAGed together.

I would still prefer VXLAN for a number of reasons:

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The Myth of Scaling From On-Premises Data Center into a Public Cloud

Every now and then someone tries to justify the “wisdom” of migrating VMs from on-premises data center into a public cloud (without renumbering them) with the idea of “scaling out into the public cloud” aka “cloud bursting”. My usual response: this is another vendor marketing myth that works only in PowerPoint.

To be honest, that statement is too harsh. You can easily scale your application into a public cloud assuming that:

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Pragmatic EVPN Designs

While running the Using VXLAN And EVPN To Build Active-Active Data Centers workshop in early December 2019 I got the usual set of questions about using BGP as the underlay routing protocol in EVPN fabrics, and the various convoluted designs like IBGP-over-EBGP or EBGP-between-loopbacks over directly-connected-EBGP that some vendors love so much.

I got a question along the same lines from one of the readers of my latest EPVN rant who described how convoluted it is to implement the design he’d like to use with the gear he has (I won’t name any vendor because hazardous chemical substances get mentioned when I do).

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Do We Need Complex Data Center Switches for VMware NSX Underlay

Got this question from one of subscribers:

Do we really need those intelligent datacenter switches for underlay now that we have NSX in our datacenter? Now that we have taken a lot of the intelligence out of our underlying network, what must the underlying network really provide?

Reading the marketing white papers the answer would be IP connectivity… but keep in mind that building your infrastructure based on information from vendor white papers usually gives you the results your gullibility deserves.

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Be Careful When Using New Features

During a recent workshop I made a comment along the lines “be careful with feature X from vendor Y because it took vendor Z two years to fix all the bugs in a very similar feature”, and someone immediately asked “are you saying it doesn’t work?

My answer: “I never said that, I just drew inferences from other people’s struggles.”

A Step Back

Networking operating systems are probably some of the most complex pieces of software out there. Distributed systems are hard. Real-time distributed systems are even harder. Real-time distributed systems running on top of eventually-consistent distributed databases are extra fun.

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You're Responsible for Resiliency of Your Public Cloud Deployment

Enterprise environments usually implement “mission-critical” applications by pushing high-availability requirements down the stack until they hit networking… and then blame the networking team when the whole house of cards collapses.

Most public cloud providers are not willing to play the same stupid blame-shifting game - they live or die by their reputation, and maintaining a stable service is their highest priority. They will do their best to implement a robust and resilient infrastructure, but will not do anything that could impact its stability or scalability… including the snake oil the virtualization and networking vendors love to sell to their gullible customers. When you deploy your application workloads into a public cloud, you become responsible for the resiliency of your own application, and there’s no magic button that could allow you to push the problems down the stack.

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Public Cloud Cannot Change the Laws of Physics

Listening to public cloud evangelists and marketing departments of vendors selling over-the-cloud networking solutions or multi-cloud orchestration systems, you could start to believe that migrating your workload to a public cloud would solve all your problems… and if you’re gullible enough to listen to them, you’ll get the results you deserve.

Unfortunately, nothing can change the fundamental laws of physics, networking, or application architectures:

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Do We Need Math in Networking?

I should have known better, but I couldn’t resist being pulled into a Twitter spat around the question “whether networking engineers need to know something about math” a long while ago.

Before going into the details, let’s start with Wikipedia definition: “Engineering is the use of scientific principles to design and build machines, structures, and other things” including “specific emphasis on particular areas of applied mathematics, applied science, and types of application”.

So feel free to believe that you don’t need any math or other science (because there’s very little science behind what we do in networking) in your job, in which case you might want to stop reading… but then at least please think twice about your job title.

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Figure Out What Problem You’re Trying to Solve

A long while ago I got into an hilarious Tweetfest (note to self: don’t… not that I would ever listen) starting with:

Which feature and which Cisco router for layer2 extension over internet 100Mbps with 1500 Bytes MTU

The knee-jerk reaction was obvious: OMG, not again. The ugly ghost of BRouters (or is it RBridges or WAN Extenders?) has awoken. The best reply in this category was definitely:

I cannot fathom the conversation where this was a legitimate design option. May the odds forever be in your favor.

A dozen “this is a dumpster fire” tweets later the problem was rephrased as:

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You Don't Need IP Renumbering for Disaster Recovery

This is a common objection I get when trying to persuade network architects they don’t need stretched VLANs (and IP subnets) to implement data center disaster recovery:

Changing IP addresses when activating DR is hard. You’d have to weigh the manageability of stretching L2 and protecting it, with the added complexity of breaking the two sites into separate domains [and subnets]. We all have apps with hardcoded IP’s, outdated IPAM’s, Firewall rules that need updating, etc.

Let’s get one thing straight: when you’re doing disaster recovery there are no live subnets, IP addresses or anything else along those lines. The disaster has struck, and your data center infrastructure is gone.

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Disaster Recover and Failure Domains

One of the responses to my Disaster Recovery Faking blog post focused on failure domains:

What is the difference between supporting L2 stretched between two pods in your DC (which everyone does for seamless vMotion), and having a 30ms link between these two pods because they happen to be in different buildings?

I hope you agree that a single broadcast domain is a single failure domain. If not, let agree to disagree and move on - my life is too short to argue about obvious stuff.

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