Today’s networks are more problem than promise. They’ve become expensive and complex, creating security risks and slowing down business innovation. You don’t have to look far to see the cracks.
It’s not like we intentionally put ourselves in this situation. In fact, the world’s biggest problems are usually created by bright, well intentioned people using the best tools available at the time. That’s certainly the case with the routed network.
The advent of the modern router happened just as the Internet was exploding twenty-five years ago. At that time, the demands of performance, reliability, and scale could only be met with specialized routing hardware. In fact, the packet forwarding demands on the router were such that additional functionality — anything that held state — had to be placed in other specialized hardware devices — firewalls, load balancers, etc. The same went for techniques to create determinism in the routed network — they were built on top of and around (not IN) routing.
As all incremental innovation goes, improvements to this basic model happened in response to new trends — virtualization, mobile, Wi-Fi, and so on. Faster specialized hardware, new layers of abstraction, better management tools. And when commodity hardware could forward packets as fast specialized hardware — we took this very same model and put it into software. We knew it would work — it was simply another incremental step to what had been working for many years.
The problem is that the rest of the world decided not to be incremental. As a result, today’s networks are ill-equipped to handle the demands of what’s coming next — millions of applications, billions of devices, trillions of transactions.
At 128 Technology, we are rethinking routing. If networking functionality can be software-based, that means the whole model of routing can be re-evaluated. It means that we can introduce state into a router. And that means we can take everything AROUND the router in the old model and make it native to the router itself.
We also believe that routers can finally be much smarter about the packets they are forwarding. They can provide visibility into (and control over) key information describing a unique, bi-directional exchange between source and destination endpoints — what we call sessions — and apply security, performance, and control functions to the entire session. This intelligence about sessions also means that routers can create rules for users and services and easily apply those rules in the router, enabling a far tighter alignment between the network and applications it supports.