BOFH: Why's the network so slow?

Let's take a detour into the Boss's budget to solve this little routing issue

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 12 "What's up with the network?" the Boss asks.

"What do you mean?" I ask.

"Why's everything so slow?"

"By everything you mean what? Our local systems or the internet?"

"Our local systems – like email. It's taking ages to update."

"That's not local, that's the internet," the PFY explains. "We've got cloud hosted mail. But it still could be the local network. How long does it take you to print something?"

"I don't know. I haven't tried printing."

"Well maybe give that a go?"

"Can't you check it from here?"

"There's no problem here," I say. "Look - email's updating, websites >clicky< are loading quickly, even if I >click< clear the cache. So ... all good on our network."

"It's not good everywhere else!" he snaps. "People have been calling!"

"Ah. Maybe this is a network storm."

"What network storm?"

"Well it's not really a network storm, but just a 'perfect storm' of routing problems - because of all our old network hardware."

"Routing problems like what?"

"Like route path issues because of spanning tree, bayesian binary caching, flapping vlans, combination crypto signing errors - you name it."

The good thing is that chucking out random words like this will never cause any issues because the Boss will only remember a couple of the words - and even if he did remember some of our bullshit bingo phrases any technical person he told would think that he'd misheard us.

"We did warn you about this," I say.

"About what?"

"That there could be localized network spikes. Some tiny network event causes a routing change, then a correction and then route flapping."

"What do you mean by routing flapping?"

"Well, say you're catching the tube home to Slough."

"I don't live in Slough."

"Don't you? Well let's say you do. So your plan is to walk to Tottenham Court Road and ride the Central line to Ealing Broadway, change to Elizabeth Line and ride that to Slough."


"But on the way up Oxford Street you encounter a group of Vegan Crossfit enthusiasts who are in a piano accordion ensemble. After consulting the internet and not being able to find a local gun shop you're going to avoid the hippies and maybe leg it to Farringdon where you can ride the Elizabeth line direct. On the way there you encounter an old school mate who convinces you to have a quiet pint, which turns into eight quiet pints, a curry and another pint - at which point you find yourself, inexplicably, at Snaresbrook with a road cone under your arm. And it's late. You jump on a central line train not caring WHERE you're going to change at, so long as you're heading in the general direction of Slough."

"I don't live in Slough."

"Yeah, but say you did – and you need to get home. You're back on the Central line, you rest your eyes for a second and wake up at West Ruislip. You quickly consult the tube map and think maybe you could stumble to Ickenham and ride the Picadilly to maybe North Ealing and maybe run to Ealing Broadway and maybe get on the Elizabeth line. You manage to get to Ickenham, rest your eyes and wake up in Cockfosters and find the tube is no longer running. You try and find an Uber driver, but for some reason there isn't anyone remotely local so you walk for an hour and eventually find a minicab company that's still open who take you on a sightseeing tour of unfamiliar roads, dropping you halfway home because that's when your cash runs out. You see a night bus, only you're a bit turned around and get on the wrong one, rest your eyes for a moment, then wake up at St Paul's Cathedral at 4 in the morning. You walk to work, sneak past security and sleep in your office."

"And... that's what's happening to our network?"

"No, that's what happened to the PFY three nights ago."

"Except for the bit about living in Slough," the PFY says. "But I do still have the road cone."

"What's this got to do with the network? Do we need new network switches with better routing to stop this happening? Is that what you're saying?"

"No, that's just a change we rolled out that accidentally turned on verbose SNMP trapping on every device on the network."

"So can you turn it off?"

"We can try. The only problem is it's going to take several hours for the change to propagate through the network given the amount of bandwidth and timeouts that the SNMP reporting is causing."

"And so?" he asks.

"And we'll probably have to come back in several hours to make sure that everything's back to normal..."

"So what do you want from me?"

"Well, it's not worth us going home, so I guess we'd want meal expenses."

"Which are?"

"Ahhhm, let's see. How much is a pint, eight pints, a curry, and another pint?"

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