PALO ALTO, Calif. – Bob Metcalfe is trying to avert the next big war in the communications industry. Specifically, he is trying to get two competing sides of the debate over software-defined networks to form an alliance.
The father of Ethernet is an appropriate elder statesman for such a role. While spending a day back on the Xerox PARC campus where the technology got its start, he talked to a trio of reporters here about his peace efforts, his opinions on other issues of the day and plans for a 40th anniversary celebration for Ethernet.
Software-defined networking is an approach to making nets as programmable as computers. It’s being driven by the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), a group of “mostly computer companies like Google,” Metcalfe said.
By contrast, much of today’s network traffic runs over carrier-class Ethernet systems made by members of the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), a group of “carriers and companies like Cisco,” he said.
“It would be really boring if those two organizations wound up at war because we have done that five times before, so why do it again?” quipped the veteran of battles between his 3Com and Ethernet vs. IBM and Token Ring.
Metcalfe recently hosted a dinner between MEF chairman Nan Chen and ONF chair Dan Pitt. He also gave a speech encouraging MEF to embrace SDN and the two to forge an alliance.
"My secret weapon is the Ethernet 40th anniversary,” Metcalfe said. “It is really a project to unify the two and give peace a chance," he said.
“I also discovered no one really knows what SDN is,” he added.
Indeed, the industry has debated the fine points of software-defined networks for nearly two years. The technology could radically disrupt traditional comms systems vendors such as Cisco that implement network features in proprietary ASICs and software.
A passionately opinionated Bob Metcalfe makes a point to reporters in the Xeroc PARC cafe.
Not sure I agree with this disruption thesis...I have done both on-line and on campus teaching as a lecturer and prof as well as course participant...in my experience teaching in class was 10x more effective...if someone took a course in IC design at MIT without passing any mid-terms and exams I would have little faith that they actually know anything useful to hire them...if someone is taking Python course on-line training might be sufficient so it clearly has its place...but specialized, high value education will not disappear...so at the end we will have the same number of people being able to design ICs but more people being able to do Python coding...Kris
I agree. There is a big difference between iTune vs. traditional physical record/music stores and online courses vs. on campus teaching.
The value of having a local store and its sales personnel cannot be compared with the value of a great teacher/professor, the course design, the study environment, the atmosphere, the discussions & human interactions in the learning process... etc. The list goes on.
Kris, couldn't agree more! I have spent about 5 years of my life in academics and can clearly state that nothing replaces classroom teaching, Python included!
But there is something here in SDN's that the networking giants like Cisco push back instead of innovating using SDN. Self-preservation is clearly one of them but it seems these giants are missing bigger opportunities doing so!
Well, that article kind of wandered all over the place. At first, I thought it was going to be about software defined networks, but it quickly moved on to the size of the DoD workforce invoved in cybersecurity, online education, and even immigration policy!
Okay, I agree wholeheartedly with the immigration policy point. But I would have preferred more coverage on software defined networks. Certainly, if the "need for speed" drives the Ciscos of the world to do routing in hardware, and someone tells them that they want to do everything in software, there will be a major disconnect. Not sure how Metcafe wants to resolve that.
Metcalfe said “If you believe as I do that ignorance is the real problem with the human race, we are about to solve it."
Uhhh, that's not universal. We are just going to widen the divide between those who are motivated to learn and improve themselves and those who would rather look out the window and grow up angry and frustrated that they can't find work and turn to dealing drugs or stolen TVs.
“If you believe as I do that ignorance is the real problem with the human race, we are about to solve it."
I appreciate Metcalfe's contributions and I'm sure he's a brilliant man, but ignorance doesn't seem to me to be the worst problem we face. The Nazi geneticists were anything but ignorant, yet they enthusiastically subjected men, women and children to horrific tests.
I'll quote Immanuel Kant, "Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made."
It is the crookedness that defines us - the unpredictable part of human nature that brings about disaster and wonder. I would stick with crookedness any day rather then neat rules made for the last war/technological breakthrough/whatever. They say the Generals always fight the last war - I would say that Engineers always look to the last solution.
Europe lived for 1 1/2 millennia following the rules of physics laid down by Aristotle - who never questioned what happened when you tied a rock to a string and spun it around your head. Where does the force come from? It's not 'the nature of things to fall to the center' as he said. He saw linear motion as 'violence' and circular motion as 'divine' - this gave the Church an opening to condemn Galileo for looking at Jupiter's moons and the earth's moon and drawing non-standard conclusions from his seeing.
This begs the question - where are our blind spots? What don't we see because we know it already?
It may be software defined networks - the big players have a lot invested in hardware - but this is a triviality in the overall issue - do we let this technology define us or do we define the technology in the light of what we are?
Social nyetworks, Apple's walled gardens, Google's user-specific search results - these are all chains that link us to what we are right now, that fight the last war, that solve the problems that have already been solved.
The challenge is to see the next problems - and not in some 'Third Wave' BS marketology - but in a human form that breaks the chains yet leaves us as what we are - evolving Primates.
David Patterson, known for his pioneering research that led to RAID, clusters and more, is part of a team at UC Berkeley that recently made its RISC-V processor architecture an open source hardware offering. We talk with Patterson and one of his colleagues behind the effort about the opportunities they see, what new kinds of designs they hope to enable and what it means for today’s commercial processor giants such as Intel, ARM and Imagination Technologies.