Standards, Switzerland, and Tolkien

A metric of time measurement in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings is a ‘Valarian Age’. A Valarian Age is made up of 100 Valarian years. A Valarian year in turn is 10 mortal year. In the land of Tolkien, ‘In the Creation of Arda’ to the events leading to the ‘War of the Ring’ was 37 Valarian Ages or conversely 37,000 years.

There are subtle nuances to this where recordings and mechanisms of time capture differ between Men, Elves, and Dwarves in middle earth. These differences in time recordings are different enough on the surface yet if you find the conversion you can obtain interoperability. The little nuances inherit in each system add complexity or difficulty when transposing events across different timelines. This is all unnecessary when you abstract the driver, which essentially is a unit of time.

This is true of our industry. There are well-known standards. Some are strong and firm in their definition They are mandatory or must not be broken. Others, to my chagrin, have elastic bounds boundaries. These boundaries stretch due to each vendor interpreting the guidelines in their own way. Albeit sometimes these are beneficial to the development of said protocol or technology, the bounds in which some things are stretched is a charade.

An example of this is MPLS in JUNOS by Juniper and IOS by Cisco. For example, IOS will allocate a label to each IP prefix. This assumes that it is designed to receive one. This differs from the way JUNOS handles label allocation. JUNOS will allocate a label based upon the next hop IP address and the label advertised by the next Label Switched Router. I am sure there are plenty more.

Albeit subtle, there isn’t a need for something like this. Shouldn’t we have the nerd knobs in a ‘Switzerland’ zone? A zone where per the RFC our headers are the same, the options are based on the standards and we avoid the ambiguity of interpretation. Sure by all means allow us to tweak them but we shouldn’t have to move hell or high water to perform some functions. Allow extensions and variations by all means but we should need to balance a monkey on an elephant whilst it rides a bicycle on a tight rope. ASA to SRX VPN’s anyone?

Young Kurt has written up a post along the same line with the same notion. If more than one of us are thinking it many others are too. It would be nice if we ( our industry ) all could agree and carve out our Switzerland.

1 thought on “Standards, Switzerland, and Tolkien”

  1. Like anything, there are many sides to this conundrum. On one side you have the IT professionals that are using this technology to improve all facets of their system. Consistency between devices is crucial for reliability, squeeze out the best performance not to mention less professionally development and training required to manage said devices.

    On the other side you have the Vendors spruiking their wares. The market is more hotly contested than ever and when it isn’t the price that determines the buy its vendor customisation to differentiate their products from the pack. If Vendor A can achieve feature 1 in such a way that is easier for you than Vendor B that might be all they need to do to get your sale.

    Balance is what we want; keep the core product standardised, any vendor customisations should be achieved on top of the standards (maybe in a modular fashion?).

    Can it be done?

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