SDN Journal Authors: Elizabeth White, David Paquette, Liz McMillan, Sal Fernando, Nate Lindstrom

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Post

Network abstractions need equivalent of packet walkthrough

Some people will justify the depth by talking about troubleshooting complex systems

Whenever a new networking platform is evaluated, one of the early sales calls includes a packet walkthrough. In excruciating detail, someone walks the customer through the path a packet takes from ingress port, through the device, across the switching or routing ASIC, and back down to the egress port. The technical deep dive frequently includes internals that even the vendor engineers are not all familiar with.

But why?

Some people will justify the depth by talking about troubleshooting complex systems. Others will pull on random technical details that suggest one platform is better than another in some regard or under some set of circumstances. Others will actually parrot some of the vendor’s marketing efforts with claims of flexibility, scalability, or extensibility.

While all of these are absolutely valid, they actually miss the biggest reason the packet walkthrough is a ubiquitous part of every selling motion.

Get comfortable

We networking gearheads are a skeptical lot. We learned long ago that listening to someone and taking their words for granted was a short path to operational hell. Their words might have sounded true but their promises rang hollow. The platform, or even the architecture, did not perform as advertised. And because the result of a network failure is catastrophically worse than any other infrastructure failure, we have collectively vowed to look at every opportunity with a sideways glance from a somewhat disbelieving perspective.

Trust but verify

The real reason that we evaluate in such detail new platforms and solutions is not because of the inherent troubleshooting value of examining the architecture. Nor is it because we can determine with any certainty what the scaling limits are based on a cursory glance at the internals of a system. We examine architectures in detail because it allows us to put the vendor under a bit of scrutiny. If they stand up to a few somewhat randomly placed questions (less random if you have had particularly painful issues in the past), then we believe with a bit more certainty other claims that are made.

I don’t mention this because I think this is a bad way to do things, mind you. Rather, I bring this up because the collective psyche of the networking buyer needs to be understood if architectural advances like SDN and abstractions are to bring any any real value.

Control freaks and abstraction

Networking generally has operated through meticulous control for decades. Network management via configuration knob puts a ton of power at the hands of the network architect. Behavior can be precisely specified. And when something goes wrong, it can be queried to surmise the cause.

A shift to abstractions might make things easier in terms of actual physical workload (how much typing there is), but it comes with a gigantic leap of faith. Control freaks might complain about how much effort things are, but they absolutely cringe at the thought of giving any of that work up lest something go wrong.

When behavior is specified by an abstraction (as with an edge policy abstraction), not only must the syntax be correct but also the translation of that abstraction into underlying behavior. The former is easy to verify, but the latter requires a bit of faith on behalf of the user that the vendor has done the right thing under the hood.

A peek under the hood

There are already a bunch of industry efforts around SDN and abstractions. Whether it’s vendor-specific (as with Cisco’s ACI) or a part of open source (OpenDaylight, for example), there are a number of movements that either focus on or include some abstraction as part of the solution. But if our past teaches us anything, it is that network architects are not happy with a basic understanding of what the abstractions do. They require additional information so they have at least some concept of how they do it.

It would seem that people peddling abstractions will ultimately need to provide the equivalent of a packet walkthrough. With platforms, this is easy. Where does the packet physically enter the device, and where does it leave? But with abstractions, the equivalent is a bit harder.

Abstraction walkthroughs

Initially, this dynamic favors abstractions that merely replace well-understood configuration with something less. The abstraction walkthrough for a replacement is essentially an expansion of the abstraction into the underlying configuration knobs. Think of this as more indirection than abstraction, more similar to header files than anything else.

But if abstractions are about more than saving keystrokes, this type of walkthrough will not permit itself for even slightly more complex scenarios. This leaves the abstraction salesperson in a tough spot: how do you demonstrate that something works if you cannot provide a meaningful look at the internals?

Behavior determines success

The long-term answer here is going to necessarily fall to actual behavior. The creators of abstractions will need to show in the affirmative that the network (or the applications) behave appropriately when an abstraction is used. This might seem obvious, but the implications are actually quite profound.

For networks today, there are lots of ways to verify specific state in the network (BGP neighbors, interface stats, and so on). And when there is no network state, the configuration itself serves as the check. But what if that configuration is not there?

In the long term, the infrastructure broadly (including but not limited to the network) will need to be instrumented with meaningful abstractions in mind. If abstractions become common around managing edge policy, there will need to be additional ways to instrument specific applications, tenants, and flows. For example, if abstractions allow network engineers to specify a particular application as PCI compliant, then there might need to be ways to verify PCI compliance via command.

The bottom line

The abstraction market initially will be focused on keyboard time reduction. That is a fine place to start, and it is easy to verify. But if the real value of abstractions is in the removal of complexity (not just masking it) and the increased collaboration of infrastructure, then abstraction salespeople are going to need to think through the post-sales elements of their products. Those that do this early will certainly find that having an abstraction walkthrough shortens the evaluation time for new solutions. And if no one else has done this, the existence of such a walkthrough could prove a killer element of the product sales cycle.

[Today’s fun fact: Right-handed people tend to chew food on the right side of their mouths, and lefties on the left side.]

The post Network abstractions need equivalent of packet walkthrough appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

@CloudExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Traditional on-premises data centers have long been the domain of modern data platforms like Apache Hadoop, meaning companies who build their business on public cloud were challenged to run Big Data processing and analytics at scale. But recent advancements in Hadoop performance, security, and most importantly cloud-native integrations, are giving organizations the ability to truly gain value from all their data. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, David Tishgart, Director of Product Marketing ...
StarNet Communications Corp has announced the addition of three Secure Remote Desktop modules to its flagship X-Win32 PC X server. The new modules enable X-Win32 to safely tunnel the remote desktops from Linux and Unix servers to the user’s PC over encrypted SSH. Traditionally, users of PC X servers deploy the XDMCP protocol to display remote desktop environments such as the Gnome and KDE desktops on Linux servers and the CDE environment on Solaris Unix machines. XDMCP is used primarily on comp...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
DevOps at Cloud Expo – being held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA – announces that its Call for Papers is open. Born out of proven success in agile development, cloud computing, and process automation, DevOps is a macro trend you cannot afford to miss. From showcase success stories from early adopters and web-scale businesses, DevOps is expanding to organizations of all sizes, including the world's largest enterprises – and delivering real results. Am...
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - comp...
As the world moves toward more DevOps and Microservices, application deployment to the cloud ought to become a lot simpler. The Microservices architecture, which is the basis of many new age distributed systems such as OpenStack, NetFlix and so on, is at the heart of Cloud Foundry - a complete developer-oriented Platform as a Service (PaaS) that is IaaS agnostic and supports vCloud, OpenStack and AWS. Serverless computing is revolutionizing computing. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Raghav...
DevOps at Cloud Expo, taking place Nov 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with 19th Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. The widespread success of cloud computing is driving the DevOps revolution in enterprise IT. Now as never before, development teams must communicate and collaborate in a dynamic, 24/7/365 environment. There is no time to wait for long dev...
Data is the fuel that drives the machine learning algorithmic engines and ultimately provides the business value. In his session at Cloud Expo, Ed Featherston, a director and senior enterprise architect at Collaborative Consulting, will discuss the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
Fact: storage performance problems have only gotten more complicated, as applications not only have become largely virtualized, but also have moved to cloud-based infrastructures. Storage performance in virtualized environments isn’t just about IOPS anymore. Instead, you need to guarantee performance for individual VMs, helping applications maintain performance as the number of VMs continues to go up in real time. In his session at Cloud Expo, Dhiraj Sehgal, Product and Marketing at Tintri, wil...
19th Cloud Expo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world. Cloud computing is now being embraced by a majority of enterprises of all sizes. Yesterday's debate about public vs. private has transformed into the reality of hybrid cloud: a recent survey shows that 74% of enterprises have a hybrid cloud strategy. Meanwhile, 94% of enterpri...
Enterprises have forever faced challenges surrounding the sharing of their intellectual property. Emerging cloud adoption has made it more compelling for enterprises to digitize their content, making them available over a wide variety of devices across the Internet. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Santosh Ahuja, Director of Architecture at Impiger Technologies, will introduce various mechanisms provided by cloud service providers today to manage and share digital content in a secure manner....
SYS-CON Events announced today that Hitrons Solutions will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Hitrons Solutions Inc. is distributor in the North American market for unique products and services of small and medium-size businesses, including cloud services and solutions, SEO marketing platforms, and mobile applications.
SYS-CON Events announced today that eCube Systems, a leading provider of middleware modernization, integration, and management solutions, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. eCube Systems offers a family of middleware evolution products and services that maximize return on technology investment by leveraging existing technical equity to meet evolving business needs. ...
SYS-CON Events announced today Telecom Reseller has been named “Media Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Telecom Reseller reports on Unified Communications, UCaaS, BPaaS for enterprise and SMBs. They report extensively on both customer premises based solutions such as IP-PBX as well as cloud based and hosted platforms.
Pulzze Systems was happy to participate in such a premier event and thankful to be receiving the winning investment and global network support from G-Startup Worldwide. It is an exciting time for Pulzze to showcase the effectiveness of innovative technologies and enable them to make the world smarter and better. The reputable contest is held to identify promising startups around the globe that are assured to change the world through their innovative products and disruptive technologies. There w...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Isomorphic Software will exhibit at DevOps Summit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Isomorphic Software provides the SmartClient HTML5/AJAX platform, the most advanced technology for building rich, cutting-edge enterprise web applications for desktop and mobile. SmartClient combines the productivity and performance of traditional desktop software with the simp...
With so much going on in this space you could be forgiven for thinking you were always working with yesterday’s technologies. So much change, so quickly. What do you do if you have to build a solution from the ground up that is expected to live in the field for at least 5-10 years? This is the challenge we faced when we looked to refresh our existing 10-year-old custom hardware stack to measure the fullness of trash cans and compactors.
Extreme Computing is the ability to leverage highly performant infrastructure and software to accelerate Big Data, machine learning, HPC, and Enterprise applications. High IOPS Storage, low-latency networks, in-memory databases, GPUs and other parallel accelerators are being used to achieve faster results and help businesses make better decisions. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at NVIDIA, focused on some of the unique ways extreme computing is...