IDG Contributor Network: Network engineers are from Mars, application engineers are from Venus

IDG Contributor Network: Network engineers are from Mars, application engineers are from Venus

Application and network engineers see the world differently. Unfortunately, these differences often result in resentment, with each party keeping score. Recently, application engineers have encroached on networking in a much bigger way. Sadly, if technical history repeats itself, we will revisit many of the long-ago problems again as application engineers rediscover the wisdom held by networking engineers.

There are many areas of network engineering and application engineering where there is no overlap or contention. However, the number of overlapping areas is increasing as the roles of network and application engineers expand and evolve.

Application engineers will try to do anything they can with code. I’ve spoken to many network engineers who struggle to support multi-cast. When I ask them why they are using multi-cast, they nearly always say, “the application engineers chose it, because it’s in the Unix Network Programming book.” The Berkley Socket programming interface permits using multi-cast. The application engineers then provide lost packet recovery techniques to deliver files and real-time media using unicast and multicast. The Berkeley Socket does not easily support VLANs. Thus VLANs have always been the sole property of the network engineer. Linux kernel network programming capabilities in recent years become much more capable, allowing engineers to use Berkeley Packet Filters (BPF) and Openflow (vSwitch) along with the traditional IP Filters to get new layers of network programmability. Open Stack neutron plug-ins are providing dynamic endpoint reachability through APIs. The overlapping areas are increasing. The general programmability and “how-to” that is being exposed by public clouds is appealing to application engineers.

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