Socially defined networks? Hmm…

September 2nd, 2012 | Mat Mathews | 1 Comment

This post was inspired by a piece in TechCrunch by Alex Williams and a subsequent post by my friend Chris Hoff  here.

The concept of machines behaving socially as networks is very interesting and huge kudos to both Alex and Chris for helping get our collective heads around it. I had a very similar discussion with Dave Husak and Bill Koss back in February of this year when we were talking about how to best describe the concept of “affinity networking” to the world.

The discussion we had back then was admittedly very primitive, and really just an exercise in understanding what metaphors may or may not be interesting/useful in describing our solution to the world. We did not talk about extrapolating this concept to the “feelings” of machines and understanding how groups of machines could in theory self organize as Alex did. Chris took the concept in a slightly different direction and indeed touched upon concepts that we here at Plexxi have been working toward. While Chris’s mind is wont to bring abstract metaphors to the world of IT security, I found this passage quite telling for the network:

“If we have the capability to allow the applications and infrastructure — they’re both critical components of “the machine” — to communicate in an automated manner while contextualizing the notion that an event or message might indicate a need for state change, service delivery differences, or even something such as locality, and share this information with those who have a pre-defined relationship with a need-to-know, much goodness may occur.”

As Plexxi starts to come out of “stealth” in the coming weeks and months, we will talk about this concept in much more detail. Up until now, we’ve introduced the concepts of “Affinities” and Affinity Networking, and even used tongue and cheek approaches to describe this very symbiotic relationship between applications and infrastructure (see our videos!).

All of this is leading to a broader discussion on how – if we understand the “affinities” between data center resources – or, as Chris puts it, the “non-kinetic cyber graph”, we can, using the principles and architectures of Software Defined Networking, create a physical network infrastructure that can respond in tune. Today we think about these resources in relatively static terms. Although we’re proud of our progress in virtual machine mobility, the future as hinted to by Alex and Chris certainly points to a much more dynamic and complex machine to machine interaction model. Whether or not any of this extreme machine anthromorphism (cybermorphism?) comes to fruition or not, I believe we can all agree that the relationship between machines is an increasingly important part of our understanding of physical networks. The days of building static networks whose physical properties have no bearing on the application world and resulting machine to machine social network have never appeared more numbered. If after all, we have the ability to understand these cyber graphs, and a physical network capable of implementing these graphs as individualized form fit networks, and we have the capabilities of SDN to link the two together, why would we not implement a Socially Defined Network?

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