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…

Universal Scaling and Complexity

18 May 2016 | Comments Off on Universal Scaling and Complexity

The universal scaling law is a model designed to help engineers understand transaction based systems, particularly databases and applications. What could a transaction based system have to do with network design? After all, networks aren’t really transaction based, are they? Or maybe they are… Let’s ignore the data flowing through the network for a moment…

Why you should care about complexity

29 February 2016 |

If you look across a wide array of networking problems, you will see what is an apparently wide array of dissimilar and unrelated problems engineers deal with on a daily basis. For instance— Should I split this flooding domain into multiple parts? If so, where should I divide it? Which routing protocol should I use…