|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?]
"eFolder does a lot of different things but we protect data and we are focused on protecting data no matter where it resides," explained Carlo Tapia, Product Marketing Manager at eFolder, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at Cloud Expo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 1, 2015 04:00 PM EST
The Internet of Things (IoT) is growing rapidly by extending current technologies, products and networks. By 2020, Cisco estimates there will be 50 billion connected devices. Gartner has forecast revenues of over $300 billion, just to IoT suppliers. Now is the time to figure out how you’ll make money – not just create innovative products. With hundreds of new products and companies jumping into the IoT fray every month, there’s no shortage of innovation. Despite this, McKinsey/VisionMobile data...
Dec. 1, 2015 04:00 PM EST Reads: 499
Cloud computing is unquestionably one of the driving forces of DevOps, as the automation of operations transforms enterprise software development. DevOps, however, is more than a technology trend, as it represents a move toward silo-busting, self-organizing horizontal teams that drive business velocity. At the same time, enterprise Digital Transformation represents an upheaval across the enterprise, as customer preferences and behavior drive enterprise technology decisions. This transformation ...
Dec. 1, 2015 03:45 PM EST
Most of the IoT Gateway scenarios involve collecting data from machines/processing and pushing data upstream to cloud for further analytics. The gateway hardware varies from Raspberry Pi to Industrial PCs. The document states the process of allowing deploying polyglot data pipelining software with the clear notion of supporting immutability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Shashank Jain, a development architect for SAP Labs, discussed the objective, which is to automate the IoT deployment proces...
Dec. 1, 2015 03:00 PM EST Reads: 145
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.
Dec. 1, 2015 03:00 PM EST Reads: 385
In demand-intensive mobile and web applications, an emerging pattern is to host the Systems of Engagement in the cloud (for maximum responsiveness) but keep the Systems of Record with the other important business systems in the company datacenter, often on a tightly secured mainframe. But what about the space in between? In this IBM Redpaper publication, we show that the IBM Bluemix cloud platform offers technologies that make it easy for cloud-based SoEs to securely connect to on-premises IBM...
Dec. 1, 2015 02:45 PM EST
DevOps is about increasing efficiency, but nothing is more inefficient than building the same application twice. However, this is a routine occurrence with enterprise applications that need both a rich desktop web interface and strong mobile support. With recent technological advances from Isomorphic Software and others, rich desktop and tuned mobile experiences can now be created with a single codebase – without compromising functionality, performance or usability. In his session at DevOps Su...
Dec. 1, 2015 02:45 PM EST Reads: 447
As organizations realize the scope of the Internet of Things, gaining key insights from Big Data, through the use of advanced analytics, becomes crucial. However, IoT also creates the need for petabyte scale storage of data from millions of devices. A new type of Storage is required which seamlessly integrates robust data analytics with massive scale. These storage systems will act as “smart systems” provide in-place analytics that speed discovery and enable businesses to quickly derive meaningf...
Dec. 1, 2015 02:15 PM EST Reads: 451
In his keynote at @ThingsExpo, Chris Matthieu, Director of IoT Engineering at Citrix and co-founder and CTO of Octoblu, focused on building an IoT platform and company. He provided a behind-the-scenes look at Octoblu’s platform, business, and pivots along the way (including the Citrix acquisition of Octoblu).
Dec. 1, 2015 02:00 PM EST Reads: 548
In his General Session at 17th Cloud Expo, Bruce Swann, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Adobe Campaign, explored the key ingredients of cross-channel marketing in a digital world. Learn how the Adobe Marketing Cloud can help marketers embrace opportunities for personalized, relevant and real-time customer engagement across offline (direct mail, point of sale, call center) and digital (email, website, SMS, mobile apps, social networks, connected objects).
Dec. 1, 2015 01:45 PM EST Reads: 358
The buzz continues for cloud, data analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) and their collective impact across all industries. But a new conversation is emerging - how do companies use industry disruption and technology enablers to lead in markets undergoing change, uncertainty and ambiguity? Organizations of all sizes need to evolve and transform, often under massive pressure, as industry lines blur and merge and traditional business models are assaulted and turned upside down. In this new da...
Dec. 1, 2015 01:15 PM EST Reads: 307
SYS-CON Events announced today that Catchpoint, a global leader in monitoring, and testing the performance of online applications, has been named "Silver Sponsor" of DevOps Summit New York, which will take place on June 7-9, 2016 at the Javits Center in New York City. Catchpoint radically transforms the way businesses manage, monitor, and test the performance of online applications. Truly understand and improve user experience with clear visibility into complex, distributed online systems.Founde...
Dec. 1, 2015 12:15 PM EST
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, Sam McIntyre, Partner Enablement Specialist at eFolder, presented how organizations can use eFolder Cloudfinder to automate backups of cloud application data. He also demonstrated how easy it is to search and restore cloud application data using Cloudfinder.
Dec. 1, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 232
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now ...
Dec. 1, 2015 12:00 PM EST Reads: 310
The Internet of Everything is re-shaping technology trends–moving away from “request/response” architecture to an “always-on” Streaming Web where data is in constant motion and secure, reliable communication is an absolute necessity. As more and more THINGS go online, the challenges that developers will need to address will only increase exponentially. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Todd Greene, Founder & CEO of PubNub, exploreed the current state of IoT connectivity and review key trends and t...
Dec. 1, 2015 11:45 AM EST Reads: 476
Actifio is powering new application development and testing services from Net3 Technologies (N3T), a managed cloud services provider. N3T's new Symmetry DevOps™ service builds on its existing Palmetto Virtual Data Center (PvDC) Cloud services for data backup and disaster recovery (DR) based on the Actifio Copy Data Virtualization platform. Previously, N3T's data protection and DR services were challenged by overlapping and inefficient legacy hardware and software platforms from multiple vendo...
Dec. 1, 2015 11:30 AM EST
Countless business models have spawned from the IaaS industry – resell Web hosting, blogs, public cloud, and on and on. With the overwhelming amount of tools available to us, it's sometimes easy to overlook that many of them are just new skins of resources we've had for a long time. In his general session at 17th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Sr. Software Architect at SoftLayer, an IBM Company, broke down what we have to work with, discussed the benefits and pitfalls and how we can best use them ...
Dec. 1, 2015 10:45 AM EST Reads: 136
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true ...
Dec. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EST Reads: 579
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem"...
Dec. 1, 2015 09:00 AM EST Reads: 485
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Dec. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EST Reads: 397