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Use SDN Strategically – and NOT as a “Band Aid”

hammer nut

The other week I attended the “Software Defined Networking 2013” conference in London.  This is a UK-based event for the discussion of SDN, OpenFlow and Network Virtualisation Solutions from a strategic perspective.  There were quite a few interesting perspective s I picked up at this conference.  In particular, the conference for me reinforced the potential of SDN – but if you apply it to the wrong problem, you may not get the return you hope for!

Top of mind for me, then, coming out of this conference was a demo of “What SDN Can Do For You” from one of our competitors.  At best, the phrase “using a sledge hammer to crack a nut” comes to mind.

The demo came from our friends in Palo Alto, who once (boldly but incorrectly!) predicted  that “Cisco UCS would be dead a year after launch”. They gave a SDN-focused demo that, when I “peeled back the onion”, didn’t demonstrate a compelling SDN use case.  Rather, it convinced me that if you have this particular problem as illustrated in their demo, you don’t need SDN: you need a new vendor!

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Hitchhiker’s Guide to onePK

Cisco Live Milan is around the corner and I’m getting my session, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to onePK, ready for it’s European debut.  While it’s lovely to be in the CiscoLive Distinguished Speaker Hall of Fame, putting a good presentation together hasn’t gotten any easier.  The hard questions still need to be asked:  Do I have too many slides?  Have I crossed the line between technical and boring?  Will the demos work?  Will anyone laugh at my jokes?

And perhaps most importantly for this session: does anyone read Douglas Adams any more?

Here’s why.  I borrowed the title of Douglas Adam’s iconic Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for good reason.  The original Hitchhiker’s Guide follows an ordinary guy, Arthur Dent, as he is unwillingly dragged into an intra-galactic adventure, with little more than the Guide, a pint of beer and a packet of peanuts to see him through.  Faced with the vast and confusing world of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and programmability, network engineers are in a position to know exactly how Arthur Dent felt.  New buzzwords, emerging standards, an abundance of marketing slides with vague but brightly colored blobs, and a lot of talk about programming languages can be disorienting to the best of us.

Enter the Hitchhiker’s Guide to onePK.

Notice that I did not call my session the Hitchhiker’s Guide to SDN.  SDN calls for more of an Encyclopedia Galactica than a Hitchhiker’s Guide, if you know what I mean.  Instead, my aim is to take a deep dive into one aspect of network programmability that network engineers can really relate to: onePK. Read More »

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Follow-up Q&A on ACI Methodology and the Pursuit of an Application-Aware Architecture

We’ve been getting a lot of great questions about ACI since our launch as people try and better understand the value of an application-oriented approach. I got the following questions on my blog post about the Application Virtual Switch that probed on some of the thinking behind an application-aware architecture, and why now was the right time to release it (after all, John Chambers called it the most disruptive Cisco innovation in a decade!). Anyway, on to the Q&A:

I’d like to know more about the path that Cisco pursued to evolve towards an “application aware” architecture. This back-story (how Cisco arrived at this juncture) would be very helpful to industry analysts, customers and institutional investors. Here’s some of the key questions on my mind.

- What were the primary roadblocks that inhibited the adoption of this innovative approach in the past?

I would say that the Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) was a combination of a Eureka! moment, that people just never thought of it before, and that it was also an insightful evolution from early SDN technology. So, it might be fair to say that SDN had to come along, and then we realized, here might be a better way to program the network (with an application-oriented model, rather than a network-centric model).

That might be another way of saying that the lack of SDN as a precursor to ACI was a roadblock. But I think of it as networks were just built on hardware that were optimized to pass packets and other very specific tasks. And the limitations of historical networking protocols and traditional network designs, coupled with very limited ways in which you could manage a network and tell it what to do, all served as roadblocks to implementing anything like ACI. So the roadblocks that had to be cleared included the ability to program switches through software interfaces, and to centrally manage the software applications or controllers to orchestrate the broader network, not an individual device. Those are some of the things SDN brought along.

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MegaTrends: Network Programming and Cisco ONE in Enterprise Networks

How do we evolve the IT architecture to enable an ever-increasing set of services while multiple MegaTrends are rapidly transforming the environment? How do you deliver the best possible experience to your users and applications while maintaining agility and keeping cost under control?

Today, in my first blog after the summer break, I’d like to start exploring a topic which is critical to building this new architecture supporting current and upcoming Megatrends – and which can be seen as a Megatrend itself as well: Software Defined Networking (SDN) and the Cisco Open Network Environment (ONE) strategy and architecture.

Bruno Klauser, Consulting Engineer in my team has been focusing on Network Programmability and network-embedded automation for some time – and is currently working with many of the early adopters across EMEAR.

Q: Bruno, with Software Defined Networking  being an increasingly  popular discussion topic we’re hearing a lot of of comments – from “nothing new at all” to “complete revolution of IT” – what, if anything, is different from how we built solutions in the past? Read More »

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Cisco’s onePK Part 2: Reaching out to a Network Element


In the previous installment of the onePK series, you received a crash course on Cisco’s onePK. In this article, you’ll take the next step with a fun little exposé on onePK’s C API. You will learn how to write a simple program to reach out and connect to a network element. This is staple onePK functionality and is the foundation upon which most onePK applications are built.

Preambling Details

The following short program “ophw” (onePK Hello World), is a fully functional onePK application that will connect to a network element, query its system description, and then disconnect. It doesn’t do anything beyond that, but it does highlight some lynchpin onePK code: network element connection and session handle instantiation. This is the foundational stuff every onePK application needs before useful work can get done. Read More »

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