In June, 2014, I attended the DevOps Days (un)Conference at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. I reflected on that in this blog post. At the end of that blog I said:

“At DevOps days, I was kindly introduced, by Paul Peissner of CollabNet, to John Willis and Dave Nielsen, who helped organise the event. John and Dave are keen to do something, similar to DevOps Days, focused on the intersection with the networking world, enabled by emerging network programming concepts.”

On October 14 Paul, John, Dave, I and a whole host of others attended DevOps 4 Networks, which was the event that we wanted to put together back in June. On reflection (as I do that a lot), four months from “we should …” to “we did …” is more than a little impressive. Dave and John pulled it all together, and I am very grateful to the wider DevNet team of Ruth, Ed, Chuq, Mandy and others who helped make it possible. Thanks guys and gals!

As part of the organisation process, we also started this DevOps Tools Survey. Please take a moment to complete that. I have added this link at the end of the blog also.

The event itself was organised as an (un)conference, with an agenda in the morning (details of videos below) and self-organised discussions in the afternoon. The attendance was very good. Over 300 people registered, with over 150 actually attending (which is very typical of such events).  The panorama photo below was taken during a break in proceedings during the morning.


The videos from that day, and others, can be found at YouTube. I have curated a list below in rough temporal order to provide a sense of how the thinking and conversation has evolved over time, and during the day of the event.

John Willis’s thoughts on this space from early 2014, John Willis — The Network – The Next Frontier for Devops?, and mid 2014, Alice In Wonderland – DevOps and OpenStack Networking help illustrate where his thinking started, what he has observed as this space has evolved, and lays some of the conceptual groundwork for what follows.

John’s interviews with Jeremy SchulmanBrent SalisburyLorie McVittie and Mat Peterson, in the lead up to the DevOps4Networks event, provide insights from industry leaders in this space.

The Opening Remarks by John Willis at DevOps4Networks 2014 helped set the context nicely, and explained why we needed a focused event. As John says, if you think this is cool, then please say so.

The DevOps 4 Networks Keynote by JR Rivers (18:11) posed the “vampire tap” challenge. If you don’t know that is, look here, and accept that you have failed JR’s challenge ;-).  Perhaps more importantly, JR brought his decades of experience, gained at Cisco, Google, Cisco, Cumulus, to the conference to help us understand why we were all there. Think Linux, code in Git, fully automated, hosted, evaluation environments, the myth of the universal data model versus working, consumable, technology, with guardrails built with defensive programming in byte-sized chunks!

Test Driven Development for Networking by Colin McNamara (36:23) was arguably the most quoted presentation of the day, especially the maturity levels chart and value stream mapping.  The why aspect of test driven development helped capture the essence of what the day was about. Agile, DevOps, SDN and Cloud all fit together in Colin’s vision. Configuration as code, infrastructure is code; DevOps is the new network operations. Change control boards suck (how can anyone ever know what will really happen?!). Managing a network without tests is like driving a Ferrari without seatbelts, eventually it won’t work out. The exposition of basic CI for networks was a very practical example that everyone can benefit from, including an explanation of what GitGerrit and Jenkins are for. VIRL was also explained, so look for more about how we plan to use that in a future blog from me.

The panel session with Alex Honor, Jeremy Schulman and Nathan Sowatskey, Panel: Do Network DevOps Pros Need to Code? (59:05) addressed one of the key questions facing network engineers and operators. The upshot is that understanding automation and how developers, and developer tool chains, work is key; actually being able to write code yourself, less so. It also reminds me how weird it is to see oneself on a video (useful though).

When DevOps & Networking Intersect by Brent Salisbury (41:23), which starts off with slightly weird audio as Brent had the benefit of two microphones, and someone else in the venue (God?), with a friend waiting in front of the museum (radio mikes!). Having gotten past all that, Brent’s observations on operational evolution and the value of the team make it all worth it. Highlights include application virtualisation, exponential growth, commoditisation, vertical integration, unused hardware capacity and scale, what SDN is for (the edge), contradictions between innovation and stability, L2 suckiness, and cumulative years of experience about what does not scale.

What the Business Thinks about Network Programming by Nathan Sowatskey (6:14), based on my interactions over the years with customers thinking about network programming and automation.

The Making of a “Hybrid” Engineer by Salman Asadullah (6:44) covers the challenges of training network engineers to understand the programming and automation worlds, and application engineers to understand the network.

The Chef Cookbooks we use at Ooyala by Bao Nguyen (6:22) provides a very pragmatic overview of using Chef and Git (another shout out for Git, a theme of the day) for network configuration management (because they were using Chef in IT anyway, so why not? That’s how IT people think, network dudes have to get used to that).

SDN for Hybrid Clouds by Vinothini Raju (5:41), with whom I had great sympathy as she had also just flown in, but from India! The key points focused on dynamic capacity provisioning, replication of active storage, i.e. caches, data distribution, which has the compute service in the cloud, but the data in a private store.

Burning Man – Scaling for an Extremely Temporary Network by Matt Peterson, just to reinforce how sucky L2 is, what a truck-roll is like on a bicycle, how people (L8) really get L1 together in a DevOps way, dehydrated, in the desert whilst possibly not entirely sober.

Infrastructure API Lightning Talk by Jeremy Pollard of Box.com (23:11) what if your network was smarter than you? Configuring networks manually is boring and error prone, and you have better things to do with your life. Such as write formulas that generate all that stuff for you.

If you like all of this, and want to see more, please let us know!

As part of the organisation process, we also started this DevOps Tools Survey. Please take a moment to complete that.