Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Steady as she goes....

Here's the thing about being involved with a startup - the ride can be a bit choppy. The daily crests and troughs that you ride on the seas of a startup company are definitely exciting - albeit not for everyone. So, like every other startup, we here at Vyatta have daily waves that we need to ride.

I'm constantly reminded of a quote from a friend of mine who rode up the big waves with me during the dot.com bubble in the late '90s, "The ride up was pretty fun, but the ride down sure was exhilarating!"

The challenge for us and our community is to remember that we're on a long sail here. We can't change the networking industry over night or even over a month or two. Folks need to recall that Linux hit some pretty choppy water in the early days before things got into more smooth sailing (and that took years). And even at this point, I'm not sure that anyone at any of the Linux vendors would think that they are sailing on glass with the wind in their sails, but I'd contend that the seas are far smoother than they were a few years back.

So, steady as she goes.... Thanks for the help of our community and the interaction on the mailing lists and on our wiki. As we all sails these seas together I am confident that we'll be able to sail some great waves and navigate out of the troughs together!

Friday, May 26, 2006

What do you do with an Advisory Board?

As many of you may have seen, we've been steadily adding to our advisory board over the past few weeks. Our latest edition is Tony Li who is well-known in the networking market given his past experiences at Cisco, Juniper and Procket. We're glad to have Tony on board!

Now that we're approaching a quorum of advisors, we've started fielding questions from folks about how we plan on using the advisory board to further our progress. I've run a few advisory boards in my past and been on many more, sometimes with good results and sometimes with not so good results. I think that one of the keys in making a good advisory board is to use the board as real advisors. In other words, don't sign up advisors solely for marquee name or market presence, but sign them up because they have deep subject matter expertise and a healthy dose of reality and skepticism toward the company they are advising.

Given that philosophy, we plan on using our advisors as sounding boards for product direction, community building and as open source advocates. We expect them to be a bit cynical and skeptical about our plans on all of these issues. We don't need advisors that are PollyAnna types (we can make ourselves believe we are doing well anytime we want :). We want them to push and challenge us in ways that we have not thought of to date.

I expect that we'll meet with our advisors on a regular basis either one-on-one or as a group. I expect that each of these meetings may leave us feeling a bit challenged and overwhelmed about some aspect of our business. I hope we'll be a stronger business in the process.

What do you do with an Advisory Board? Ask them to push us to make Vyatta a better company. And then ask them to push a bit harder. :)

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wiring tapping changes Internet culture?

I was intrigued this morning by the article on Wired News about the AT&T whistle-blower on the NSA spying program. The political implications of this news are interesting and do make good talk radio, although I was at first more interested in the technology that the NSA was using to do the wire-tapping. I had always suspected that some of the technology in use was by Narus, but never saw anything in writing to prove this fact [Full Disclosure: Narus is a JPMorgan Partners investment, the organization that sends me paychecks]. After I read the technical details of how the wire-tapping was done (nothing earth-shattering, IMHO) I began to think about the cultural implications of this news.

Now that we have strong suspicions (innocent until proven guilty, right?) about what the NSA was doing, this made me do some thinking about how the culture of the Internet would change if we all knew that everything that we were sending electronically was being watched by the NSA or the government. I've always suspected that some of my Internet communication was being watched - it's hard to travel to Singapore, China or Russia (or apparently San Francisco :-|) and think that the government is not monitoring your data when you're connected to SingTel, ChinaTel or Rostelkom. But, if you absolutely knew that the NSA was seeing all of your data, would you act differently on the Internet? Would your email text change? Your IM chats? Your Skype calls? Your gaming habits?

I'd suspect not. You might not like knowing someone else is watching, but I don't think it will dramatically change your habits on the Internet. Similarly, I'll bet that thousands of cameras watching public places throughout the world have not changed your walking, driving, banking, dining or business habits.

Don't get me wrong here - I hate knowing that someone is looking over my shoulder and applaud the efforts of the EFF and others fighting for my privacy. I'm just suggesting that the genie is out of the bottle and she may have been out for longer than we knew. I'm just wondering if the culture of the Internet will change as a result... Your thoughts?

Thursday, May 11, 2006

How big can we scale?

From the outset of Vyatta we've been focused on the small-to-medium enterprise (SME) market for our initial products. I've written here about how we don't see our focus on the Small Office/Home Office (SOHO) market nor on the Internet core. We just don't see how the commodity hardware that we're testing could scale down to the SOHO market or scale up to the needs of the new monoliths like AT&T and Verizon.

Yet, recently, I've been hearing about folks that are building large scale platforms with fiber-based switch fabrics and lots of compute power that run Linux as their core operating system. I'm specifically talking about people like Rackable Systems, Verari, and Liquid Computing. Today, most of these systems are focused on being utilized for high performance computing (HPC) or corporate grids, but I don't think that it is a far leap to think about these platforms being useful as a distributed routing/firewall platform.

I can imagine a hardware platform with non-blocking fiber switch fabric that scales to dozens or even hundreds of compute blades working in unison. The compute blades could be proprietary hardware or even commodity off the shelf, depending on the reliability and performance needs. Connect that platform with a few 10GigE ports to a network and I think you may have the next generation carrier routing system. Vyatta running on Linux in that environment should be quite scalable. And, just for fun, let's run Xen and virtualize the whole thing! Thoughts?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mike Schroepfer - our newest advisor!

We announced today that Mike Schroepfer, the current VP of Engineering for Mozilla, is the newest addition to our advisory board. With Mike on board, we're clearly going to have some good contacts into the open source world!

I met Mike a few months back through a mutual friend as we were getting Vyatta up and running. He and I had a great initial conversation about open source trends, licensing issues, product development methodologies and software distribution. After our initial meeting I thought that I'd like to get him more involved with Vyatta and we found time to connect on more occasions over the past months. The announcement today was the next logical step toward getting Mike involved with our growing open source networking community.

Welcome aboard Mike - can we swap you a Vyatta baseball cap for a Mozilla one?!?

Monday, May 08, 2006

You spin me right round, like a record baby, right round....

Okay, so maybe that song lyric from Dead or Alive absolutely dates me, but what the hey.... If they can play it at Studio54 last week I must not be that old yet :-)

The reason that song has stuck in my head lately is that I was talking over the weekend to a friend of mine that works at a closed-source networking company and debating the merits of the OFR software on various hardware platforms. One of the issues that he brought up is the refrain of "you can't have spinning media in a router - the Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF) is far too low!" Since he and I were indoctrinated into this religious philosophy together in our past, by default I tend to agree with him. I think some folks that produce spinning media would argue otherwise, let's take the MTBF concerns at face value for now.

We've been looking at spinning media (disk drive) alternatives for the OFR software and think that compact flash could serve as an interesting storage device. The MTBF specifications for most compact flash drives appears to be millions of hours based on information I read on the SanDisk site. And, this media appears pretty cheap (under $100 per GB). So, imagine an OFR using compact flash to hold our binary image (or multiple give the size of the compact flash cards available) that loads into memory at startup. For extensive logging, if the OFR software could write to a traditional hard disk, but not rely on this spinning media for operation, this might be ideal.

Your thoughts on compact flash for holding our boot image? Seems like a natural choice and one being used by others in the industry.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Now.... that was a party!

It was great to see everyone at the Secret Society party last night at the Foundation Room at the Mandalay Bay here in Vegas. I have to say I was impressed with the number of folks that we had come by and chat with us about Vyatta! Dave took lots of digital pictures and I'm sure of them will find their way to a flickr page soon enough. I'm not so sure I like digital cameras anymore :) I'll let Dave dispense all of the dish from the party - hope you all had fun! I know I did!

One more night in Vegas and then home!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Old friends, new friends, alcohol

Interop is finally here this week and we've been busy setting up meetings with various partners, analysts and press. Of course, the best meeting place for all of us is our panel on open source networking and the party at the Foundation Room tomorrow night. Info on both events can be found here.

I've been somewhat surprised as to the number of folks that have been following us and want to come by and party. Okay, I guess I'm not that surprised at the number of folks that want free alcohol and schwag - but still I hope the attraction is more about Vyatta than the view of the strip from the Foundation Room :) Like Dave Roberts, our Vyatta Cruise Director says, "If you like open source or you like routers or even both combined, come on by!"

Old friends and new friends let's unite tomorrow night. See you in Vegas!