|By Michael Bushong||
|May 14, 2014 09:00 AM EDT||
For many SDN and DevOps enthusiasts, the natural outcome of this wave of technological change is a highly-automated network that is well-orchestrated with surrounding systems and applications. One of the prevailing thoughts is that this level of automation is a well-formed abstraction layer. With the abstractions in place, the army of network engineers will be unencumbered by device configuration, and automation will ensure.
Or will it?
First off, let me say that abstraction is absolutely necessary. There is no doubt that networking will only advance if we can both remove unnecessary elements and simplify those that remain. We have to accomplish this in a way that is vendor (and ideally technology) agnostic. Abstraction is clearly the path forward.
But will abstraction necessarily lead to automation?
For the vast majority of network engineers who are designing and actively managing networks today, automation means writing shell or Perl scripts. The scripts themselves qualify as automation insofar as they remove keystrokes, but they basically execute the same serial logic that has dominated networking devices for decades.
When you want to make a switch or a router do something, you specify some configuration. Then you specify some other configuration. And again and again until you get through the litany of parameters that collectively make the device work. This workflow is so ingrained in our collective psyche that we inherently serialize the tasks required to make the network work.
There have actually been companies that have done a decent job of breaking the habit of serialized configuration. Juniper’s flagship operating system Junos moved to a more code-like representation of configuration, making no assumptions about the ordering of specific tasks. But our training runs deep, and even the Juniper guys will tell you that the biggest barrier to entry is familiarity with the UI.
We are addicted to our serialized behavior.
One of the side effects of highly-serialized configuration is that we tend to think extremely linearly and transactionally. There are a lot of network engineers for whom any kind of object-oriented approach is almost too foreign to really embrace. So when they try to automate tasks, they fall back into a sequencing of steps, repeated as many times as necessary. Automation without reuse is painfully difficult to propagate beyond only the most repetitive tasks.
And so we end up in a scenario where automation is basically synonymous with scripting, and where the value is largely applied only to the most frequently-executed tasks.
Where could automation take us?
If we think through where automation could take us, we ideally aim a little higher. Automation could mean the automated exchange of data between collaborative systems in support of some task. For instance, you might want your servers to communicate to your network so that when a new application is spun up (or a VM moves), you get corresponding policy changes, firewall or load balancer changes, and potentially network capacity allocation.
For most network engineers, the idea that infrastructure communicates and dynamically provides a service is science fiction. Our serialized mode of operation simply doesn’t support this kind of multilateral communication. Even if the abstractions remove some of the configuration complexity, the mental block is around sequencing.
If the current networking model has taught us anything, it should be that our network engineers are quite capable of managing tons of inputs and outputs. Now, whether that ought to be a requirement for the job is another question entirely. But as a group, network engineers are certainly capable of handling a lot of variables. That abstraction reduces these variables to the most meaningful is very interesting, but it wouldn’t seem that input management is the biggest bottleneck to automation.
The barrier to automation
Rather, the biggest barrier to automation is that workflow is so structured. First, it was the devices themselves that forced the structure. Then it was the processes (ITIL anyone?) that forced it. The end result is that we have built a discipline so dependent on structure that it actually impedes our own progress.
If we want to get to automation, we need to find a way to work around—or perhaps work within—this structure.
What we are really talking about is changing how we think about provisioning and managing a network. Why do you think there is so much angst when people talk about network engineers needing to learn to code? It’s because moving from a serialized set of steps to an object-oriented way of thinking about the problem is extremely difficult.
People aren’t pushing back because learning a new language is hard. Or at least they shouldn’t be. Look at any networking device configuration and tell me that you aren’t already a master coder. The biggest difference is that you you are using an interpreted language called Cisco CLI (or Junos CLI or whatever CLI).
What we need to do is bite off small (dare I say tiny) workflow elements, automate those, and then string them together into larger workflows. This implies a couple of things. First, we need to think less about discrete capabilities and more about how they exist within some broader workflow context. Second, we need to understand how these building blocks fit together. It’s the connecting of individual workflows that forms the basis for automation, and those connections highlight the pieces of information that flow across workflow boundaries.
More bluntly, the data that stitches together workflows ends up being the stuff that needs to be in an abstraction. It very well could be that getting the automation parts right will help us get to better abstractions.
Obviously we have to work the process from both ends – abstraction down, and workflow up. I don’t think it’s as simple as one or the other, which is why abstraction and automation might be a networking incarnation of the age-old chicken-and-egg question.
[Today’s fun fact: A parrot’s vocabulary is generally no more than twenty words. Who knew parrot’s and politicians had so much in common?]
SYS-CON Events announced today that Agema Systems will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Agema Systems is the leading provider of critical white-box rack solutions to data centers through the major integrators and value added distribution channels.
Oct. 4, 2015 03:30 AM EDT Reads: 553
Data loss happens, even in the cloud. In fact, if your company has adopted a cloud application in the past three years, data loss has probably happened, whether you know it or not. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bryan Forrester, Senior Vice President of Sales at eFolder, will present how common and costly cloud application data loss is and what measures you can take to protect your organization from data loss.
Oct. 4, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 415
The cloud has reached mainstream IT. Those 18.7 million data centers out there (server closets to corporate data centers to colocation deployments) are moving to the cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Achim Weiss, CEO & co-founder of ProfitBricks, will share how two companies – one in the U.S. and one in Germany – are achieving their goals with cloud infrastructure. More than a case study, he will share the details of how they prioritized their cloud computing infrastructure deployments ...
Oct. 4, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 605
Interested in leveraging automation technologies and a cloud architecture to make developers more productive? Learn how PaaS can benefit your organization to help you streamline your application development, allow you to use existing infrastructure and improve operational efficiencies. Begin charting your path to PaaS with OpenShift Enterprise.
Oct. 4, 2015 02:15 AM EDT Reads: 273
The modern software development landscape consists of best practices and tools that allow teams to deliver software in a near-continuous manner. By adopting a culture of automation, measurement and sharing, the time to ship code has been greatly reduced, allowing for shorter release cycles and quicker feedback from customers and users. Still, with all of these tools and methods, how can teams stay on top of what is taking place across their infrastructure and codebase? Hopping between services a...
Oct. 4, 2015 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 233
Organizations already struggle with the simple collection of data resulting from the proliferation of IoT, lacking the right infrastructure to manage it. They can't only rely on the cloud to collect and utilize this data because many applications still require dedicated infrastructure for security, redundancy, performance, etc. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Emil Sayegh, CEO of Codero Hosting, will discuss how in order to resolve the inherent issues, companies need to combine dedicated a...
Oct. 4, 2015 12:00 AM EDT Reads: 367
For almost two decades, businesses have discovered great opportunities to engage with customers and even expand revenue through digital systems, including web and mobile applications. Yet, even now, the conversation between the business and the technologists that deliver these systems is strained, in large part due to misaligned objectives. In his session at DevOps Summit, James Urquhart, Senior Vice President of Performance Analytics at SOASTA, Inc., will discuss how measuring user outcomes –...
Oct. 3, 2015 11:00 PM EDT Reads: 275
Clearly the way forward is to move to cloud be it bare metal, VMs or containers. One aspect of the current public clouds that is slowing this cloud migration is cloud lock-in. Every cloud vendor is trying to make it very difficult to move out once a customer has chosen their cloud. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Naveen Nimmu, CEO of Clouber, Inc., will advocate that making the inter-cloud migration as simple as changing airlines would help the entire industry to quickly adopt the cloud wit...
Oct. 3, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 347
SYS-CON Events announced today that VividCortex, the monitoring solution for the modern data system, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. The database is the heart of most applications, but it’s also the part that’s hardest to scale, monitor, and optimize even as it’s growing 50% year over year. VividCortex is the first unified suite of database monitoring tools specifically desi...
Oct. 3, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 313
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bradley Holt, Developer Advocate at IBM Cloud Data Services, will demonstrate techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, ...
Oct. 3, 2015 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 318
“All our customers are looking at the cloud ecosystem as an important part of their overall product strategy. Some see it evolve as a multi-cloud / hybrid cloud strategy, while others are embracing all forms of cloud offerings like PaaS, IaaS and SaaS in their solutions,” noted Suhas Joshi, Vice President – Technology, at Harbinger Group, in this exclusive Q&A with Cloud Expo Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff.
Oct. 3, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 273
SYS-CON Events announced today that Cloud Raxak has been named “Media & Session Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Raxak Protect automates security compliance across private and public clouds. Using the SaaS tool or managed service, developers can deploy cloud apps quickly, cost-effectively, and without error.
Oct. 3, 2015 01:15 PM EDT Reads: 562
SYS-CON Events announced today that ProfitBricks, the provider of painless cloud infrastructure, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. ProfitBricks is the IaaS provider that offers a painless cloud experience for all IT users, with no learning curve. ProfitBricks boasts flexible cloud servers and networking, an integrated Data Center Designer tool for visual control over the...
Oct. 3, 2015 01:00 PM EDT Reads: 644
SYS-CON Events announced today that Key Information Systems, Inc. (KeyInfo), a leading cloud and infrastructure provider offering integrated solutions to enterprises, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Key Information Systems is a leading regional systems integrator with world-class compute, storage and networking solutions and professional services for the most advanced softwa...
Oct. 3, 2015 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 228
SYS-CON Events announced today that IBM Cloud Data Services has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IBM Cloud Data Services offers a portfolio of integrated, best-of-breed cloud data services for developers focused on mobile computing and analytics use cases.
Oct. 3, 2015 12:00 PM EDT Reads: 413
Learn how IoT, cloud, social networks and last but not least, humans, can be integrated into a seamless integration of cooperative organisms both cybernetic and biological. This has been enabled by recent advances in IoT device capabilities, messaging frameworks, presence and collaboration services, where devices can share information and make independent and human assisted decisions based upon social status from other entities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Michael Heydt, founder of Seamless...
Oct. 3, 2015 11:00 AM EDT Reads: 583
In recent years, at least 40% of companies using cloud applications have experienced data loss. One of the best prevention against cloud data loss is backing up your cloud data. In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bryan Forrester, Senior Vice President of Sales at eFolder, will present how organizations can use eFolder Cloudfinder to automate backups of cloud application data. He will also demonstrate how easy it is to search and restore cloud application data using Cloudfinder.
Oct. 3, 2015 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 262
Docker is hot. However, as Docker container use spreads into more mature production pipelines, there can be issues about control of Docker images to ensure they are production-ready. Is a promotion-based model appropriate to control and track the flow of Docker images from development to production? In his session at DevOps Summit, Fred Simon, Co-founder and Chief Architect of JFrog, will demonstrate how to implement a promotion model for Docker images using a binary repository, and then show h...
Oct. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 618
SYS-CON Events announced today that JFrog, maker of Artifactory, the popular Binary Repository Manager, will exhibit at SYS-CON's @DevOpsSummit Silicon Valley, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Based in California, Israel and France, founded by longtime field-experts, JFrog, creator of Artifactory and Bintray, has provided the market with the first Binary Repository solution and a software distribution social platform.
Oct. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 414
Redis is not only the fastest database, but it has become the most popular among the new wave of applications running in containers. Redis speeds up just about every data interaction between your users or operational systems. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Dave Nielsen, Developer Relations at Redis Labs, will share the functions and data structures used to solve everyday use cases that are driving Redis' popularity
Oct. 3, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 195