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Hardware-Defined Networking

Hardware-Defined Networking (HDN) explores the patterns that are common to modern networking protocols and provides a framework for understanding the work that networking hardware performs on a packet-by-packet basis billions of times per second.

These patterns are not revealed in the command line interfaces that are the daily tools of IT professionals. The architects and protocol designers of the Internet and other large-scale networks understand these patterns, but they are not expressed in the standards documents that form the foundations of the networks that we all depend upon.

HDN presents these essential networking patterns and describes their impact on hardware architectures, resulting in a framework that software developers, dev ops, automation programmers, and all the various networking engineers can understand how modern networks are built.

Most networking books are written from a network administrator’s perspective (how to build and manage a network), while many new networking books are now written from a software perspective (how to implement a network’s management plane in software); HDN’s perspective will benefit both the hardware and the software engineers who need to understand the trade-offs of design choices.

Publication Praise

“Today, massive compute problems such as machine learning are being tackled by specialized chips (GPUs, TPUs). So, how will specialized hardware handle the massive bandwidths from IoT devices to Mega-Scale Data Centers and equally massive bandwidths from those MSDCs to hand-helds? Here is just the book to find out: every time I open it I learn something new, something I didn’t know. Brian Petersen has taken a thoroughly modern snapshot of how it all comes together.”

— Dr. Kireeti Kompella, SVP and CTO Engineering, Juniper Networks

“Brian Petersen has accomplished something quite remarkable with this book; he has distilled complex and seemingly disparate networking protocols and concepts into an eminently understandable framework. This book serves as both an excellent reference and as a learning tool for individuals from a broad range of networking disciplines.”

— Jean-Marc Frailong, Chief Architect, Juniper Networks

Sample Pages

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About the Author

Brian Petersen’s engineering career largely mirrors the growth and progress in networking. After exploring a variety of disciplines, Brian joined 3Com Corporation back when Ethernet’s most formidable competitor was “SneakerNet”—floppy discs. From there, Brian did pioneering work on high-density 100 Mbps Ethernet bridges at Grand Junction Networks and, after its acquisition, at Cisco Systems. The volatile early 2000s led to a series of startups (notably Greenfield Networks and TeraBlaze), culminating in several years at Broadcom Corporation and, since 2010, as a Distinguished Engineer at Juniper Networks. From building Ethernet MACs using discrete logic elements to developing packet processing architectures for multi-terabit packet forwarding engines intended for chassis-scale systems, Brian has developed a deep and rich understanding of network architectures and the packet processing required to support them.

Author Q & A

What got you started on this book?

This book started as a series of notes made in support of a series of planned educational seminars for my engineering colleagues at Juniper Networks. As those notes accumulated, I recognized that there was more than enough material to fill a book.

Who is this book for?

This book is primarily intended for those engineers that are tasked with implementing packet forwarding protocols and other networking operations and applications in hardware. However, the generalized networking model that I present is also quite valuable to software engineers and to anyone in related networking fields that need or want a deeper understanding of this vast a complex topic.

After reading this book, what's the take away?

The primary takeaway is that, despite its complexity, there is a fundamental logic and structure to most aspects of networking.

What are you hoping that people will learn from this book?

I hope that my readers will learn how to map various existing and new networking protocols and methods onto the fundamental models presented in this book. This will bring clarity to what may seem to be a vast a chaotic field.

What do you recommend as the next item to read after this book?

This book provides a guided tour of a number of relevant standards. I recommend that readers choose one or more of these standards and read the actual standards documentation. These documents present far more detail than I could squeeze into the book and provide information that is far outside of the book's scope.

What's your inspiration?

My inspiration is the recognition that an informed and educated engineering community is an extraordinarily powerful thing. The deeper the understanding that these talented individuals have of this topic the better.

What’s your favorite bit/part in the book?

My favorite part of the book is the set of early chapters that are largely devoid of the specific details of the various networking protocols. It was exhilarating to commit to paper the mental model of networking that I've used for years to organize my thinking.