Kompella vs Kompella
Controversy and debate within standards groups is expected, but add in some sibling rivalry and you’ve got the makings of a great new reality TV show.
Vendors in the Provider Provisioned VPN Working Group of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) have narrowed their choices for a VPLS standard to just two main drafts. One is co-authored by Vach Kompella, an engineer at startup Timetra Networks. The other is co-authored by his older brother Kireeti Kompella, an engineer at Juniper Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: JNPR).
So, you'd think they were at each others throats, huh? Actually, they're not. They're just nice guys.
Unlike some siblings, these brainy brothers say they’ve never harbored feelings of jealousy or rivalry. Even when they were growing up, there was no torturing and tormenting, no taunting or tattle-telling.
“As far back as I can remember, we always got along," says Kireeti. "We never beat each other up or anything.”
Of course, the politically-charged standards process is another story. As became evident in a recent Light Reading Webinar -- which was sponsored by Juniper and Timetra -- VPLS is turning into a tense, high-stakes battle for control of the next hot technology. This event can still be accessed via our Webinar archive.
The main difference between the two drafts is that Vach advocates using the LDP protocol for VPLS signaling setup, while Kireeti says BGP can do that and discover other VPLS nodes (see VPLS Standard Debated).
During the Webinar rehearsal, one joker even suggested that the VPLS controversy be settled by a mud-wrestling match between the brothers Kompella at the next IETF meeting. But judging from their mild personalities and unwavering niceness towards one other, we're unlikely to see that skirmish anytime soon.
“I guess Kireeti and I are both interested more in the technology,” says Vach. “And the technology decides for itself which will win. The marketing guys are the ones who are more concerned about the outcome of the company.”
Only a year apart in age, Kireeti and Vach attended the same schools and have worked in the same industry for almost 20 years. This is the first time in their careers the two brothers have found themselves on opposite sides of a fiery technical debate.
The brothers say that they don’t like to mix business with their personal lives. BGP and LDP never seem to come up in conversation at family gatherings.
“I think our wives would kill us,” laughs Vach. And when it’s just the two of them grabbing a beer after work, talk of IETF standards is off-limits. “We don’t want to use up personal time talking about work,” he adds.
Currently, Juniper is the only company supporting Kireeti's Draft Kompella. Most vendors planning on offering VPLS are behind Vach’s solution, co-authored with Marc Lasserre of Riverstone Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: RSTN). Even though Kireeti still believes his method is more technically sound, his ego hasn’t suffered much.
“As long as the money rolls in, I’m not bothered,” he jokes. “Juniper will support LDP if that is what customers want. We’d rather not have to go there, but at the same time we want customers to dictate the choices that we’ll offer.”
Sons of a foreign correspondent working for an Indian newspaper, the Kompella brothers spent much of their childhood living in Africa. From an early age, Kireeti and Vach had an aptitude for math and science. Remarkably, both were admitted into the ultra-competitive Indian Institute of Technology (IIT). This technical university is the dream of most Indian teenagers interested in technology careers. High school students must pass rigorous tests before they are even allowed to take the IIT entrance exams. Only 2.5 percent of applicants are accepted; compare this to Harvard's 11 percent acceptance rate, and you get some idea exactly how exclusive IIT really is.
Like many IIT graduates, the two brothers continued their educations in the United States. Kireeti recieved a doctorate degree in computer science at the University of Southern California, and Vach recieved his doctorate in computer science from University of California, San Diego.
Out of school, they went to work for different companies, but their technical interests kept them close geographically and professionally. Kireeti worked for Network Appliance Inc. (Nasdaq: NTAP) and Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) (NYSE: SGI) before coming to Juniper. His focus on MPLS and VPNs has driven his work in the IETF, where he is co-chair of a Working Group and the author of several Internet drafts.
Vach began his career at IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) and went on to a VPN startup called Network Alchemy, which was acquired by Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK). Like his older brother, he has long been an active member and co-author of standards in the IETF. His most recent work has been in the area of Ethernet services over MPLS.
The two brothers have never worked at the same company, but Vach wouldn’t rule it out: "Sure, why not?" he shrugs.
— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading