Three Enterprise Networking Lessons From HBO’s “Silicon Valley”

Imitation is sometimes called the sincerest form of flattery, but what if it is also funny? Satires such as the hit HBO series “Silicon Valley” mix accurate depictions of their targets – Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak has praised the show for being not only amusing but also realistic to his own experiences – with high doses of humor. This approach, in the case of “Silicon Valley,” adds up to a detailed picture of what it’s like inside the tech industry, alongside satirical insight into how startups and even enterprises can become consumed with specific terms, ideas and workplace habits.

It may be mostly something to tune into each Sunday or binge-watch on HBO Go, but “Silicon Valley” is also an unlikely source of useful lessons for network admins and their teams. Let’s look at a few takeaways about enterprise networking from the first two season of “Silicon Valley.”

1 Video conferencing really is the future – and it’s here now, with the right WAN
In the fifth episode of the first season of “Silicon Valley,” Gavin Belson decides to hold a video conference with Nelson “Big Head” Bighetti. The image of Gavin that shows up in the room is almost “Star Wars”-esque – or maybe more like Zordon from the original “Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers” TV series – with a purple-tinged hologram inside of a tube. It looks and sounds like the future.

“Audio is old news, but video is a game-changer.”

There’s just one problem: The audio and video become very unstable. Nelson eventually loses Gavin after a long string of video dropouts as well as overall choppiness. At one point, Gavin’s hands become gigantic and another guy has to run into view to look for technical issues. Distressed once the video feed fails completely, Gavin observes that he wouldn’t have paid $20 million just to acquire audio technology for his company, Hooli.

Businesses can’t afford such inconsistency. Plus, Gavin is right that while audio is old news, video is a game-changer. A robust software defined WAN, like Talari’s THINKING WAN, heads off potential problems for video conferencing, VoIP and other critical applications at the pass by constantly monitoring network paths for metrics like packet loss and jitter. The best path is always made available for high-priority workloads, so that Gavin’s hologram fail isn’t repeated by companies everywhere.

2 Don’t let a lack of cloud integration become a deal breaker
In the very next episode, the Pied Piper team is having trouble getting its project ready for TechCrunch Startup Battlefield. Although they have completed the distribution services and overall seem to have everything on track, there’s a clear stumbling block – the cloud-based modules that need to be integrated into the application are still way behind.

Erlich Bachmann tells Richard Hendricks that he doesn’t “know cloud,” which Erlich characterizes as a tiny area that is nevertheless “becoming super important and is in many ways the future of computing.” The solution to their problem ends up being to insource an intern nicknamed “The Carver” who is famous for his expertise in cloud architectures.

Undoubtedly, there is a lot of pressure on businesses to take advantage of the cloud to get the cost savings of infrastructure-as-a-service and the convenience of software-as-a-service. There is still the issue of controlling Internet traffic as it leaves the corporate WAN and enters the cloud, though. Talari’s WAN to cloud solution extends the reach of the WAN, so that connections between data centers and private and public clouds can be monitored and utilized for the best possible application quality.

Issues with cloud integration end up crowding out the Pied Piper team's sticky notes board.Issues with cloud integration end up crowding out the Pied Piper team’s sticky notes board.

3 Let software do the heavy lifting to save time, money and face
Despite the initial hiccups with the cloud, Pied Piper finally makes it to the Battlefield. Donald “Jared” Dunn unveils a “secret weapon” on the conference floor, and it turns out to be … a giant stack of papers. Each sheet has a printed-out biography and image of an event participant, which he thinks will allow Pied Piper to more effectively play from behind by knowing everyone in the room.

Just a few moments later, though, Dinesh Chugtai one-ups him with a simple app called “ID Keen.” While Jared ruffles through paper to identify a nearby venture capitalist, Dinesh simply holds up his phone and finds out who it is through facial recognition software. Erlich is also using the same app, which doesn’t even recognize Jared’s face. Jared’s stack of bios is in the trash minutes later.

The lesson: Software can provide a level of automation and speed that simply can’t be achieved by hand. For a corporate WAN, proactive software is essential for evaluating path quality and managing both MPLS and broadband Internet links. Ultimately, such intelligence ensure levels of speed, reliability and available bandwidth beyond the reach of legacy network architectures that only use T1 lines.

Categories: Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN), IT Challenges, WAN to Cloud