The Network Is the Computer Redux

We take networking for granted, forgetting how far we have come over the last quarter century, when (for example) the Sun offices were connected via phone lines and we had to solder and pull our own 10Base5 thick net Ethernet cables. Some of you will remember what a pain that was: a bad solder connection or a kink in the cable would result in days of troubleshooting. Those of you who are too young: be grateful. It wasn’t always so simple.

Sun’s “Chief Science Officer,” John Gage, is properly credited with creating the phrase “the network is the computer,” although it has been attributed to others. I don’t have an actual date for when it was first used, but it must have been the late 1980s. Today we wonder, “so what?” In the 1980s it was a big differentiator, especially over our much larger competitors. By the mid-1990s the truth of this tagline was self-evident everywhere and we eventually stopped using it, as phrases like “network computing” were redundant.

Then, along came “The Cloud.” Are we talking about something else, altogether? I think of it as “The Network Is the Computer Redux.” My home has more bandwidth and complexity than did most research labs of the 80s. Just one of my multiple local WiFi segments has more throughput than our entire hard-wired network had. Back then, we put everything on one 10-Mb physical segment and were happy. Growth has been the steady trend: with powerful cloud networks comes huge speed and bandwidth, great complexity, and limitless opportunities for bottlenecks and subtle failures.

Just as virtualization has changed how we segment our servers to get maximum performance and minimum waste, network virtualization is being applied to networking. There are plenty of solutions available today, many of which are Rube Goldberg fabrications that can break if you look cross-eyed at them. Building on Oracle's thirty-plus years of experience, Oracle Virtual Networking provides the infrastructure to connect and dynamically create secure networks and connections in software.

Brian K. Matheson has written an article that provides a complete bird’s eye how-to, from planning, to deployment, to configuration best practices: Oracle Virtual Networking: Guidelines for Deployment in a Virtualized Environment. It is nothing short of amazing how much information he packs into this article. Brian assumes the reader is familiar with the basic concepts of Oracle Virtual Networking. Although that would be ideal, most of us still work “bottom-up”: once you digest his article, I think you will be on the fast track to mastering the concepts and details in the references provided at the end.

—Kemer

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Kemer Thomson
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