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Building network automation solutions

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Finding Excuses to Avoid Network Automation

My Network Automation in Enterprise Environments blog post generated the expected responses, including:

Some of the environments I am looking at have around 2000-3000 devices and 6-7 vendors for various functions and 15-20 different device platform from those vendors. I am trying to understand what all environments can Ansible scale up to and what would be an ideal environment enterprises should be looking at more enterprise grade automation/orchestration platforms while keeping in mind that platform allows extensibility.

Luckily I didn’t have to write a response – one of the readers did an excellent job:

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Worth Reading: So You Want to Become a Cloud Provider

My friend Robert Turnšek published an interesting blog post pondering whether it makes sense to become a cloud provider.

I loved reading it, particularly the Trap for System Integrators part, because I know a bit of the history, and could easily identify two or three failed or stalled projects per paragraph (like: “Just adding some blade servers and storage to the existing server environment won’t make you a cloud provider”). Hope you’ll have as much fun as I did.

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Q&A: Ingress Traffic Flow in Multi-Data Center Deployments

One of my readers was watching the Building Active-Active Data Centers webinar and sent me this question:

I'm wondering if you have additional info on how to address the ingress traffic flow issue? The egress is well explained but the ingress issue wasn't as well explained.

There’s a reason for that: there’s no good answer.

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StackStorm 101 on Software Gone Wild

A few weeks ago Matt Oswalt wrote an interesting blog post on principles of automation, and we quickly agreed it’s a nice starting point for a podcast episode.

In the meantime Matt moved to StackStorm team so that became the second focus of our chat… and then we figured out it would be great to bring in Matt Stone (the hero of Episode 13).

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Testing Ansible Playbooks with Cisco VIRL

Cisco VIRL is the ideal testing environment when you want to test your Ansible playbooks with various Cisco network operating systems (IOS, IOS XE, NX-OS or IOS XR). The “only” gotcha: how do you reach those devices from the outside world?

It was always possible to reach the management interface of devices running with VIRL, and it got even simpler with VIRL release 1.2.

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Q&A: Big Switch SDN

Got this set of questions from one of my readers:

I just met up with DELL guys for Big Switch SDN. They claim there is no routing running on leaf switches, the BCF is purely OpenFlow.

Almost true. It is based on OpenFlow, but they use tons of their own OpenFlow extensions to get stuff to work. That’s also why you have to install their agent on the switches.

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First Speakers in Building Network Automation Solutions Online Course

Like with the Next-Generation Data Center course, the live sessions in the Building Network Automation Solutions course include guest speakers, Q&A discussions, and solutions to sample challenges that you’ll be able to use to complete your homework assignments.

The guest speakers for the January 2016 course include:

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Video: Docker Networking Options

After introducing the fundamentals of Docker networking, Dinesh Dutt focused on various Docker networking options, including multi-host networking with overlays.

After watching the video, you might also want to listen to Episode 49 of Software Gone Wild with Brent Salisbury, Dave Tucker and Madhu Venugopal.

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Can VMware NSX and Cisco ACI Interoperate over VXLAN?

I got a long list of VXLAN-related questions from one of my subscribers. It started with an easy one:

Does Cisco ACI use VXLAN inside the fabric or is something else used instead of VXLAN?

ACI uses VXLAN but not in a way that would be (AFAIK) interoperable with any non-Cisco product. While they do use some proprietary tagging bits, the real challenge is the control plane.

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Reliability of Clustered Solutions: Another Data Point

A while ago I wrote:

I haven’t seen any hard data, but intuition suggests that apart from hardware failures a standalone firewall might be more stable than a state-sharing firewall cluster.

Guillaume Sachot (working for a web hosting company) sent me his first-hand experience on this topic:

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Becoming a Programmer on Software Gone Wild

During our summer team-building podcast we agreed it would be fun to record a few episodes along the “how do I become a programmer” theme and figured out that Elisa Jasinska would be a perfect first candidate.

A few weeks ago we finally got together and started our chat with campfire stories remembering how we got started with networking and programming.

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L3 Virtualization and VRFs

I got into an interesting discussion with Johannes Luther on the need for VRFs and he wrote:

If VRF = L3 virtualization technologies, then I saw that link. However, VRFs are again just a tiny piece of the whole story.

Of course he’s right, but it turns out that VRFs are the fundamental building block of most L3 virtualization technologies using a shared infrastructure.

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Network Automation: Lego Bricks and Death Stars

One of the challenges traditional networking engineers face when starting their network automation journey is the “build or buy” decision: should I use a plethora of small open-source or commercial tools and components and build my own solution, or should I buy a humongous platform from a reassuringly-expensive $vendor.

Most of us were used to buying platforms ranging from CiscoWorks to HP OpenView (oops, Business Technology Optimization Software) or now Cisco’s NSO, so it’s natural that we’re trying to map this confusing new world into old patterns, leading to interesting discussions like the one I had during one of my workshops:

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Could You Use IS-IS Instead of BGP for Routing on Hosts?

One of my readers sent me an interesting question a while ago:

Isn’t IS-IS a better fit for building L3-only networks than BGP, particularly considering that IS-IS already has a protocol to communicate with the end systems (ES-IS)?

In theory, he’s correct (see also this blog post).

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Optimize Your Data Center: How Far Did We Get?

Our Data Center optimization journey has finished. We virtualized the workloadgot rid of legacy technologies, reduced the number of server uplinks, replaced storage arrays with distributed file system and replaced physical firewalls and load balancers with virtual appliances.

Let’s see what’s left: it turns out you really don’t need more than two switches in most data centers.

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Optimal Inter-AS Routing Challenge

I encountered an ancient problem during one of my ExpertExpress engagements:

  • Customer network is split into two autonomous systems (core and access);
  • Links within access network are way slower than links within core network;
  • Customer would like to have optimal core-to-access traffic flow.

Challenge: what’s the simplest possible configuration to get it done?

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Breaking News: I’m a Vendor Shill

Got this comment on my Network Automation RFP Requirements blog post:

Looks like you are paid shill for Brocade based on the quote earlier in your blog "The Pass/Fail information included below was collected to the best of my knowledge with extensive help from Jason Edelman, Nick Buraglio, David Barroso and several Brocade engineers (THANK YOU!)."

Hooray, one more accolade to add to my list of accomplishments. And now for a few more details:

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First Speakers in the Spring 2017 Data Center Course

It’s only two weeks since the last live session of the Autumn 2016 Data Center course in which Mitja Robas did a fantastic job describing a production deployment of VMware NSX on top of Cisco Nexus 9000 network, and we already have the first speakers for the Spring 2017 event:

  • Scott Lowe (now at VMware) will talk about the role of open source in data center infrastructure;
  • Thomas Wacker (UBS AG) will talk about their fully automated data center deployments;
  • Andrew Lerner and Simon Richard (Gartner) will participate in a panel discussion on data center and networking trends.
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