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The Programmable Network and the Rise of the Network API


February 28, 2018 - 2 Comments

There is a really important trend in front of us in the industry. I call it “the rise of the network API.” We’ve entered a whole new world where the network is programmable. And what’s really exciting…the programmable network has APIs. As a result, the power and capabilities of networks and network infrastructure are driving application development like never before. We know that applications are transforming our businesses; our daily lives. Now the Network API is providing the bridge for application developers to access the full power of today’s programmable networks – building apps that deploy faster, perform better, leverage higher bandwidths, work in the cloud…everything!

Applications Need the Network More than Ever

With the emergence of the cloud, the Internet of Things, and wide-scale applications like augmented virtual reality and analytics demanding higher and higher bandwidth, applications need the network more than ever. These applications require bandwidth, they need security, they need performance. And now that the network has APIs represents a big shift and a big opportunity for everybody.

If you take a look at all of the excitement that we experience through applications, through devices, and through the cloud, really what’s needed below that is a very strong fabric which is the network, and a fabric that has networking and has security built into it. And this is the infrastructure that Cisco, its partners and customers, are building, deploying, managing, operating, servicing. And this is where the big opportunity is in front of us.

Think about it. When the infrastructure has APIs, modern applications can interact with the programmable network in entirely new ways. The worlds of applications and infrastructure are no longer separate, opening up a new world of benefits that those applications can deliver on a programmable infrastructure.

When the infrastructure has APIs, modern applications can
interact with the programmable network in entirely new ways.

This is really new. At DevNet we’ve been asking application developers, “did you know that the network has APIs?” Often they don’t! But they get very excited when they see what network APIs allow them to do on programmable networks. And infrastructure developers are excited too about the possibilities for applications to perform like never before on their infrastructure.

How Network APIs Help Application Developers

Application performance: How many of you have used your mobile devices, and gotten a poor connection? (Everybody!) Why is that? The devices are amazing, the applications are amazing, networks are amazing. So why do we occasionally get poor connections? The reason is because our applications are not talking to the network in a way they both understand. Cisco and Apple have teamed up on a solution to improve network performance for those applications simply by using Quality of Service (QoS).

We’ve teamed up with Apple (because Apple certainly has a lot of mobile developers as well as regular app developers). We have an SDK to help developers implement QoS to mark the different types of traffic used by their app. Now the application talks properly to the network such that the network can give priority to important traffic, hence improving application performance.

Yeah…that feeling!

This opens the door for application developers to create excellent user experiences in places where the network is critical to application performance, where the network is stressed and the traffic needs to be optimize accordingly. You can read a blog by DevNet Senior Engineer, Ashutosh Malegaonkar, “Rethinking iOS Apps in the Enterprise” for more on Cisco’s relationship with Apple and using QoS to improve application performance on the network.

Leveraging the Digitized Network Infrastructure

Another way that APIs in the network help applications is how the digitized infrastructure connects people and data with places and things. There is data and information coming out of that digitized infrastructure from an ever expanding array of sensors, cameras, bots, and IoT devices. You want to leverage that data to run analytics and services on top, and build applications that your end customers, your managers, your operators can use. This creates a whole new paradigm of application development, and the network is what enables access, and control, and security as you’re digitizing and connecting all of these things to create this new breed of applications.

Cisco is at the forefront of these new applications with products like Cisco Spark which looks at where applications meet people, Meraki and CMX where applications meet places, and Jasper where applications meet things.

Network APIs Help Developers Build Security into their Apps

Application developers love it when they hear that the network can help provide security for their apps. They love being able to take advantage of cloud-managed security and threat intelligence to build intelligence into the solution so that the application is automatically protected.

Now there are APIs developers can use to actually query the security system. The Cisco Firepower Management Center platform and Cisco AMP Cloud offer context-rich REST APIs that allow the exchange of network and endpoint security event data and host information to support policy management. For more on this, check out Krishan Veer’s blog on Firepower Programmable APIs for Developers.

The rise of the programmable network is creating opportunities like never before for application developers and network engineers alike. It used to be that applications and infrastructure were designed and built by separate teams. Not any more. In my next blog we’ll dive into the emerging world of NetDevOps – where teams are applying DevOps principles and techniques to utilizing a software programmable infrastructure to manage, deploy, and run applications on our networks.

At DevNet, our goal is to catalyze your innovation, to provide you with the tools you need to learn, the tools you need to code, to give you inspiration for new areas like the ones discussed here, and to give you a community in which you can connect. Check out Hank Preston’s new video series on network programmability. Take a look at Wendell Odom’s new DevNet learning labs on how to build your home networking lab for networking programmability.

Visit the Network Programmability Dev Center any time to try a learning lab yourself, and find tools, training, videos, and inspiration.

Below is a video of my “Rise of the Network API” Innovation Talk at Cisco Live in Barelona.  If I missed you there, I hope to see you at DevNet Create!

 

 



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2 Comments

  1. Thanks for this overview with all the links to interessting posts. There is so much content to discover. Thanks for the great work.

  2. "Meraki and CMX where applications meet places" We are really enjoying working with Meraki and CMX api and happy to see that Cisco is focussing on developing those Network API even further. It brings lots of potentials for developers and start-ups to build innovative solutions on top of Cisco's solutions that are deployed in almost every company in the world. @Susie, we are really proud that you spoke about www.mapwize.io on stage at WebSummit! See you at DevNet Create.