After a number of outages that clearly indicated a complete network redesign was in order, the vice president of a large company demanded that every network designer on the Cisco’s Global Escalation Team gather in a single conference room and perform the necessary work. One of the designers responded with what is bound to be the classic response to anyone who wants to nail network design down to a science. “The only problem with this plan,” he said, “is there will be one person drawing, and fifteen people erasing.”

This story perfectly illustrates the problems we face in defining the idea of network architecture. If you take 16 people and confine them to a room with the assignment to “define network architecture,” you will have one ...

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