Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Pat Romanski, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Greg Schulz, Jerome McFarland

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog

SDN Journal: Blog Post

Scripting Is Automation, But Automation Is Not Scripting

There are many extremely complex clustered applications that rely entirely on exchanging information through APIs

Last week Greg Ferro (@etherealmind) wrote this article about his experience with scripting as a method for network automation, with the ultimate conclusion that scripting does not scale.

Early in my career I managed a small network that grew to be a IP over X.25 hub of Europe for a few years providing many countries with their first Internet connectivity. Scripts were everywhere, small ones to grab stats and create pretty graphs, others that continuously checked the status of links and would send emails when things went wrong.

While it is hard to argue with Greg’s complaints per se, I believe the key point is missing. And it has nothing to do with scripting. In a reply, Ivan’s last comment touches on the real issue.

We have been scripting our networks against CLIs forever and I will bet you most folks will consider it successful, even though it may be a pain. The article lists the pains, but not the reasons why. As a network industry, we have never ever considered the interaction with our network devices an API. Not in the true software engineering sense of an API.

There are many extremely complex clustered applications that rely entirely on exchanging information through APIs that are well documented, well versioned, well abstracted and properly promoted or deprecated. Creating and maintaining APIs is a real software engineering effort, a skill that requires true architecture, engineering and discipline. And we have not given our users anything close to it.

If we (that collective network industry) had truly considered our CLI an API, we would (and should) have been pushed aside a long time ago. The CLI is and always has been a simple interface for a human to tell a device what to do. It was not designed to be automated. It is not structured enough to be automated. Even large vendors have multiple flavors that are all industry standard, but all slightly different. And nowhere would you find a formal, full and complete dictionary of that CLI with all inputs, outputs, versions and options. The closest the network industry has had to a true API is SNMP, and that is indeed a very sad statement.

I think we have mentioned before that the networking industry is a bit slow to get to modern software engineering methods and practices, but the tide is changing. And whether you want to call it SDN or something else, the sheer volume and complexity of interaction with the network is pushing us to provide truly automated access to our devices and our networks.

And creating and maintaining APIs is far more than the technology used to access them. It does not matter whether its XML, JSON, REST, NETCONF or anything else. Those are definitions of how information is carried to and from the device and network. I can build a wonderful REST API that takes a CLI command as an argument and spits me back the output from that CLI command in some format. I am sure that sounds familiar to some, but this is not an API. Not in a truly meaningful way that would elevate our automation abilities.

Designing and implementing APIs is not trivial. Believe me, as an entirely API driven solution, we spend a tremendous amount of time discussing our APIs and abstractions to make sure they find that find balance between granularity, functionality, abstraction, scaling and a few other relevant qualifiers.  But the key is that they are part of any feature design from day one, they are part of the overarching architecture, not bolted on at the end. Our APIs are not perfect, there is no such thing, but they are modeled after the workflow of you the user doing the work required to keep the network running and thriving.

So when you need to configure MLAG on a set of Plexxi switches, we do not have a series of API calls to bundle ports together on a switch, give them a unique ID, then tie the switches together as an MLAG pair that shares that unique ID. Oh, and create an MLAG control channel between them, and make each of the switch local LAGs have the same set of VLANs on them. Our API will simply take a list of port objects from any amount of switches in a Plexxi network and turn them into an MLAG. An then you can simply take that entire entity and stick a VLAN on top, we will make sure the participating switches get the pieces they need. That is abstraction, that is workflow encapsulation, that is what APIs are supposed to give you. That is how simple LAG is supposed to be.

We have a long way to go as an industry to get to full APIs the way real software folks think about APIs. The CLI is not it. Scripting against a CLI (or a CLI hidden behind a layer of official sounding API terms) is a useful tool, but one that should be mostly retired to get to true programmable networks that are controlled by real controller (in the broadest definition of the word) using real APIs. Automation is not scripting.

[Today's fun fact: to make sure you do not think I am anti scripting, I once wrote a large chunk of a 10,000 line Perl4 system. It functioned very nicely for years as the RIPE database for IP address allocations back in the mid 90s. Thankfully it has since been tackled by real software engineers.]

The post Scripting is automation, but automation is not scripting appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Marten Terpstra

Marten Terpstra is a Product Management Director at Plexxi Inc. Marten has extensive knowledge of the architecture, design, deployment and management of enterprise and carrier networks.

@CloudExpo Stories
In the world of DevOps there are ‘known good practices’ – aka ‘patterns’ – and ‘known bad practices’ – aka ‘anti-patterns.' Many of these patterns and anti-patterns have been developed from real world experience, especially by the early adopters of DevOps theory; but many are more feasible in theory than in practice, especially for more recent entrants to the DevOps scene. In this power panel at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, moderated by DevOps Conference Chair Andi Mann, panelists will dis...
The demand for organizations to expand their infrastructure to multiple IT environments like the cloud, on-premise, mobile, bring your own device (BYOD) and the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow. As this hybrid infrastructure increases, the challenge to monitor the security of these systems increases in volume and complexity. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stephen Coty, Chief Security Evangelist at Alert Logic, will show how properly configured and managed security architecture can...
There is an ever-growing explosion of new devices that are connected to the Internet using “cloud” solutions. This rapid growth is creating a massive new demand for efficient access to data. And it’s not just about connecting to that data anymore. This new demand is bringing new issues and challenges and it is important for companies to scale for the coming growth. And with that scaling comes the need for greater security, gathering and data analysis, storage, connectivity and, of course, the...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Peak 10, Inc., a national IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, will exhibit at SYS-CON's 18th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. Peak 10 provides reliable, tailored data center and network services, cloud and managed services. Its solutions are designed to scale and adapt to customers’ changing business needs, enabling them to lower costs, improve performance and focus inter...
trust and privacy in their ecosystem. Assurance and protection of device identity, secure data encryption and authentication are the key security challenges organizations are trying to address when integrating IoT devices. This holds true for IoT applications in a wide range of industries, for example, healthcare, consumer devices, and manufacturing. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lancen LaChance, vice president of product management, IoT solutions at GlobalSign, will teach IoT developers how t...
See storage differently! Storage performance problems have only gotten worse and harder to solve as applications have become largely virtualized and moved to a cloud-based infrastructure. Storage performance in a virtualized environment is not just about IOPS, it is about how well that potential performance is guaranteed to individual VMs for these apps as the number of VMs keep going up real time. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Dhiraj Sehgal, in product and marketing at Tintri, will discu...
The IoTs will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, will demonstrate how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and share the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the development proc...
So, you bought into the current machine learning craze and went on to collect millions/billions of records from this promising new data source. Now, what do you do with them? Too often, the abundance of data quickly turns into an abundance of problems. How do you extract that "magic essence" from your data without falling into the common pitfalls? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Natalia Ponomareva, Software Engineer at Google, will provide tips on how to be successful in large scale machine lear...
Increasing IoT connectivity is forcing enterprises to find elegant solutions to organize and visualize all incoming data from these connected devices with re-configurable dashboard widgets to effectively allow rapid decision-making for everything from immediate actions in tactical situations to strategic analysis and reporting. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Shikhir Singh, Senior Developer Relations Manager at Sencha, will discuss how to create HTML5 dashboards that interact with IoT devic...
Artificial Intelligence has the potential to massively disrupt IoT. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, AJ Abdallat, CEO of Beyond AI, will discuss what the five main drivers are in Artificial Intelligence that could shape the future of the Internet of Things. AJ Abdallat is CEO of Beyond AI. He has over 20 years of management experience in the fields of artificial intelligence, sensors, instruments, devices and software for telecommunications, life sciences, environmental monitoring, process...
Much of the value of DevOps comes from a (renewed) focus on measurement, sharing, and continuous feedback loops. In increasingly complex DevOps workflows and environments, and especially in larger, regulated, or more crystallized organizations, these core concepts become even more critical. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 18th Cloud Expo, Andi Mann, Chief Technology Advocate at Splunk, will show how, by focusing on 'metrics that matter,' you can provide objective, transparent, and meaningfu...
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Ericsson has been named “Gold Sponsor” of SYS-CON's @ThingsExpo, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York, New York. Ericsson is a world leader in the rapidly changing environment of communications technology – providing equipment, software and services to enable transformation through mobility. Some 40 percent of global mobile traffic runs through networks we have supplied. More than 1 billion subscribers around the world re...
In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Sagi Brody, Chief Technology Officer at Webair Internet Development Inc., will focus on real world deployments of DDoS mitigation strategies in every layer of the network. He will give an overview of methods to prevent these attacks and best practices on how to provide protection in complex cloud platforms. He will also outline what we have found in our experience managing and running thousands of Linux and Unix managed service platforms and what specifically c...
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 18th Cloud Expo, Dave Nielsen, Developer Relations at Redis Labs, will shares the functions and data structures used to solve everyday use cases that are driving Redis' popularity.
Many private cloud projects were built to deliver self-service access to development and test resources. While those clouds delivered faster access to resources, they lacked visibility, control and security needed for production deployments. In their session at 18th Cloud Expo, Steve Anderson, Product Manager at BMC Software, and Rick Lefort, Principal Technical Marketing Consultant at BMC Software, will discuss how a cloud designed for production operations not only helps accelerate developer...
The increasing popularity of the Internet of Things necessitates that our physical and cognitive relationship with wearable technology will change rapidly in the near future. This advent means logging has become a thing of the past. Before, it was on us to track our own data, but now that data is automatically available. What does this mean for mHealth and the "connected" body? In her session at @ThingsExpo, Lisa Calkins, CEO and co-founder of Amadeus Consulting, will discuss the impact of wea...
Whether your IoT service is connecting cars, homes, appliances, wearable, cameras or other devices, one question hangs in the balance – how do you actually make money from this service? The ability to turn your IoT service into profit requires the ability to create a monetization strategy that is flexible, scalable and working for you in real-time. It must be a transparent, smoothly implemented strategy that all stakeholders – from customers to the board – will be able to understand and comprehe...
Struggling to keep up with increasing application demand? Learn how Platform as a Service (PaaS) can streamline application development processes and make resource management easy.
Up until last year, enterprises that were looking into cloud services usually undertook a long-term pilot with one of the large cloud providers, running test and dev workloads in the cloud. With cloud’s transition to mainstream adoption in 2015, and with enterprises migrating more and more workloads into the cloud and in between public and private environments, the single-provider approach must be revisited. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Yoav Mor, multi-cloud solution evangelist at Cloudy...