Colloquium Speaker

Brent Chapman, Founder of Great Circle Associates, Inc
Wither Network Automation?
Date: Wednesday, February 1, 2006
Time: 2:00PM
Place: Gould-Simpson, Room 906


What's the state of the art for automated network configuration and management? Why is this an important problem? What are the benefits network automation? Where are these issues being considered and discussed? What are some of the open problems and research opportunities?

We're not simply talking about network status monitoring systems like HP OpenView, or device configuration monitoring systems like RANCID, although those are certainly useful. Instead, we're talking about systems that will start from a description of how a network ought to be configured, and then interact with the various devices on that network to make it so; something like cfengine for network devices.

Over the last 15 years or so, much of the research in the system administration field has focused on automation. It's now commonly accepted that a well-run operation doesn't manage 10,000 servers individually, but rather uses tools like cfengine to manage definitions of those servers and then create instances of those servers as needed. In the networking world, though, most of us seem to be still manually configuring (and reconfiguring) every device, which leads to a host of attendant problems.

Brent Chapman is a highly respected Silicon Valley professional specializing in information technology infrastructure design, deployment, and management. He is the coauthor of the highly regarded O'Reilly & Associates book Building Internet Firewalls. He is also the creator of the Majordomo mailing list management package. In 2004, Brent was honored with the annual SAGE Outstanding Achievement Award "for outstanding sustained contributions to the community of system administrators".

Brent has over 20 years of information technology experience. He has worked as an information technology manager or consultant for hundreds of organizations worldwide, across a wide range of industries. In particular, he has helped a number of Silicon Valley startups define and develop their information technology infrastructure at the critical early stages of their growth, including Tellme Networks, a profitable pre-IPO Silicon Valley startup which develops and operates automated systems to process over 1 billion phone calls a year, bringing to the telephone network many of the same ideas and breakthroughs that made the Internet great, where he served as Senior Manager of
Network Operations and Senior Manager of Network Architecture; as well as Covad Communications Company, the world's leading broadband service provider, where he served as
Director of Network Architecture, Interim Director of IT Infrastructure, and Director of Technical Marketing.

Brent holds a Master of Business Administration degree from Melbourne Business School (Australia) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley.