Network Automation Nerds Podcast

#050: Unlocking Network Engineering Insights with Dr. Russ White, Part 1

January 17, 2024 Eric Chou
Network Automation Nerds Podcast
#050: Unlocking Network Engineering Insights with Dr. Russ White, Part 1
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Are you curious about the journey of a technology veteran who's turned farming and fishing into life lessons? Join our chat with Russ White, an industry luminary who has helped shape the world of networking. From his early forays into electronics and amateur radio, Russ tells a fascinating tale of how he landed in networking and technology.

In part 1 of our conversation, Russ takes us on a trip down memory lane as he recounts his career voyage. From his stint in the Air Force working on mainframes and cryptography, to his landmark work at Cisco specializing in frame relay and IP routing. Get an exclusive look into his experience with the source code for iOS and his role in crafting Cisco Press books.

Let's get to it!

Connect with Russ on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/riw777/
Follow Russ on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/rtggeek?lang=en 
Check out Rull11 Tech:
https://rule11.tech/ 

--- Stay in Touch with Us —

Subscribe on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/c/EricChouNetworkAutomationNerds
Follow Eric on Twitter:
https://twitter.com/ericchou
Network Automation Learning Community:
https://members.networkautomation.community/  

Eric:

Network Automation Nerds Podcast. Hello, welcome to Network Automation Nerds Podcast, a podcast about network automation, network engineering, python and many other technology topics. I'm your host, eric Cho, today on the show. I am just super excited to welcome a true industry luminary with us. A person really needs no introduction because after decades of just trailblazing work, his name has been synonymous with the evolving of the nerd industry. All I have to say is, if you work in this industry, chances are you probably have come across this work, whether you know it or not. And of course, I'm talking about Russ White. Hey, russ, welcome to the show.

Russ:

Hey Eric, way too much of an introduction. I'm just an ordinary guy.

Eric:

You and I both know that's not true and that introduction, compared to your O'Reilly learning course introduction, that's like a fraction of it. Come on now.

Russ:

And I'm forever telling them to cut back on the O'Reilly ones. When I do it I'm like that's too long to stop.

Eric:

No, but it was really. I mean it was during your justice right, because I mean how long have you been, would you say, in the industry? Because I mean I think it overlaps your service time a little bit, but you know how long would you say you've been working in like nail working?

Russ:

Yeah, so I actually started in electronics when I was really young. So real electronics like radio and radar and antennas, and I was climbing 90 foot towers and I was 12, 13 years old and I had an amateur radio license when I was 12. And so I was doing all that kind of stuff and working on cube type stuff and this, that and the other, and then I didn't get into networking until the late 80s, I would say mid 80s, 87, 86, something like that. So I'm very close to the beginning of the internet era. But I mean back then I don't know, the internet wasn't so much of a thing. I mean we were much more around Banyan Vines and Novel Network and everything wasn't ethernet. We had Token Bus and Token Ring, and Token Bus is the one nobody's ever heard of. And, tommy Conrad, what was it? Arcnet? Arcnet was very, very popular when I first came in because it would run over twists of pair and so you stick it on top of all telephone lines and it was very easy to deploy. So we did tons and tons of ArcNet when I was first getting in the industry. So that's kind of that's about the year range 85. Now I was doing computers a bit before that 84, well, maybe 84, 85. I learned to code C in 85 or 86. So that was my first. I mean I was doing basic and assembler on a Cocoa 2 in 83, 84. And then I think I first started working on the C language, learning the C language, in 85, maybe 86.

Eric:

But how did that happen, though you were saying you were climbing towers at 12. I mean, did the insurance company have anything to say?

Russ:

No, no, no, no. I grew up in a house with a 90 foot tower in the backyard and a four meter inverted V and a 10 meter long mire and a couple of Yaggies and a box and a few other antennas up there. I come from an electronic engineering family. Every mine, my family, is an amateur radio operator and so we just grew up with it. It was just like a part of the air we breathe. We had to work bench downstairs, I had a 40 meter rig connected to the 40 meter inverted V and then the 10 meter rig connected to a 10 meter long wire. And then, when I was growing up, we did what were called field days for amateur radio, which was like we would go out and we would just take field. I mean, we would take a baseball field from the city or whatever and we would set up and the whole goal was to be off grid for an entire weekend, get an entire operational radio station set up from the ground up with all portable equipment, and then communicate with as many other states and countries as you could in a 24 hour period. And so all the radio clubs in the world did at the same weekend, of course at different times based on their time zones and stuff like that. And so I mean we had the club. I mean we had two or three big, big, big generators on trailers commercial grid generators in our backyard and we would haul them out and we had a camper and we'd go park in the middle of a field and run the generators up. And we had friends who had 60 and 70 foot towers that were temp put up and we would run those up and we would put up guy wires and run inverted Vs and Yaggies and all sorts of other types of antennas off of them. And that's basically the way I grew up was. Doing that and camping and farming I should say that was like the three things I was really involved with when I was a really young kid. And then, of course, I got into art and music, took piano lessons and stuff later. But yeah, I mean really my life when I grew up was between a farm my grandfather's farm and amateur radio and boating and camping and stuff like that. It was really outdoors.

Eric:

I could just imagine like a young Russ like holding a yaggy, like hey, go go to like 40 degree a little bit exactly.

Russ:

I mean, yeah, exactly, and that's the way it was right. It was like okay, climb the tower, can you give me five degrees south? Yeah, you know, because because you don't have, we didn't have. Some of the antennas had electric motors on them, but there's only so many electric turn it turners you can put on it on a tower and like a 40 meter Inverted. If you can't put anything on it, I mean it's a matter of going out and pulling the stakes and moving the stakes and then sometimes the Balan at the top gets messed up and you got to go up there and figure out what's going on with the Balan and you know Stuff like that. Yeah, so that's how I kind of grew up, was in that world. And then, you know, when I got into high school ish a little bit later on, even while I was working on doing an art degree and a music degree, during that time period I got a cocoa too. Okay and started. I mean, I'm like, for me it's not like fun to use stuff, it's more fun to build it. And so my first thing was always okay, let's go figure out how this thing works. And I went and learned.

Eric:

I'm sorry. What is the cocoa to? I'm not very familiar.

Russ:

It's a radio shot. Oh, okay too. Yes, okay, yeah, 16k a memory.

Eric:

Massive.

Russ:

Yeah, and so you know you start playing with basic and you're like there's only certain things you can do with basic. You're kind of crammed and basic In those days and you only have 16 or 64k a memory. And so you know, you really have to be very careful about how you read things off. Take, this is tape drive. I mean, it's literally a cassette, right, so you like, everything is really slow. So if you want to make a game run faster or whatever, you have to get more of it in memory. Well, the only way to get to write things and get more of it memories to learn a similar and you build, you know a little, assembly routines that the basic could, they could then call, and Then you would get into doing that, and then you know my, my C programming started out the same way. I was doing x-based stuff. I don't know if you know what x-base is, but D-base had its own programming language beyond sequel, and so you could write Applications fully in D-base. And there was another one called Fox base and it had the same same language. So they just ended up calling it x-base. But again, you were very limited in the amount of things you could do. So what you could do is you could call little Pascal routines or sue routines or whatever you wanted to from x-base as an external, and so I would actually write little C programs that would like do certain things on the database open the file, do a certain thing, do some calculations, spethiants, or back at D-base or at Fox based. You know what I was working on and that's how I learned. See, that's how I started C and then I was like this is kind of a cool language, I think I'm just gonna go write stuff. So I started writing stuff and see at that.

Eric:

Yeah, most of them windows see. Not even like C plus plus of C sharp.

Russ:

And no, this is before all that. Yeah, this is like this is way before C plus plus. Yeah, I mean, this is Kerrigan Richie days. I mean I picked up the C primer plus from Sam's and then the Kerrigan and Richie book, and that was the only two books available At the time on learning C. So I picked up the Borland compiler, borland C C, the C compiler, and it had the Pascal compiler. So of course I did stuff in Pascal just to be like because it was there, why not, right, you know, go learn a little bit of it. And so, yeah, so I started working with a Borland C compiler on writing Windows programs and, believe it or not, the very first program I started working on was at the time I was just starting out doing competitive shooting and I didn't have a good way. Because there's this thing called hatchers notebook. It has a set of Tables in the back. Yeah, that if you take a, a bullet, and you measure the, the, you take a Bullet or a projectile and you measure the, the velocity at certain distances in its path, you can figure out what's called the ballistic coefficient. And using the ballistic coefficient you could then figure out what its path would be. There's no software that would do that at the time when I first started.

Eric:

So when I was doing competitive shooting.

Russ:

I was like so we're gonna do a little bit of Shooting was like so we're people like using hand calculation like oh yeah. Okay, everybody had a true notebook on the range. Yeah, they would like pop open to the back and look at the table and right down and figure it out. So you know it wasn't portable or anything, it was running on a Windows machine. But I figured out how to write a program that just took the hatchers notebook Tables yeah, and convert because most of the bullet manufacturers or car Manufacturers give you the ballistic coefficient. They calculate it. Yeah they know what it is. So you can just take the ballistic coefficient and write a piece of software and there's all sorts of commercial stuff that does that today. But this is way before all that commercial stuff was available and so it was like something to do that helped me pick out some C programming skills and also helped me with a little bit of my longer range. I haven't I stopped doing long range competitive shooting when I left the Air Force and started doing short range stuff, and haven't I never gone back to long range stuff? But you know we were shooting Thousand yard stuff and you can't shoot thousand yard stuff without understanding holdover, hold under. Right you know what the wind is gonna do on the project, on stuff like that. So I there was nothing doing any of that, so I just had like there were tables and that was it did that.

Eric:

So did that ever get you anything like? Because I've had guests before where they start making games and you know that actually got them into Given the first win right and then that propels them into. So did that? You know, like your program actually If you get your first internship or anything like that?

Russ:

No, no, just a few. Half a dozen people picked it up and started using it and eventually I stopped maintaining it and it went away. I just never really did anything, because I went into networking instead. Yeah, let's talk about that. So I mean, instead of doing programming, I thought you know this is all kind of cool, but networking is actually closer to my electronics career, like the closer to my current electronics world and because it's all about modulation and stuff like that. And of course you know I was working on radio, so Modulation, and when I was in the Air Force I was working on airfield electronics, I was working on VRs and tack ends and and it's all about modulation and fields and all that other stuff and Def difference of depth of modulation, and we use library dipoles for the, for the ILS system, on the localizer, and then we had some Yaggies that we used. So I mean it was all very familiar territory for me working on electronics in the Air Force and then, you know, when I got into computers it was like the modulation side is what picked my interest more and the side of Transmission and building the network more than coding. I think seemed interesting, but like I don't know, it's too abstracted. Yeah, it's more abstracted than than what it was working on the network. So I got involved in the networking side and really that happened because I knew enough about computers that they drug me into the Air Force at the time didn't have a career field for computers at all. Well, they did, it was for mainframes and there was another one for crypto, so I Did you? Say crypto.

Eric:

Yes, oh, cryptography, not like Crypto here.

Russ:

hardware, hardware software for crypto. Crypto, yeah, yeah, threes and KG84's and stuff like that.

Eric:

Yeah, not like bitcoins or anything like that. No, no, no, no, no, no. Yeah, it's the same principles, Sure?

Russ:

the same stuff. But but I mean, this isn't shot three, you know, this isn't shot 256, and this is before again all of that stuff. This is when you got a stew three and the stew three had built an encryption and it had tapes Paper tapes to set the keys, Like as a one-time pad, and that's what you had like in KG 84s and stuff like that. All had one-time pads and you know, you had a ripoff pad, literally a pad, or on one of them we had a little. We had a little box that was print out a paper tape and that paper tape had your key on it for this period of time, right, and it would spit out the paper, a new paper tape, and it wasn't necessarily half an hour or an hour or a day, it was kind of randomized, like there was an algorithm that was making them all spit out the same key at the same time and that's how you did your key sharing for secret key, so that's kind of like. So anyway, I kind of worked on that stuff a little bit, but I really got drug into, because there was no career field for computers. I got drug in the computer side, because I knew how to build a computer and I knew how to do a Bit of hacking. Yeah, so they were like, okay, you can do this. And then this project came along. That was like we need to build a new, new network for the entirety of McGuire Air Force Base.

Eric:

Oh wow for the Air Force.

Russ:

Yeah, we need network, and so Scott was using Scott Air Force Base was using Novel Network. Yeah, I went off and did a lot of research in a Novel Network and I was working with an outside contractor who was working with cable, trying gear and building the physical, like laying the fiber across the base. And then I got involved in the telco side because we had a very old Struggler switch 10,000 line mainframe sitting in one of the buildings and then we had a bunch of media, a bunch of building distribution frames that were Cross crossbar fabrics Out the 21st Air Force and stuff like that. So I got sucked into that and I got sucked into crypto. Through doing that I'm doing some of the crypto gear because of that and there were other things. But I basically became more doing like Telco type stuff and more communications type stuff than working on the airfield. And I think one of the reasons I left the Air Force was because they said, all right, we've created a new career field for this. You can either switch to that career field and go back through tech training, yeah, or you, you know you can go back to the shop and work on the airfield. And I was like, well, I really don't want to work on the airfield anymore. You know, it's kind of like the computer stuff is a lot cooler. So yeah, I left the Air Force and got a job at a small Valuated reseller just doing computer networks doing the Vell network and Banyan Bynes mostly.

Eric:

Yeah, but but I mean that was that was. What year was that? Because I know subsequently you had a very much a you know you're luminar career at Cisco, at you were, you know, testifying before Congress to explain how internet works and all of these other stuff.

Russ:

Yeah, yeah, so, yeah. So I was there until 93. Okay two 93. Yeah, and then I left the Air Force, I went into this thing doing Banyan vines and stuff and then I decided to move to North Carolina.

Eric:

Okay.

Russ:

I just I was in New Jersey and I was like enough, I want to move to North Carolina. So I moved to North Carolina and the first job I got was at Cisco. Okay and I was working in. I was a grade three, which is like ridiculously low grade level at Cisco, Okay, and I was working in the hardware team taking cases intact, just you know, doing RMEs and stuff Right. And then they moved me to fast track engineering and I was working on frame relay. Mostly, 99% of the time was frame relay right and some basic IP stuff. And then I did you know it was time to move on from there. And it was kind of like do I want to go into desktop because I already know IPX, but I want to go into the IP routing backline TRT.

Eric:

Yeah.

Russ:

So Alvaro and James Ng and Don Slice convinced me to do the IP routing TRT, and it was not an area I was extremely familiar with, but they were like you can learn it, let's do it. Like why do you want to keep doing IPX? Like IP is the future. You know, I've never worked with us on IP. So I jumped into the IP routing TRT, backline TRT, and was taking cases on OSPF, isis, all that stuff. Ergrp was, of course, my initial specialty.

Eric:

Oh, really, okay, I didn't know that. I think that first encountered your work with the Cisco Press book. Right, was it Cisco Express Pro fording or?

Russ:

I could be any, I mean. I did Cisco Express fording? Yeah, so, yeah. So I did a lot of, because in those days we had access to the source code to iOS, all of it, like all of it, and the 7200 and parts of the 25 and 26 were developed in Raleigh at the Raleigh in Raleigh. So I knew the people firsthand who were working on like parts of the 7500 and the 7200, stuff like that and so I got into our architecture and trying to figure out like how does? All this stuff actually work. Part of that was also because I was one of the first support techs on the Cisco PIX. When Cisco bought the PIX, they gave us access to the source code for the PIX.

Eric:

PIX being the firewall, right, Because I think they rebranded it and called it something else like firepower.

Russ:

Yeah, it was originally just the PIX and it was a little 2RU or 4RU white box that had just basically an Intel processor in it.

Eric:

I remember that it was through an acquisition, wasn't it? And like, finesse, was the original.

Russ:

Something like that, yeah.

Eric:

So the CLI was totally different. But anyways, I'm interested in hearing more about your experience with a 7275.

Russ:

Yeah, so I went through that and I started learning a little bit about the architecture and how it worked and I started going to some of the developer training Because for a time they were trying to pull me into the developer side at Cisco instead of the escalation side of Cisco Right, and so because we were struggling to find the OGRP coders. Honestly, ogrp was like it was very hard to find somebody who knew it well enough to code it.

Eric:

Yeah.

Russ:

And so along the way I gained commit privileges. So I was committing code part time and I was doing code reviews and basically all the protocols, all the routing protocols, and got into learning a little bit about the architecture. And then Rodney Dunn and I sat down and said you know all these show commands on like crashes and stuff like that. We spent all this time learning how to train. That's part of the reason you have to know the architecture of Cisco iOS that those days was to chase down crashes. You'll be able to debug the symbol, find the original source code, look at the code and file a defect. And it had to be the best defect it could be, so often I was filing defect with the fixes in the defect, oh wow.

Eric:

They must love you. There Is that just during the course of the course of the thumbs, At that time.

Russ:

I guess, yeah, you know, you pull a cord dump and you're like, oh yeah, I can see we're walking past the end of the year, Exactly.

Eric:

Here's the memory location you should fix. That's right.

Russ:

Exactly so I mean. But I mean it was a small company at that time and everybody was doing everything, and so you had to right. You were kind of that's. You were on the hook, I was on global escalation, I was on the hook, I had to do everything. So, yeah, so we were doing all this and Rodney and I were like, well, you know, nobody really understands this stuff. We ought to do a session at Cisco Live on this.

Eric:

Yeah.

Russ:

So we ended up doing an eight hour session on iOS architecture. Yeah, like how to trace down crashes and hangs and you know how the scheduler actually works and what. All those weird messages like scheduler thrashing and process so and so and stuff all that meant. And then we were like well, that's interesting, but then there's all these weird counters on the interface. Nobody knows either. So we went over to the 7200 guys and pulled all the original source code for like the 2500 Ethernet driver which was the simplest driver in Cisco at the time and started digging around trying to find out what all those mean and then pulling them back because we didn't understand what the chip was doing. We would have to go ask the person who was programming it to say okay when you say you have this. What exactly is going on in the chip when that happens?

Eric:

Like oh wow, that's super deep, yeah, what's?

Russ:

the fi doing at this point Right.

Eric:

Yeah.

Russ:

What's the ASIC doing at this point that it's causing this problem, and so yeah, so we dug around all that, did that eight hour session, and then we were like you know what? This would be a good book. So I got together with Kotos Murphy and Fiji Balapagrada and wrote like inside Cisco iOS software architecture. And yeah that that, and then that led to a second book called Cisco Express Forwarding. So yeah, I mean part of it was to just being there when I was invented, like I was there interacting with Bobby Seale when he was writing the original self code, and the other guy was his name, I don't remember now, but anyway, yeah, out in London. And then I was there when we were building Graceful Restart, like in the fib. Like what does Graceful Restart look like in the fib? Well, I was there when it was happening, I was helping, interacting with the people writing that code, and so that's a lot of my understanding of that stuff comes from just being like there and just interacting with those people and trying to figure it out. Yeah, so I mean that's kind of how I got into routing is it was electronics through telco, kind of telco crypto type stuff, because that was what was needed, and then basic computer stuff and then you know there's basic computer support and then it kind of fell into networking over time and then I went to work for Cisco and it became all networking Basically.

Eric:

I have to say I at one point I mean I read those books but they were so over my head it was, it was amazing. I have to like, really like, just just claim down and say, drink like 10 cups of coffee and try to digest it, but it was still, it was still over my head. It wasn't until much, much later, I would say, like 10, 15 years later, when I was really dealing with, you know, some of these other stuff where I have to dig deeper. But, like when you're going through, I don't know your CCMP certification right, like it doesn't really help with, like on the command line, but it's nonetheless very valuable sources and I would, I would have to say, your O'Reilly courses, which I'll provide like links on how, not the how the internet works, but how the router works. It really was helpful in just putting the pieces into, like the right category. And and then that reminded me of your previous work, which was, I don't know, 15, at least 20 years ago, right, those books that came out, that of those and, like I said, like none of these really click until much, much later. But but I really appreciate it. Like I think that was the only, maybe still is the only book out there that exposes the internal workings of, like how these things work. Right, and, like you said, at the time Cisco made everything, everything was by Cisco, the chip and all that. It's not like right now. Like right now, you know, a lot of people have broadcoms and you know, barefoot or whatever.

Russ:

Yeah, and a lot of the principles are the same. Yeah, Honestly, I have to say that a lot of what happened to me is because I grew up in electronics. I learned the importance of theory. Amateur radio test is all theory Like there's very little memorization on the amateur radio test I mean there was. There were like frequency ranges. Okay, if you're in the 40 meter range, what is your actual frequencies, top and bottom, and this, that and the other? And if you're using X amount of power and you're in the 40, and you're at this particular frequency, what are the side bands and what are those powers and those types of things. But for the most part when I was learning this stuff, it was all about theory. Like how does an, how does an inverted V work with a horizontally or vertically oriented antenna Right? What's an LPD actually doing? What's a? What's a long periodic dipole actually do? What's a Yaggy do? Like how does that actually shape the signal? And like looking at diagrams of what the signal looked like in the air when you were using different kinds of antennas and when you did different things. And how does tropo, tropo, tropo, tropo spheric scatter work and all that kind of stuff. And so it was all theory. So I became very theory oriented, much younger and I think a lot of networking people really struggle to become theory oriented. They're much more command line oriented.

Eric:

Yeah, very tactical.

Russ:

Yeah, and thankfully for me, I didn't start out that way. I mean, everything was theory for me from day one, and so it's just always been for me like, okay, that's great, the command line is great on this 2,500, but I want to actually know what that means. Right, when I look at that, I want to know, like, if it says an overrun, what's an overrun Like?

Eric:

what does?

Russ:

that actually mean what's going on in the chip that causes it to spit? An error that says overrun.

Eric:

Right, what is that Right? You're not happy with the wall garden you wanted to like break it out and say how did this? How was this made?

Russ:

Yeah, exactly, yes, that's exactly right, and so I think that's been something that happened to me when I was very young.

Eric:

Yeah.

Russ:

And I can just thank my whole engineering family, for everybody in my family is either engineering or farming, and that's it, like that's all there is.

Eric:

You made it sound like they're very related right To most common folks. I mean, it's like engineering and farming, yeah, I know.

Russ:

No, but I mean, my grandfather was a county agent and so his whole job was not farming per se, although he had a farm, let's be honest. He owned seven ponies and a couple of horses and I don't know whatever else, but you know. And so whatever ponies it was anyway, and you know. But he had a few acres that he plowed down, but he wasn't a farmer. That's not what he did, right, he farmed to learn how to farm, that's the only reason he farmed. It was like okay, a new variety of corn has come out, I'm going to try it with this and that and the other in my field. And then when I go to talk to some farmer that I'm helping to build any farm or helping there, I'm going to be able to explain to them why they should use. That was his whole mindset, like you know, why should you blast a new pond? Because it's going to give you fish and it's going to allow you to do agriculture, it's going to allow you to give water to your cows and your horses and your livestock, and it's going to. You know and he had all these things and, by the way, he was horrible to fish with you never wanted to go fishing with him.

Eric:

But farming and corn, yeah, that's his gig, yeah.

Russ:

Well, no, because he knew that. He knew the bottom layout of every pond and every lake in the entire.

Eric:

Oh, I see, I was just saying okay.

Russ:

So he would like throw his lure in and he would be like 15 minutes later it'd be like there's my limit, what have you been doing? Like what? I haven't caught anything, yeah.

Eric:

No, you know, I'm actually. I just finished reading Amazon on Bound and that actually reminded me what you were talking about. Your experience on the farm and Grandpa really reminded me of how Basil's recall that, like his childhood spending with his grandfather that inspired his like passion for space, for Blue Origin and and all the other stuff. But that's you know, just listening to you that makes a lot of sense. Like you know, they are related right In the context that you brought it in.

Russ:

Yeah, it's asking why rather than just what constantly it's the constantly not being happy with he was never happy with. Okay, that corn grew better than that corn.

Eric:

Right Like yeah, so be it.

Russ:

But that doesn't do me any good if I'm trying to help farmers.

Eric:

Right, right.

Russ:

Increase their cash Like that doesn't help me. I need to know why. Because I need to be able to walk over their farm, look at their soil and say, no, your soil is a little bit different than mine.

Eric:

Right, I know how is it different. Yeah, exactly why is it different. That was his mindset.

Russ:

That was constantly his mindset and so I think it just comes from my entire childhood being constantly pushed like. Even in the Boy Scouts. It was never tied this knot, it was always. Why would you use this knot? Why is this not good for that?

Eric:

Right.

Russ:

Right, and what situations might you use this knot in?

Eric:

Yeah, it comes in handy when you're like hanging by the thread, hang on the cliff of a tree or whatever.

Russ:

Yeah, exactly so. Yeah, so that's. I mean that's kind of like I don't know. It's always been asking why, and I think that's what really brought me along is just asking why constantly. So what?

Eric:

yeah. So I mean that's amazing and I think that's that kind of it's the same thread throughout your career. But I wanted to talk a little bit about what was after Cisco though, because there's that long like still very much a lot of projects after Cisco that you did. I don't want to make it sound like you know that was.

Russ:

I mean, I was at Cisco for 16 years. I joined as a, you know as a tech engineer yeah. And I was left as a distinguished architect in kind of on the marketing side of things a little bit, and oh, really Okay. Yeah, it was, it was. It was an architecture team on the sales side, basically, and so then I went to, I guess, after that, verisign.

Eric:

And I remember that yeah, Verisign.

Russ:

I was mostly working on BGP security and DNS and DFZ stuff and trying to understand how to Like. This is back in the day when, when DNS wasn't scaled the way it is today.

Eric:

Okay.

Russ:

So how do you build a fabric? How do you build data centers? I mean, we just call them data centers at that time, right, sure, we didn't have a formal thing around fabrics that you know we'll get you. We'll get you to where you need to be to scale DNS and other things, because we were trying to sell other services beyond DNS at that point. And then, how does BGP, how do BGP things interact with DNS things? I mean just as a. For instance, if I see any BGP advertisement and it's kind of weird, what characteristics about that BGP advertisement might indicate to me that I have a spam or an attack coming because of this new BGP advertisement? Right, can I actually pin that down and try to understand that as a research project? Like, is there a way to do something about that to make that actionable data? Now, nothing ever happened with that stuff, but that's what I was working on. And then, after Verisign, I went to work for VCE for like six months. Not even it just wasn't my place to be. And then I went to work for I guess it was Ericsson at that time. And Ericsson was interesting because I was taking some of my telco background and reapplying it, because that was about the time that AT&T, for instance, was replacing their COs with data center fabrics and that's really where I started to learn data center fabrics at a bigger scale and understanding it. And then I went to work with TelePost Greenland and all sorts of other places at when I was at Ericsson and then Ericsson kind of they partnered with Cisco and kind of killed Redback Okay. Yeah, I remember that red back was the part of Erickson I was working for. I say it was really. It was really red back and or the old red back as it was, and kind of red back kind of collapsed and they kind of just let a lot of people go. So I went over and worked for LinkedIn mmm and Then after LinkedIn for a couple of years, microsoft bot, linkedin and I went to Juniper, yeah, and worked there, and then I left Juniper and went to Akamai, yep, and part of that is just like I've been an defender for a long time 16 years at Cisco, a Couple of three years at Erickson, a couple years at Juniper right like I Feel like I need to be at operators More sometimes and you pick the biggest of them all.

Eric:

That's how you roll, man.

Russ:

It wasn't really intentional, that was more. I know people and they were like we're looking for an architect and hey, you know let's have a discussion and you know it just turned out to be a good place to go. I was talking to other places at the same time sure. But yeah, and I'm kind of congenit, I'm kind of I don't really want to work for Google or Facebook or any of those. I mean, I've had offers from Facebook and Google and yeah, it's not a lot bad yeah it's not like I'm really opposed, like to the. There's some other reasons. I just am not all that interested. I'm more interested in things like Akamai or yeah, you know something like that, and then I'm just that environment or whatever and for people who doesn't know like I mean so, for me Akamai was still very much like a CDN provider.

Eric:

But I don't know if they start branching out into like, like Cloudflare right, they started with CDN and then now again into like DDoS mitigation and, you know, building their own backbones and so on. So have. So what is your day-to-day like at Akamai or like? What is your main focus with an operator versus like a vendor nowadays?

Russ:

so my, my Actual position is I work for Prolexic, which is a D Dot, which is the DDoS mitigation arm Yep, yep. So day to day, I'm mostly focused on how to make Prolexic scale better and future, more future stuff. I'm much more future oriented there's I'm on a team of architects. Many of the architects on my team are not so future oriented as I am, which is cool. I mean, you know you've got to have a variety. You got a people who are looking at the here and now and understanding things and people who are looking at the future more right, and so you know my focus is primarily on Integration with the rest of the company. Every piece of Akamai tends to operate as a separate thing, and so I'm deeply involved in the FR deployment, fr routing performance throughout Akamai not just because. So the node uses FR routing and we use FR routing at the edge for various other reasons, and you know FR routing is deployed in other fabrics and stuff like that. So I tend to cross all the boundaries when it comes to working with FR routing and even with fabric design and with BGP stuff and whatever I mean. There's just stuff that goes on all the time. Yeah and so I get sucked into all of it, which is fine with me. If it's routing oriented, that's fine. So my primary focus is Prolexic, but I tend to do a lot even with DNS and even with other pieces of the company, so I tend to interact a lot with the rest of the company. So my day-to-day is largely meetings around something to do with performance or you know something like that, things that are going on that need to be looked at, and then future-facing stuff. Yeah, like, how should we shift our architecture to allow us to deploy five new things sellable products in five years? And and those are not just product questions, those are architecture questions about how do you build a network that's flexible enough to support all these new products, that's not so overly complex.

Eric:

The knock is falling off the side of the earth going no stop yeah and that's super important, right, because I think people I've risked stories about you know the projection on. You know if you start in LA and you're trying to fly to New York, if you just shifted, you know five degrees, you're never gonna end up in New York, you're gonna be in Canada somewhere, right? So I think what you're doing is Worth its weight and go where you've set the right direction so you eventually get to where you want to go without too much. You know, very little margin of error.

Russ:

Yeah, that's, that's kind of what we try to do, that's kind of what. That's kind of what the goal is of the team or that's. Yeah, that's pretty much what it is. And again, we have people who are more short-term, which is cool, which is good. We need those people. We have people who are more project management on the team, etc. Etc. That's all great because we need all those people, you know, and and I just tend to be more of the longer term yeah, think about what we're doing in five years. Yeah, think about how we build stuff to make it, to make it different five years from now or whatever just tends to be my thing, and that tends to be one. And and also interacting with lots of other areas of company. Like I said, dns team and we have two different DNS teams and then we have a core networking team and we have all sorts of other teams, and so, yeah, I try to interact as much as I can with those people and nice and pull things together.

Eric:

So yeah, that explains a lot and that's why, you know, I really enjoyed the various aspects on your podcast when that explains why there's, you know, like DDoS talks right, like, and those are, those are excellent. I listened to all of them and then there were automation you to mention BGP and all of that. So, yeah, so I mean speaking of which, I mean this is probably a good time to wrap up the first part of our conversation and where where can people find you? On social, on blogs, and obviously we're gonna have it in the show notes, but where can people follow your work?

Russ:

So the best place to the best place to follow me is rule 11.tech. And not because I do tons there, but because I cross. I try to cross post everything there, like I write other play, I write for packet pushers and mind matters and other places, but I try to like cross post everything on rule 11, just so that it's a single place to follow my work basically, and all the hedge episodes are there and all that kind of stuff.

Eric:

Yeah, I follow Russ's work there. All right, cool, I'm gonna wrap up the part one, but stay tuned for part two, where we dive more into, you know, russ's recommendation for for various, for various issues of their careers. So well, thanks for being here with me and I look forward to part two. Thank you for listening to Newark Animation Notes podcast today. Find us on Apple podcast, google podcast, spotify and all the other Major podcast platforms. Until next time, bye, bye you.

Russ White's Early Years in Technology
Career Path in Networking and Technology
Understanding Cisco iOS Architecture and Networking
Exploring Farming, Fishing, and Career Pathways
Networking Work Experience and Future Focus