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The 12 Basic Truths Of Networking

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    Today's computer networks seem incredibly complex. Networking technology allows us to instantly share information, easily perform work outside the office, and access entertainment and social services we never dreamed of 20 years ago. Smartphones are ubiquitous, even in many underdeveloped economies. The software layer is separating from hardware, allowing programmable and automated networks. And networks promise to become even more widespread as additional devices and systems come online to usher in the Internet of Things.

    That said, the underlying infrastructure of business networks and the Internet has remained largely unchanged since the first client-server connections. What we can do with the network has changed dramatically and some elements -- such as wireless access -- have grown in importance. But with the exception of IPv6 rolling out slowly but surely, the basic protocols and components of network infrastructure would be familiar to a networking pro who last sent a ping test when Bill Clinton was in office.

    Yes, job responsibilities may be shifting as technologies like virtualization take hold, but today the most important protocols on the network are still Ethernet, TCP/IP and BGP. And many of the principles veteran networking professionals learned on their first jobs continue to ring true.

    That's illustrated clearly, and entertainingly, by IEEE RFC 1925, which was written almost two decades ago in 1996. The authors outlined 12 tenets of networking technology collected via "extensive study" from the IEEE community. They call them "the fundamental truths underlying all networking." Ponder them and decide if you agree.

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  • 1. It has to work.

    The function of every network is to transport packets. Whether LAN or WAN, and no matter the application, that holds true.

    (Image: Andrew Rich/iStockphoto)

  • 2. No matter how hard you push and no matter what the priority, you can't increase the speed of light.

    Corollary A: No matter how hard you try, you can't make a baby in much less than 9 months.

    Corollary B: Trying to speed this up might make it slower, and it definitely won't make it happen any quicker.

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  • 3. With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine.

    However, hurling pigs into the air is not necessarily a good idea. It is hard to be sure where they are going to land, and it could be dangerous sitting under them as they fly overhead.

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  • 4. Some things in life can never be fully appreciated nor understood unless experienced firsthand.

    Similarly, some things in networking can never be fully understood by someone who neither builds commercial networking equipment nor runs an operational network.

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  • 5. It is always possible to aglutenate multiple separate problems into a single complex interdependent solution.

    In most cases, this is a bad idea. You will regret it.

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  • 6. It is easier to move a problem around than it is to solve it.

    Corollary A: It is always possible to add another level of indirection.

    Corollary B: Moving an issue to another part of the IT environment doesn't mean it went away.

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  • 7. It is always something.

    Corollary A. Good, fast, or cheap: Pick any two. You can't have all three.

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  • 8. It is more complicated than you think.

    The hardware and protocols may remain the same, but the devil is in the applications and the personalities.

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  • 9. For all resources, whatever it is, you need more.

    Corollary A: Every networking problem always takes longer to solve than it seems like it should.

    (Image: StuartBlyth/iStockphoto)