In the networking world, many equate simplicity with the fewest number of moving parts. According to this line of thinking, if there are 100 routers, 10 firewalls, 3 control planes, and 4 management systems in a network, then reducing the number of routers to 95, the number of firewalls to 8, the number of control planes to 1, and the number of management systems to 3 would make the system “much simpler.”
The world of information technology is filled, often to overflowing, with those who “know better.” For instance, I was recently reading an introduction to networking in a very popular orchestration system that began with the declaration that: ‘routing was hard, and therefore this system avoided routing’. The document then went on to describe a system of moving packets around using multiple levels of Network Address Translation (NAT) and centrally configured policy-based routing (or filter-based forwarding) that was clearly simpler than the distributed protocols used to run large-scale networks. I thought, for a moment, of writing the author and pointing out the system in question had merely reinvented routing in a rather inefficient and probably broken way, but I relented.
I hung out with Matt Oswalt on video for a bit yesterday, where we chatted about automation, data center fabrics and routing protocols, and just life.
There are many times in networking history, and in the day-to-day operation of a network, when an engineer has been asked to do what seems to be impossible. Maybe installing a circuit faster than a speeding bullet or flying over tall buildings to make it to a remote site faster than any known form of conveyance short of a transporter beam (which, contrary to what you might see in the movies, has not yet been invented).
Most concerns about monopoly focus on the way content is produced, moderated, and sold. While content providers do use filtering, suggestions, and algorithm adjustments to “manage” discussion and control the Overton window of permitted opinion, there is a deeper layer that is not always factored in: the control providers have over content impacts the physical infrastructure of the internet.
According to RFC1925, the second fundamental truth of networking is: No matter how hard you push and no matter what the priority, you can’t increase the speed of light. However early in the world of network engineering this problem was first observed (see, for instance, Tanenbaum’s “station wagon example” in Computer Networks), human impatience is forever trying to overcome the limitations of the physical world, and push more data down the pipe than mother nature intended (or Shannon’s theory allows).