Instead of writing about some sort of exciting network technology in my blog this time, I decided to write about a really interesting book that was just published recently. The book is called “Tubes: A Journey to the Center of the Internet” by Andrew Blum, and I highly recommend reading it if you are interested in exploring the Internet from a completely different perspective.
I like the book for a number of reasons; obviously one of them is that Brocade is mentioned frequently and quite prominently at the beginning of chapter 5, as Blum spots our routers at the core of the Internet around the world powering exchanges and service provider networks. What makes this book unique though, and what sets it apart from the other books I have on the Internet, is the approach Blum took in writing the book. Instead of focusing on the technical details, the architectures, the nuts and bolts of how things work, he eloquently describes the intangible Internet in tangible words that bring out the physicality of the places he visited. Throughout the book you’ll read many descriptive words that appeal to your senses and capture the lighting, sound, smell, temperature, size, texture, and even the physical structure of the buildings that house the machines and tubes that connect the Internet – it’s almost like you are there with him.
The second thing that stands out in this book is the detail on the people and social aspect of what makes the Internet run – it’s a lot more than just technology and this is truly a critical aspect. Blum put a lot of effort into meeting and listening to the network operators that make the Internet work. He came to our conferences (I met him at NANOG48 in Austin back in 2010), he came to our social events, he came to our facilities, he made an effort to really get to know us, and patiently listened to our stories all while not being too intrusive or annoying. The social aspect of networking is also something that is very important to Brocade, and why we’ve been long time supporters of, and contributors to network operator conferences. Though you may have met some network engineers that are a little reclusive or shy, social networking among network operators is key to the development of the Internet. If we can’t talk shop over beers about ideas with our peers, and get to personally know the people whose networks we interconnect and peer with, then it’s pretty much impossible for the Internet to evolve because it would be almost impossible to work together. I like to personally know the people that I work with on a daily basis, even if they are spread around the world, don’t you?
Tubes is an easy and fascinating book to read, so pick it up at your nearest physical or virtual book store, and enjoy reading about some of the people and places that make up the Internet. And if you attend APRICOT, EPF, GPF, NANOG, RIPE, or any of the many regional NOGs or IX meetings, then I look forward to seeing you at the next one!