Gestalt IT Network Field Day

Terry Slattery
Principal Architect

I just finished spending two days in San Jose, participating in the Gestalt IT Network Field Day, an event dreamed up by Stephen Foskett and Greg Ferro. Twelve delegates who are independent bloggers gather together to listen to presentations from a short list of interesting companies. The bloggers are recruited because of their writing and thought leadership in a given area of technology. The prior Field Day was on storage and was held in the Seattle, WA area. This Field Day was on networking and was held in San Jose, CA. The locations are selected to allow the delegates to go to the vendor’s facilities, or to a suitable conference facility, where they presented us with information about their products.

The attendees at this Field Day were:

Brandon Carroll, Stephen Foskett, Jeremy Stretch, Jennifer Huber, Bob Plankers, Josh Horton, Jeremy Gaddis, Jeremy Filliben, Greg Ferro, Ivan Pepelnjak, Steve Rossen, Ethan Banks, Terry Slattery

The vendors that we attended were:

  • HP Networking (previously 3Com, network equipment and network managment)
  • Cradlepoint (celular wireless WiFi modems)
  • SolarWinds (network management)
  • Force10 (data center switches)
  • Juniper Networks (network routers and switches)
  • Arista Networks (data center switches)
  • Xsigo (virtualized NIC and HBA)

The vendors were told up front to make sure that they had highly technical presenters because the delegates were going to ask technical questions. The resulting presentations varied from marketing to highly technical. Blogs posted by the delegates and links to vendor web sites are on the links page.

I thought that the Arista presentation was the best of the set. It was highly technical, fast paced, and demonstrated that they know not only data center switching, but how to make their products easy to use and manage. Probably the best example is their use of TDR (Time Domain Reflectometer) that is built into each interface. When an interface comes up, it measures the link to determine its length, say 75 feet, which it stores for later use. Some time later, the link goes down. The TDR is used again to check the length with the following results:

Reading                          Analysis
75 ft, open                        Server unplugged
75 ft, shorted                    Server turned off
0 ft, open                          Cable unplugged from switch port
X ft, shorted or open         Cable damaged at X ft

Once this information has been determined a syslog message or snmp trap is generated to tell the network administrators its analysis of what happened when the port went down. This is very useful information. It shows how raw data can be turned into actionable information. In this case, trouble tickets can be generated and sent to the appropriate team (server or network or cabling team).

The Arista example shows what can be done when vendors (either network equipment vendors or NMS vendors) begin thinking about how the basic functions and data that are available can be used to produce actionable information. That’s what I found refreshing and interesting about their presentation and products.



Re-posted with Permission 

NetCraftsmen would like to acknowledge Infoblox for their permission to re-post this article which originally appeared in the Applied Infrastructure blog under


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