Welcome!

SDN Journal Authors: Dana Gardner, Elizabeth White, David Paquette, Olivier Huynh Van, Pat Romanski

Related Topics: Containers Expo Blog

Containers Expo Blog: Blog Post

Types of Network Automation

In networking, workflows are awfully complicated

In networking, workflows are awfully complicated.  There are many workflows, and the exact nature of each depends on a number of variables.  What task comes next is often dependent on the outcome of the previous task, and there is a large amount of data to navigate sometimes to complete a workflow.  Nevertheless, there plenty of opportunity to identify and automate common tasks and segments of workflows.  Once we’ve identified these, we need to ask ourselves, how exactly should we automate them?

Encapsulation
“Encapsulation” means a vendor (possibly a third party vendor) has written software that accomplishes the same thing the workflow does, but usually not the in the same linear way a customer would do it.  Sub-components within an encapsulation have well-designed interfaces for the purpose of accomplishing the goal.  The encapsulation would likely be written in Java or C.  In networking, encapsulated workflows are usually specific to a vendor’s product and often lack flexibility and features.  Encapsulated workflows will manifest as products or product features.

Consider the following workflow:

Untitled Drawing

Figure 1 shows a simplified packet walkthrough for a device.  Here, in the course of evaluating what is happening to a packet passing through this device, we have discovered a filter policy applied to the ingress interface.  This policy has two terms, and each of these terms references an access-list.  A network engineer would need to evaluate this filter policy to determine if it is doing something to the packets of interest.  The thing is, policy languages have a great deal of expressiveness and grammar.  They are also proprietary.  After the filter policy is evaluated, this workflow follows the forwarding pipeline to the egress interface.  If you are an expereinced network engineer, you will know that there are other elements in the pipeline that should be checked for any given network device.  However, there is enormous variation in the structure of the pipeline from one platform to the next.  Therefore, this is a great candidate for discrete encapsulation.* There are more effective ways of achieving the goal of a packet walkthrough than the way a network engineer must do it now (particularly for SDN products), and vendors know their platforms and policy idioms best.

*Discrete means it’s a workflow with a beginning and an end.  It can be manually invoked by a user, and runs for a finite amount of time, reaching some conclusion.

Automation
A workflow automation, on the other hand, consists of sub-components that are “glued together.”  These components were not built especially for automation, and the interfaces between these components were not designed for any particular workflow.  Automations can be developed by the customer, and very frequently discrete automations are employed by network engineers.  A great example here would be a script to configure the login banner on some number of devices.  These automations are written in “softer” languages like Python or Perl.

There is a clear need for Continuous Automation in networking.  Plexxi’s own DSE, now an integral part of the OpenStack Congress project, attempts to address this need.  As the name implies, Continuous means it’s an on-going process.  In the case of the Congress, it is a modular, event/data driven system.  In an environment where there are a plethora of protocols and APIs, each with their own idiosyncracies, this kind of automation makes sense.  Particularly in the context of an open-source community.

Hybrid
Curiously, some workflows may best be addressed by a combination of automation types.  For instance, if a customer wanted to know what was going on in the network relative to a particular application, that workflow automation could use the packet walkthrough encapsulation of a vendor combined with an automation tool like the DSE to harvest network meta-data from external systems about application endpoints.  This could yield a network map of the application’s endpoints along with visual indicators of issues in the network that could be impacting to the application.  In this way, the network engineer could quickly and accurately gauge the health of the network in the context of an application versus engaging in a tedious and error-prone search “by hand.”

Conclusion
Customers, vendors, and open source communities should work togethor to make networking better.  Identifying common workflows and determing the best way to automate them is a good first step.  This will require vendors to think differently about how they develop their products, with their user’s needs in mind first.  Traditionally, just getting a network feature to work and interoperate was the goal, but now we must consider how this feature fits into common workflows performed by network engineers.

[Fun fact:  Broccoli is a member of the cabbage family.  In spite of this, Broccoli tastes good.  When someone offers you cabbage, they are insulting you.]

The post Types of Network Automation appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Derick Winkworth

Derick Winkworth has been a developer, network engineer, and IT architect in various verticals throughout his career.He is currently a Product Manager at Plexxi, Inc where he focuses on workflow automation and product UX.

@CloudExpo Stories
SYS-CON Events announced today the Kubernetes and Google Container Engine Workshop, being held November 3, 2016, in conjunction with @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. This workshop led by Sebastian Scheele introduces participants to Kubernetes and Google Container Engine (GKE). Through a combination of instructor-led presentations, demonstrations, and hands-on labs, students learn the key concepts and practices for deploying and maintainin...
A strange thing is happening along the way to the Internet of Things, namely far too many devices to work with and manage. It has become clear that we'll need much higher efficiency user experiences that can allow us to more easily and scalably work with the thousands of devices that will soon be in each of our lives. Enter the conversational interface revolution, combining bots we can literally talk with, gesture to, and even direct with our thoughts, with embedded artificial intelligence, wh...
Adobe is changing the world though digital experiences. Adobe helps customers develop and deliver high-impact experiences that differentiate brands, build loyalty, and drive revenue across every screen, including smartphones, computers, tablets and TVs. Adobe content solutions are used daily by millions of companies worldwide-from publishers and broadcasters, to enterprises, marketing agencies and household-name brands. Building on its established design leadership, Adobe enables customers not o...
Why do your mobile transformations need to happen today? Mobile is the strategy that enterprise transformation centers on to drive customer engagement. In his general session at @ThingsExpo, Roger Woods, Director, Mobile Product & Strategy – Adobe Marketing Cloud, covered key IoT and mobile trends that are forcing mobile transformation, key components of a solid mobile strategy and explored how brands are effectively driving mobile change throughout the enterprise.
In this strange new world where more and more power is drawn from business technology, companies are effectively straddling two paths on the road to innovation and transformation into digital enterprises. The first path is the heritage trail – with “legacy” technology forming the background. Here, extant technologies are transformed by core IT teams to provide more API-driven approaches. Legacy systems can restrict companies that are transitioning into digital enterprises. To truly become a lea...
All clouds are not equal. To succeed in a DevOps context, organizations should plan to develop/deploy apps across a choice of on-premise and public clouds simultaneously depending on the business needs. This is where the concept of the Lean Cloud comes in - resting on the idea that you often need to relocate your app modules over their life cycles for both innovation and operational efficiency in the cloud. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at19th Cloud Expo, Valentin (Val) Bercovici, CTO of So...
What are the new priorities for the connected business? First: businesses need to think differently about the types of connections they will need to make – these span well beyond the traditional app to app into more modern forms of integration including SaaS integrations, mobile integrations, APIs, device integration and Big Data integration. It’s important these are unified together vs. doing them all piecemeal. Second, these types of connections need to be simple to design, adapt and configure...
24Notion is full-service global creative digital marketing, technology and lifestyle agency that combines strategic ideas with customized tactical execution. With a broad understand of the art of traditional marketing, new media, communications and social influence, 24Notion uniquely understands how to connect your brand strategy with the right consumer. 24Notion ranked #12 on Corporate Social Responsibility - Book of List.
Just over a week ago I received a long and loud sustained applause for a presentation I delivered at this year’s Cloud Expo in Santa Clara. I was extremely pleased with the turnout and had some very good conversations with many of the attendees. Over the next few days I had many more meaningful conversations and was not only happy with the results but also learned a few new things. Here is everything I learned in those three days distilled into three short points.
The Jevons Paradox suggests that when technological advances increase efficiency of a resource, it results in an overall increase in consumption. Writing on the increased use of coal as a result of technological improvements, 19th-century economist William Stanley Jevons found that these improvements led to the development of new ways to utilize coal. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Thiele, Chief Strategy Officer for Apcera, will compare the Jevons Paradox to modern-day enterprise IT, e...
Major trends and emerging technologies – from virtual reality and IoT, to Big Data and algorithms – are helping organizations innovate in the digital era. However, to create real business value, IT must think beyond the ‘what’ of digital transformation to the ‘how’ to harness emerging trends, innovation and disruption. Architecture is the key that underpins and ties all these efforts together. In the digital age, it’s important to invest in architecture, extend the enterprise footprint to the cl...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Commvault, a global leader in enterprise data protection and information management, has been named “Bronze 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. Commvault is a leading provider of data protection and information management solutions, helping companies worldwide activate their data to drive more value and business insight and to transform moder...
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. ...
What does it look like when you have access to cloud infrastructure and platform under the same roof? Let’s talk about the different layers of Technology as a Service: who cares, what runs where, and how does it all fit together. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Phil Jackson, Lead Technology Evangelist at SoftLayer, an IBM company, spoke about the picture being painted by IBM Cloud and how the tools being crafted can help fill the gaps in your IT infrastructure.
SYS-CON Events has announced today that Roger Strukhoff has been named conference chair of Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo 2016 Silicon Valley. The 19th Cloud Expo and 6th @ThingsExpo will take place on November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. "The Internet of Things brings trillions of dollars of opportunity to developers and enterprise IT, no matter how you measure it," stated Roger Strukhoff. "More importantly, it leverages the power of devices and the Interne...
Digital innovation is the next big wave of business transformation based on digital technologies of which IoT and Big Data are key components, For example: Business boundary innovation is a challenge to excavate third-party business value using IoT and BigData, like Nest Business structure innovation may propose re-building business structure from scratch, as Uber does in the taxicab industry The social model innovation is also a big challenge to the new social architecture with the design fr...
Whether they’re located in a public, private, or hybrid cloud environment, cloud technologies are constantly evolving. While the innovation is exciting, the end mission of delivering business value and rapidly producing incremental product features is paramount. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Kiran Chitturi, CTO Architect at Sungard AS, will discuss DevOps culture, its evolution of frameworks and technologies, and how it is achieving maturity. He will also cover various st...
Data is an unusual currency; it is not restricted by the same transactional limitations as money or people. In fact, the more that you leverage your data across multiple business use cases, the more valuable it becomes to the organization. And the same can be said about the organization’s analytics. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bill Schmarzo, CTO for the Big Data Practice at EMC, will introduce a methodology for capturing, enriching and sharing data (and analytics) across the organizati...
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...
IoT offers a value of almost $4 trillion to the manufacturing industry through platforms that can improve margins, optimize operations & drive high performance work teams. By using IoT technologies as a foundation, manufacturing customers are integrating worker safety with manufacturing systems, driving deep collaboration and utilizing analytics to exponentially increased per-unit margins. However, as Benoit Lheureux, the VP for Research at Gartner points out, “IoT project implementers often ...