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Technology Behind the Surface

What do Walt Disney World, The Matrix, and Big Ben have in common?  On the surface they do not share much.  Each of these is special because everything that makes them tick, pun intended, are hidden from view of the consumers.  We all intuitively know there is a great deal of complexity behind the scenes, but it is intentionally hidden from the users.  This is the behavior consumers of cloud-based services also expect, even in the datacenter.

Today vendors are working hard to make their products and services more consumable in a nearly seamless fashion.  They are accomplishing this by adding abstract control layers, open APIs with robust development kits, and enabling cross platform integrations.  The recognition is that in today’s virtualized datacenter and the Internet of everything no technology is an island any longer.  Efforts have to be made to make interoperability a priority in order to provide the polished experience that consumers have grown to expect.  The question being answered is ‘Why doesn’t X communicate with Y?’ Read More »

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Providing the Right Platform is Sometimes All it Takes

Change is the only constant. Except that it isn’t; constant that is. We are seeing changes to IT services, infrastructure, eco-systems, and business models, with consequent demands and expectations that we have not witnessed before. Cisco is responding to all of this with new technologies for the DevOps community, including APIs, development tools, training and more, all of which I discuss below.

The Economist likens this to the Cambrian era that saw the multiplication of life forms that populate our world today: “… this time is … different, in an important way. Today’s entrepreneurial boom is based on more solid foundations than the 1990s internet bubble, which makes it more likely to continue for the foreseeable future.”

What has made this possible, which the Economist illustrates with a variety of examples, is the ubiquity of communications and open source platforms in a “cloud” environment. The Economist lists these elements:

  • …snippets of code that can be copied free from the internet, along with easy-to-learn programming frameworks (such as Ruby on Rails).
  • … services for … sharing code (GitHub) …
  • … “application programming interfaces” (APIs), digital plugs that are multiplying rapidly …
  • … “platforms”—services that can host startups’ offerings (Amazon’s cloud computing), distribute them (Apple’s App Store) and market them (Facebook, Twitter).
  • … the internet, the mother of all platforms, which is now fast, universal and wireless.

What has also changed is that the IT stack is, in effect, collapsing. The “separation of concerns”, that kept the network infrastructure distinct from the applications running over it, is being whittled away. In October 2013 we teamed up Read More »

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What’s New with onePK?

CiscoLive San Francisco is coming up so I’ve been updating my session, the Hitchhiker’s Guide to onePK, with the latest information and some new insights.

One new thing is that Cisco onePK (One Platform Kit) is now Generally Available! Anyone can go to onepkdeveloper.com, download the SDK, and take C, Java or Python for a test drive. And I really mean anyone. You don’t even need a Babel fish. Haven’t programmed since freshman year in college? Don’t worry. If you can click on an icon in a Linux desktop and type the name of a script, then you can use onePK.

The great thing about this is that now we can all get real. As a network engineer, technologies aren’t real to me until I see them running on a network. After all, you can read about LSA types and adjacencies all day long, but until you’ve deployed OSPF, you don’t really know OSPF. The same is true for onePK. Read More »

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Three light beams that emanated from OpenDaylight Summit

February 21, 2014 at 5:30 am PST

Earlier this month, I attended the first ever summit on OpenDaylight (ODL) project in Santa Clara, CA. This near sold out event was largely successful by many standards. It brought together a large number of great minds to the table to solve some of the toughest challenges the networking industry is facing around Software-defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV). The group announced a first major step forward with the first open source software release called Hydrogen.  The bulk of the credit goes to 154 contributors from Cisco, IBM, Ericsson, Red Hat, Citrix and others who wrote over a million lines of code in past ten months to make this happen.

The two-day summit was packed with a variety of sessions that were geared towards a diverse set of audience. The sessions varied from general topics to specific topics such as relevance of Open source software, NFV, LISP, standards, discussions on North and South bound APIs, developer tutorials for building applications & tool chain, using OpenStack with ODL, analytics, test automation, and a true story of SDN in production environment.

Of all these topics, here are the three important themes that stood out to me -

    1.      The importance of an Open Source, community initiative for SDN

The concept of Open Source software has been around since decades. It is fast catching up in the non-traditional realms of computer networking. For some, the concept of open source equates to free software. While this is partially true, I strongly believe that open=free is a misnomer. I have started to realize that open source and further, the collaborative initiatives like ODL is far beyond the notion of freeness. In my view, the most important thing that such an initiative does is to gather right minds to bring out bright ideas. The collective wisdom that emanates from such a collaborative initiative helps vendors develop a cohesive set of products that speaks a common language, and perhaps share certain fundamental design constructs to aid interoperability. At the same time, I believe that this collaboration helps to compress the infinite ways vendors can built products to a bounded, agreed upon set of behaviors and interfaces. Customers are real beneficiaries of such an open initiative due to this standardization and better product interoperability. As Vijay Pandey from IBM aptly said in one of his presentations, open source initiatives like ODL “promote innovation and raise the value bar.”

Cisco firmly believes in and supports such open source initiatives. Cisco is a platinum member of ODL project, as well as a Gold member of OpenStack Foundation. You can find more information about OpenStack at Cisco , and a rich set of Cisco Services to help you exploit and adopt OpenStack.

 

    2.      What and how much to Standardize (North and South bound APIs)

In the summit, there were several interesting debates on what to standardize and how much. With regards to how much, I am with Guru Parulkar’s mantra to “standardize as little as possible.”

One of the core capabilities that SDN brings to the table is the notion around exposing interfaces from control plane to the infrastructure layer (South Bound APIs or SBI) and to the application/business layer (North bound APIs or NBI).  We talked about using common approach for design constructs above, and the APIs are central to the constructs. However, if we (are somehow able to) standardize every hook into the system, we are forcing the industry to take a “single” approach to solve the underlying problems. Additionally, I believe that such an approach will not only go against the very notion of openness, but will also hinder innovation and ability to provide unique experiences.

If we talk about SBI, we rightly need some standardized ways to abstract some of the infrastructure complexities. I learnt that ODL will include support for SDN open standards such as OpenFlow, VxLAN, PCEP etc. Similar to SBI, can we standardize the NBI’s as well?

Read More »

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Summary: Cisco is bringing together networking and programming

January 29, 2014 at 9:00 am PST

With the announcements on NX-OS APIs, Application Centric infrastructure APIs, python scripting support, SDN, open source projects OpenStack, OpenDaylight, and Puppet, I have opened an account at codecademy.com and will start with Python and Java. I see many late nights in my future. This stubborn old networker is finally onboard.

Read my full article for a closer look!

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