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TFI2014 Keynote: Russ White!

Russ WhiteWe are very pleased to announce that our keynote speaker for TFI2014 is Russ White!

Russ White has over 25 years of experience in network engineering from operating systems to network architecture. Russ is a Principal Engineer at Ericsson in the IPOS Team, where he works on large scale design, control planes, Internet governance, network complexity puzzles, and anything else that comes along. He currently serves as a member of the IETF’s Routing Area Directorate and as a Cochair of the Internet Society’s Advisory Council.

While working on meteorological and airfield navigation equipment in the US Air Force, Russ became involved in the installation of a fiber backbone at McGuire AFB, and developed an interest in all things networking. After moving to the Raleigh, NC, area, with his wife, he became a member of the Cisco TAC’s Routing Protocols backline TRT. Moving to Cisco’s Global Escalation Team led to a quick rampup in network design skills by working on failed network designs in some of the world’s largest networks. This led to the publication of Advanced IP Network Design, which kicked off a series of nine books in the network engineering field, covering routing protocols to router architecture to The Art of Network Architecture.

Russ holds both a BSIT and MSIT in network technologies from Capella University, and a MACM in Biblical Literature from Shepherds Theological Seminary. He currently posts regularly at Packet Pushers, and speaks worldwide. His current research interests include network complexity, particularly in the areas of network design and understanding the tradeoffs between centralized and decentralized control planes. He is working on a new book on Addison-Wesley in the area of network complexity.

We got a chance to ask Russ; how does the network of the future differ from today’s? Here’s what he had to say:

The computer networking world is facing an existential event — the very paradigm through which we view what began as a motley collection of a few mainframes, and is now a huge multinational business, is being challenged by a simple idea: let’s centralize the control plane. But before we declare the end of the world as we know it, and before we declare the paradigm shift complete, let’s take stock of a little history. The truth is, we’ve seen this all happen before. The computer world is one of pendulums and perpetual motion machines; it’s been estimated that the half life of any skill set in the networking world is around two and a half years. Every five years, any particular skill is probably about one quarter as useful as when you learned it; in ten years the skill has become almost too embarrassing to put on your resume. There is a clarity in the moment when the pendulum starts to swing, however, that we cannot find when the pendulum is at its ultimate reach. This current moment, when centralized control planes seem to be gathering steam for a complete takeover of the entire networking world through this thing we call the software defined network, should be one of those moments of clarity.

But what is it we should learn? Maybe I can answer that question by offering a vision of what computer networks could be.

The computer network of the future should be ubiquitous — that seems to be a given. But it should not be forgotten. The computer network of the future should be able to disperse policy easily, but it should not be centralized to the point of fragility. The computer network of the future should add convenience and value to our lives, but it should not contribute to a loss of privacy and human freedom. For anyone familiar with the stock arguments of the last several years, these might seem like contradictory goals.

Perhaps, if we use this moment of clarity, and think seriously about what the software defined network really can be, we can find a way to move past the stock discussions and realize all of these goals.

Taking the challenge and promise of software defined networking seriously can help us bring clarity to questions about when it makes sense to centralize, and when it makes sense to distribute — and what the best way to centralize should be, once we’ve decided what to centralize. Taking this challenge seriously can help to think about our processes as network engineers, possibly moving us from flying by the seat of our pants to fly-by-wire. Taking this challenge seriously can help us to think through security and profit, and bring the ethical dimension into our work.

SDNs, defined in their broadest sense, are an important part of that conversation, and an important part of the future of computer networking.

Join us next Friday, 22 August 2014, for The Future of the Internet 2014: Defining Software Defined Networks and hear more from Russ. Be sure to register today, and don’t forget to tell your friends and colleagues – this is one event you do not want to miss!

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