Research: Robustness in Complex Systems

21 May 2018 | Comments Off on Research: Robustness in Complex Systems

While the network engineering world tends to use the word resilience to describe a system that will support rapid change in the real world, another word often used in computer science is robustness. What makes a system robust or resilient? If you ask a network engineer this question, the most likely answer you will get…

Reaction: DNS Complexity Lessons

16 April 2018 | Comments Off on Reaction: DNS Complexity Lessons

Recently, Bert Hubert wrote of a growing problem in the networking world: the complexity of DNS. We have two systems we all use in the Internet, DNS and BGP. Both of these systems appear to be able to handle anything we can throw at them and “keep on ticking.” this article was crossposted to CircleID…

The EIGRP SIA Incident: Positive Feedback Failure in the Wild

9 April 2018 | Comments Off on The EIGRP SIA Incident: Positive Feedback Failure in the Wild

Reading a paper to build a research post from (yes, I’ll write about the paper in question in a later post!) jogged my memory about an old case that perfectly illustrated the concept of a positive feedback loop leading to a failure. We describe positive feedback loops in Computer Networking Problems and Solutions, and in…

Short Take: Complexity Wormhole

27 March 2018 | Comments Off on Short Take: Complexity Wormhole

Applying Software Agility to Network Design

30 October 2017 |

The paper we are looking at in this post is tangential to the world of network engineering, rather than being directly targeted at network engineering. The thesis of On Understanding Software Agility—A Social Complexity Point of View, is that at least some elements of software development are a wicked problem, and hence need to be…

Complexity and the Thin Waist

10 July 2017 |

In recent years, we have become accustomed to—and often accosted by—the phrase software eats the world. It’s become a mantra in the networking world that software defined is the future. full stop This research paper by Microsoft, however, tells a different story. According to Baumann, hardware is the new software. Or, to put it differently,…

On the ‘Net: Engineer Versus Complexity

1 December 2016 | Comments Off on On the ‘Net: Engineer Versus Complexity

Reaction: Keith’s Law

27 October 2016 | Comments Off on Reaction: Keith’s Law

Ethan pointed me to this post about complexity and incremental improvement in a slack message. There are some interesting things here, leading me in a number of different directions, that might be worth your reading time. The post begins with an explanation of what the author calls “Keith’s law”— I am going to paraphrase the…

Reaction: Devops and Dumpster Fires

19 September 2016 |

Networking is often a “best effort” type of configuration. We monkey around with something until it works, then roll it into production and hope it holds. As we keep building more patches on to of patches or try to implement new features that require something to be disabled or bypassed, that creates a house of…

On the ‘net: Crashes and Complexity

16 August 2016 | Comments Off on On the ‘net: Crashes and Complexity

It’s a familiar story by now: on the 8th of August, 2016, Delta lost power to its Atlanta data center, causing the entire data center to fail. Thousands of flights were cancelled, many more delayed, and tens of thousands of travellers stranded. What’s so unusual about this event is in the larger scheme of network…