Cisco Borderless Idol

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Day one of Network Field Day 5 (NFD5) included presentations from the Cisco Borderless team. You probably remember their “speed dating” approach at NFD4 which gave us a wealth of information in 15 minute snippets. The only drawback to that lineup is when you find a product or a technology that interests you there really isn’t any time to quiz the presenter before they are ushered off stage. Someone must have listened when I said that before, because this time they brought us 20 minute segments – 10 minutes of presentation, 10 minutes of demo. With the switching team, we even got to vote on our favorite to bring the back for the next round (hence the title of the post). More on that in a bit.

6500 Quad Supervisor Redundancy

First up on the block was the Catalyst 6500 team. I swear this switch is the Clint Howard of networking, because I see it everywhere. The team wanted to tell us about a new feature available in the ((verify code release)) code on the Supervisor 2T (Sup2T). Previously, the supervisor was capable of performing a couple of very unique functions. The first of these was Stateful Switch Over (SSO). During SSO, the redundant supervisor in the chassis can pick up where the primary left off in the event of a failure. All of the traffic sessions can keep on trucking even if the active sup module is rebooting. This gives the switch a tremendous uptime, as well as allowing for things like hitless upgrades in production. The other existing feature of the Sup2T is Virtual Switching System (VSS). VSS allows two Sup2Ts to appear as one giant switch. This is helpful for applications where you don’t want to trust your traffic to just one chassis. VSS allows for two different chassis to terminate Multi-Chassis EtherChannel (MLAG) connections so that distribution layer switches don’t have a single point of failure. Traffic looks like it’s flowing to one switch when in actuality it may be flowing to one or the other. In the event that a Supervisor goes down, the other one can keep forwarding traffic.

Enter the Quad Sup SSO ability. Now, instead of having an RPR-only failover on the members of a VSS cluster, you can setup the redundant Sup2T modules to be ready and waiting in the event of a failure. This is great because you can lose up to three Sup2Ts at once and still keep forwarding while they reboot or get replaced. Granted, anything that can take out 3 Sup2Ts at once is probably going to take down the fourth (like power failure or power surge), but it’s still nice to know that you have a fair amount of redundancy now. This only works on the Sup2T, so you can’t get this if you are still running the older Sup720. You also need to make sure that your linecards support the newer Distributed Forwarding Card 3 (DFC3), which means you aren’t going to want to do this with anything less than a 6700-series line card. In fact, you really want to be using the 6800 series or better just to be on the safe side. As Josh O’brien (@joshobrien77) commented, this is a great feature to have. But it should have been there already. I know that there are a lot of technical reasons why this wasn’t available earlier, and I’m sure the increase fabric speeds in the Sup2T, not to mention the increased capability of the DFC3, are the necessary component for the solution. Still, I think this is something that probably should have shipped in the Sup2T on the first day. I suppose that given the long road the Sup2T took to get to us that “better late than never” is applicable here.

UCS-E

Next up was the Cisco UCS-E series server for the ISR G2 platform. This was something that we saw at NFD4 as well. The demo was a bit different this time, but for the most part this is similar info to what we saw previously.


Catalyst 3850 Unified Access Switch

The Catalyst 3800 is Cisco’s new entry into the fixed-configuration switch arena. They are touting this a “Unified Access” solution for clients. That’s because the 3850 is capable of terminating up to 50 access points (APs) per stack of four. This think can basically function as a wiring closet wireless controller. That’s because it’s using the new IOS wireless controller functionality that’s also featured in the new 5760 controller. This gets away from the old Airespace-like CLI that was so prominent on the 2100, 2500, 4400, and 5500 series controllers. The 3850, which is based on the 3750X, also sports a new 480Gbps Stackwise connector, appropriately called Stackwise480. This means that a stack of 3850s can move some serious bits. All that power does come at a cost – Stackwise480 isn’t backwards compatible with the older Stackwise v1 and v2 from the 3750 line. This is only an issue if you are trying to deploy 3850s into existing 3750X stacks, because Cisco has announced the End of Sale (EOS) and End of Life (EOL) information for those older 3750s. I’m sure the idea is that when you go to rip them out, you’ll be more than happy to replace them with 3850s.

The 3850 wireless setup is a bit different from the old 3750 Access Controller that had a 4400 controller bolted on to it. The 3850 uses Cisco’s IOS-XE model of virtualizing IOS into a sort of VM state that can run on one core of a dual-core processor, leaving the second core available to do other things. Previously at NFD4, we’d seen the Catalyst 4500 team using that other processor core for doing inline Wireshark captures. Here, the 3850 team is using it to run the wireless controller. That’s a pretty awesome idea when you think about it. Since I no longer have to worry about IOS taking up all my processor and I know that I have another one to use, I can start thinking about some interesting ideas.

The 3850 does have a couple of drawbacks. Aside from the above Stackwise limitations, you have to terminate the APs on the 3850 stack itself. Unlike the CAPWAP connections that tunnel all the way back to the Airespace-style controllers, the 3850 needs to have the APs directly connected in order to decapsulate the tunnel. That does provide for some interesting QoS implications and applications, but it doesn’t provide much flexibility from a wiring standpoint. I think the primary use case is to have one 3850 switch (or stack) per wiring closet, which would be supported by the current 50 AP limitation. the othe drawback is that the 3850 is currently limited to a stack of four switches, as opposed to the increased six switch limit on the 3750X. Aside from that, it’s a switch that you probably want to take a look at in your wiring closets now. You can buy it with an IP Base license today and then add on the AP licenses down the road as you want to bring them online. You can even use the 3850s to terminate CAPWAP connections and manage the APs from a central controller without adding the AP license.

Here is the deep dive video that covers a lot of what Cisco is trying to do from a unified wired and wireless access policy standpoint. Also, keep an eye out for the cute Unifed Access video in the middle.

Private Data Center Mobility

I found it interesting this this demo was in the Borderless section and not the Data Center presentation. This presentation dives into the world of Overlay Transport Virtualization (OTV). Think of OTV like an extra layer of 802.1 q-in-q tunneling with some IS-IS routing mixed in. OTV is Cisco’s answer to extending the layer 2 boundary between data centers to allow VMs to be moved to other sites without breaking their networking. Layer 2 everywhere isn’t the most optimal solution, but it’s the best thing we’ve got to work with the current state of VM networking (until Nicira figures out what they’re going to do).

We loved this session so much that we asked Mostafa to come back and talk about it more in depth.

The most exciting part of this deep dive to me was the introduction of LISP. To be honest, I haven’t really been able to wrap my head around LISP the first couple of times that I saw it. Now, thanks to the Borderless team and Omar Sultan (@omarsultan), I’m going to dig into a lot more in the coming months. I think there are some very interesting issues that LISP can solve, including my IPv6 Gordian Knot.


Tom’s Take

I have to say that I liked Cisco’s approach to the presentations this time.  Giving us discussion time along with a demo allowed us to understand things before we saw them in action.  The extra five minutes did help quite a bit, as it felt like the presenters weren’t as rushed this time.  The “Borderless Idol” style of voting for a presentation to get more info out of was brilliant.  We got to hear about something we wanted to go into depth about, and I even learned something that I plan on blogging about later down the line.  Sure, there was a bit of repetition in a couple of areas, most notably UCS-E, but I can understand how those product managers have invested time and effort into their wares and want to give them as much exposure as possible.  Borderless hits all over the spectrum, so keeping the discussion focused in a specific area can be difficult.  Overall, I would say that Cisco did a good job, even without Ryan Secrest hosting.

Tech Field Day Disclaimer

Cisco was a sponsor of Network Field Day 5.  As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Network Field Day 5.  In addition, Cisco provided me with a breakfast and lunch at their offices.  They also provided a Moleskine notebook, a t-shirt, and a flashlight toy.  At no time did they ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

Cisco Data Center Duel

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Network Field Day 5 started off with a full day at Cisco. The Data Center group opened and closed the day, with the Borderless team sandwiched in between. Omar Sultan (@omarsultan) greeted us as we settled in for a continental breakfast before getting started.

The opening was a discussion of onePK, a popular topic as of late from Cisco. While the topic du jour in the networking world is software-defined networking (SDN), Cisco steers the conversation toward onePK. This, at its core, is API access to all the flavors of the Internetwork Operating System (IOS). While other vendors discuss how to implement protocols like OpenFlow or how to expose pieces of their underlying systems to developers, Cisco has built a platform to allow access into pieces and parts of the OS. You can write applications in Java or Python to pull data from the system or push configurations to it. The process is slowly being rolled out to the major Cisco platforms. The support for the majority of the Nexus switching line should give the reader a good idea of where Cisco thinks this technology will be of best use.

One of the specific applications that Cisco showed off to us using onePK is the use of Puppet to provision switches from bare metal to functioning with a minimum of human effor. Puppet integration was a big underlying topic at both Cisco and Juniper (more on that in the Juniper NFD5 post). Puppet is gaining steam in the netowrking industry as a way to get hardware up and running quickly with the least amount of fuss. Server admins have enjoyed the flexibility of Puppet for a some time. It’s good to see well-tested and approved software like this being repurposed for similar functionality in the world of routing and switching.

Next up was a discussion about the Cisco ONE network controller. Controllers are a very hot topic in the network world today. OpenFlow allows a central management and policy server to push information and flow data into switches. This allows network admins to get a “big picture” of the network and how the packets are flowing across it. Having the ability to view the network in its entirity also allows admins to start partitioning it in a process called “slicing.” This was one of the first applications that the Stanford wiz kids used OpenFlow to accomplish. It makes sense when you think about how universities wanted to partition off their test networks to prevent this radical OpenFlow idea from crashing the production hardware. Now, we’re looking at using slicing for things like multi-tenancy and security. The building blocks are there to make some pretty interesting leaps. The real key is that the central controller have the ability to keep up with the flows being pushed through the network. Cisco’s ONE controller not only speaks OpenFlow, but onePK as well. This means that while the ONE controller can talk to disparate networking devices running OpenFlow, it will be able to speak much more clearly to any Cisco devices you have lying around. That’s a pretty calculated play from Cisco, given that the initial target for their controller will be networks populated primarily by Cisco equipment. The use case that was given to us for the Cisco ONE controller was replacing large network taps with SDN options. Fans of NFD may remember our trip to Gigamon. Cisco hadn’t forgotten, as the network tap they used as an example in their slide looked just like the orange Gigamon switch we saw at a previous NFD.

After the presentations from the Borderless team, we ended the day with an open discussion around a few topics. This is where the real fun started. Here’s the video:

The first hour or so is a discussion around hybrid switching. I had some points in here about the standoff between hardware and software people not really wanting to get along right now. I termed it a Mexican Standoff because no one really wants to flinch and go down the wrong path. The software people just want to write overlays and things like and make it run on everything. The entrenched hardware vendors, like Cisco, want to make sure their hardware is providing better performance than anyone else (because that’s where their edge is). Until someone decides to take a chance and push things in different directions, we’re not going to see much movement. Also, around 1:09:00 is where we talked a bit about Cisco jumping into the game with a pure OpenFlow switch without much more on top of it. This concept seemed a bit foreign to some of the Cisco folks, as they can’t understand why people wouldn’t want IOS and onePK. That’s where I chimed in with my “If I want a pickup truck, I don’t take a chainsaw to a school bus.” You shouldn’t have to shed all the extra stuff to get the performance you want. Start with a smaller platform and work your way up instead of starting with the kitchen sink and stripping things away.

Shortly after this is where the fireworks started. One of Cisco’s people started arguing that OpenFlow isn’t the answer. He said that the customer he was talking to didn’t want OpenFlow. He even went so far as to say that “OpenFlow is a fantasy because it promises everything and there’s nothing in production.” (about 1:17:00) Folks, this was one of the most amazing conversations I’ve ever seen at a Network Field Day event. The tension in the room was palpable. Brent and Greg were on this guy the entire time about how OpenFlow was solving real problems for customers today, and in Brent’s case he’s running it in production. I really wonder how the results of this are going to play out. If Cisco hears that their customers don’t care that much about OpenFlow and just want their gear to do SDN like in onePK then that’s what they are going to deliver. The question then becomes whether or not network engineers that believe that OpenFlow has a big place in the networks of tomorrow can convince Cisco to change their ways.

If you’d like to learn more about Cisco, you can find them at http://www.cisco.com/go/dc.  You can follow their data center team on Twitter as @CiscoDC.


Tom’s Take

Cisco’s Data Center group has a lot of interesting things to say about programmability in the network. From discussions about APIs to controllers to knock down, drag out aruguments about what role OpenFlow is going to play, Cisco has the gamut covered. I think that their position at the top of the network heap gives them a lot of insight into what’s going on. I’m just worried that they are going to use that to push a specific agenda and not embrace useful technologies down the road that solve customer problems. You’re going to hear a lot more from Cisco on software defined networking in the near future as they begin to roll out more and more features to their hardware in the coming months.

Tech Field Day Disclaimer

Cisco was a sponsor of Network Field Day 5.  As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Network Field Day 5.  In addition, Cisco provided me with a breakfast and lunch at their offices.  They also provided a Moleskine notebook, a t-shirt, and a flashlight toy.  At no time did they ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

Additional NFD5 Blog Posts

NFD5: Cisco onePK – Terry Slattery

NFD5: SDN and Unicorn Blood – Omar Sultan

Network Field Day 5

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It’s time again for more zany fun in San Jose with the Tech Field Day crew!  I will be attending Network Field Day 5 in San Jose March 6-8.  This time, I was honored to be included as a member of the organizing committee for the event.  There were lots of discussions about timing of the event, sessions that would be interesting to the delegates and the viewers, and even a big long list of delegates to evaluate.  That last part is never fun.  There are so many great people out there that would be a great fit at any Field Day event.  Sadly, there are only so many people that can attend.  The list for Network Field Day 5 includes the following wonderful people:

https://i1.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Carroll-wpcf_60x60.jpeg Brandon Carroll @BrandonCarroll
CCIE Instructor, Blogger, and Technology Enthusiast
https://i2.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/brent-salisbury1-wpcf_60x60.jpeg Brent Salisbury @NetworkStatic
Brent Salisbury works as a Network Architect, CCIE #11972.
https://i0.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cmcnamara-headshot-2011-color-scaled-wpcf_42x60.jpg Colin McNamara @ColinMcNamara
Colin McNamara is a seasoned professional with over 15 years experience with network and systems technologies.
https://i1.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/ethan-banks-headshot-500x667-wpcf_44x60.jpg Ethan Banks @ECBanks
Ethan Banks, CCIE #20655, is a hands-on networking practitioner who has designed, built and maintained networks for higher education, state government, financial institutions, and technology corporations.
https://i2.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Ferro-wpcf_60x39.jpg Greg Ferro @EtherealMind
Over the last twenty odd years, Greg has worked Sales, Technical and IT Management but mostly he delivers Network Architecture and Design. Today he works as a Freelance Consultant for F100 companies in the UK & Europe focussing on Data Centres, Security and Operational Automation.
https://i2.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/johnherbert-wpcf_60x60.jpeg John Herbert @MrTugs
John has worked in the networking industry for 14 years, and obtained his CCIE Routing & Switching in early 2001.
https://i1.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/OBrien-wpcf_60x60.jpeg Josh O’Brien @JoshOBrien77
Josh has worked in the industry for 14 years and is now serving as CTO in the Telemedicine sector.
https://i2.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/IMG_0264-002-wpcf_60x60.jpg Paul Stewart @PacketU
Paul Stewart is a Network and Security Engineer, Trainer and Blogger who enjoys understanding how things really work.
https://i0.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Slattery-wpcf_60x50.jpg Terry Slattery
Terry Slattery, CCIE #1026, is a senior network engineer with decades of experience in the internetworking industry.

There’s likely to be a couple more people on that list before all is said and done.  I really wish that we could have an event with all the potential delegates.  Maybe one day after I finally buy my own 747 we’ll have enough airline seats to fly everyone to Silicon Valley.

Network Field Day 5 Sponsors

There will be an extra full lineup of sponsors this time around.  A few of the details are still being finalized, but here’s the lineup so far:

https://i0.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Juniper-wpcf_100x28.gif https://i0.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Secret-Company-wpcf_100x30.png https://i1.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/solarwinds_RGB-300x84-wpcf_100x28.jpg

That “secret company” sounds nice and mysterious, doesn’t it? I can’t wait until they’re revealed.  I am always pleased with the lineup of sponsors at each Field Day event.  The leadership and vision provided by these vendors gives us all a great idea of where technology is headed.

What’s Field Day Like?

Network Field Day is not a vacation.  This event will involve starting a day early first thing Wednesday morning and running full steam for two and a half days.  We get up early and retire late.  Wall-to-wall meetings and transportation to and from vendors fill the days.  When you consider that most of the time we’re discussing vendors and presentations on the car ride to the next building, there’s very little downtime.  We’ve been known to have late night discussions about OpenFlow and automation until well after midnight.  If that’s your idea of a “vacation” then Tech Field Day is a paradise.

Tech Field Day – Join In Now!

Everyone at home is as much a participant in Tech Field Day as the delegates on site.  At the last event we premiered the ability to watch the streaming video from the presentations on mobile devices.  This means that you can tune in from just about anywhere now.  There’s no need to stay glued to your computer screen.  If you want to tune out to our last presentations of the day from the comfort of your couch with your favorite tablet device then feel free by all means.  Don’t forget that you can also use Twitter to ask questions and make comments about what you’re seeing and hearing.  Some of the best questions I’ve seen came from the home audience.  Use the hashtag #NFD5 during the event.  Note that I’ll be tagging the majority of my tweets that week with #NFD5, so if the chatter is getting overwhelming you can always mute or filter that tag.

Standard Tech Field Day Sponsor Disclaimer

Tech Field Day is a massive undertaking that involves the coordination of many moving parts.  It’s not unlike trying to herd cats with a helicopter.  One of the most important pieces is the sponsors.  Each of the presenting companies is responsible for paying a portion of the travel and lodging costs for the delegates.  This means they have some skin in the game.  What this does NOT mean is that they get to have a say in what we do.  No Tech Field Day delegate is every forced to write about the event due to sponsor demands. If a delegate chooses to write about anything they see at Tech Field Day, there are no restrictions about what can be said.  Sometimes this does lead to negative discussion.  That is entirely up to the delegate.  Independence means no restrictions.  At times, some Tech Field Day sponsors have provided no-cost evaluation equipment to the delegates.  This is provided solely at the discretion of the sponsor and is never a requirement.  This evaluation equipment is also not a contingency of writing a review, be it positive or negative.  The delegates are in this for the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Juniper – Land of Unicorns and Broccoli

The final Network Field Day 4 (NFD4) presentation was from Juniper. Juniper has been a big supporter of Tech Field Day so getting to see some of their newest technology and advances was just another step in the the wonderful partnership. We arrived Friday afternoon to a very delicious lunch before settling in for the four hour session.

We were introduced to one of our own, Derick Winkworth (@cloudtoad). Derick was a delegate and NFD2 and has recently come to Juniper as the PM of Automation. It’s always nice to see someone from Tech Field Day in front of us for the vendor. Some have said that the vendors are stealing away members of the Field Day community, but I see it more as the vendors realizing the unique opportunity to bring someone on board the “gets it.” However, I couldn’t let Derick off the hook quite that easily. At Cisco Live, Derick proved his love for Dave Ward of Cisco by jumping up during Dave’s OnePK panel and throwing a pair of men’s briefs at him with “I ❤ Dave” written on the back. Lots of laughs were had by all, and Dave seemed appreciative of his gift. Once I learned the Derick was presenting first for NFD4, I hatched my own fan boy plot. When Derick walked up front to face the NFD delegates as “the enemy,” I too proved my love for the Cloud Toad by jumping up and tossing him a pair of underwear as well. These were adorned with “I ❤ @cloudtoad” to show Derick that he too has groupies out there.

Derick then proceeded to give us a small overview of the decision he made to join Juniper and the things that he wanted to improve to make everyone’s life a bit better. I can tell the Derick is genuinely pumped about his job and really wants to make a difference. If someone is that excited about going to work every day, it really doesn’t matter if it’s for a vendor or a VAR or even a garbageman. I only wish that half the people I work with had the same passion for their jobs as Derick.

Our first presentation was a bit of a surprise. We got a first hand look at storage from Simon Gordon. Yes, Juniper shook things up by making their first peek all about hard drives. Okay, so maybe it was more about showing how technologies like QFabric can help accelerate data transfers back and forth across your network. The two storage people in the room seemed fascinated by the peek into how Juniper handled these kinds of things. I was a bit lost with all the terminology and tried to keep up as best I could, but that’s what the recorded video archive is for, right?  It’s no surprise that Juniper is pitching QFabric as a solution for the converged data center, just like their competitors are pitching their own fabric solutions.  It just reminds me that I need to spend some more time studying these fabric systems.  Also, you can see here where the demo gremlins bit the Juniper folks.  It seemed to happen to everyone this time around.  The discussion, especially from Colin McNamara (@colinmcnamara) did a great job of filling the time where the demo gremlins were having their fun.

The second presentation was over Virtual Chassis, Juniper’s method of stacking switches together to unify control planes and create managment simplicity. The idea is to take a group of switches and interconnect the backplanes to create high throughput while maintaining the ability to program them quickly. The technology is kind of interesting, especially when you extend it toward something like QFabric to create a miniature version of the large fabric deployment. However, here is where I get to the bad guy a bit… Juniper, while this technology is quite compelling, the presentation fell a bit flat. I know that Tech Field Day has a reputation for chewing up presenters. I know that some sponsors are afraid that if they don’t have someone technical in front of the group that bedlam and chaos will erupt. That being said, make sure that the presenter is engaging as well as technical. I have nothing but respect for the presenter and I’m sure he’s doing amazing things with the technology. I just don’t think he felt all the comfortable in front of our group talking about it. I know how nervous you can be during a presentation. Little things like demo failures can throw you off your game. But in the end, a bad presentation can be saved by a good presenter. A good presentation can take a hit from a less-than-ideal presenter.  Virtual chassis is a huge talking point for me.  Not only because it’s the way that the majority of my customers will interconnect their devices.  Not because it’s a non-proprietary connector way to interconnect switches.  It’s because Virtual Chassis is the foundation for some exciting things (that may or may not be public knowledge) around fabrics that I can’t wait to see.

Up next was Kyle Adams with Mykonos. They are a new acquistion by Juniper in the security arena. They have developed a software platform that provides a solution to the problem of web application security. Mykonos acts like a reverse proxy in front of your web servers. When it’s installed, it intercepts all of the traffic traveling to your Internet-facing servers and injects a bit of forbidden fruit to catch hackers. Things like fake debug codes, hidden text fields, and even phantom configuration files. Mykonos calls these “tar pits” and they are designed to fool the bad guys into a trail of red herrings. Becauase all of the tar pit data is generated on the fly and injected into the HTTP session, no modification of the existing servers is necessary. That is the piece that had eluded my understanding up until this point. I always thought Mykonos integrated into your infrastructure and sprayed fake data all over your web servers in the hope of catching people trying to footprint your network. Realizing now that it does this instead from the network level, it interesting to see the approaches that Mykonos can take. The tar pit data is practically invisible to the end user. Only those that are snooping for less-than-honorable intentions may even notice it. But once they take the bait and start digging a bit deeper, that’s when Mykonos has them. The software then creates a “super cookie” on the system as a method of identifying the attacker. These super coookes are suprisingly resilient, using combinations of Java and Flash and other stuff to stay persistent even if the original cookie is deleted. Services like Hulu and Netflix use them to better identify customers. Mykonos uses them to tie attacker sessions together and collect data. There are some privacy concerns naturally, but that is a discussion for a different day. Once Mykonos has tagged you, that’s when the countermeasures can start getting implemented.

I loved watching this in demo form. Mykonos randomly selects a response based on threat level and deploys it in an effort to prevent the attacker from compromising things. Using methods such as escalting network latency back to the attacker or creating fake .htacess files with convincingly encrypted usernames and passwords, Mykonos sets the hook to reel in the big fish. While the attacker is churning through data and trying to compromise what he thinks is a legitimate security hole, Mykonos is collecting data the whole time to later identify the user. That way, they can either be blocked from accessing your site or perhaps even prosecuted if desired. I loved the peek at Mykonos. I can see why Christofer Hoff (@beaker) was so excited to bring them on board. This refreshing approach to web application firewalls is just crazy enough to work well. As I said on the video, Mykonos is the ultimate way to troll attackers.

The final presentation at Juniper once again starred Derick Winkworth along with Dan Backman. Dan had presented over workflow automation at NFD2. Today, they wanted to talk about the same topic from a slightly different perspective. Derick took the helm this time and started off with a hilarious description of the land of milk and honey and unicorns, which according to him was representitive of what happens when you can have a comfortable level of workflow automation. It’s also where the title of this post came from.  As you can tell from the video, this was the best part of having a former delegate presenting to us.  He knew just how to keep us in stitches with all his whiteboarding and descriptions.  After I was done almost spitting my refreshments all over my laptop, he moved on to his only “slide”, which was actually a Visio diagram. I suppose this means that Derick has entered the Hall Of Slideless TFD Presenters. His approach to workflow automation actually got me a bit excited. He talked less about scripting commands or automating configuration tasks and instead talked about all the disparate systems out there and how the lack of communication between them can cause the silo effect present in many organizations to amplify.  I like Derick’s approach to using Junos to pull information in from various different sources to help expedite things like troubleshooting or process execution.  Leveraging other utilities like curl helps standardize the whole shooing match without reinventing the wheel.  If I can use the same utilities that I’ve always used, all my existing knowledge doesn’t become invalidated or replaced.  That really speaks to me.  Don’t make me unlearn everything.  Give me the ability to take your product and use additional tools to do amazing things.  That, to me, is the essence of SDN.

If you’d like to learn more about the various Juniper products listed above, be sure to visit their website at http://www.juniper.net.  You can also follow their main Twitter account as @JuniperNetworks.


Tom’s Take

Juniper’s doing some neat things from what they showed us at NFD4.  They appear to be focusing on fabric technology, both from the QFabric converged networking overview and even the Virtual Chassis discussion.  Of course, protecting things is of the utmost importance, so Mykonos can prevent the bad guys from getting the goods in a very novel way.  Uniting all of this is Junos, the single OS that has all kinds of capabilities around SDN and now OpenFlow 1.3.  Sure, the demo gremlins hit them a couple of times, but they were able to keep the conversation going for the most part and present some really compelling use cases for their plans.  The key for Juniper is to get the word out about all their technology and quit putting up walls that try and “hide” the inner workings of things.  Geeks really like seeing all the parts and pieces work.  Geeks feel a lot more comfortable knowing the ins and outs of a process.  That will end up winning more converts in the long run than anything else.

Tech Field Day Disclaimer

Juniper was a sponsor of Network Field Day 4.  As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Network Field Day 4.  In addition, Juniper provided me with a hooded sweatshirt with the Juniper logo and some “I Wish This Ran Junos” stickers. They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

Brocade – Packet Spraying and SDN Integrating

Brocade kicked off our first double session at Network Field Day 4.  We’d seen them previously at Network Field Day 2 and I’d just been to Brocade’s headquarters for their Tech Day a few weeks before.  I was pretty sure that the discussion that was about to take place was going to revolve around OpenFlow and some of the hot new hardware the Brocade had been showing off recently.  Thankfully, Lisa Caywood (@TheRealLisaC) still has some tricks up her sleeve.

I hereby dub Lisa “Queen of the Mercifully Short Introduction.”  Lisa’s overview of Brocade hit all the high points about what Brocade’s business lines revolve around.  I think by now that most people know that Brocade acquired Foundry for their ethernet switching line to add to their existing storage business that revolves around Fibre Channel.  With all that out of the way, it was time to launch into the presentations.

Jessica Koh was up first to talk to me about a technology that I haven’t seen already – HyperEdge.  This really speaks to me because the majority of my customer base isn’t ever going to touch a VDX or and ADX or an MLXe.  HyperEdge technology is Brocade’s drive to keep the campus network infrastructure humming along to keep pace with the explosion of connectivity in the data center.  Add in the fact that you’ve got all manner of things connecting into the campus network, and you can see how things like manageability can be at the forefront of people’s minds.  To that end, Brocade is starting off the HyperEdge discussion early next year with the ability to stack dissimilar ICX switches together.  This may sound like crazy talk to those of you that are used to stacking together Cisco 3750s or 2960s.  On those platforms, every switch has to be identical.  With the HyperEdge stacking, you can take an ICX 6610 and stack it with an ICX 6450 and it all works just fine.  In addition, you can place a layer 3 capable switch into the stack in order to provide a device that will get your packets off the local subnet.  That is a very nice feature that allows the customer base to buy layer 2 today if needed then add on in the future when they’ve outgrown the single wiring closet or single VLAN.  Once you’ve added the layer 3 switch to the stack, all those features are populated across all the ports of the whole stack.  That helps to get rid of some of the idiosyncrasies of some of the first stacking switch configurations, like not being able to locally switch packets.  Add in the fact that the stacking interfaces on these switches are the integrated 10Gig Ethernet ports, and you can see why I’m kind of excited.  No overpriced stacking kits.  Standard SFP+ interfaces that can be reused in the event I need to break the stack apart.

I’m putting this demo video up to show how a demo during your presentation can be both a boon and a bane.  Clear you cache after you’re done or log in as a different user to be sure you’re getting a clean experience.  The demo can be a really painful part when it doesn’t run correctly.

Kelvin Franklin was up next with an overview of VCS, Brocade’s fabric solution.  This is mostly review material from my Tech Day briefing, but there are some highlights here.  Firstly, Brocade is using yet a third new definition for the word “trunk”.  Unlike Cisco and HP, Brocade refers to the multipath connections into a VCS fabric as a trunk.  Now, a trunk isn’t a trunk isn’t a trunk.  You just have to remember the context of which vendor you’re talking about.  This was also the genesis of packet spraying, which I’m sure was a very apt description for what Brocade’s VCS is doing to the packets as they send them out of the bundled links but it doesn’t sound all that appealing.  Another thing to keep in mind when looking at VCS is that it is heavily based on TRILL for the layer 2 interconnects, but it does use FSPF from Brocade’s heavy fibre channel background to handle the routing of the links instead of IS-IS as the TRILL standard calls for.  Check out Ivan’s post from last year as to why that’s both good and bad.  Brocade also takes time to call out the fact that they’ve done their own ASIC in the new VCS switches as opposed to using merchant silicon like many other competitors.  Only time will tell how effective the move to merchant silicon will be for those that choose to use it, but so long as Brocade can continue to drive higher performance from custom silicon it may be an advantage for them.

This last part of the VCS presentation covers some of the real world use cases for fabrics and how Brocade is taking an incremental approach to building fabrics.  I’m curious to see how the VCS will begin to co-mingle with the HyperEdge strategy down the road.  Cisco has committed to bringing their fabric protocol (FabricPath) to the campus in the Catalyst 6500 in the near future.  With all the advantages of VCS that Brocade has discussed, I would like to see it extending down into the campus as well.  That would be a huge advantage for some of my customers that need the capability to do a lot of east-west traffic flows without the money to invest in the larger VCS infrastructure until their data usage can provide adequate capital.  There may not be a lot that comes out of it in the long run, but even having the option to integrate the two would be a feather in the marketing cap.

After lunch and a short OpenStack demo, we got an overview of Brocade’s involvement with the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) from Curt Beckmann.  I’m not going to say a lot about this video, but you really do need to watch it if you are at all curious to see where Brocade is going with their involvement with OpenFlow going forward.  As you’ve no doubt heard before, OpenFlow is really driving the future of networking and how we think about managing data flows.  Seeing what Brocade is doing to implement ideas and driving direction of ONF development is nice because it’s almost like a crystal ball of networking’s future.

The last two videos really go together to illustrate how Brocade is taking OpenFlow and adopting it into their model for software defined networking (SDN).  By now, I’ve heard almost every imaginable definition of SDN support.  On one end of the spectrum, you’ve got Cisco and Juniper.  A lot of their value is tied up in their software.  IOS and Junos represent huge investments for them.  Getting rid of this software so the hardware can be controlled by a server somewhere isn’t the best solution as they see it.  Their response has been to open APIs into their software and allow programmability into their existing structures.  You can use software to drive your networking, but you’re going to do it our way.  At the other extreme end of the scale, you’ve got NEC.  As I’ve said before, NEC is doubling down on OpenFlow mainly for one reason – survival.  If they don’t adapt their hardware to be fully OpenFlow compliant, they run the risk of being swept off the table by the larger vendors.  Their attachment to their switch OS isn’t as important as making their hardware play nice with everyone else.  In the middle, you’ve got Brocade.  They’ve made some significant investments into their switch software and protocols like VCS.  However, they aren’t married to the idea of their OS being the be all, end all of the conversation.  What they do want, however, is Brocade equipment in place that can take advantage of all the additional features offered from areas that aren’t necessarily OpenFlow specific.  I think their idea around OpenFlow is to push the hybrid model, where you can use a relatively inexpensive Brocade switch to fulfill your OpenFlow needs while at the same time allowing for that switch to perform some additional functionality above and beyond that defined by the ONF when it comes to VCS or other proprietary software.  They aren’t doing it for the reasons of survival like NEC, but it offers them the kind of flexibility they need to get within striking distance of the bigger players in the market.

If you’d like to learn more about Brocade, you can check out their website at http://www.brocade.com.  You can also follow them on Twitter as @BRCDComm.

Tom’s Take

I’ve seen a lot of Brocade in the last couple of months.  I’ve gotten a peek at their strategies and had some good conversations with some really smart people.  I feel pretty comfortable understanding where Brocade is going with their Ethernet business.  Yes, whenever you mention them you still get questions about fibre channel and storage connectivity, but Brocade really is doing what they can to get the word out about that other kind of networking that they do.  From the big iron of the VDX to the ability to stack the ICX switches all the way to the planning in the ONF to run OpenFlow on everything they can, Brocade seems to have started looking at the long-term play in the data networking market.  Yes, they may not be falling all over themselves to go to war with Cisco or even HP right now.  However, a bit of visionary thinking can lead one to be standing on the platform when the train comes rumbling down the track.  That train probably has a whistle that sounds an awful lot like “OpenFlow,” so only time can tell who’s going to be riding on it and who’s going to be underneath it.

Tech Field Day Disclaimer

Brocade was a sponsor of Network Field Day 4.  As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Network Field Day 4.  In addition, Brocade provided me with a gift bag containing a 2GB USB stick with marketing information and a portable cell phone charger. They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

Spirent – Bringing The Tests To You

Day two of Network Field Day 4 kicked off with a visit to Spirent.  I was fairly impressed with their testing setup the last time and I wanted to see what new tricks they had in store for us this time around.  After a quick breakfast, we settled in for our first session.  Although this one wasn’t broadcast, we did get permission to talk about what they were showing us.  One of the issues that Spirent has with their setup is that it’s just so…huge.  While it is very accurate and can take just about everything you can throw at it, it’s not exactly the most convenient thing to haul around when you need to test something.  To that end, Spirent is looking a releasing a more compact unit that’s more in line with the needs of an enterprise testing setup.  The unit we saw was about the size of a desktop computer case, but Spirent says the final goal is to have a unit that’s about 1U in size and can be placed in a rack.  That way, you can grab the tester when you need to prove beyond the shadow of a doubt that it’s not the network (or the WAN connection or anything else Spirent can test).  Do remember that having a smaller version of the until does come with a compromise or two.  The most apparent one is the reduction in testing resolution from the nanseconds of the big Spirent setup down to a few milliseconds on the enterprise version.  Truth be told, you probably don’t need the nanosecond resolution of something like a QFabric test when you’re just trying to test an enterprise network.  If a few milliseconds really does matter, then maybe you need to look into the bigger unit.  One of the other things that interested me about their new unit was the interface of the software itself.  Spirent has gone all out to make sure that it’s easy to start a test and set the parameters.  The metaphor that they are using is that of a media player.  You can drag sliders to vary the size and number of packets as well as setting other parameters.  When you’re ready to go, just press the oversized Play button and your test kicks off and runs until completion.  You’ll see a bit of this interface in a bit.

When we picked up the stream again, I got a bit excited.  Spirent has taken everything they know about testing and applied it to some interesting use cases.  No one can deny that we’ve entered a new phase of cyber warfare.  First, it was the kids doing thing for fun and reputation.  Then it was the career bad guys doing it for money.  Now we find ourselves dealing with advanced malware threats and state-sposored cyberterrorism.  After some discussion about social engineering and other topics, we started talking about Spirent applying their testing methodologies to find vulnerabilities and alert you to them before they can be exploited.  Spirent has a huge library of thousands of tests that can be run against a multitude of applications on just about any OS platform, from Windows to iOS.

It’s demo time again!  Spirent fired up a demo environment running Linux and exploited a Jabber server with a bunch of attack traffic.  You can tell that this was a fairly thorough attack, as they went through several iterations before they finally found a vector.  Other tools that I’ve used just attack known holes and give up after one or two iterations.  Spirent has created a tool that can not only iterate on different surfaces, but you can also craft your own tests to take advantage of zero-day exploits in the wild.  That makes me a little more confident with their results, as they don’t quit until the test is finished.

Last up was Ameya Barvé with an overview of the new iTest Lab Optimizer. According to Ameya, one of pains of lab operations involves the lack of automation.  You never know who’s in the lab or who’s reconfigured it to support some wacky sidebar case.  iTest Lab Optimizer takes care of many of these problems by creating a system for lab reservation and topology creation.  By utilizing a layer 1 switch to interconnect the devices in the lab, you can use iTest to overlay the lab topology on top of it on the fly.  I can see the allure of having this kind of capability in a larger lab environment, and should my lab ever grow to the point where it’s not a collection of cables assembled on a side table in my office, I’m sure having a software program like this would be a great boon to speed test setup and execution.

If you’d like to learn more about Spirent, you can check out their website over at http://www.spirent.com.  You can also follow them on Twitter as @Spirent.  You can find a link to the Spirent slide decks at http://www.slideshare.net/spirent.


Tom’s Take

Spirent has some amazing testing gear.  I’ve said as much previously.  What they’ve done since our last meeting is take what they have and shrink it down to the point where it makes cost-effective sense to the rest of the world not needing to test high-end network gear day in and day out.  The newer portable testing suite should appeal those people in the data center or service provider area that have SLAs that need to be met or constantly find themselves getting into arguments over performance numbers.  The rest of their presentation seemed to be an outgrowth of their testing strategies.  For instance, the zero-day cyberwarfare testing suite shows that they can apply the methodology of executing in-depth tests to a different market that requires a specific kind of results.  That shows me that someone inside Spirent is thinking outside the small little niche.  The new iTest software shows me that Spirent is trying to recognize a pain point that many of us weren’t sure could even be addressed.  It also tells me that Spirent isn’t just a one-trick pony and that we should expect to see more good things from them in the near future.

Tech Field Day Disclaimer

Spirent was a sponsor of Network Field Day 4.  As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Network Field Day 4.  In addition, they provided me with a gift bag containing a coffee mug, a pen, and a golfing tool of some sort. They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

More Network Field Day Coverage

Get More Juice From Your Network LabNetwork Sherpa

Opengear – A Box Full Of Awesome

Presenter number two at Network Field Day 4 was Opengear.  This was a company that I hadn’t heard much about.  A cursory glance at their website reveals that they make console servers among other interesting management devices.  Further searching turned up a post by Jeremy Stretch over at Packetlife about using one of the devices as the core of his free community lab.  If it’s good enough for Stretch, it’s good enough to pique my interest.

As you can see from the short opening, Opengear is dedicated to making network infrastructure management equipment like console servers as well as PDU management and environmental sensors.  Most interesting to me was the ACM5004-G unit the delegates received, which is a 4-port model with a 3G radio uplink.  They also make much more dense devices like the one in Stretch’s lab for those that are wanting something with a few more ports.  Most of the people I know that are looking at something like this for the CCIE lab use an old 2511 router with octal cables.  Those are fairly cheap on eBay but you are taking a risk with the hardware finally wearing out and being out of warranty.  As well, there are a ton of features that you can configure in the Opengear software (we’ll get to that in a minute.

Up next…is a caution for Opengear and other would-be Tech Field Day presenters.  Yes, I understand you are proud of your customer base and want to tell the world about all the cool people that use your product.  That being said, a single slide crammed full of logos, which I affectionately call “The NASCAR Slide” may be a better idea that slide after slide of each company broken down by industry vertical.  You have to think to yourself that filling 8-10 slides of your deck with other people’s logos is not only wasting time and space, but not doing a very good job of telling us what your product does.  All of the companies on that list probably use toilet paper as well, but we don’t see that on your slides.  Better to focus on your product.

Okay, now for awesome time.  Opengear’s management software has a bunch of bells and whistles to suit your fancy.  You can configure all manner things like multiple authentication methods for your users to prevent them from accessing consoles they aren’t supposed to see.  As the underpinnings of the whole Opengear system run on Linux, it’s no surprise that their monitoring software is built on top of Nagios.  This allows you to use their VCMS product to manage multiple disparate units.  Think about that.  You’re using the Opengear boxes to manage your equipment.  Now you can use their software to manage your Opengear boxes.  Those units can also be configured to “call home” over secured VPNs to ensure that your traffic isn’t flying across the Internet unencrypted.  VCMS can also use vendor-neutral commands to manage connected UPSes.  I can’t tell you the number of times having a device that could power cycle a UPS or PDU would have saved my bacon or prevented a trip across the state.  The VCMS can even script responses to events, such as triggering a power cycle if the system is hung or stops responding.

Next up is a demo of the software.  Worth a look if your interested in the gory details of the interface:

We finished off the day with a talk about some of the new and interesting things that Opengear is doing with their devices.  I think the story about configuring them to use a webcam to take pictures of people opening roadside boxes then upload the pictures to an FTP server running on the Opengear box that then sends the picture over 3G back to central location was the most interesting.  Of course, everyone immediately seized on the salmon farm as the strangest use case.  It’s clear that Opengear has a great solution that is only really limited by your imagination.

If you’d like to learn more about Opengear and their variety of products, you can check out their website at http://opengear.com.  You can also follow them on Twitter as @Opengear.


Tom’s Take

I can’t count the number of times that I’ve needed a console server.  Just that functionality alone would save me a lot of pain in some remote deployments I’ve had.  Opengear seems to have taken this idea and ran with it by adding on some great additional functionality, whether it be cellular uplinks or software controls for all manner of third party UPSes.  I think the fact that you can do so much with their boxes with a little imagination and some elbow grease means that we’re going to be hearing stories like the fish farm for a while to come.

Tech Field Day Disclaimer

Opengear was a sponsor of Network Field Day 4.  As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Network Field Day 4.  In addition, Opengear provided me with an ACM5004-G console server and a polo shirt. They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

Statseeker – Information Is Ammunition

The first presenter at Network Field Day 4 came to us from another time and place.  Stewart Reed came to us all the way from Brisbane, Australia to talk to us about his network monitoring software from Statseeker.  I’ve seen Statseeker before at Cisco Live and you likely have too if you been.  They’re the group that always gives away a Statseeker-themed Mini on the show floor.  They’ve also recently done a podcast with the Packet Pushers.

We got into the room with Stewart and he gave us a great overview of who Statseeker is and what they do:

He’s a great presenter and really hits on the points that differentiates Statseeker.  I was amazed by the fact that they said they can keep historical data for a very long period of time.  I’ve managed to crash a network monitoring system years ago by trying to monitor too many switch ports.  Keeping up with all that information was like drinking from a firehose.  Trying to keep that data for long periods of time was a fantasy.  Statseeker, on the other hand, has managed to find a way to not only keep up with all that information but keep it around for later use.  Stewart said one of my new favorite quotes during the presentation, “Whoever has the best notes wins.”  Not only do they have notes that go back for a long time, but their notes don’t suffer from averaging abstraction.  When most systems say that they keep data for long periods of time, what they really mean is that they keep the 15 or 30 minute average data for a while.  I’ve even seen some go to day or week data points in order to reduce the amount of stored data.  Statseeker takes one minute data polls and keeps those one minute data polls for the life of the data.  I can drill into the interface specs at 8:37 on June 10th, 2008 if I want.  Do you think anyone really wants to argue with someone that keeps notes like that?

Of course, what would Network Field Day be without questions:

One of the big things that comes right out in this discussion is the idea that Statseeker doesn’t allow for customer SNMP monitoring.  By restricting the number of OIDs that can be monitored to a smaller subset, this allows for the large-scale port monitoring and long term data storage that Statseeker can provide.  I mean, when you get right down to it, how many times have you had to write your own custom SNMP query for an odd OID?  The majority of the customers that Statseeker are likely going to have something like 90% overlap in what they want to look at.  Restricting the ability to get crazy with monitoring makes this product simple to install and easy to manage.  At the risk of overusing a cliche, this is more in line with Apple model of restriction with focus on ease of use.  Of course, if Statseeker wants to start referring to themselves as the Apple of Network Monitoring, by all means go right ahead.

The other piece from this second video that I liked was the mention that the minimum Statseeker license is 1000 units.  Stewart admits that below that price point, it argument for Statseeker begins to break down somewhat.  This kind of admission is refreshing in the networking world.  You can’t be everything to everyone.  By focusing on long term data storage and quick polling intervals, you obviously have to scale your system to hit a specific port count target.  If you really want to push that same product down into an environment that only monitors around 200 ports, you are going to have to make some concessions.  You also have to compete with smaller, cheaper tools like MRTG and Cacti. I love that they know where they compete best and don’t worry about trying to sell to everyone.

Of course, a live demo never hurts:

If you’d like to learn more about Statseeker, you can head over to their website at http://www.statseeker.com/.  You can also follow them on Twitter as @statseeker.  Be sure to tell them to change their avatar and tweet more.  You can see hear about Statseeker’s presentation in the Packet Pushers Priority Queue Show 14.


Tom’s Take

Statseeker has some amazing data gathering capabilities.  I personally have never needed to go back three years to win an argument about network performance, but knowing that I can is always nice.  Add in the fact that I can monitor every port on the network and you can see the appeal.  I don’t know if Statseeker really fits into the size of environment that I typically work in, but it’s nice to know that it’s there in case I need it.  I expect to see some great things from them in the future and I might even put my name in the hat for the car at Cisco Live next year.

Tech Field Day Disclaimer

Statseeker was a sponsor of Network Field Day 4.  As such, they were responsible for covering a portion of my travel and lodging expenses while attending Network Field Day 4. They did not ask for, nor where they promised any kind of consideration in the writing of this review.  The opinions and analysis provided within are my own and any errors or omissions are mine and mine alone.

Additional Network Field Day 4 Coverage:

StatseekerThe Lone Sysadmin

Statseeker – Keeping An Eye On The Little ThingsLamejournal

Network Field Day 4

I am once again humbled and honored to accept an invitation to my favorite industry event – Network Field Day (now in its fourth iteration).  Network Field Day 4 (NFD4) will be coming to you from San Jose October 10-12th.  The delegate lineup has a bunch of new faces that I’m excited to catch up with and/or meet for the first time:

https://i0.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/clintonswedding-wpcf_60x49.jpeg Anthony Burke @Pandom_
https://i0.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Plankers-wpcf_60x60.jpg Bob Plankers @Plankers
https://i1.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Casemore-wpcf_60x39.jpg Brad Casemore @BradCasemore
https://i2.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/brent-salisbury1-wpcf_60x60.jpeg Brent Salisbury @NetworkStatic
https://i0.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/cmcnamara-headshot-2011-color-scaled-wpcf_42x60.jpg Colin McNamara @ColinMcNamara
https://i2.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Ferro-wpcf_60x39.jpg Greg Ferro @EtherealMind
https://i0.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/mfMcNamara-60x60.jpeg Michael McNamara @mfMcNamara
https://i1.wp.com/techfieldday.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Paul-Small.png Paul Stewart @PacketU

This is a great crew with a lot to say and I’m anxious to see them unleashed on our assembled sponsors:

 

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Brocade – I’m betting that VCS is going to be up on the block this time around.  We got a chance to play with it a while back and we had a blast.  With the annoucements that you’ve made around Brocade Tech Day, I’d like to hear more about the VCS strategy and how it will dovetail into your other product lines.  I’d also like to hear more about the ADX and how you plan on terminating VXLAN tunnels in hardware.  Please be sure that you can talk about these in decent depth.  Being told over and over again that something is NDA when it shouldn’t be a huge mystery is a bit disconcerting.  Also, if Jon Hudson isn’t presenting, at least have him show up for a few minutes to say hello.  We love that guy.During Wireless Field Day 3, Gregor Vučajnk (@GregorVucajnk) had a great blog post about attending that had something that I’m going to borrow for this NFD outing.  He called out each of the participating sponsors and gave them a short overview of what he wanted to see from each of them.  I loved the idea, as it gives a bit more direction to the people making the decisions about presentation content.

Cisco Borderless – Please, please, oh please tell me what Borderless really means.  Even if it’s just “everything but data center and collaboration”.  I really want to know how you’re pulling all these product lines together to create synergy.  Otherwise, it’s still just going to be the routing BU, switching BU, and so on.  We had a great time listening to the last presentation about ASA CX and Wireshark on the Cat 4500.  More of that good stuff, even if it means you have to shave your presentation down a bit to accommodate.  Remember, we ask lots of questions.

Juniper – Firstly, I want a bit of talk about Ivan’s post exploring all the gooey details around QFabric.  I understand that in this case it may be a bit like the magician telling how the trick is done, but this is the kind of thing that fascinates me.  I’m also sure there’s going to be discussion around SDN and the Juniper approach to it.  The presentation at NFD2 was so great I want to see you keeping up the good work.

OpenGear – Hello there.  I know nothing about you beyond the cursory Google search.  It looks like you’ve got some interesting technology that could be of great use to network professionals.  Case studies and anecdotes about using a 3G console failover to prevent global chaos would be awesome.  Also, allowing us the opportunity to poke around on a box for a few minutes would rock.  I want to think about how I can use your product to make my life less miserable when it comes to offline console access.

Spirent – Hello again to you.  I didn’t know anything about Spirent last time, but now I see them everywhere I look.  Spirent is like the Good Housekeeping seal for network gear.  Lets dive deeper into things.  I know you’re squeamish about showing off GUIs and things like that, but we nerd out on those things.  Also, I want to talk about how you plan on building testing rigs to handle all the coming 100GigE traffic.  Show me how Spirent is going to keep up the Ginger Rogers mystique that I’ve associated with it.

Statseeker – Network Performance Management and monitoring can be a bit of a dry subject, but doing it with an accent from the Land Down Under could be a bit of a treat.  After your recent Packet Pushers episode, I want to drill down more into how you go about keeping all the monitoring data.  I’ve seen what overwhelming an NMS with data can do, and while it was a pretty light show, I want to prevent it from happening again.  I don’t expect you to bring one of your famous Minis to give away to the delegates, but don’t underestimate the power of bribery via Tim Tam.

Tech Field Day – Audience Participation

For those of you that like to follow along with the Tech Field Day delegates from the comfort of your office chair or recliner, you are more than welcome.  I’ve even seen people talking about taking the day off from work or making sure they aren’t on a remote site.  We will be streaming each of the presentations live at http://techfieldday.com.  Note that this stream does use uStream, so we aren’t optimized for mobile devices just yet.  We’re working on it, though.  We will also be spending a lot of time on Twitter discussing the presentations and questions about them.  Just make sure to use the hashtag #NFD4 and you can be a part of the discussion.  I love seeing discussion and commentary from all the people watching online.  I always make sure to keep my Twitter client at the forefront so I can ask questions from the home audience when they arise.  That way, I’m truly a delegate representing people and giving them a say in what shapes the events.

If you’d like to learn a little more about Tech Field Day, you can head over to http://techfieldday.com and read up on things.  You can also apply to be a delegate at this link.  I look forward to seeing you online and hearing from you at this Tech Field Day event.

Standard Tech Field Day Sponsor Disclaimer

Tech Field Day is a massive undertaking that involves the coordination of many moving parts.  It’s not unlike trying to herd cats with a helicopter.  One of the most important pieces is the sponsors.  Each of the presenting companies is responsible for paying a portion of the travel and lodging costs for the delegates.  This means they have some skin in the game.  What this does NOT mean is that they get to have a say in what we do.  No Tech Field Day delegate is every forced to write about the event due to sponsor demands. If a delegate chooses to write about anything they see at Tech Field Day, there are no restrictions about what can be said.  Sometimes this does lead to negative discussion.  That is entirely up to the delegate.  Independence means no restrictions.  At times, some Tech Field Day sponsors have provided no-cost evaluation equipment to the delegates.  This is provided solely at the discretion of the sponsor and is never a requirement.  This evaluation equipment is also not a contingency of writing a review, be it positive or negative.

Info about Open Flow

I will be attending the Packet Pushers OpenFlow Symposium at Network Field Day 2 next week in San Jose, CA.  OpenFlow is a disruptive technology that looks to change the way the many of us think about network traffic and how flows are distributed.  It’s still very early in the development phase, but thanks to Ethan Banks and Greg Ferro I’m going to get the change to listen to companies like Google and Yahoo talk about how they are using OpenFlow as well as hearing from network Vendors current supporting OpenFlow initiatives, like NEC, Juniper, and Big Switch Networks.

If you would like to brush up on some OpenFlow topics ahead of the symposium on Wednesday, October 26th, here are some great links to information about the ins and outs of OpenFlow:

Packet Pushers Show 68: Practical Introduction and Application of Ope Flow Networking – Watch this one first.  Greg really breaks down what OpenFlow is what it’s capable of.

Big Switch Network, OpenFlow, and Virtual NetworkingDerick Winkworth has done a great job at the Packet Pushers blog site going into depth about OpenFlow.  He’s an evangelist and has a lot of hope for what OpenFlow can do.  All of his articles are great, but this one in particular shows how one vendor is using OpenFlow.

IOS Hints Open Flow Posts – I’m just going to go ahead and link to the entire list of Ivan Pepelnjak’s OpenFlow posts.  He plays more of the realist and does a great job of digging deep into the current state of OpenFlow.  He’s also quick to keep us grounding in the fact that OpenFlow is still very young and has lots of potential if it ever takes off.  Worth a read after you’ve caught up on what OpenFlow is from the above sources.

If you have any questions about OpenFlow that you would like asked at the symposium, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll try to bring them up to the panel.  I look forward to attending this great event and learning more about the future of networking.