It’s not my fault! Someone moved my line!

Open Letter to a Server Guy


Ok first, I’d like to refer everyone to a great post  on Greg Ferro’s blog over at   Server people and Network people don’t mix; Oil and Water, Cats and Dogs, Cisco and anybody else…  But just like the real world, sometimes we end up in situations where we have no choice but to work together, and for that to happen, we have to understand each other and find some common ground.

This whole series springs from a conversation I had with a server administrator. Honestly, I was complaining about the lack of visibility into the server environment that he was giving me. His response was “Don’t worry about it. It’s in the server”.   This post is my response to him, and all the server and network people in the world who are still living in this us-and-them world. Converged Infrastructure is not just about blending the boundaries between your server, network, and storage infrastructure. It’s also about tearing down the walls between the application, server, network, and storage groups that have grown over the years.

In this post, I hope to share my view of the where we came from as network people, give my view of where we are today, and hopefully help to create a common starting point to engage the server folk from for the rest of this discussion.

My view of the world: From a network persons perspective, they are responsible for the point in the environment where a host  ( an operating system that provides or consumes services)  enters the network, be it virtual or physical, to the point where another host receives the request.

I have compliance, governance, and security initiatives that I need to address, not to mention the application performance management that we’re all been asked to ensure.


In the beginning… ok, so maybe not the beginning, but at least since the early 90’s, the a network persons domain of responsibility looked like a little like this

Figure 1 – Traditional Demarcation Point

Network Folk stayed on our side of the red line and server folk dealt with the other stuff.  Ahhh… the easy days when virtualization was the NT hardware abstraction layer and the words application and server meant, for all intent and purpose, the same thing. Responsibility ended at the end of that beautiful crystal RJ-45 connector. ( and we crimped those ourselves darnnit!!!!)

This gave all of us a very simple view of the world. As network folk, we had our routers, cores, distributions, and access switches, and anything beyond that  was labeled with a sign “Here there be servers!!!”    VTP was a good thing and spanning-tree was something we all wanted in our network!  DNS and DHCP were things those server guys “took care of”   ( <- does anyone know how to insert the sarcasm font?)

All jokes aside; the world was simpler in that we ALL understood where our responsibly started and stopped and it was easy for us to understand our place in the world. The side affect is that it also enabled us to fall into an “us and them” paradigm which  resulted in rampant finger pointing and as we all know it was always “the networks fault”.


At some point in the last 5 years, a few things fundamentally broke this model.

  • Multi-Tier Apps:  Applications went from living on a single server to a multi-tear model where the presentation, logic, and data tiers may all reside on different physical servers. In fact, each of the individual tiers may also exist on multiple physical servers.
  • Service Oriented Architectures: Web 2.0 Apps  have become common further complicating the environment by having multiple multi-tier applications cross-leveraging information.
  • Blade Chassis: HP introduced the Blade Chassis to the server market, while fundamentally keeping the traditional network demarcation point in place. This resulted in a lot of “network traffic” flowing across the backplane of the switch without the knowledge, guidance, or protection of the network team.
  • Server virtualization: vSwitches have broken the traditional demarcation point and extended it inside, between, and through the traditional network.

These three shifts have shattered the traditional network demarcation point to the point where it’s impossible to tell where your responsibility as a network person ended.

Was it here?

Figure 2 -Simple Demarcation Point

Or here?

Figure 3 – Blade Chassis Demarcation Point

Or here?

Figure 4 -vSwitch in a Blade Chassis Demarcation Point.

To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, “I.T.’s not easy I’m sure you will find, for a mind-maker-upper to make up his mind”.

So, what’s my point?

Once upon a time, life was simple. The cable was where my world ended. I’m still responsible for managing, monitoring, securing, and troubleshooting the network. It’s just that I don’t know where the network ends anymore.

Server Guy: I understand that your world changed too. To run the same applications, you need multiple servers with multiple cores, leveraging multiple data sources spread out throughout multiple data centers.  You have virtual servers running on physical servers and you’re still responsible for managing, monitoring, securing, and troubleshooting the applications. Most of all, to make all this stuff work, we need each other.

I get it, and I’m here to help.

I hope this helps you server folk to understand why we network folk are asking the question we are asking. It’s not our fault; it’s just that someone keeps moving our line.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s