The Ghost of Application-Aware Networking

There’s a certain phrase I keep going past lately which always causes my muscles to tense and occasionally sends a shiver up my spine. Coincidentally (or not…) it’s nearing Halloween, so I thought I’d share my ghost story. This one, I swear, is all true.


It was the summer of 2005. SOA was in heavy rotation in the application realm. And it clearly stood to reason that an architectural shift that depended on the network for execution should be something that a networking provider like Cisco would have something to say about. So there were meetings. Oh, were there meetings.

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The Importance of Empathy for Tech Providers

I came across an interesting remark the other day:

“Marketing is emotionally harder than product management.”

There were several things embedded in that observation, so let me unpack them a bit to explain why the comment has stuck with me for the last few days.

As a marketer, you’re always listening—to what the press is saying about what your company is doing, what analysts say your company should be doing, what customers and prospects think they want your product to do, where your executive staff sees future opportunities and wants to take the business. You have to synthesize and triangulate among all those opinions and then apply your own judgement to come up with an effective and sustainable course of action.

This is also true for product managers, but there’s a fundamental difference in focus: the product manager uses this information to prioritize features within an appropriate time-to-market framework. There’s a fairly tangible, black-and-white outcome to those decisions: you either sell more products, or you don’t. You can quantify your impact in bottom-line terms.

A marketer’s job is to do two things:

1)      Make the world at large aware of his/her company and product’s existence, and give the world a reason to want to learn more.

2)      Find ways to help prospective customers balance a product’s deficiencies (there are always some—see above about feature prioritization) against the particular value they would derive from deploying your product vs another one or maintaining the status quo. (NB. No, this doesn’t have to mean lying. This is important. It means helping the prospect understand whether the product would materially improve life for them.)

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Languid Conversations Among the Enlightened

I’ve come to the conclusion that IT people are always endangered. Their demise is perennially imminent, and it’s always because they’re simply too stuck in their ways, and too stupid and/or lazy to let go of the tried and true, and embrace the virtues of cross-disciplinary collaboration and training.

Here’s an example the relatively traditional version, in which a vendor tells its own core audience that they’re doomed if they don’t buy the latest thing from said vendor. In fact, we’ve got two FUD vectors conflated in this particular sample:

1)      Automation is going to take away your job (even though “our customers are telling us they need automation”).

2)      SDN is going to eliminate everything about how networks are currently operated and force anyone who wants to touch a network to become a programmer.

There’s a particularly tedious corollary to the threat of new technologies, one which comes up in virtually every discussion about emerging technologies.

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Mentors, Sponsors, Role Models and Heroes

Today I found myself remembering a #FF paean that Brent Salisbury issued to Martin Casado a few months back:


It got me thinking of people who have affected the course of my career, and also about why some stand out more than others. In a few cases, I’d struggled with what to call them, and that definitely affected the course of those relationships.

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