Aruba’s nervous breakdown

It’s come to our attention that Aruba Networks, the wireless LAN company that recently filed for an IPO, is terrified by the new architecture of the Trapeze wireless LAN system. To summarize the issues, Trapeze and Aruba both build enterprise-class wireless switches, consisting in both cases of wireless Access Points and back-end Ethernet switches. Both systems present a control point on the Ethernet side, and both switch traffic between the wire and the air.

But the new Trapeze architecture has a wrinkle that makes it much faster, more resilient, and more scalable than the Aruba system: local switching. In the Aruba system, all traffic originating on the air has to go back to a Big Ethernet switch before it can be decrypted and delivered to its final destination. But the Trapeze system, with local switching enabled, makes forwarding decisions at the edge of the wired network, not in a big switch that can become a traffic bottleneck.

Hence the Trapeze system can handle larger numbers of users with lower latency with no loss of management flexibility: you manage it as if it were a Big Fat Switch system, and it right-sizes its forwarding functions according to traffic needs, not the blinders of a mediocre group of system architects.

This has Aruba running scared, so they’re in full FUD mode as the e-mail below indicates. I’ve interspersed the Aruba message with a fisking from Trapeze.


From: Alan Emory [mailto:[email protected]]
Subject: Trapeze Takes A Step Back – Selling Fat APs

We need to start with the subject of the message. Trapeze actually has taken a big step forward by combining the best of fat and thin APs in a single comprehensive solution. Aruba and Cisco force you to make a choice…one size fits all. Only Trapeze allows you to use the right tool for the right environment. It is very important to note that the customer can run the entire Trapeze system in a completely thin, centralized way if they so choose. Smart Mobile provides more flexibility in case that isn’t the right answer for your environment. Aruba? If the only tool you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Continue reading “Aruba’s nervous breakdown”

Net Neutrality is a Delusion

Scott Cleland mentions that His Eminence, Sir Timothy Berners-Lee will testify before Congressman Ed Markey’s House subcommittee on Telecommunications, the Internet, and Shameless Pandering to the Conspiracy Nuts Thursday. Markey has an ambitious agenda:

In a wide-ranging conversation yesterday, Markey laid out a broad telecom agenda that could pit him against the telephone and cable companies — expressing interest in “paranoia-inducing alternatives” like municipal broadband projects and wireless carriers that could pose a competitive threat to cable and telephone companies and push them to innovate.

He stressed that network neutrality — an initiative to ensure that the Internet does not become a two-tiered system in which some companies pay fees for priority access –will likely dominate the discussion over the next two years.

Innovations such as the Web browser, search engines, and the Internet did not emerge from large established companies, and forcing firms to pay more to reach users would stifle creativity, he said.

It’s a position that puts him at odds with major industry players.

Primarily, this position puts him at odds with reality. Was the Web browser actually an innovation that didn’t come from a large established company? Well, given the creation of a web by the interconnection of hyperlinks in documents on the Internet, the browser was more a requirement than an innovation, and hyperlinks were actually first implemented in research labs funded by large enterprises, many private and some public. The first web browser that was fully-functional was produced by Microsoft, so that’s one error. The first search engine that was worth spit was Alta Vista, produced by Digital Equipment Corporation, so that’s two. And the Internet itself was produced by contractors working for the biggest enterprise of all, the United States government, so there’s error number three.

And where did the key technologies upon which the Internet was based come from? The transistor, the high speed data link, the modem, the digital modem and the Unix operating system were all produced by researchers at Bell Labs, part of the world’s most evil monopoly, so oops again. And the personal computers that made the Internet necessary were created by IBM and Intel, using technologies developed by Xerox. So where is this yarn of the virtuous little guys innovating like crazy while the dinosaurs slept really coming from? It’s nothing more than a cheap fantasy.

Now I don’t really expect politicians to be historians of technology, and to actually understand the things they regulate. But they do have people on staff who are supposed to keep them from saying stupid things, and it’s abundantly clear that Markey’s aren’t cutting it.

The hearing will be a real knee-slapper if Markey’s people can’t keep his mouth in check, and history suggests they’re bound to fail.

But we’ll see what tomorrow brings.

Antidote to Neutrino Drool

Neutrinos are touting two new drooling videos on the regulations they’re trying pass, one that makes Telcos out to be space aliens and the other that makes them out to be parasites on the networks they’ve built. And they’re getting rave reviews from the confidence men who’ve conjured the net neutrality issue out of thin air and the million morons who’ve been taken in by them. Here’s a little bit of an antidote:

I don’t know who produced it, but it’s sharp. The fundamental question you have to ask any neutrino who claims the Internet is under attack by Telcos who want to censor blogs is simply this: “Where’s the proof? Just because politicians and professional scare artists say something will happen some day doesn’t mean a damn thing.”

The reality is that phone companies want to compete with cable to bring TV Programming into your home. They make money from Internet access as well, and they want to sell that to you too, just as they always have. The only new issue is about TV, not the Internet.

Neutrinos try to make their case using videos and songs because it can’t be made in rational, clear, verifiable prose.

Net neutrality is a con game.

Banning Wikipedia

The dubious nature of Wikipedia information has come to the attention of the authorities:

When half a dozen students in Neil Waters’s Japanese history class at Middlebury College asserted on exams that the Jesuits supported the Shimabara Rebellion in 17th-century Japan, he knew something was wrong. The Jesuits were in “no position to aid a revolution,” he said; the few of them in Japan were in hiding.

He figured out the problem soon enough. The obscure, though incorrect, information was from Wikipedia, the collaborative online encyclopedia, and the students had picked it up cramming for his exam.

Dr. Waters and other professors in the history department had begun noticing about a year ago that students were citing Wikipedia as a source in their papers. When confronted, many would say that their high school teachers had allowed the practice.

But the errors on the Japanese history test last semester were the last straw. At Dr. Waters’s urging, the Middlebury history department notified its students this month that Wikipedia could not be cited in papers or exams, and that students could not “point to Wikipedia or any similar source that may appear in the future to escape the consequences of errors.”

Kudos to Middlebury College.

Skype-Wu attack wireless networks

Tim Wu, the protege of Larry Lessig who’s been on two or three different sides of the net neutrality debate depending on which way the wind is blowing in Washington, has written a very bizarre analysis of wireless networks proposing massive new regulations. In what is either the greatest coincidence in recorded history or a demonstration of the source of Wu’s funding, Skype has passed it on to the FCC and asked them to go crazy and regulate away all the innovation we’ve seen in cell phone networks in the last ten years.

Adam Thierer of The Progress & Freedom Foundation isn’t impressed with the Skype-Wu Axis of Authoritarianism:

The fundamental question raised by the Skype-Wu proposal is whether America will continue to allow competition in wireless network architectures and business models to see which systems and plans (a) consumers truly prefer and that also (b) allow carriers to recoup fixed capital costs while (c) expanding and innovating to meet future needs. The Skype-Wu proposal would foreclose such marketplace experimentation by essentially converting cellular networks into a sort of quasi-commons and forcing private network operators to provide network access or services on someone else’s terms. That someone else, of course, is the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which will be tasked with devising rules and price regulations to ensure “fair and non-discriminatory” access / interconnection pricing.

In my opinion, when you get right down to it, this proposal is a declaration of surrender.

The key point is something I’ve said to Wu on several occasions: there is much more innovation taking place on wireless networks than on the Internet, which gives the lie to Net Neutrality claims that their regulatory scheme is pro-innovation. Wu wants to suppress the data by stifling wireless innovation, and Skype is happy to have parasitic access to any new market they can find.

A pox upon them both.

Another neutrality dissenter

Venture capitalist David Cowan didn’t drink Google’s free speech Kool-Aid either:

…the campaign for net neutrality has transcended logic, manuevering instead to prevail upon Congress with an emotional appeal to the voters. “If we are silent, if we don’t stand up for Internet Freedom,” warns Hollywood star Alyssa Milano, “corporations will take away our right to choose!” As always, it’s easy and popular to demonize corporations.

In his letter to the public (a great PR play, and a nice pander to regulators who look for reasons to work), Eric Schmidt wrote that net neutrality will prevent broadband carriers from controlling what people say or do online. As I have blogged before, Eric is certainly a genius (I can pander, too), but this call to fear is wrong on so many levels, not to mention egregiously hypocritical. (Remember China?)

For one thing, accelerating a stream of packets, even at the mythical expense of some random packets, does not “control what people do online.” Also, ISPs are not public utilities; they are businesses whose owners–including individual investors and pension funds–have no legal obligation to amuse Eric with whatever internet sites he craves. (Should AOL and the mobile environments of AT&T and Verizon be legally forced to provide access to outside content?) Having said both those things, the market will not reward ISPs who effectively block or even slow access to the full array of web sites–there is demand for express traffic and free traffic, so both sevices should and would exist.

It would be extremely helpful if more VCs would speak out on this issue, as one of the other arguments Google uses pertains to innovation and helping all those struggling college kids in their dorm rooms trying to build the next Google.

Google’s censorship abuses

The Christian Coalition joined Google’s Save the Internet coalition after being convinced that the Internet’s lack of regulation was a danger to their free speech. The free speech argument is a red herring, of course, as the enhanced IPTV services from AT&T and Verizon that are bringing change to the Internet have nothing to do with content or viewpoints. The Save the Internet movement is really a cynical ploy on Google’s part to shackle ISPs in order to extend their search hegemony into video delivery. But Save the Internet says it’s really important, so we have to trust Google to preserve free speech because we can’t trust the Telcos and ISPs.

Is this remotely believable?

We’ve seen one example of Google’s concept of free speech in China, and another regarding their own Vice-President of TV, Vincent Dureau. After he correctly observed that the Internet can’t scale to HDTV, Google called out its Public Relations shock troops to sanitize Dureau’s remarks. The Google PR team is spinning like mad, but Dureau hasn’t backed down and we applaud him for that.

And now we have another egregious free speech violation that should be of interest to Google’s followers among the Christian Coalition. Nick Gisburne is an atheist activist who posts videos on YouTube criticizing religion generally and religious texts in particular. His favorite technique is citing violent passages from the Holy Books without commentary, letting them hang themselves. This was fine with YouTube as long as Gisburne confined his criticisms to Christianity, but when he posted a video of verses from the Koran, YouTube deleted it and cancelled his account:

My YouTube accounts have been deleted

Deleted accounts are not quite part of the plan! This is now a censorship issue.

My NickGisburne and Gisburne2000 accounts were deleted because of ‘Inappropriate Content’, basically a video of material (no added commentary from me) from the Qur’an. I added nothing to that video, I was merely using material from the Muslim Holy Book, and for that I was removed from YouTube, along with all my videos, and everyone’s subscriptions to me (over 500).

I’ve seen the video in question and Gisburne’s description is correct: it consists of nothing but verses from the Koran and background music, without even a word of added commentary.

So the question, gentle reader, is this: can we trust Google to manage our Internet? I see no reason to believe that we can.

See Instapundit for a handy collection of relevant links.

Google backslides

Paul Kaputska, the Google apologist who writes for GigaOm, puts on an amazing display of intellectual flexibility in denying the remarks made by one of Google’s top engineers yesterday. First a Google press release, then Kapustka’s own words:

“Some remarks from Vincent Dureau’s well-received speech at the Cable Europe Congress were quoted out of context in news reports,” said a Google spokesperson Friday. The further background explanation from Google is that Dureau was responding to a question and was trying to address a potential bottleneck Google does see, which they say exists between Google’s own content-delivery infrastructure and the cable set-top box in your home.

Google’s infrastructure scales just fine, they said, and there is no problem watching TV on the Web. Despite what you may have read.

Vincent Dureau was quoted accurately, he was addressing a real problem, and Reuters put the remarks in context:

Google instead offered to work together with cable operators to combine its technology for searching for video and TV footage and its tailored advertising with the cable networks’ high-quality delivery of shows.

The issue is that OTA TV, cable, and satellite use a broadcast model – one stream per program – while Internet TV tends to use a unicast model, which is one stream per consumer. The unicast model is fine as long as Internet TV is limited to 100,000 people watching five-minute, low-def clips on YouTube, but if 20 million people want to watch Survivor on the Internet at the same time, it would collapse. That’s a mathematical fact.

So Google proposes to build direct links from their massive server complexes to the cable systems that bypass the Internet and conform to the more efficient broadcast model. AT&T is running into problems with its U-Verse system that indicate this is a real problem, not something drummed up by the enemies of freedom who want to censor Daily Kos in order to keep the Republican hegemon in power (or whatever the cheerleaders for net neutrality regulations are claiming today.)

Net neutrality is faith-based network engineering, and it’s encouraging to know that at least some of the engineers at Google haven’t drunk that particular Kool-Aid.

This is the technical equivalent of Micheal Kinsley’s definition of a gaffe as a politician accidentally telling the truth. Google is such a creature of public opinion now that too much truth can only harm its monopoly position, hence the backsliding by the PR department.

UPDATE: There are some very interesting comments at GigaOm on this fiasco, and the readers aren’t buying Kapustka’s Googlespin:

Vincent Dureau, the executive quoted, was just hired from OpenTV. He was the CTO there. I don’t think he was quoted out of context.
Omar Javaid on February 10th, 2007 at 12:41 PM

Dureau was right first time – ask any network engineer – he just got slapped for telling the truth.

The PR tried to change the discussion from “the net is broken for TV” to “our TV infrastructure is k3wl!” It may be, but that’s not what Dureau was talking about. It’s sad to see GigaOM buying the spin, and shilling for Google.
Paul M on February 11th, 2007 at 3:47 AM

when this story broke, I couldn’t help but think about all Google’s datacenters and fiber backhaul and exactly what their plans are – PBS’s Robert Cringely has one idea, which is that Google knows that the web’s infrastructure is headed for a bandwidth-crunch and is positioning itself as a caching gatekeeper –

in that case, certainly their position on net neutrality hasn’t reversed – it just looks like a smart business play – tie ISPs’ hands and then cash in on the infrastructure they’ve amassed
Thomas on February 11th, 2007 at 8:32 PM


Bob Metcalfe didn’t invent Ethernet

The National Inventors Hall of Fame has inducted Bob Metcalfe, the alleged inventor of Ethernet. This perpetuates a myth that Metcalfe has been stoking for 30 years, and it’s wrong. While it’s certainly true that Metcalfe was one of the people at Xerox PARC to co-invent a network called Ethernet in 1973, that network has very, very little to do with the network we call “Ethernet” today.

Metcalfe’s Ethernet was a coaxial cable shared by a number of computers, each of which connected to it through a little radio-like thing called a transceiver through a bundle of wires as thick as a pencil.

The network we call Ethernet today is a box of digital electronics called a switch or a hub that the computer connects to through two pairs of twisted copper wires. On the modern switched Ethernet several computers can communicate at the same time, but on Metcalfe’s system one and only one could transmit at a time.

You can only credit Metcalfe with inventing Ethernet if you expand the meaning of the term “Ethernet” to include all local area networks invented after 1973 and ignore the older ones, like AlohaNet. Metcalfe seems to be encouraging that sort of thing, as he’s recently described the Cable Internet protocol, DOCSIS, as an Ethernet:

“DOCSIS is Ethernet,” he claimed. “It’s HFC [hybrid fiber-coaxial] Ethernet.”

Bob Metcalfe invented the name “Ethernet”, but he didn’t invent the modern technology that goes by it.

Can we finally get this straight? The guys who had the most to do with creating the network now known as Ethernet are Tim Rock of AT&T Information Systems and Bob Galin of Intel. They were members of an IEEE 802.3 task force on low cost networking formed in 1984 that produced the 1BASE5 standard. The network they invented, once called StarLAN, evolved into 10BASET and was then renamed Ethernet. And I know all of that because I was the vice-chair of that committee. So let’s give credit where it’s due.

Bob Metcalfe is a clever guy with a talent for public relations, but he’s not the father of modern local area networking.