[TUHS] Research Datakit notes

Noel Chiappa jnc at mercury.lcs.mit.edu
Wed Jun 29 01:50:50 AEST 2022

    > From: Rob Pike

    > having the switch do some of the call validation and even maybe
    > authentication (I'm not sure...) sounds like it takes load off the host.

I don't have enough information to express a judgement in this particular
case, but I can say a few things about how one would go about analyzing
questions of 'where should I put function [X]; in the host, or in the
'network' (which almost inevitably means 'in the switches')'.

It seems to me that one has to examine three points:

- What is the 'cost' to actually _do_ the thing (which might be in
transmission usage, or computing power, or memory, or delay), in each
alternative; these costs obviously generally cannot be amortized across
multiple similar transactions.

- What is the 'cost' of providing the _mechanism_ to do the thing, in each
alternative. This comes in three parts. The first is the engineering cost of
_designing_ the thing, in detail; this obviously is amortized across muiple
instances. The second is _producing_ the mechanism, in the places where it is
needed (for mechanisms in software, this cost is essentially zero, unless it
needs a lot of memory/computes/etc); this is not amortized across many. The
third is harder to measure: it's complexity.

This is probably a book by itself, but it has costs that are hard to
quantify, and are also very disparate: e.g. more complex designs are more
likely to have unforseen bugs, which is very different from the 'cost' that
more complex designs are probaly harder to evolve for new uses.

So far I haven't said anything that isn't applicable across a broad range of
information sytems. The last influence on where one puts functions is much
more common in communication systems: the Saltzer/Clark/Reed 'End-to-end
Arguments in System Design' questions. If one _has_ to put a function in the
host to get 'acceptable' performace of that function, the
operation/implementation/design cost implications are irrelevant: one has to
grit one's teeth and bear them.

This may then feed back to design questions in the other areas. E.g. the
Version 2 ring at MIT deliberately left out hardware packet checksums -
because it was mostly intended for use with TCP/IP traffic, which provided a
pseudo-End-to-End checksum, so the per-unit hardware costs didn't buy enough
to be worth the costs of a hardware CRC. (Which was the right call; I don't
recall the lack of a hardware checksum ever causing a problem.)

And then there's the 'techology is a moving target' point: something that
might be unacceptably expensive (in computing cost) in year X might be fine
in year X+10, when we're lighting our cigars with unneeded computing power.
So when one is designing a communication system with a likely lifetime in
many decades, one tends to bias one's judgement toward things like End-to-End
analysis - because those factors will be forever.

Sorry if I haven't offered any answer to your initial query: "having the
switch do some of the call validation ... sounds like it takes load off the
host", but as I have tried to explain, these 'where should one do [X]'
questions are very complicated, and one would need a lot more detail before
one could give a good answer.

But, in general, "tak[ing] load off the host" doesn't seem to rate
highly as a goal these days... :-) :-(


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