Weekend Reads 021519

How many tabs do you have open in your web browser right now? Be honest. A dozen? Two dozen? It’s okay, I’m no better. If you’re like me, you blame yourself for your horrible habit of leaving tabs open forever. —Luke Larsen

C-level executives often don’t have a clue when it comes to IT and application development. I’ve been analyzing survey data from IT end users for over 15 years, and responses received from business managers and even CIOs are often drastically different than what actual practitioners say. —Lawrence Hecht

If it’s now difficult to simply transport data from one place to the next, it’s humanly impossible to monitor and manage the data produced from distributed, hybrid, multicloud applications and environments. —Bhanu Singh

What could be more frightening than a service informing you that all your data is gone—every file and every backup servers are entirely wiped out? —Swati Khandelwal

The consolidation trend also has the potential to affect who participates in the IETF and how those in the industry view the value of standardization. Larger, more prosperous companies tend to have a greater ability to support standardization work, which is often paid for out of R&D or innovation budgets. —The Internet Society

Domains are an important element of internet infrastructure; their functionality and security rely upon many factors such as their delegated name servers. Name server delegations introduce complex and subtle inter-dependencies between domains and their authoritative name servers. —Matt Thomas

A recent DNS cache-poisoning attack that exploits a vulnerability found in mDNSResponder, a component used in name resolution in a variety of operating systems, illustrates one of the ways in which academic research is having an impact on commercial computing on a far faster cycle than the years typically associated with research and publication at universities. —Curtis Franklin, Jr.

Much has been written about blockchains and how they displace, reshape, or eliminate trust. But when you analyze both blockchain and trust, you quickly realize that there is much more hype than value. Blockchain solutions are often much worse than what they replace. —Bruce Schneier

Applications do not need to use all elements of a system all the time, and usually not all at the same time for that matter. And not all elements of a system need to be upgraded at the same time, either. A composable system architecture, which seeks to smash the server and put it back together again with interconnects and software and which a number of system makers are working on right now, aims to solve these problems. —Timothy Prickett Morgan

Learn to Code?

A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far away, I went to school to learn art and illustration. In those long ago days, folks in my art and illustration classes would sometimes get into a discussion about what, precisely, to do with an art degree. My answer was, ultimately, to turn it into a career building slides and illustrations in the field of network engineering. 😊 And I’m only half joking.

The discussion around the illustration board in those days was whether it was better to become an art teacher, or to focus just on the art and illustration itself. The two sides went at it hammer and tongs over weeks at a time. My only contribution to the discussion was this: even if you want to be the ultimate in the art world, a fine artist, you must still have a subject. While much of modern art might seem to be about nothing much at all, it has always seemed, to me, that art must be about something.

This week I was poking around one of the various places I tend to poke on the ‘net and ran across this collage. Click to see the full image.

Get the point? If you are a coal miner out of work, just learn to code. This struck me as the same sort of argument we used to have in our art and illustration seminars. But what really concerns me is the number of people who are considering leaving network engineering behind because they really believe there is no future in doing this work. They are replacing “learn network engineering” with “learn to code.”

Not to be too snarky, but sure—you do that. Let me know how it goes when you are out there coding… what, precisely? The entire point of coding is to code something useful, not to just run off and build trivial projects you can find in Git and code training classes.

It seems, to me, that if you are an artist, having some in-depth knowledge of something in the real world would make your art have more impact. If you know, for instance, farming, then you can go beyond just getting the light right. If you know farming, then you can paint (or photograph) a farm with much more understanding of what is going on in the images, and hence to capture more than just the light or the mood. You can capture the movement, the flow of work, even the meaning.

In the same way, it seems, to me, that if you are coder, having some in-depth knowledge of something you might build code for would mean your code will have more impact. It might be good to have a useful subject, like maybe… building networks? Contrary to what seems to be popular belief, building a large-scale network is still not a simple thing to do. So long as there are any kind of resource constraints in the design, deployment, and operation of networks, I do not see how it can ever really be an “easy thing to do.”

So yes—learn to code. I will continue to encourage people to learn to code. But I will also continue to encourage folks to learn how to design, build, and operate big networks. All of us cannot sit around and code full time, after all. There are still engineering problems to be solved in other areas, challenges to be tackled, and things to be built.

Coding is a good skill, but understanding how networks really work, how to design them, how to build them, and how to operate them, are also all good skills. Learning to code can multiply your skills as a network engineer. But if you do not have network engineering skills to start with, multiplying them by learning to code is not going to be the most useful exercise.

Weekend Reads 020719

When the 2015 rules were passed, the FCC moved to regulate the internet as a telecommunications service, as opposed to the less stringent classification of an information service, a change that was then reversed in 2017. —Colin Lecher

Imagine this: an enormous tech company is tracking what you do on your phone, even when you’re not using any of its services, down to the specific images that you see. —Sydney Li and Jason Kelley

The new head of a congressional antitrust panel has vowed to take on big technology companies that “threaten our democracy”, the latest sign of a growing cross-party Washington consensus that Silicon Valley has grown too powerful. —David Smith

Moore’s Law has underwritten a remarkable period of growth and stability for the computer industry. The doubling of transistor density at a predictable cadence has fueled not only five decades of increased processor performance, but also the rise of the general-purpose computing model. However, according to a pair of researchers at MIT and Aachen University, that’s all coming to an end. —Michael Feldman

Deciding what products can improve an organization’s network security is a complex process. You must weigh a number of factors as part of the purchase decision, one of the most crucial of which is the impact of the product on network performance. —Brian Monkman

In May 2017, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst drew a stark conclusion in his keynote presentation at the annual Red Hat Summit event in San Francisco: “Planning as we know it is dead.” He said those same words again during a Red Hat planning session in October of 2018, when a cross-functional group of Red Hat leaders assembled to assess the current state of the business and discuss the roadmap for the coming year. —Sam Knuth

During the time that I’ve managed security teams and operation centres, it has always struck me that the understanding of security leadership in most organizations is either absent or vague. This in turn leads to difficulties in understanding the role of a security team in the organization, which can carry further cost, as this article by Brian Krebs points out. —Hinne Hettema

Don’t be fooled into believing digital transformation (DX) can justify your bucket list of technology innovations. As a way to support DX, technologies such as containers, microservices and edge networking – The New Stack’s coverage sweet spot – are each only a priority at about 37 percent of organizations, according to a just-released report by The Economist Intelligence Unit and sponsored by BMC Software. —Lawrence Hecht