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An Operational Simplification Race is on to Displace CLI

June 6, 2012 at 9:31 pm PST

“Boiled frog syndrome” refers to a fable that when you put a frog in hot water, it jumps out.  However if you slowly heat up the water the frog is in, the frog will cook.

The number of features and associated CLI for networking equipment has increased gradually over the last 15+ years.  Each feature is valuable in its own right, but the weight of all CLIs, all OSs, and all variations of deployment cannot be internalized by any human.  The result: the concept of the über-CCIE is cooked.

The question is what displaces the CLI over time?  It is argued by “good enough” network vendors that this complexity isn’t necessary.  But considering most networking costs are operational costs, this argument can generally be discarded.

More articulate arguments are made by people who want to simplify overall network operations activities versus concentrating upon enhancements to CLI.   Businesses don’t want to manage individual boxes; they would love to shed this complexity.  Instead they would rather express their operational intents to their network, and let the network itself sort any box specific details.

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Unfiltered & Out Loud: Meet, Discuss & Debate with the “Big Brains” Inside Cisco

Welcome to our new blog, Architect & DE Discussions, where you can hear from (and yes, discuss and debate) the architects and distinguished engineers behind some of Cisco’s top technologies. As we move forward into Cisco Live San Diego next week and open up a new chapter of software innovation, one of the key areas we’d like you to hear about and provide feedback on is what we’re thinking about inside of Cisco.

We’re getting back to basics: the technology and what’s really behind it, but also future technologies and how we think they might impact the industry, or multiple industries. From what’s next inside IOS to how SDN goes to market first (wait, is SDN an architecture, or a solution, or.. ?) and yes, even OpenFlow, this is the place to hear it first.

This isn’t a blog where you’ll find marketing-speak or any lingo. This is a blog where you can actually hear directly from top engineers and architects driving not only the current but future technologies inside of Cisco. We’d love your feedback and strongly encourage participation and discussion. Do we always know what’s right? Absolutely not, but sometimes we understand the hard questions fairly early on.  By sharing these questions and possible outcomes we would love to have a dialog with you on where you think the industry is moving as well and also what you’d like to see from Cisco. Read More »

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Final Thoughts on the Open Networking Summit

April 30, 2012 at 12:36 am PST

So, some closing thoughts on ONS.  I know its a bit late, but hey, when you’re out of the office for a few days, things pile up a bit--overall, I think the ONF folks did a fine job with the event.

As I look back at ONS, I am reminded of one of my favorite IT quotes, courtesy of Bill Gates:

We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten

Long-term, I think SDN or the concepts it represents will certainly have a hand in shaping how we do networking a decade for now--how we get there and what that destination really looks like is a bit less certain.

First, I think we are early enough in the game that the technology is far from unsettled:

  • Most folks are shipping 1.0 code, either literally or figuratively, and I am betting there are unseen technologies in the wings that will help shape things and I am sure folks will find interesting ways to also repurpose existing technology
  • We can pretty much expect some wave of M&A to help shape the vendor and technology landscape
  • As I have noted before, there is a lot of dogma about what SDN is right now that is not helpful, but I also believe it will eventually fall by the wayside

Eventually the market will sort this stuff out, and a handful of organizations are in a position to drive their own solutions, but for regular folks, I think there is enough near-term uncertainty here that it will give people pause--both in terms of customer adoption as well as ecosystem investment.

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Open Networking Summit, Day 2

April 18, 2012 at 9:19 am PST

So, the theme for the day was “Less Unicorns, More Ponies”

I have to admit, I could not attend some of the afternoon sessions--there is a define downside to going to a conference with your boss.

Anyway, we heard from a number of folks (a lot of SPs and academics) that are doing the hard work of trying to do useful real-world things with OpenFlow and SDN.  There were a fair number of successes but also a good number of struggles.  Kudos to the ONS folks for trying to present a balanced view as opposed to hosting a two-day OpenFlow pep rally.  So, sadly, the shine is starting to come off the SDN unicorn, but in the long run, this what needs to happen for the long term health of SDN.

Hands down, my favorite session was Igor Gashinsky from Yahoo! for a number of reasons: 1) it was darn entertaining, 2) I think hyperscale data centers present some the most interesting and demanding environments right now, 3) the use case was interesting, and 4) frankly, it allows me to make a point. :)

It seems that much of the conversation around SDN centers on the southbound conversation--the ability to program the hardware.  While that is certainly useful and interesting, at least as interesting and important is the northbound conversation--the ability to extract interesting information from the infrastructure and make it available to the controllers, applications, tools, etc.  In Igor’s case, he talked about being able to extract info directly out of the switching hardware to facilitate troubleshooting--not an inconsequential task when you have 20K servers and 400K VMs.  Its a good use case but I also think its just scratching at the surface.

I believe its an interesting topic and one of the things that David Ward will dig into a bit further during his session this afternoon.

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More Musings on SDN and OpenFlow

April 16, 2012 at 10:38 am PST

Just in time for the Open Networking Summit, we are ready to tease a bit more of what we are doing on the Software Defined Networking front. David Ward has posted some really intriguing musings on SDN.  Its a really good read and it should give you some hints on our thinking not the topic.  If you don’t know David, he is über smart and quite entertaining--he is also the current chair of the Technical Advisory group at ONF, so he knows of what he speaks.

For those of you at ONS this week, David will be speaking on a panel on Wednesday @ 2pm.

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