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Bloomberg: Networking & Security Are Easy

Mitch Wagner
4/26/2017
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SAN FRANCISCO -- Open Networking User Group Spring 2017 -- For Bloomberg's subscribers, the difference between success and failure is measured in milliseconds. To that end, Bloomberg maintains its own network, from backbone to customer premises equipment, to make sure that its subscribers get the information they need without delay.

Bloomberg runs an IP/MPLS private global network, providing market data, video, voice, screencasts, exchange connectivity and embargoed data. Nearly every trader or market data analyst has a Bloomberg Professional Terminal. The service uses multicast for real-time market data. It deploys 15,000 routers on premises to ensure performance.

Truman Boyes, head of networking for the Bloomberg office of the CTO, shared some key networking principles at the conference here Tuesday.

"Networking is easy," Boyes said. "We've over-complicated the whole thing." Every networking protocol does one thing: advertising vectors, he said.

Security is also easy. It's "the inverse of networking," Boyes said. Security hides connections and communications.

Bloomberg's Truman Boyes
Bloomberg's Truman Boyes

Where things get into "massive complexity" is combining networking and security. "You have full connectivity with networking, and you try to dial that back with security," Boyes said.

Boyes has little time for today's firewalls. "Every firewall that that exists today should not exist five years from now," he said. "They're broken. The design is broken." Top-of-rack switches provide 1-5 terabits per second of forwarding for every compute platform and rack, but firewalls max out at hundreds of Gbit/s.

Boyes doesn't like the Simple Network Management Protocol. "SNMP should die. It's not a managed protocol. It's not simple," he said. SNMP is being replaced by streaming analytics.

The Bloomberg man provided guiding principles for the company's own networking. Multivendor support is key, he said.

Simplicity is also important. "We want less protocols, we want less state, we want less confusion. We want simplicity in the network," he said. Network operators should just plug a rack into the data center, and have it just work.

Everything should be automated and assembled like Lego blocks. Failure is OK. "It's OK to fail, just fast-fail," Boyes said.

Automation is important. "People build the robots. Robots build the network," Boyes said. Robots are automated tools, such as SaltStack, Chef, and Puppet. "Whatever it is that helps you build the network and maintain the infrastructure -- that's where the effort should go," he said. Manual configuration is what causes errors in the network.

For future direction, Bloomberg wants a "seamless cloud." It shouldn't matter whether a workload is deployed on Microsoft Azure, for example, or some other cloud.


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Bloomberg is looking to move more of its networking to the public Internet, using SD-WAN with "a solid routing stack," Boyes said. "The Internet is becoming very good," he said. "In financial sectors around the world, plain vanilla Internet is growing." The price per megabit is "dropping through the floor," and the last mile can be purely Internet, with Bloomberg's terminals purely Internet connected.

Bloomberg's business, with customers in the financial sector, isn't "cost-constrained," Boyes said. "The goal here is to have a better services," he said. "I want to be as close to the customer as possible." To that end, Bloomberg peers its network in all the major Internet exchanges so it can be one hop away from the user.

"The Internet is going to help us get to the users," Boyes said. "In the same way that the business world warmed up to cloud, I think that's going to happen the same way for public Internet as well."

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