Monday, October 22, 2007

Network Lab

Saturday, a few of us got together at my house to carve a few pumpkins, eat barbecue, roast pumpkin seeds, imbibe a little, and watch some UFC fights.  You can tell that alcohol was involved in the design of at least one of the pumpkins, which sort of stole the show.  I call it the #1 pumpkin.  Frightful, indeed.

At work, I've been busy being busy.  Friday morning there was a protracted conference call and verbal holy war over how best to extend VLANs between two data centers for disaster recovery.  After the call, I explained to Rakesh that I had stood my ground for taking advantage of our MPLS core to provide internet redundancy and told him I liked some of the Dallas engineers' ideas, but we need a way to test it.  His eyes lit up and he said, "Let's build it!"  He gestured to a cubicle which contains a sort of makeshift lab which is made up of whatever Cisco gear is laying around at the time.  It's mostly old crap that we've pulled out of customer networks (and our own network), which has been replaced by newer technology.  But, if you put the latest version of IOS on them, you can emulate our MPLS core network, as Rakesh and I did on Friday by sketching a network map, assigning addresses, and configuring routers ALL DAY LONG.  We tested every possible failure scenario and a few impossible ones and found some ways to make our network more resilient.  The ability to mock up our network core and break it in sadistic ways was very enlightening.  We even attempted to implement some of the suggestions from the conference war by some of our fellows in Dallas who don't understand MPLS, just to grab the error messages and email them to the group.  It was a great validation of our combined experience.  Now our lab looks kinda ghetto, all stacked up in an empty cubicle, but most network engineers would drool over the opportunity of having over a dozen routers and almost as many switches stacked together in one place to test design scenarios.

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