A lot has happened since the summer for Patty, Carl, Nellie, and me. I should have a perma-link to our family site here, but until I redesign it, I’ll have to do with the occasional re-post of a link like this one. Go have a look!
Beijing has been a great experience, but I want Patty to consent to move with Nellie and me to Tokyo this summer. The below is a list of just a few of the great sites and articles I’m trying to tempt her with:
So this strange new world has you a bit confused, has it? Remember when networking things together was the cool thing to do? Well, most things are interconnected now, the only remaining mysteries around that are how much faster the connections will get, and how compromised these connections will be by regulation and corporate contention. The really cool stuff now is in the data the networks carry and the software and hardware that create and use it.
For many of us coming to this realization from the network side of the house, getting across it all has been a challenge, and the dynamic nature of these industries now makes it tough to stay on top of everything. But luckily there are people smarter than I who publish their thoughts in various formats. I do my best to stay on top of their output, and if you care about this stuff, you probably should too. My list of them is here.
In the early days of the Internet, most routing in LANs and what passed for datacenters was handled by servers. In the early architectures proposed by Microsoft and Novell, for example, the servers themselves were responsible for forwarding traffic. This worked fine when LAN speeds maxed out at 10Mbps or less.
As networks got faster and denser, the need for purpose-built switching and routing became more important. And this was the opportunity seized by companies like Wellfleet, Bay Networks, and of course Cisco to build huge empires. The architectures of these companies’ early routers were similar to the “routing servers” they replaced. They were simply optimized for packet forwarding, with better form factors and operating systems that devoted most of their processing power to moving packets rather than serving files.
The continued evolution of the internet meant that routing became more complex, using new and more advanced protocols for controlling packet flows at increasingly faster speeds. In the late 1990s, router manufacturers decided to take a new architectural approach, to separate the control functions of routing from the simpler business of packet forwarding, and assigning each to the most appropriate hardware subsystem. The routing control systems and protocols were felt to be best handled by a flexible operating system running on a general-purpose Intel processor (“smart but slow”), while the fast handling of the packets themselves was only possible by the use of purpose-specific ASICs (“dumb but fast.”)
Here’s a great article about the guy behind one of the giants we’ll be dealing with for a long time, Alibaba. I saw Jack Ma and Jerry Yang at the same All Things D conference in 2011, and the difference in their personas was exactly matched to those of Alibaba and Yahoo at the time. JM wiped the floor with JY.
The article gives multiple examples of how things get done in China, with unilateral decision making, scant oversight (even from the boards of listed companies,) and deals with close friends. It’s really worth a read.
Alibaba will list on the NYSE this week for > US$150B.
On the advice of a colleague, I recently read Henry Kissinger’s On China. Without the recommendation, I wouldn’t have looked twice, because hey, I’ve lived and done business in China for the past nine years, and while I may not exactly be 中国通, I have read a lot, discussed a lot, and fancy myself at least a bit knowledgeable. I didn’t feel reading yet another general book about how not to cause offense at dinner, how to handle baijiu or what the Chinese think about the US would do too much for me. Continue reading
After 12 years at Juniper, I made this post, and it’s hard to believe that I’ve already switched jobs again, this time to Brocade Communications. This post is quite late, I joined Brocade in April of this year.
It’s hard to know what to write about my 14-month career at Cisco. I was so excited to join them, and I was promised all sorts of things. Unfortunately few of them came true. The hiring I was supposed to do, the function my job represented, the stability and reduced travel I craved – all were far below my expectations. Add to this that in those 14 months, I had three different jobs and five different managers, and you’ll get the overall idea.
I was employee number 376 at Juniper, and I stayed there until we had about 8000 employees. That was quite a ride, and even though I grew to dislike the bureaucracy and politics of the company when it got big, I always understood and connected with the message we carried and the overall mission we were on. Ironically, my thinking when joining Cisco and their 70,000 employees was “they’re SO much bigger, they must have some of this stuff figured out by now.” Wrong again, they don’t! Continue reading
After you live in China for a while, you get used to some things about life here – even including the GFW. My friends who live elsewhere are always surprised to hear about the things we can’t use online here, either wired or mobile. Here’s a quick list:
- New York Times
- Many sites in Japan
- Anything “adult” related
- Almost anything related to religion
- Anything related to bit torrent or file sharing
- Most visible VPN providers
- Thousands of other sites
Badly Messed Up
- Everything else in the Google universe
- VPN services in general
- Almost everything else foreign to some degree
The situation is continually shifting though. Some sites like Facebook and Twitter seem to be on a permanent shit list, while some other very large sites like the NY Times and Bloomberg are engaged in high-profile squabbles with the Chinese government, and their GFW status changes to reflect their current status.
For knowing in real time what’s happening, there are sites like http://www.blockedinchina.net/ that purport to let you enter a URL for checking, but in fact both this and other sites are often wrong.
My kids don’t remember 9/11 very well, so I wrote this to give them my personal perspective on that day. Twelve years ago we were living at the lake house while ours was being renovated, when Patty called from town with the news that a plane had hit the World Trade Center. That, of course, was the beginning of a horrible day where 3000 innocent people died and the world completely changed. The stupid wars in the middle east, the willful misrepresentation of religion, a continual sense of fear, and even the security scanners we all have to go through in airports all stem from the events of that day.
Almost every September 11 since then, a civic group has arranged 88 searchlights in the near the footprint of the twin towers, shining them up into the sky in tribute to the people who died that day and to the memory of the World Trade Center itself. This memorial means a lot to me, because like many New Yorkers, I identified strongly with the towers, and it grieves me that they’re not there any more. I live in China now, and don’t get to New York much, but coincidentally happened to be at a company event this week and staying on West 48th Street.
And tonight, even though I had of course remembered the date, I was with customers on a small cruise ship in New York harbor, and had largely forgotten the towers as our party progressed. We were concentrating on the Statue of Liberty when the ship turned around, and everyone suddenly noticed the lights, shining up in the dusk. As we continued and the darkness took over, the lights became more vivid, and I took the photo above. So beautiful and awful. Looking at this, I would like my children, and everyone else, to think for a moment of the people who died there. And then perhaps think for another moment of how our actions and words can help prevent hatred and anger from driving people to hurt others.