MORE-IP 2024: Cisco CTO on The New Encrypted Protocol Stack

DateJun 21, 2024

At AMS-ix’s MORE-IP 2024 conference, Andreas Enotiadis, Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for Global Provider Mobility Sales at Cisco, delivered an insightful presentation. Enotiadis clarified his role, emphasizing that his purview is limited to Global Provider Mobility, not the entirety of Cisco. He expressed gratitude for the invitation and explained that his presentation was inspired by a previous talk he gave at a networking operators group (NOG).

Enotiadis highlighted a significant shift occurring in the networking world, driven largely by advancements in cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI). He noted that while much attention has been given to these areas, it’s crucial for network professionals to focus on the evolving landscape of networking itself. Enotiadis stressed that this shift, primarily driven by cloud service providers, requires networkers to adapt and manage emerging challenges.

He delved into the increasing dominance of a new protocol stack, moving from traditional TCP/IP to a more complex stack involving UDP and the QUIC protocol. Originally developed by Google and now widely adopted, QUIC offers enhanced performance and security but presents unique challenges for network management. Enotiadis detailed how QUIC is aggressively taking over internet traffic, with significant adoption by major tech companies like YouTube, Facebook, and Meta.

Enotiadis explained that QUIC’s architecture allows it to outperform traditional TCP in many scenarios, particularly under poor network conditions. He illustrated how QUIC handles congestion differently, prioritizing rapid data delivery and user experience over traditional congestion control mechanisms. This shift in protocol behavior necessitates new approaches to network management and traffic optimization.

One of the key points Enotiadis made was the increasing encryption and obfuscation of internet traffic. With protocols like DNS over HTTPS and the widespread use of TLS 1.3, traditional methods of traffic inspection and management are becoming less effective. He discussed the implications of this trend for network operators, who must now rely on flow-based analysis and other advanced techniques to maintain visibility and control over their networks.

Enotiadis also addressed the rise of QUIC in the context of mobile applications and the broader implications for internet traffic patterns. He noted that mobile-first regions, such as Latin America, are seeing higher adoption rates of QUIC due to the protocol’s advantages in mobile environments. This trend underscores the need for network operators to develop strategies that accommodate the unique demands of mobile traffic.

In conclusion, Enotiadis emphasized the importance of adapting to these changes by leveraging new tools and methodologies for traffic analysis and management. He highlighted the necessity of shifting from traditional packet-based approaches to more sophisticated, flow-based models that can handle the complexities of modern internet traffic.

Enotiadis’s presentation provided a comprehensive overview of the current state of networking, the challenges posed by new protocols like QUIC, and the strategies network professionals must adopt to stay ahead in this rapidly evolving field. His insights underscored the critical role of innovation and adaptation in the ongoing evolution of global network infrastructure.

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