Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Da New Man

As many of you have probably seen, we announced today that we've hired Kelly Herrell as our new CEO. Kelly comes to us with an excellent pedigree in executive leadership, networking, Linux and open source licensing. Besides his impressive background, Kelly is a great person who is very motivated to lead the team at Vyatta. We're very excited to have Kelly in the company - his energy and enthusiasm is already permeating into the cubicle walls :)

The hiring of Kelly marks an important transition for Vyatta. We're focused on building the company, expanding the executive team under Kelly's leadership and preparing Vyatta to migrate from delivering a beta product to product launch. It's time to move the company to it's next phase and we welcome Kelly as our Vyattan leader [side note: no real negative feedback in the term "Vyattan" yet :)].

Welcome Kelly! I hereby relinquish my unofficial title as "Da Man" to your capable hands!

Airlines - again....

Well, I thought I was making a difference. I wrote a blog entry about how the airlines needed to learn more about queuing theory and then a small miracle happened today. I was scheduled for a flight tonight at 6:30pm and when I got to the airport I found out my flight was delayed 2 hours because of a "delayed inbound aircraft." Hallelujah... they figured out how to see that a plane that left late might be late outbound on the next flight! No time warp miracles expected here. Even though I was delayed 2 hours, I felt good - I had made a small difference.

And then it happened - my flight got delayed another hour and a half. And, yes, it was for the same reason of "delayed inbound aircraft". So, let me get this straight, the plane was going to take another hour and a half to get to the airport? Once the airline had admitted that the flight was originally two hours late because of a delayed inbound aircraft (queuing theory again :) why not admit that it was going to be delayed three and a half hours on the inbound flight?

Ah, the glamour of business travel....

Thursday, June 22, 2006

A heat wave for open source routers

The past few days here in Northern California have been unseasonably hot - downright brutal to us fair-weathered folks who take for granted a yearly climate between 50-80F. The temperatures have reached over 90F here and that has made the weather the main topic of conversation for nearly everyone I know. Make that the only topic of conversation....

I spent my youth in a locale where winters get this white stuff called snow that makes you cold, mucks up the roads and ruins a few pairs of shoes annually. No-one here in San Francisco has ever seen the steam rise from their frozen socks as they've laid them out by the fire after coming home from work. No-one out here has ever needed to plug their car into the wall to power the heater that keeps the radiator fluid from freezing. Ever have to get up in the morning, bundle up, go outside and start your car, turn on the heater, go back inside and shower (car still running), get dressed, bundle up again, go outside and find your car plowed in, shovel the car out (still running) and then have to go to work? I kind of doubt it if you live out here. I'm fond of saying, "You never have to shovel the rain..."

On the converse, we don't have the kind of summers that folks closer to the Equator have where humidity makes everything sticky and you spend you day running from your air-conditioned home to your air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned shopping mall, and so forth. Gum does not melt when left in our cars in the summer. Ice cream does not completely melt in the trunk between the supermarket and home. Our clothes don't glue themselves to our bodies when we walk a block. Not a lot of homes even have air-conditioning.

It's amazing to me that I often hear a refrain from folks that have migrated to this area about how they "miss the seasons and variety of weather." Yet, every time it rains or gets hot, folks complain about the weather and how it's not normal. If the daily weather varies by 5 degrees from the expected weather pattern, it's the lead news story. Well, Northern California, this heat wave sure has given us something to talk about - don't stress too much as things will be back to normal tomorrow according to the forecasts. Whew - that was a tough spell, glad we all pulled through together! :)

What does this have to do with Vyatta and open source routers? Not much - it's hot and I wanted to talk to someone about it :)

Walking into R-Day

One of the first questions that nearly everyone asks me when I speak to them about Vyatta is, "So, how do you make money doing that?" I've written about this before, but we've been cagey on purpose as to not tip our hand to any potential competition....

Well, that day, Revenue Day (R-Day) may be upon us sooner than later. We're getting the code to a pretty solid state with our latest release and working feverishly on the bug list. We've also noticed that the number of downloads of our code is trending upwards, so we take that as a good sign!

Of particular interest to us are specific examples where folks are using the OFR for live traffic (lab testing or production). We've heard about a few networks where we are routing between lots of VLANS (40+!) and a few folks are using the OFR alongside a Cisco and using VRRP for redundancy (where we are the lead router and the Cisco is the backup :). If you have some examples to send to us, please tell us about it on the vyatta-users mailing list.

Back to R-Day and revenue.... You've probably noticed that we've partnered with Sangoma for WAN interfaces and that should lead you to believe that we'll have a reference hardware solution that you can buy with the OFR software pre-installed. The press has already covered this and there are lots of different hardware platforms that we're looking at for this revenue generating product. We're also prepping an innovative support offering that we think will be very compelling for folks running the OFR on our reference hardware or on their own compatible hardware. We just want to make sure that our support plans are solidly in place before we give our more details.

So, we're walking toward Revenue Day. We hope you'll find some of the products and services interesting!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Another advisor - Atanu Ghosh!

Well, we did it again! We added another advisor to help us grow the business, Atanu Ghosh from the XORP team at ICSI. Welcome aboard Atanu!

As those of you who follow us know, we have been working with the folks at XORP since our inception and that project is an integral part of our product. What many folks don't know is how we got hooked up with XORP....

In classic Internet form, I heard about XORP from some colleagues and sent in a blind email to the XORP team late one night in early 2005. After a few email forwards, I finally reached Atanu who then invited me to come by and chat with him in Berkeley. Not surprisingly, I was not the first member of the venture capital herd to show up at Atanu's door promising to guide XORP to the promised land of networking milk and honey. Yet, over the weeks and months that followed, we worked together to build a partnership between our company and XORP. I think the XORP and Vyatta teams have shared Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Asian Fusion and American food over the past 18 months - and we've consumed some beverages along the way too. Good thing that the Bay Area supports a variety of cuisine :)

Back to the point, after our first initial meeting, I went away inspired that the XORP team had developed a project that could be commercialized into a whole product. We worked with the ICSI business folks to develop a sponsorship arrangement that would allow XORP to pursue their research while Vyatta took XORP and other projects as a starting point for our products. I think that the main reason that our relationship got started on the right foot is that we've always wanted XORP to remain open source.

So, Atanu, welcome aboard - I think the ride has just begun!

Monday, June 12, 2006

Airlines and Queuing Theory

I remember my first days of working on TCP/IP networks back in the late 1980s as days of wonder. I used to sit at my desk in Palo Alto, California and marvel at the ability of having one telnet window logged into a router in Singapore and another logged into a router in Puerto Rico. Watching ICMP Echo packets (pings) travel to each location in well under 500 milliseconds (today around 300 to Singapore and 180 to Puerto Rico) simply always made me smile - especially since I could name almost every device those packets went through on both routes on the private network where I plied my trade. Those were the days before the Internet was how it is today and before we ever heard the phrase "Information Superhighway" (I saw Al Gore on Letterman last night and that conjured up that little tidbit).

TCP/IP networks of that era were slow and always congested. A super fast link was a T-1 and those were exceptionally rare. Think about an international network with the capacity of your basic DSL circuit on most links. Because of the limited bandwidth we often deployed lots of queuing algorithms to make the network work in the manner we wanted. A co-worker of mine is fond of saying, "You only need to queue when you have congestion." And we had congestion 24x7. So, over time we used forms of committed access rate (CAR), flow-based queuing, weighted-fair queuing (WFQ) and others. Some of these queuing techniques are being added to the Vyatta OFR and are some of our top enhancement requests. So, apparently, there are lots of you out there that want to use queues in the OFR to avoid congestion for specific applications, such as voice.

But, what in the name of FDDI does that have to do with airlines (you may ask if you read my subject above)? Well, I'm lucky enough to be sitting in an airport at the moment waiting for an inbound flight from San Francisco to arrive so the airline can turn the plane around and use it for my flight home to the city by the bay. And, up to about 30 minutes ago the airline was reporting that my flight was an on-time departure (so I came to the airport like a good drone for my on-time departure). Of course, until 30 minutes ago my flight was on-time according to the airline. Just so we're clear - this is a plane that left San Francisco over 6 hours ago. And, amazingly enough I just found out that 6 hours ago it left San Francisco about an hour late. Just so you follow me here, if a train of packets are delayed because of a queuing issue, the receiving end can sense this and adapt to handle the slower arrival times of the packet train (see basic TCP flow control in operation). And the protocol does this multiple times every second (thousands and thousands). So, was my arriving plane going to hit a time warp and make up the hour delay in flight to make my departure on-time? Maybe I'm being dense here, but if TCP can adapt to packet queues many times a second why can't humans do the same once in a six hour time period?

Maybe I need to know exactly what plane the airline will be using for my departure so I can track it's inbound arrival as I head to the airport? Now, that would be cool - an airline website that tracks planes by transponder signal and correlates that next departures. Or, the airline could just get a clue and update their departure times appropriately for their customers.... Okay, that was just bitter, but it felt good given my current situation :)

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Wanted: "No Solicitation" sign

We're a fairly small crew at Vyatta Galactic Headquarters and the office rarely has too many folks in it. Because we're pretty self-sufficient and we're a startup, we have not yet hired a receptionist or office manager. What that means is that when someone comes in our front door one or more of us invariably does the cubicle groundhog move to see who entered. 99% of the time that works great and the person who entered gets successfully shuffled off to their respective meeting, lunch, coffee or engineering lab.

However, more often than you might think, we get a salesperson entering our office - an actual person selling something door to door! In an office building! Every time this happens, I get a fuzzy flashback to two events in my childhood: 1) some man in a brown polyester suit pitching Encyclopedia Britannica to my parents and 2) some man in jeans and a white dress shirts with snaps demonstrating some vacuum cleaner to my mom. I have many fond memories using those encyclopedias (for our younger readers, this is an actual set of books you had to buy and not wikipedia) for my schoolwork and some humorous memories of the expression on my moms' face when the vacuum salesman showed us that the suction can really pick a penny off our floor. Needless to say, we did not get the vacuum but remarkably our carpets were always free of loose change....

Until the Vyatta office, I had somehow avoided door-to-door salespeople the intervening years between the vacuum salesman and now. Sure, I've had all sorts of folks come to my door to sell me something, but it was often to save the planet (I do live in California), elect some official, convert to some religious group (again, California) or sell me cookies. Now that I think about it, it's been some time since the Girl Scouts actually came to my door. Remarkably, I find myself buying cookies from them at a supermarket or from a co-worker. That's a good product - I actually seek them out or they come via a friend!

Back to the point - does anyone actually buy anything from a door-to-door salesperson? We've had the following items for sale walk through our door: sign makers, flower designers, direct mailing services, and other sundry items for sale. And, lucky me, when someone comes through our door they usually ask for the "person in charge" and I get to see a Vyattan (I just made up that word - like it?) smirking as they lead the Fuller Brush Man toward my cube. Just so you don't think I am cruel and don't want to buy anything, we don't have a place for signage (we're a suite in a multi-tenant building), our employees are mostly male and don't need flowers designed for them, and selling networking products via direct mail makes almost as much sense as trying to sell them door-to-door.

Wait - what was I thinking mocking this sales approach? We'll hire a battalion of folks to go door-to-door across the planet selling the Vyatta OFR! If it worked for aluminum siding it will work for the OFR! The product installs on any PC - there are lots of PCs in homes! Homes need siding! Homes with aluminum siding are connected to the Internet! I'm a genius!

Seriously, we need a "No Solicitation" sign. Perhaps before I blow our entire budget on the next generation of Hoover vacuum and Encyclopedia Britannica salespeople?!? I guess I'll go to the local hardware store and get one early next week....