Interop Recap - Lessons from Cloud Providers

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At Interop, Urs HölzleGoogle's Senior VP of technical infrastructure gave a keynote speech on the lessons learned from building a global infrastructure. This led me to think about how lessons or technologies from running clouds or using clouds affect  networking or general enterprise IT infrastructure deployed at a smaller scale than GoogleIn addition to learning from technologies used by cloud operators, using clouds means that we can migrate what used to reside solely on-premises into the cloud. Examples include the deployment of network controllers or analytics systems into the cloud, and this is a trend that will affect networking in the years to come. This is a follow-up to my previous blog: Interop Recap - SD-WAN or Hybrid-WAN. What's in a name?

An example of how a technology derived from a cloud project influences networking is the use of an open source software project in a traditional network product. Extreme Networks has expanded its SDN platform and OneController product to use the technology from the Group-Based Policy project, which is part of the OpenDaylight (ODL) Project and is also a policy model proposed for OpenStack, a cloud orchestrator. I’ll discuss this further in the future, but it’s great to see how projects in the open source community find their way into commercial products. Companies such as Brocade have also thrown their weight behind OpenDaylight, by delivering their Vyatta controller,  which is an industrialized version of the ODL Controller. 

JumpCloud, which won several Interop awards, has taken Active Directory and LDAP, traditionally deployed as on-premises services, into the cloud. Similarly, Aerohive Networks, a wireless access point company, has taken its controller into the cloud. So I see this type of mixed deployment increase in the future, and the key issue is to balance the reliability and scalability benefits of the cloud with the security and control aspects of on-premises computing. 

A few more observations on a few different topics. 

I visited a customer, Palm Resorts in Las Vegas, and it was evident that the increased use of Wi-Fi and location-aware apps will change their business in the future. This type of application can combine network-based location data with data analytics to transform the customer experience by recommending what they can do at the resort and whenRather than treating networking as simply part of their foundational IT infrastructure, it is a way to help drive business and customer satisfaction goals. Therefore, changes in Wi-Fi are not just about new speeds such as 802.11ac or BYOD, but how it can drive the business goals. 

Systems to solve traditional networking pain points were shown in force. Network management and analytics companies seem to like the phrase “Mean time to Innocence (MTTI) to show that tools will help network managers say “Don’t blame that problem on me! And here’s my proof.” Companies such as Extrahop Networks deliver network analytics with the collection of wire-level data to provide operational intelligence. I expect to see more interesting activity in the intersection of networking and analytics in the near future. There's so much data you can collect on networks, and making sense of it all is a key trend that will continue. 

Speaking of network management, AdRem, a firm headquartered in Poland, managed to steer a company previously focused on Novell Netware (remember that?) to general systems and network managementThe ability to morph a company in changing times is always admirable. Pivoting is not a term limited to modern web companies focused on the sharing economy. :) 

What's interesting is that traditional monitoring interfaces such as SNMP are still widely used. In addition to AdRem, a similar network management product from ManageEngine also relies heavily on SNMP. Whether that is a result of how SNMP is deeply engrained, or if the perception of its reliability, security, and functionality has improved over time, is a topic I want to investigate. There's lots of data available from IPFIX (IP Flow Information Export), sFlow, or NetFlow. Making use of data from a variety of sources, including awareness of application state and the network, is an area ripe for further innovation. 

As some switches begin to resemble servers by use of network operating systems such as Cumulus Linux or Open Network Linux atop bare metal switches, we may see a greater degree of diversity in managing and monitoring network devices. Given the limitations of SNMP, I welcome the adoption of new methods to provide better control and insight, driven by high level interfaces for network automation. If you can treat switches as servers, you can not only gather data from them, but you can also configure them alongside your fleet of server OSs, in a consistent way. 

Those are my thoughts for now. We'll see you at Interop next year.

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