Category: worth reading
New: CI/CD in Networking Resource Page
Over the years I wrote a dozen blog posts describing various aspects of using CI/CD in network automation. These blog posts are now collected in the new CI/CD in Networking page that also includes links to related podcasts, webinars, and sample network automation solutions.
Worth Reading: History of 8-bit Bytes
Just in case you wondered why we have eight bits per byte: after Julia Evans investigated this mystery, Steven Bellovin published an excellent overview of the early years of bytes and words.
Worth Reading: Putting Large Language Models in Context
Another take on “what are large language models and what can we expect from them,” this time by Bruce Davie: Putting Large Language Models in Context:
My approach, at least for now, is to treat these LLM-based systems as very large, efficient collections of matchboxes–and keep working in my chosen field of networking.
Worth Reading: The War on Expertise
Jeff McLaughlin published an excellent blog post perfectly describing what we’ve been experiencing for decades: the war on expertise.
On one hand, the “business owners” force us to build complex stuff because they think they know better, on the other they blame people who know how to do it for the complex stuff that happens as the result of their requirements:
I am saying that we need to stop blaming complexity on those who manage to understand it.
New: Anycast Resource Page
I wrote two dozen blog posts describing IP anycast concepts, from first-hop anycast gateways to anycast between DNS servers and global anycast (as used by large web properties), but never organized them in any usable form.
That’s fixed: everything I ever wrote about anycast is nicely structured on the new Anycast Resources page.
Worth Reading: On ChatGPT
One of the best descriptions of what ChatGPT does and what it cannot do I found so far comes from an ancient and military historian. The what is ChatGPT and what is an essay parts are a must-read, the preparing to be disrupted conclusion is pure gold:
I do think there are classrooms that will be disrupted by ChatGPT, but those are classrooms where something is already broken.
I can’t help but think of the never-ending brouhaha about exam brain dumps.
MUST READ: Machine Learning for Network and Cloud Engineers
Javier Antich, the author of the fantastic AI/ML in Networking webinar, spent years writing the Machine Learning for Network and Cloud Engineers book that is now available in paperback and Kindle format.
I’ve seen a final draft of the book and it’s definitely worth reading. You should also invest some time into testing the scenarios Javier created. Here’s what I wrote in the foreword:
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been around for decades. It was one of the exciting emerging (and overhyped) topics when I attended university in the late 1980s. Like today, the hype failed to deliver, resulting in long, long AI winter.
Real-Life Not-Exactly-Networking AI Use Case
I get several emails every week1 from people I never heard of telling me what a wonderful job they could do writing guest blog posts on a range of topics of interest to my audience.
I’m positive you must be pretty intelligent to be a successful scammer, so I’m sure the good ones are using ChatGPT to generate the “unique” content they’re promising. I felt it was high time to return the favor.
Response: Nothing Works (in Enterprise IT)
Dmitry Perets left a thoughtful comment on my Nothing Works blog post describing why enterprise IT might be even worse than consumer world.
I think another reason for the “Nothing Works” world is that the only true Management Plane separation that exists in our industry is that of the real “human” management. In the medium/large enterprises they (and their interests, KPIs and so on) are very much separated from the technical workforce. And increasingly so, because today the technical workforce might not even be the employees of the same enterprise. They are likely to come from some IT consultancy outsource – degree of separation which makes a true SDN evangelist envious.
Worth Reading: 2 Mpps on a Pentium CPU
Robert Graham published a blog post describing how his IDS/IPS system handled 2 Mpps on a Pentium III CPU 20 years ago… and yet some people keep claiming that “Driving a 100 Gbps network at 80% utilization in both directions consumes 10–20 cores just in the networking stack” (in 2023). I guess a suboptimal-enough implementation can still consume all the CPU cycles it can get and then some.
Worth Reading: A Debugging Manifesto
Julia Evans published another fantastic must-read article: a debugging manifesto. Enjoy ;)
MUST READ: Nothing Works
Did you ever wonder why it’s impossible to find good service company, why most software sucks, or why networking vendors can get away with selling crap? If you did, and found no good answer (apart from Sturgeon’s Law), it’s time to read Why is it so hard to buy things that work well? by Dan Luu.
Totally off-topic: his web site uses almost no CSS and looks in my browser like a relic of 1980s. Suggestions how to fix that (in Chrome) are most welcome.
Worth Reading: Routing Protocol Implementation Evaluation
In 2018 I tried to figure out whether the rush to deploy new routing protocols in leaf-and-spine fabrics is anything more than another blob of hype (RIFT, OpenFabric, BGP), considering OSPF got the job done for AWS. Those discussions probably sounded like a bunch of smart kids trying to measure outside temperature with a moist finger, so the only recommendation I could give in 2021 was “use the best tool for the job, keeping in mind you’re not Google or Microsoft”
It’s always better to measure than to have opinions, and a group of academics did just that. They developed Sybil – a tool to measure routing protocol performance in leaf-and-spine fabrics – and Dip Singh used it to compare BGP to IS-IS and OpenFabric.
Lack of Use Cases: a Lesson about Handling Hype
Gerben Wierda published an interesting article documenting how overhyped technologies eventually wither due to lack of realistic use cases.
He’s writing about blockchain, but it would be relatively trivial to replace that with OpenFlow – when was the last time you’ve seen something implemented with OpenFlow that wouldn’t be easier to do with traditional tools?
Happy Holidays and All the Best in 2023!
Two hundred forty blog posts and sixteen webinar sessions later, it’s time for yet another “year gone by” blog post – I’m shutting down my virtual office and will disappear until mid-January. I’ll read my email should someone experience an urgent support problem but won’t reply to 90% of the other stuff coming in.
I hope you’ll find a few days to disconnect from the crazy pace of the networking world, forget all the marketing shenanigans you encountered in 2022, and focus on your loved ones. I would also like to wish you all the best in 2023!
Finally, I couldn’t resist posting a few teasers of what’s coming in early 20231: