|By Michael Bushong||
|July 21, 2014 06:00 AM EDT||
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.
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.
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.
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.
According to Forrester Research, every business will become either a digital predator or digital prey by 2020. To avoid demise, organizations must rapidly create new sources of value in their end-to-end customer experiences. True digital predators also must break down information and process silos and extend digital transformation initiatives to empower employees with the digital resources needed to win, serve, and retain customers.
Dec. 8, 2016 02:45 AM EST Reads: 1,276
The WebRTC Summit New York, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY, announces that its Call for Papers is now open. Topics include all aspects of improving IT delivery by eliminating waste through automated business models leveraging cloud technologies. WebRTC Summit is co-located with 20th International Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo. WebRTC is the future of browser-to-browser communications, and continues to make inroads into the traditional, difficult, plug-in web co...
Dec. 8, 2016 01:45 AM EST Reads: 1,404
In his general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, discussed how Dice leverages data insights and tools to help both tech professionals and recruiters better understand how skills relate to each other and which skills are in high demand using interactive visualizations and salary indicator tools to maximize earning potential. Manish Dixit is VP of Product and Engineering at Dice. As the leader of the Product, Engineering and Data Sciences team at D...
Dec. 8, 2016 12:30 AM EST Reads: 1,113
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to simplify and streamline our lives by automating routine tasks that distract us from our goals. This promise is based on the ubiquitous deployment of smart, connected devices that link everything from industrial control systems to automobiles to refrigerators. Unfortunately, comparatively few of the devices currently deployed have been developed with an eye toward security, and as the DDoS attacks of late October 2016 have demonstrated, this oversight can ...
Dec. 8, 2016 12:15 AM EST Reads: 1,333
"We're a cybersecurity firm that specializes in engineering security solutions both at the software and hardware level. Security cannot be an after-the-fact afterthought, which is what it's become," stated Richard Blech, Chief Executive Officer at Secure Channels, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 7, 2016 11:45 PM EST Reads: 1,004
What happens when the different parts of a vehicle become smarter than the vehicle itself? As we move toward the era of smart everything, hundreds of entities in a vehicle that communicate with each other, the vehicle and external systems create a need for identity orchestration so that all entities work as a conglomerate. Much like an orchestra without a conductor, without the ability to secure, control, and connect the link between a vehicle’s head unit, devices, and systems and to manage the ...
Dec. 7, 2016 10:30 PM EST Reads: 861
"Once customers get a year into their IoT deployments, they start to realize that they may have been shortsighted in the ways they built out their deployment and the key thing I see a lot of people looking at is - how can I take equipment data, pull it back in an IoT solution and show it in a dashboard," stated Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 7, 2016 10:00 PM EST Reads: 1,194
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, discussed the key considerations around quality, volume, timeliness, and pedigree that must be dealt with in order to properly fuel that engine.
Dec. 7, 2016 08:15 PM EST Reads: 2,216
Businesses and business units of all sizes can benefit from cloud computing, but many don't want the cost, performance and security concerns of public cloud nor the complexity of building their own private clouds. Today, some cloud vendors are using artificial intelligence (AI) to simplify cloud deployment and management. In his session at 20th Cloud Expo, Ajay Gulati, Co-founder and CEO of ZeroStack, will discuss how AI can simplify cloud operations. He will cover the following topics: why clou...
Dec. 7, 2016 05:15 PM EST Reads: 936
As data explodes in quantity, importance and from new sources, the need for managing and protecting data residing across physical, virtual, and cloud environments grow with it. Managing data includes protecting it, indexing and classifying it for true, long-term management, compliance and E-Discovery. Commvault can ensure this with a single pane of glass solution – whether in a private cloud, a Service Provider delivered public cloud or a hybrid cloud environment – across the heterogeneous enter...
Dec. 7, 2016 05:15 PM EST Reads: 1,760
Everyone knows that truly innovative companies learn as they go along, pushing boundaries in response to market changes and demands. What's more of a mystery is how to balance innovation on a fresh platform built from scratch with the legacy tech stack, product suite and customers that continue to serve as the business' foundation. In his General Session at 19th Cloud Expo, Michael Chambliss, Head of Engineering at ReadyTalk, discussed why and how ReadyTalk diverted from healthy revenue and mor...
Dec. 7, 2016 04:30 PM EST Reads: 1,683
The many IoT deployments around the world are busy integrating smart devices and sensors into their enterprise IT infrastructures. Yet all of this technology – and there are an amazing number of choices – is of no use without the software to gather, communicate, and analyze the new data flows. Without software, there is no IT. In this power panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, Dave McCarthy, Director of Products at Bsquare Corporation; Alan Williamson, Principal...
Dec. 7, 2016 04:15 PM EST Reads: 404
The 20th International Cloud Expo has announced that its Call for Papers is open. Cloud Expo, to be held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, brings together Cloud Computing, Big Data, Internet of Things, DevOps, Containers, Microservices and WebRTC to one location. With cloud computing driving a higher percentage of enterprise IT budgets every year, it becomes increasingly important to plant your flag in this fast-expanding business opportunity. Submit your speaking proposal ...
Dec. 7, 2016 03:45 PM EST Reads: 2,271
You have great SaaS business app ideas. You want to turn your idea quickly into a functional and engaging proof of concept. You need to be able to modify it to meet customers' needs, and you need to deliver a complete and secure SaaS application. How could you achieve all the above and yet avoid unforeseen IT requirements that add unnecessary cost and complexity? You also want your app to be responsive in any device at any time. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Mark Allen, General Manager of...
Dec. 7, 2016 03:30 PM EST Reads: 1,790
Successful digital transformation requires new organizational competencies and capabilities. Research tells us that the biggest impediment to successful transformation is human; consequently, the biggest enabler is a properly skilled and empowered workforce. In the digital age, new individual and collective competencies are required. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Bob Newhouse, CEO and founder of Agilitiv, drew together recent research and lessons learned from emerging and established compa...
Dec. 7, 2016 02:30 PM EST Reads: 948
"IoT is going to be a huge industry with a lot of value for end users, for industries, for consumers, for manufacturers. How can we use cloud to effectively manage IoT applications," stated Ian Khan, Innovation & Marketing Manager at Solgeniakhela, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held November 3-5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 7, 2016 02:30 PM EST Reads: 4,325
Information technology is an industry that has always experienced change, and the dramatic change sweeping across the industry today could not be truthfully described as the first time we've seen such widespread change impacting customer investments. However, the rate of the change, and the potential outcomes from today's digital transformation has the distinct potential to separate the industry into two camps: Organizations that see the change coming, embrace it, and successful leverage it; and...
Dec. 7, 2016 02:15 PM EST Reads: 3,399
Bert Loomis was a visionary. This general session will highlight how Bert Loomis and people like him inspire us to build great things with small inventions. In their general session at 19th Cloud Expo, Harold Hannon, Architect at IBM Bluemix, and Michael O'Neill, Strategic Business Development at Nvidia, discussed the accelerating pace of AI development and how IBM Cloud and NVIDIA are partnering to bring AI capabilities to "every day," on-demand. They also reviewed two "free infrastructure" pr...
Dec. 7, 2016 02:15 PM EST Reads: 1,143
Financial Technology has become a topic of intense interest throughout the cloud developer and enterprise IT communities. Accordingly, attendees at the upcoming 20th Cloud Expo at the Javits Center in New York, June 6-8, 2017, will find fresh new content in a new track called FinTech.
Dec. 7, 2016 02:15 PM EST Reads: 2,204
"Dice has been around for the last 20 years. We have been helping tech professionals find new jobs and career opportunities," explained Manish Dixit, VP of Product and Engineering at Dice, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 19th Cloud Expo, held November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Dec. 7, 2016 01:45 PM EST Reads: 1,135