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V6 World Congress – March 2014 – A Premier IPv6 Event for the Communications Industry

Few days ago, the Networking Industry “who’s who” gathered in Paris for the fourth edition of v6 World Congress http://www.uppersideconferences.com/v6world2014/v6world2014introduction.html. I’m very proud that Cisco has been sponsoring and supporting this IPv6 Conference since its inception. It is always a very special feeling to have so many industry leaders visiting my hometown.  This event has become a milestone in the global deployment of IPv6. Paris is the place to be in March each year, if you want to get a status update of IPv6 transition, one of the most important technology transition the Internet have ever gone through.

I want to share what I personally consider, the most important take-away of the week. Read More »

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Navigating Device Management and Control Interfaces in the Age of SDN

February 28, 2014 at 10:59 am PST

The proliferation of different types of device interfaces places a significant burden on application developers and equipment providers alike. One of the reasons for the rise of Software Defined Networking (SDN) is its promise to simplify management by providing a single point through which the entire network can be managed and administered. This raises the question whether this promise extends towards dramatic simplification of the device interface landscape as well, specifically, whether SDN can put an end to device interface proliferation and in the future a single management and control interface may be all that is required. Unfortunately, it turns out that this particular hope is unsubstantiated. Here is why.

The Promised SDN Land of Interface Simplification

Much has been made of the need to align the various interfaces through which networking devices can be managed and controlled. It has been difficult enough to just keep SNMP implementations consistent. Throw CLI, syslog, and Web Services into the mix, and the task becomes daunting indeed. One reason why different interfaces have to be supported has to do with customer preferences, of course. Chef is the new paradigm to support? Sure, we’ll add that. ReST is becoming en-vogue? We’ll support that too.

In the middle of all this, along comes SDN. “Don’t bother with individual devices and their legacy interfaces” is the siren call. “Use a controller to orchestrate the network instead” – a single point of control through which the network can be operated and maintained, an enticing value proposition indeed. Early SDN technology such as OpenFlow made a big splash and gained a lot of mind share this way. Rather than messing with the hodgepodge of existing interfaces, a single interface was introduced to control OpenFlow switches. Just support this one interface, or so the message went, and your equipment can join the New World of Software-Defined Networking, leaving the Old World of fragmented interfaces behind, much like early European settlers coming to America hoped for freedom and a better life, leaving behind constantly quarreling fiefdoms and many centuries of historical baggage. Read More »

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XMPP: A Power Tool in Your Tool Box

February 25, 2014 at 3:16 pm PST

Extensive Message Protocol (XMPP) is an open standard protocol based on XML (Extensible Markup Language). XMPP is designed to transport instant messages (IM) between entities and to detect online presence. It supports authentication of IM application and secure transport of messages over SSL/TLS. In XMPP entities can be bots, physical users, servers, devices or components. It’s really a powerful tool that has great potential for system administrators to add to their toolbox because:

  • XMPP is powerful
  • XMPP with Python is only 12 lines of code – trust me, it’s easy!
  • XMPP only requires a single query for multiple nodes
  • Status message can be used to track host presence

The Power of XMPP

For those of you that are not familiar with XMPP, it not only supports one-to-one messaging between entities but it also supports multi-party messaging (which enables an entity to join a chat room for the exchange of messages with several participants). The messages can be text messages embedded in XML format but XML can also be used to send control messages between entities as we will see with the presence stanza in a bit.

XMPP is widely used; Google uses it (for its Hangout application -- formerly google chat) and so does Yahoo and MSN. At Cisco, we use Cisco Jabber extensively to communicate internally. The XMPP client function is now integrated in the Cisco Nexus 5000 series with the release 5.2(1)N1(7) and the Nexus 6000 series with the release of 7.0(0)N1(1). XMPP is an integral part of the single console access for Dynamic Fabric Automation (DFA) which is a powerful framework described in my previous blog.

The new Data Center Network Manager (DCNM) 7.0(1) is delivered as an OVA file that can be deployed quickly on an existing VMware-enabled server. Although DCNM comes with a lot of features that simplify the deployment of the Data Center fabric, we can pick and choose any service we want to use independently -- which is great since DCNM comes with Cisco Jabber XCP and is license free. If you already have a XMPP service installed (like Openfire or ejabberd), it will not be a problem because everything discussed here is valid on any standard XMPP implementation.

On NX-OS devices, the XMPP feature is activated by configuring ‘feature fabric access’ and is part of the Enhanced L2 license (ENHANCED_LAYER2_PKG). Once activated, the switch becomes a XMPP client that needs to be registered on the server. In order to register it, XMPP requires the use of fully qualified domain names (FQDNs) to identify the domain server. If the switch does not have access to a DNS service, I recommend that you use the switch management network for messaging and a static host–to–IP address mapping in the switch configuration.

The switch will use its hostname to login to the XMPP service. If your XMPP server does not support auto-registration, you will need to register the switch and the rooms in the XMPP database beforehand. The DCNM OVA requires users and groups to be created via the CLI, and example of this user and group creation is:

[root@dcnm-ova ~]# appmgr add_user xmpp -u leaf0 -p cisco123
User added.
[root@dcnm-ova ~]# appmgr add_user xmpp -u leaf1 -p cisco123
User added.

User added. Read More »

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FOSDEM 2014: Cisco Powered World First

For a few of us in the Cisco Brussels office the last weekend of January always marks a special occasion.

The weekend is dedicated to the Free and Open-source Software Developers’ European Meeting (FOSDEM) conference in Brussels, with around 5,000 visitors attending. The event happens at the ULB (Université libre de Bruxelles) campus, but traditionally uses its own network infrastructure, sponsored by Cisco. And we, who are Cisco employees, volunteered our time to help the community as well as meet some new friends and get extra hands-on experience with a sizable network.

What was different this year was that just before the official start of the conference I finally figured out how NAT64 works, gave a 5 minute warning on twitter (image below), and then disabled IPv4 on the main network (simply stated I removed the IPv4 address of the router on the client interface so that only the IPv6 address remained).

tweet_FOSDEM

That meant that visitors would only get an IPv6 address Read More »

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My Cisco Live Milan IPv6 Firsts

That is it, Cisco Live Milan is over! The “before” of anticipation, seemingly a moment ago, is replaced by the “after” of takeaways and accomplishments for the week. Some passed their CCIE certification, some met a new business partner, but it’s likely that everyone learned something new. I am not an exception.

During the week, I presented at two different technical breakout sessions (BRKRST-2304 -- Hitchhiker’s Guide to Troubleshooting IPv6 and BRKEWN-2666 -- IPv6 on WiFi: You talk too much! NOT anymore) and spent my remaining time working with everyone in the Network Operations Center (NOC) to ensure that IPv6 is a smooth ride for all of the 9,000+ devices on the network. Not only did I learn a lot, but this year at Cisco Live Milan was a year of “firsts” for me.

  • For starters, it was the first time I shared details about my experience with large-scale IPv6 WiFi setups with Cisco Live attendees in the form of a breakout session. After talking with attendees, my main takeaway -- Read More »

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