Peering into CHI-NOG 08

CHI-NOG

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I finally made it out to a CHI-NOG event, the Chicago network operators group. Experienced network engineers and architects put the group together to focus on all things network related. The yearly events concentrate on vendor-neutral topics and encourage other network enthusiasts to attend within the Chicago land region.  This year’s gathering had more than a dozen sessions and a lineup with some excellent guest speakers.  If you’re ever in the area and love networking with technology and people, I highly recommend you go. I attended quite a few of the sessions, but I’ll start with one of my favorites.

Rethinking BGP in the Data Center

Presented by Russ White

BGP the chosen EGP of the Internet has taken quite a hold in large-scale data centers across companies such as Facebook, Microsoft, LinkedIn, and Google. You can do all kinds of clever traffic engineering using BGP, but should it be the chosen IGP for data centers? The companies mentioned above are now looking into or are already deploying other technologies such as openR, openfabric, and firepath as a BGP replacement.  Russ challenged BGP deployment complexity and talked about some of the most significant hurdles being delay and jitter within the hyperscale arena. Flooding also becomes an issue along with autoconfiguration of devices.

I think it’s important not to try and over complicate existing protocols to make them fit what we want.  We need to become better engineers and try something different. That’s where white box switching and new protocols such as draft-white-openfabric come into play. White box allows for the deployment of newly developed routing protocols that are more appropriate for what we wish to accomplish. Automation is also critical for successful manageability. Russ talked about having a router or switch that you never have to configure or CLI into, a little tough to swallow for us network operators.

Closing Thoughts

I couldn’t help but think about wireless controllers. When’s the last time you ever ssh’d into your wireless access points? We couldn’t imagine going back to individually configuring access points, what a nightmare! Centralized automated management for our switches and routers makes complete sense. Are we ready for the transition? The thought of what will happen to our existing jobs always comes up. However, I say we can then transition into working on solving other problems that we never had time to complete. Overall CHI-NOG was an awesome experience. I have lots more notes, so hopefully I can come up with more stuff that you’ll enjoy reading.

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