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Networking Unplugged

Perspectives on cloud networking and software-defined WANs

Posted February 26, 2014
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When a Router isn’t Really a Router

Back in the day, I was the big shot who owned and operated the network. Nobody else could do the things I could do, and every single one of them knew it. I couldn't close deals or manage accounts payable, and they didn't have a clue about VLAN configurations or managed switches. It was all understood and it was efficient. Everyone knew their roles and everything worked just fine. Until it didn't.

Almost overnight, everything seemed to change. People started using wireless "routers" at home, along with smartphones, laptops and tablets that changed hands from adults to teenagers to four-year-old kids. They started buying home media servers, Buffalo NAS boxes and really lousy $40 “routers" that had to be rebooted at least once a week.

Before that, I spent what little time I had building real, reliable business networks, so people could access the files they needed. Finance needed to access Oracle, and engineers needed to check in builds and access code repositories. It was all networked, local, and under my control.

And then one day, some joker built his very own “home network" and decided I should be the one to have to manage it. It was "just going to be another part of our network, right?"

I tried to explain - oh so many times - why the Internet wasn't going to be part of my - err - our network. I talked about things like encryption, AV, anti-malware, firewalls and all the powerful security technologies used to keep the terrifying parts of the Internet from worming their ways into our servers and desktops. But this particularly stubborn co-worker didn't seem to understand.

Now, I had to provide business-grade tools and services, while balancing the new wave of consumer-grade IT services. We couldn't have our business switches demanding reboots every seven days like some weak at-home router. Every service in my network needed full redundancy and reliability. We needed backups and failover. I knew then, as I know now, that business networks and home networks are similar in name only.

Ubiquitous web access and expanding consumer-grade services were making my job so much tougher, as I desperately tried to educate business on the value of backups, reliability and business-grade networks. Now, many of my coworkers - and some of the execs - believed they were networking gurus, because they had their very own networks at home. They believed networking meant "connecting through the Internet," and all it required was a cheap slab of hardware from Best Buy.

They believed networking should be a quick and easy way to leverage instant services through the cloud. And, I have to say, it's not a bad vision. The idea that networking could be simple, require less time, while offering managed, secure access in the cloud? That's a powerful concept that could make a whole lot of people’s lives a whole lot easier.

Chris Webber

Chris Webber

Product Manager

I've been on both the smart and dumb ends of the helpdesk phone, owned telephony and mobility, managed security policies and implementation, built and maintained site-to-site and internal networks, and owned and maintained "the lab" more times than I care to recall. After spending time at web security, cloud security, networking, and mobile companies, I'm now a Product Manager at Pertino.

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