There have been a recent stir in networking. Overlays. There seems to be three camps on thought. Those for and evangelising overlay technology, those who are in between, and the others who refute the scalability and use of overlays.

Since the cave man days man has sought shelter. As society has evolved we moved from the caves and inhabited the plains, fields, and pastures with huts and shanties. We built towns and cities, we build multi story buildings as we sought to expand throughout the world. Other than Shibam or the Two Towers of Bologna, before the 20th century there were very little skyscrapers. As man sought build in the 20th century we scaled up as much as we scaled out.

Skyscrapers are buildings which dominate our skylines. They consist on many floors built on each others. Each floor is occupied generally by a different tenant. They each meet their own business requirement and perform a function to aid the inhabitant. Elevators provide  interlinks between each floor or a subsection of floors to provide connectivity. What is common to all of this?

A strong foundation. Planned, engineered and built to exacting standards with reliable materials and tools. The foundation of these skyscrapers allow each floor to be overlaid with precision and guarantee of stability. The building does not collapse when you have this foundation. I view overlay networks as the same. An overlay is nothing without its foundation. The physical network. The physical network still requires well conceive routing protocols. It requires strong hierarchical design, the inclusion of business constraints, restraint, vision, with a clear determined goal of overlays on top.

If you do not plan your foundations well, you might be able to have two or three stories on top. You network might scale to a few overlays. If your foundations have overlay upon overlay heaped upon it, it will only be a matter of time before you witness a glorious collapse.

Overlay networking is the way forward. At this stage I see it as the future of networking. Software defined overlays that flow across strong, clearly designed, well conceived physical foundations are paramount to the success of overlay networking. Overlays solve many problems our industry face but I feel the nay sayers are not building the right networks to accommodate them.

The views from up here are magnificent. Upon this stack of overlays, my business, your business, and everyone elses can now leverage the impetus that is overlay networking to unlock new opportunities. Now ask yourself “Are your foundations ready?”

2 thoughts on “Skyscrapers and Overlay Networking

  1. Currently working on a CESG PEPAS accredited IL3 overlay project, which consists of SRX firewalls and a hub and spoke IPSec VPN across the sites. It’s really interesting stuff and customers do see the benefits of this :).

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