Welcome!

@ThingsExpo Authors: Ed Featherston, Yeshim Deniz, Rostyslav Demush, Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Containers Expo Blog, @CloudExpo, @DXWorldExpo, @ThingsExpo, @DevOpsSummit

SDN Journal: Article

Overcoming Network Limitations | @CloudExpo #DataCenter #SDN #Storage

More is being required today of network infrastructure than ever before, due in part to the changing latency & bandwidth needs

More is being required today of network infrastructure than ever before, due in part to the changing latency and bandwidth needs of modern applications. Wide area networks ("WANs") are feeling the pressure, especially those that use many technologies from different services providers, are geographically diverse and are stretched to the limit by increased video and cloud app usage.

In view of these challenges, hybrid WAN architectures with advanced application-level traffic routing are of particular interest. They combine the reliability of private lines for critical business applications with the cost-effectiveness of broadband/Internet connectivity for non-critical traffic.

Architectures like this can be difficult to scale over the existing network; most of today's network management tools can't manage it. Most of them still apply blocks of configuration data to network devices to enable features that in turn enable an overall network policy. To allow adjustment of configuration data to address differences in hardware and OS/firmware levels, those scripts are using "wildcards" replacing certain configuration data. These scripts are heavily tested, carefully curated and subject to stringent change management procedures. The tiniest mistake can bring a network down, resulting in potentially disastrous business losses.

As application-specific routing and hybrid WAN architectures are deployed, network operations teams are experiencing the limits to this approach. Even if the existing hardware already supports all the functionality required, existing network configurations that reflect past user requirements are rarely well understood. As each business unit is asking for specific requirements to ensure that their applications run optimally on the network, networks need to be continuously updated and optimized. Such tasks range from a simple adjustment of the configuration parameters to more complex changes of the underlying network architecture, such as removing and installing upgraded circuits, replacing hardware or even deploying new network architectures.

At this point, it's time to call in the big guns - senior network architects - who will need to put in significant time to determine potential risk of unintentional consequences on the existing network, but waiting for the next change maintenance window may no longer be an acceptable option. Businesses are not concerned with the details; they want the networks to simply "work."

Crafting a New Approach
Clearly, something needs to be done - but what? Standard network management tools are mature and well understood. Network architects and implementation teams are familiar with them, including all of the limitations and difficulties, and any potential change of these tools is immediately vetted against the additional learning curve required vis-à-vis potential benefits in managing the network.

In a best case scenario, implementation and operational concerns do not factor in when defining network policies. The process starts with mapping of the required functionality into a logical model, assembling these models into one overall network policy, verifying interdependencies and inconsistencies, and deploying and maintaining them consistently throughout the network life cycle.

The industry is in the beginning stages of improving network management, but these initiatives are still maturing. For example, YANG is a data modeling language for the NETCONF network configuration protocol. OpenStack Networking (Neutron) is providing an extensible framework to manage networks and IP addresses within the larger realm of cloud computing, focusing on network services such as intrusion detection systems (IDS), load balancing, firewalls and virtual private networks (VPN) to enable multi-tenancy and massive scalability.

However, neither approach can proactively detect interdependencies or inconsistencies and both require network engineers to dive into programming, for example, to manage data entry and storage. As a result, some vendors are offering fully integrated solutions, built on appliances managed through a proprietary network management tool. This model allows businesses to deploy solutions quickly, at the cost of additional training, limited capability for customization and new hardware purchases.

For industry transformation to occur, the focus needs to shift to assembling complete network policies from individual device-specific features, detecting inconsistencies and dependencies, and allowing deployment and ongoing network management. Simply updating wildcards in custom configuration templates and deploying them onto devices is no longer sufficient.

Managing the changes at scale, like network architectures or routing protocols, on live production networks will be difficult or even infeasible. This is especially true in large organizations where any change will always have to be validated by e.g. security. This creates unacceptable delays for implementation.

A Comprehensive New Approach
Organizations will need to carefully consider how to develop an end-to-end approach that creates complete network policies from abstract device-based network features, including interdependency checking, deployment and secure lifecycle management. Network features and related policies can be mapped using these four constructs:

  • Globals - These configuration settings apply throughout the network and are the same for every device in the network. A good example is NTP (network time protocol) where the central architecture team is defining the only NTP servers permissible for the network.
  • Domains - Consistently applied configuration settings across multiple devices. A good example is a QoS configuration which may be different by business units, hence, different QoS domains would allow network engineers to assign QoS policies across all devices associated with specific business units in each region.
  • Features - Configuration settings that are provided for a single device at a time, enabling functionality that the device can provide by itself. A good example is the configuration of a device-specific routing table where the device should forward incoming traffic.
  • Custom - It may not be practical to model everything in a general feature or domain concept, especially specific exceptions to single devices only - for example, a specific set of Access Control Lists (ACLs) needed on a single device. For these cases where no other dependencies with other features exists, just applying configuration data to a device may be acceptable.

Organizations can build any network policy by combining these constructs. Inherent interdependencies can be flagged by network engineers early, so that a network management system can deploy them in the correct sequential order, optimally applying these features to individual devices as well as across the network to create the target policy. Abstracting network functionality into these types of models allows network engineers to re-focus on the actual network architecture and focus less on the mechanics of the management of configuration data. These lead to a number of benefits:

  • Test, validate, deploy: The implementation and maintenance (DevOps) function is logically separated from network architecture and design (NetOps). For example, architects can define the features, domains and global settings needed for a given network infrastructure, assemble them into logical groups and resolve any interdependencies. They can then be tested and validated by, for example, the security team. The assembled features, domains and globals are handed over to the operational team, who will deploy them onto the network and manage them over their lifecycle.
  • Device anonymity: Device configuration is now a result of the functionality of how this device should perform, by itself or in concert with other devices. As a result, the actual hardware itself, its specific OS/firmware or even the manufacturer no longer matters, as long as the device is capable of performing the desired functionality.
  • Network engineering communities: Network modeling via the logical constructs allows for a wide exchange of best-practice reference designs based on common user requirements. Different teams of architects can exchange information about the models they use for specific network functionalities without having to revert to low-level configuration settings. This opens the possibility of creating network engineering communities that exchange specific models based on their desired use cases with clearly defined interdependencies and conflict resolution against other models.

Network Control and Automation
Developing a network management tool for today's demands will require the development of a sophisticated network-aware orchestration engine that is able to detect any interdependencies, resolve them and deploy network policies automatically over the network.

For this to happen, consider the following three non-technical challenges:

  • Users should be confident and willing to accept that the logical network model will, in fact, result in the correct configuration of all devices in the network. Many network engineers are still most comfortable with command line interface (CLI) created from scripts and templates.
  • The primary focus of network engineers is on proper device configurations and ensuring the device is performing as intended - not programming. Any next-generation tools have been designed with a network engineering focus in mind, allowing network engineers to use the system with a much shorter learning curve and minimal programming expertise.
  • Buy-in from NetOps and DevOps teams is vital, as they may be skeptical to trust device configuration to a new management tool.

Multiple technical considerations regarding next-generation management tools include:

  • Management for the high degree of customization needed.
  • Zero-touch provisioning to make the onboarding of new devices into the system as fluid as possible, allowing generalist IT staff to install routers and trigger device provisioning automatically.
  • Functionality that limits or flags unauthorized manual device configuration changes with automatic remediation when needed.
  • Configuration preview, allowing dry runs of new configurations to understand all changes that may have to be performed, even on other network devices when needed.
  • Step-by-step verification of device provisioning actions with automatic revert on errors.

Realizing the Dream
Enterprises can truly transform their networks with tools that provide complete abstraction of network functions while providing deeply integrated model interdependency verification, deployment previews and layer-by-layer provisioning. For example, replacing an existing device with a newer model, even if it's from a different vendor, can be detected and automatically provisioned. Such solutions that can resolve any potential conflicts and interdependencies, even across vendors, are becoming increasingly important as network devices are virtualized on common platforms and the individual strength of vendor-specific solutions are combined into one multi-vendor solution.

A framework like this will improve workflow among architecture and implementation teams, which will bring multiple benefits: higher reliability, elimination of configuration errors, quicker implementation of business requirements, and faster identification and recovery from network outages. The dream of reliability and cost effectiveness can be realized.

More Stories By Stefan Dietrich

Dr. Stefan Dietrich brings to Glue Networks more than 20 years of experience defining innovative strategies and delivering complex technology solutions. Before joining Glue Networks, he was Managing Director of Technology Strategy at AXA Technology Services, introducing advanced new technologies to AXA globally, and held senior IT management positions at Reuters and Deutsche Bank.

Stefan received a Ph.D. in Aerospace Engineering and Computer Science from the University of Stuttgart and served as a Postdoctoral Fellow and faculty member at Cornell University.

Comments (0)

Share your thoughts on this story.

Add your comment
You must be signed in to add a comment. Sign-in | Register

In accordance with our Comment Policy, we encourage comments that are on topic, relevant and to-the-point. We will remove comments that include profanity, personal attacks, racial slurs, threats of violence, or other inappropriate material that violates our Terms and Conditions, and will block users who make repeated violations. We ask all readers to expect diversity of opinion and to treat one another with dignity and respect.


@ThingsExpo Stories
In his keynote at 18th Cloud Expo, Andrew Keys, Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise, provided an overview of the evolution of the Internet and the Database and the future of their combination – the Blockchain. Andrew Keys is Co-Founder of ConsenSys Enterprise. He comes to ConsenSys Enterprise with capital markets, technology and entrepreneurial experience. Previously, he worked for UBS investment bank in equities analysis. Later, he was responsible for the creation and distribution of life settle...
Product connectivity goes hand and hand these days with increased use of personal data. New IoT devices are becoming more personalized than ever before. In his session at 22nd Cloud Expo | DXWorld Expo, Nicolas Fierro, CEO of MIMIR Blockchain Solutions, will discuss how in order to protect your data and privacy, IoT applications need to embrace Blockchain technology for a new level of product security never before seen - or needed.
Leading companies, from the Global Fortune 500 to the smallest companies, are adopting hybrid cloud as the path to business advantage. Hybrid cloud depends on cloud services and on-premises infrastructure working in unison. Successful implementations require new levels of data mobility, enabled by an automated and seamless flow across on-premises and cloud resources. In his general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Tevis, an IBM Storage Software Technical Strategist and Customer Solution Architec...
Coca-Cola’s Google powered digital signage system lays the groundwork for a more valuable connection between Coke and its customers. Digital signs pair software with high-resolution displays so that a message can be changed instantly based on what the operator wants to communicate or sell. In their Day 3 Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, Greg Chambers, Global Group Director, Digital Innovation, Coca-Cola, and Vidya Nagarajan, a Senior Product Manager at Google, discussed how from store operations and ...
Imagine if you will, a retail floor so densely packed with sensors that they can pick up the movements of insects scurrying across a store aisle. Or a component of a piece of factory equipment so well-instrumented that its digital twin provides resolution down to the micrometer.
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, whic...
When shopping for a new data processing platform for IoT solutions, many development teams want to be able to test-drive options before making a choice. Yet when evaluating an IoT solution, it’s simply not feasible to do so at scale with physical devices. Building a sensor simulator is the next best choice; however, generating a realistic simulation at very high TPS with ease of configurability is a formidable challenge. When dealing with multiple application or transport protocols, you would be...
We are given a desktop platform with Java 8 or Java 9 installed and seek to find a way to deploy high-performance Java applications that use Java 3D and/or Jogl without having to run an installer. We are subject to the constraint that the applications be signed and deployed so that they can be run in a trusted environment (i.e., outside of the sandbox). Further, we seek to do this in a way that does not depend on bundling a JRE with our applications, as this makes downloads and installations rat...
Widespread fragmentation is stalling the growth of the IIoT and making it difficult for partners to work together. The number of software platforms, apps, hardware and connectivity standards is creating paralysis among businesses that are afraid of being locked into a solution. EdgeX Foundry is unifying the community around a common IoT edge framework and an ecosystem of interoperable components.
DX World EXPO, LLC, a Lighthouse Point, Florida-based startup trade show producer and the creator of "DXWorldEXPO® - Digital Transformation Conference & Expo" has announced its executive management team. The team is headed by Levent Selamoglu, who has been named CEO. "Now is the time for a truly global DX event, to bring together the leading minds from the technology world in a conversation about Digital Transformation," he said in making the announcement.
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 lead...
Digital Transformation (DX) is not a "one-size-fits all" strategy. Each organization needs to develop its own unique, long-term DX plan. It must do so by realizing that we now live in a data-driven age, and that technologies such as Cloud Computing, Big Data, the IoT, Cognitive Computing, and Blockchain are only tools. In her general session at 21st Cloud Expo, Rebecca Wanta explained how the strategy must focus on DX and include a commitment from top management to create great IT jobs, monitor ...
"Cloud Academy is an enterprise training platform for the cloud, specifically public clouds. We offer guided learning experiences on AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and all the surrounding methodologies and technologies that you need to know and your teams need to know in order to leverage the full benefits of the cloud," explained Alex Brower, VP of Marketing at Cloud Academy, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clar...
The IoT Will Grow: In what might be the most obvious prediction of the decade, the IoT will continue to expand next year, with more and more devices coming online every single day. What isn’t so obvious about this prediction: where that growth will occur. The retail, healthcare, and industrial/supply chain industries will likely see the greatest growth. Forrester Research has predicted the IoT will become “the backbone” of customer value as it continues to grow. It is no surprise that retail is ...
"Space Monkey by Vivent Smart Home is a product that is a distributed cloud-based edge storage network. Vivent Smart Home, our parent company, is a smart home provider that places a lot of hard drives across homes in North America," explained JT Olds, Director of Engineering, and Brandon Crowfeather, Product Manager, at Vivint Smart Home, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Conference Guru has been named “Media Sponsor” of the 22nd International Cloud Expo, which will take place on June 5-7, 2018, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. A valuable conference experience generates new contacts, sales leads, potential strategic partners and potential investors; helps gather competitive intelligence and even provides inspiration for new products and services. Conference Guru works with conference organizers to pass great deals to gre...
The Internet of Things 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, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develop...
In his Opening Keynote at 21st Cloud Expo, John Considine, General Manager of IBM Cloud Infrastructure, led attendees through the exciting evolution of the cloud. He looked at this major disruption from the perspective of technology, business models, and what this means for enterprises of all sizes. John Considine is General Manager of Cloud Infrastructure Services at IBM. In that role he is responsible for leading IBM’s public cloud infrastructure including strategy, development, and offering m...
"Evatronix provides design services to companies that need to integrate the IoT technology in their products but they don't necessarily have the expertise, knowledge and design team to do so," explained Adam Morawiec, VP of Business Development at Evatronix, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
To get the most out of their data, successful companies are not focusing on queries and data lakes, they are actively integrating analytics into their operations with a data-first application development approach. Real-time adjustments to improve revenues, reduce costs, or mitigate risk rely on applications that minimize latency on a variety of data sources. In his session at @BigDataExpo, Jack Norris, Senior Vice President, Data and Applications at MapR Technologies, reviewed best practices to ...