#0x0000 – Perspectives of an Old Networker

I’m an old guy. I first got into data networking in the mid 1980’s while I was working at Cray Research. That was before variable length subnet masks existed (RIPv1, baby!), before NAT existed, before RFC 1918 Private Addresses existed, and before 10BaseT was standardized. We used Sun file servers with multiple Ethernet interfaces as our IP routers, which is where I first crossed paths with TCP/IP. One of my responsibilities was administration of our department’s two Sun file servers and about 40 desktop workstations. After a few instances of reporting “network problems” to the Corporate Computing & Networks group (CCN) and being told the problem was with my servers, I decided I would learn enough about it to troubleshoot any problems with my stuff before I reported the problem to someone else (I hate boomerang problems!) This led to my interest in networking, and my subsequent transfer out of the marketing department I was in to the CCN group and the beginning of my career in data networking.

I mention all this not to give a history lesson, but instead to set the baseline for my perspectives on the networking industry, how it’s changed, and some of the technologies that have come and gone in the 35 years or so that I’ve been doing this stuff (I’m looking at you AppleTalk, Token Ring, and FDDI). I’m far from an expert in all things networking, in spite of my active Cisco CCIE status for just over 24 years now. Even so, I have a broad technical background and can usually follow along with the definitions and descriptions of most protocols, algorithms, hardware, and software systems closely enough to feel reasonably comfortable with how they work and to be able to judge just how optimistic a sales pitch for them may be. I spent almost 24 years working for a network reseller providing technical support for our enterprise customers, some big, some small, and a lot in between, so I’ve seen a wide range of network designs and technologies and interacted very closely with the people who sold them. During that time some rules of thumb have gradually changed or expired (“route when you can, bridge when you must”), and others have held up pretty well (“Complexity seldom increases stability”, which is really just the KISS Principle). This is my first blog post, and I expect future posts to include discussions of some of the various philosophies and attitudes I’ve developed over those years. I also enjoy teaching/training/mentoring, so I expect I’ll also include some small tutorials on things that I’ve found useful in my career and that I think may benefit others, perhaps even in the form of some YouTube videos.

So, that’s where I’m coming from. I welcome all questions, comments, suggestions, and requests, so please feel free to contact me at the slightest provocation.