We just finished the OpenFlow Demo at the GENI Engineering Conference, and it was amazing. We showed our new OpenFlow protocol running on switches from Cisco, Juniper, HP and NEC. Our experimental network stretched half way around the globe from Stanford to Tokyo via New York. It used fibers from Internet2, CalRen and JGN2plus.
Over this network we showed how we can move around a running game server from one physical host to another without the game even getting interrupted. We demonstrated how you can route a network connection with a simple drag and drop interface (e.g. a TCP flow inside Stanford going via Tokyo and Houston). We even sent a running game server to Tokyo from Stanford, without losing the connection.
Press coverage of the demo included articles English, Japanese, Swedish and Spanish. The OpenFlow web site recieved a few thousand hits, with visitors from every major company in the networking space. All this was made possible by about 40 people from Stanford, Internet2, Cisco, Juniper, HP and NEC had been working on this for months.
As a result of this, OpenFlow is building momentum. NEC announced during the conference support for OpenFlow in their product, and more announcements will follow. By mid next year we are hoping to have pilot deployments at 6-10 universities, and I would hope we will see commercial deployments in that time frame as well. All in all a huge step forward for OpenFlow.
This week-end I did my first run that was organized by Pacific Coast Trail Runs, and it will definitely not be my last. They label themselves “Serious Fun”, which is pretty much accurate. The runs are less focused on racing, and more on enjoying the run itself. However the distances of their runs are “serious”. Some events have as the minimum distance marathon or 50k, and some entrants run pretty crazy distances.
I ran the Santa Cruz Mountain run and it was a blast. The 21k course involved wading through the 3 foot deep San Lorenzo River, climbing over fallen logs, waiting at the tracks of the Santa Cruz Railway for it to pass and 2,300 feet elevation gain. I also love their aid stations. Water melon, pumkin pie and Chili at the finish line. If you like running medium and long distances, you should definitely try them out.
Currently the main thing I am working on at Stanford is the OpenFlow Standard. OpenFlow basically allows a software that is running on a commodity PC, to remotely control the flow table and thus the entire routing functionality of a switch (see the excellent white paper). This is a very interesting application for networking, as it allows researchers or start-ups to build new technologies in this space. Think of it as the Facebook API for the networking world. If it takes off, it will lead to a lot of innovation in this space.
Last week we presented a demo of using OpenFlow to migrate game servers in real time (and while people play games on them) across different IP subnets at SIGCOMM 2008. The demo received rave reviews and won the Best Demo Award by a wide margin. I will post more about the Demo and other OpenFlow news on the OpenFlow Blog soon. This week we also held the first OpenFlow tutorial at HOT Interconnects at Stanford (organized by our own John Lockwood this year – great work John!). It was well received and we learned some good lessons how we can improve it in the future.
A few people mentioned that they were suprised about my move to Stanford after leaving Voltage. This post should be a lot less suprising: I am joining Morgenthaler Ventures as a part-time Entrepreneur in Residence. Spending a day a week at Morgenthaler Ventures is a very synergistic combination. The exposure to bleeding edge technology in Stanford helps understanding entrepreneurial opportunities. Vice versa seeing the hard technical problems that portfolio companies face helps define meaningful new research areas. And while some of you may not have heard of them before, Morgenthaler is a great firm to work with.
I am happy to announce that this week I have joined Stanford University as a Consulting Assistant Professor. This may come as a suprise to some people, as I am not exactly your typical academic. Those people would be correct, my job here is not primarily about teaching. The main reason I am joining Stanford is OpenFlow, and it is one of the most exciting technologies I have seen in networking for a long time.
OpenFlow is exciting in two ways. First, it allows you to run new protocols and algorithms on production networks. Before OpenFlow this was very hard, as modern routers have no API that gives access to this low level functionality. Second, it allows you to make centralized yet fine grain routing decisions. This has huge advantages in some areas such as security, data centers or mobility.
Friday last week was officially my last day as an employee at Voltage. The company has been doing great, both in terms of the organization as well as market traction. However after working there for 6 years it felt like it was the right time to move on. Since we founded it in 2002, Voltage has developed from being an early stage technology venture, to a stable, self-sufficient leader in enterprise software. And this means I can move on to do something new.
Building a company is primarily about finding the right people and building the organization. Conversely, the in my count most common cause of death for an early stage start-up is dysfunctional team. At Voltage, we started with a founding team that shared a common vision and terrific investors that were an incredible help whenever we needed them (picture of the early days on the right). On these foundations we together built the great organization that Voltage is today. I am grateful for having had the opportunity to work with everyone in the company, from the executive team, to the board to each and every employee. In retrospect there are only few hires that I would not make again. Going forward I am confident we have the team in place that has what it takes to guide Voltage into the future.
As you might have notices, this blog as well as all appenzeller.net email was down for the past few days. The reason was an explosion in The Planet‘s Houston H1 data center, that took out power for our server and about 9,000 other servers as well. More information here. About 700,000 web sites were reported off-line, amongst them b3ta. Assuming the back-up generators hold up, things should be stable for now.
All of this seems to be another good argument for virtualization. While I am not sure how well something like EC2 is set up for an equipment failure like this, at least in theory having multiple data canters and a distributed S3 would allow you to migrate the virtual machines to another center.
As you can see I am putting together a new web site. And as you can also see, it is not even close to done yet.
There is no new content yet. The main change is that the new site uses WordPress for updates (and in the future possibly for the occasional blog entry). I also changed the style. The old one was great in 1996, but the web has changed since.
In the mean time, have a look around and if you find anything broken it would be great if you let me know.
The World Economic Forum named myself and Voltage a Technology Pioneer for 2006/2007 (they name both a specific individual and a company). I feel incredibly humbled. The story is covered in Time Magazine.
I finally submitted my thesis and received my Ph.D. My thesis is on the publications page. The main lesson learned : Only fools try to do a start-up and write a thesis at the same time. And it seems the smartest students drop out of the program to and start Yahoo! or Google anyways.