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Building network automation solutions

9 module online course

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Video: Cloud Models, Layers and Responsibilities

In late spring 2019, Matthias Luft and Florian Barth presented a short webinar on cloud concepts, starting with the obvious topic: cloud models, layers, and responsibilities.

You need Free ipSpace.net Subscription to watch the video, and the Standard ipSpace.net Subscription to register for a deeper dive into cloud security with Matthias Luft (next live session on December 10th: Identity and Access Management).

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Disaster Recover and Failure Domains

One of the responses to my Disaster Recovery Faking blog post focused on failure domains:

What is the difference between supporting L2 stretched between two pods in your DC (which everyone does for seamless vMotion), and having a 30ms link between these two pods because they happen to be in different buildings?

I hope you agree that a single broadcast domain is a single failure domain. If not, let agree to disagree and move on - my life is too short to argue about obvious stuff.

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Tuning BGP Convergence in High-Availability Firewall Cluster Design

Two weeks ago Nicola Modena explained how to design BGP routing to implement resilient high-availability network services architecture. The next step to tackle was obvious: how do you fine-tune convergence times, and how does BGP convergence compare to the more traditional FHRP-based design.

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You Still Need a Networking Engineer for a Successful Cloud Deployment

You’ve probably heard cloudy evangelists telling CIOs how they won’t need the infrastructure engineers once they move their workloads into a public cloud. As always, whatever sounds too good to be true usually is. Compute resources in public clouds still need to be managed, someone still needs to measure application performance, and backups won’t happen by themselves.

Even more important (for networking engineers), network requirements don’t change just because you decided to use someone else’s computers:

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Questions to Ask About Product Using Overhyped Technology

I stumbled upon a great MIT Technology Review article (warning: regwall ahead) with a checklist you SHOULD use whenever considering a machine-learning-based product.

While the article focuses on machine learning at least some of the steps in that list apply to any new product that claims to use a brand new technology in a particular problem domain like overlay virtual networking with blockchain:

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IP Fabric with Gian-Paolo Boarina on Software Gone Wild

No, we were not talking about IP fabrics in general - IP Fabric is a network management software (oops, network assurance platform) Gian Paolo discovered a while ago and thoroughly tested in the meantime.

He was kind enough to share what he found in Episode 107 of Software Gone Wild, and as Chris Young succinctly summarized: “it’s really sad what we still get excited about something 30 years after it was first promised”… but maybe this time it really works ;)

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Upcoming Events and Webinars (December 2019)

The registration is still open for the Using VXLAN to Build Active-Active Data Centers workshop on December 3rd, but if you can’t make it to Zurich you might enjoy these live sessions we’ll run in December 2019:

All webinars I mentioned above are accessible with Standard ipSpace.net Subscription, and you’ll need Expert Subscription to enjoy the automation course contents.

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Is There a Future for Networking Engineers?

Someone sent me this observation after reading my You Cannot Have Public Cloud without Networking blog post:

As much as I sympathize with your view, scales matter. And if you make ATMs that deal with all the massive client population, the number of bank tellers needed will go down. A lot.

Based on what I read a while ago a really interesting thing happened in financial industry: while the number of tellers went down, number of front-end bank employees did not go down nearly as dramatically, they just turned into “consultants”.

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The EVPN Dilemma

Got an interesting set of questions from a networking engineer who got stuck with the infamous “let’s push the **** down the stack” challenge:

So I am a rather green network engineer trying to solve the typical layer two stretch problem.

I could start the usual “friends don’t let friends stretch layer-2” or “your business doesn’t really need that” windmill fight, but let’s focus on how the vendors are trying to sell him the “perfect” solution:

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Upcoming Workshops: NSX, ACI, VXLAN, EVPN, DCI and More

I’m running two workshops in Zurich in the next 10 days:

I published the slide deck for the NSX versus ACI workshop a few days ago (and you can already download it if you have a paid ipSpace.net subscription) and it’s full of new goodness like ACI vPod, multi-pod ACI, multi-site ACI, ACI-on-AWS, and multi-site NSX-V and NSX-T.

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Worth Reading: Early History of Usenet

Steve Bellovin wrote a great series of articles describing the early history of Usenet. The most interesting part in the “security and authentication” part was probably this gem:

That left us with no good choices. The infrastructure for a cryptographic solution was lacking. The uux command rendered illusory any attempts at security via the Usenet programs themselves. We chose to do nothing. That is, we did not implement fake security that would give people the illusion of protection but not the reality.

A lot of other early implementers chose the same route, resulting in SMTP, BGP… which wouldn’t be a problem if someone kept track of that and implemented security a few years later. Unfortunately we considered those problems solved and moved on to chase other squirrels. We’re still paying the interest on that technical debt.

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Video: Breaking the End-to-End Principle

Original TCP/IP and OSI network stacks had relatively clean layered architecture (forgetting the battle scars for the moment) and relied on end-to-end principle to keep the network core simple.

As always, no good deed goes unpunished - “creative” individuals trying to force-fit their mis-designed star-shaped pegs into round holes, and networking vendors looking for competitive advantage quickly destroyed the idea with tons of middlebox devices, ranging from firewalls and load balancers to NAT, WAN optimization, and DPI monstrosities.

You need free ipSpace.net subscription to watch the video, or a paid ipSpace.net subscriptions to watch the whole How Networks Really Work webinar.

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Guest Speakers in the Networking in Public Cloud Deployments Online Course

We are proud to announce a great lineup of guest speakers for the first Networking in Public Cloud Deployments course that will run in Spring 2020:

  • Joep Piscaer will dive into what changes public clouds bring and what these changes mean for you, as well as what developers and other consumers of cloud resources expect from you in the new public cloud, DevOps and Infrastructure-as-Code world.
  • Ned Bellavance will review the principles of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) and how they apply to public cloud solutions. Then he will take a look at the landscape of IaC tools that exist and examine their pros and cons.
  • Howard Marks will review the types of storage available across public clouds, how they differ between cloud providers and the applications and pitfalls associated with each of them.
  • Connecting on-premises data centers or office locations to a public cloud has some unique challenges. Ed Horley will help you create a framework and a checklist to make sure you have the required redundancy, throughput, routing, and security all baked in from day one.
  • Matthias Luft will cover the aspects of securing your public cloud deployments.
  • Justin Warren will explain how to make good tradeoffs between resilient hardware and resilient software.

Sounds interesting? The first Networking in Public Cloud Deployments course will start on February 11th, 2020, but the minute you register you'll be able to start studying the materials (over 100 hours of content). There’s just one thing you have to do: click the Register button.

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Automation Solution: L3VPN Topology

Here’s another “let’s use network automation tools to create reports we couldn’t get in the past” (like IP multicast trees) solution coming from an attendee in our network automation course: Paddy Kelly created L3VPN graphs detailing PE-to-CE connectivity using Cisco’s pyATS to parse the Cisco IOS printouts.

You’ll find dozens of other interesting solutions on our Sample Network Automation Solutions page - all of them were created by networking engineers who knew almost nothing about network automation or open-source automation tools when they started our automation course.

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Facts and Fiction: BGP Is a Hot Mess

Every now and then a smart person decides to walk away from their competence zone, and start spreading pointless clickbait opinions like BGP is a hot mess.

Like any other technology, BGP is just a tool with its advantages and limitations. And like any other tool, BGP can be used sloppily… and that’s what’s causing the various problems and shenanigans everyone is talking about.

Just in case you might be interested in facts instead of easy-to-digest fiction:

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Worth Reading: the Lure of the Easy Button

Russ White wrote a great blog post explaining why you have to understand the problem you’re solving instead of blindly believing the $vendor slide deck… or as I said a long time ago, think about how you’ll troubleshoot your network in because you won’t be able to reformat it once it crashes.

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Your First Public Cloud Deployment Should Be Small

I’ve seen successful public (infrastructure) cloud deployments… but also spectacular failures. The difference between the two usually comes down to whether the team deploying into a public cloud environment realizes they’re dealing with an unfamiliar environment and acts accordingly.

Please note that I’m not talking about organizations migrating their email to Office 365. While that counts as public cloud deployment when an industry analyst tries to paint a rosy picture of public cloud acceptance, I’m more interested in organizations using compute, storage, security and networking public cloud infrastructure.

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Can We Really Use Millions of VXLAN Segments?

One of my readers sent me a question along these lines…

VXLAN Network Identifier is 24 bit long, giving 16 us million separate segments. However, we have to map VNI into VLANs on most switches. How can we scale up to 16 million segments when we have run out of VLAN IDs? Can we create a separate VTEP on the same switch?

VXLAN is just an encapsulation format and does not imply any particular switch architecture. What really matters in this particular case is the implementation of the MAC forwarding table in switching ASIC.

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Stretched VLANs and Failing Firewall Clusters

After publishing the Disaster Recovery Faking, Take Two blog post (you might want to read that one before proceeding) I was severely reprimanded by several people with ties to virtualization vendors for blaming virtualization consultants when it was obvious the firewall clusters stretched across two data centers caused the total data center meltdown.

Let’s chase that elephant out of the room first. When you drive too fast on an icy road and crash into a tree who do you blame?

  • The person who told you it’s perfectly OK to do so;
  • The tire manufacturer who advertised how safe their tires were?
  • The tires for failing to ignore the laws of physics;
  • Yourself for listening to bad advice

For whatever reason some people love to blame the tires ;)

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Stretched Layer-2 Subnets in Azure

Last Thursday morning I found this gem in my Twitter feed (courtesy of Stefan de Kooter)

Greg Cusanza in #BRK3192 just announced #Azure Extended Network, for stretching Layer 2 subnets into Azure!

As I know a little bit about how networking works within Azure, and I’ve seen something very similar a few times in the past, I was able to figure out what’s really going on behind the scenes in a few seconds… and got reminded of an old Russian joke I found somewhere on Quora:

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Video: Putting the Networking Layers Together

The previous videos from the How Networks Really Work webinar covered an overview of networking challenges and the importance of networking layers.

Now it’s time to put it all together.

You need free ipSpace.net subscription to watch the video, or a paid ipSpace.net subscriptions to watch the whole webinar.

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Explore the Content Outline of Our Networking in Public Clouds Online Course

A few days ago we published the content outline for our Networking in Public Clouds online course.

We’ll start with the basics, explore the ways to automate cloud deployments (after all, you wouldn’t want to repeat the past mistakes and configure everything with a GUI, would you?), touch on compute and storage infrastructure, and the focus on the networking aspects of public cloud deployments including:

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VMware NSX-T and Geneve Q&A

A Network Artist left a lengthy comment on my Brief History of VMware NSX blog post. He raised a number of interesting topics, so I decided to write my replies as a separate blog post.

Using Geneve is an interesting choice to be made and while the approach has it’s own Pros and Cons, I would like to stick to VXLAN if I were to recommend to someone for few good reasons.

The main reason I see for NSX-T using Geneve instead of VXLAN is the need for additional header fields to carry metadata around, and to implement Network Services Header (NSH) for east-west service insertion.

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Executing a Jinja2 Loop for a Subset of Elements

Imagine you want to create a Jinja2 report that includes only a select subset of elements of a data structure… and want to have header, footer, and element count in that report.

Traditionally we’d solve that challenge with an extra variable, but as Jinja2 variables don’t survive loop termination, the code to do that in Jinja2 gets exceedingly convoluted.

Fortunately, Jinja2 provides a better way: using a conditional expression to select the elements you want to iterate over.

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Maybe It's Time We Start Appreciating Standards

A friend of mine sent me a short message including…

There is a number of products that recently arrived or are coming to market using group encryption systems for IP networks, but are (understandably) not using IPsec.

… which triggered an old itch of mine caused by the “We don’t need no IETF standards, code is king” stupidity.

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Why Are You Always so Negative?

During the last Tech Field Day Extra @ CLEUR, one of the fellow delegates asked me about my opinion on technology X (don’t remember the details, it was probably one of those over-hyped four-letter technologies). As usual, I started explaining the drawbacks, and he quickly stopped me with a totally unexpected question: “Why do you always tend to be so negative?

That question has been haunting me for months… and here are a few potential answers I came up with.

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Upcoming Events and Webinars (November 2019)

In November 2019 we’ll continue the crazy pace of autumn 2019 webinar season:

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Saved: TCP Is the Most Expensive Part of Your Data Center

Years ago Dan Hughes wrote a great blog post explaining how expensive TCP is. His web site is long gone, but I managed to grab the blog post before it disappeared and he kindly allowed me to republish it.


If you ask a CIO which part of their infrastructure costs them the most, I’m sure they’ll mention power, cooling, server hardware, support costs, getting the right people and all the usual answers. I’d argue one the the biggest costs is TCP, or more accurately badly implemented TCP.

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Whitebox Hardware and Open-Source Software

One of my subscribers was interested in trying out whitebox solutions. He wrote:

What open source/whitebox software/hardware should I look at if I wanted to build a leaf-and-spine VXLAN/EVPN/BGP data center.

I don’t think you can get a fully-open-source solution because the ASIC manufacturers hide their SDK behind a mountain of NDAs (that strategy must make perfect sense – after all, it generated such awesome PR for NVIDIA). Anyway, the closest you can get (AFAIK) if you're a mere mortal is Cumulus Linux, and you just choose any whitebox hardware off their Hardware Compatibility List.

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Worth Reading: Hard Work

Seth Godin published an interesting article on the value of hard work (and what hard work really is). Go and read it first, then we’ll translate it into networking terms.

Already back? Good, let’s go.

The first worker is a traditional networking technician (it wouldn’t be fair to call him an engineer) – he’s busy configuring VLANs, ACLs, firewall rules… the whole day.

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OpenBGPD with Claudio Jeker on Software Gone Wild

Everyone is talking about FRRouting suite these days, while hidden somewhere in the background OpenBGPD has been making continuous progress for years. Interestingly, OpenBGPD project was started for the same reason FRR was forked - developers were unhappy with Zebra or Quagga routing suite and decided to fix it.

We discussed the history of OpenBGPD, its current deployments and future plans with Claudio Jeker, one of the main OpenBGPD developers, in Episode 106 of Software Gone Wild.

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Master the Alternate "Public Cloud Networking" Universe

You probably heard me say “networking engineer encountering a public cloud feels like Alice in Wonderland” - packet forwarding works in a different way in every public cloud, subnets are a mix between routed interfaces and VRFs, you cannot change IP addresses without involving the orchestration system…

We covered the networking aspects of Amazon Web Services and Azure in our cloud webinars, but you might need a bigger picture:

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Auto-MLAG and Auto-BGP in Cumulus Linux

When I first met Cumulus Networks engineers (during NFD9) their focus on simplifying switch configurations totally delighted me (video).

I was ranting about the more traditional approach to data center fabric configuration resulting in dozens if not hundreds of device configuration commands in 2013… and other vendors still haven't done much in this respect in the meantime.

After solving the BGP configuration challenge (could you imagine configuring BGP in a leaf-and-spine fabric with just a few commands in 2015), they did the same thing with EVPN configuration, where they decided to implement the simplest possible design (EBGP-only fabric running EBGP EVPN sessions on leaf-to-spine links), resulting in another round of configuration simplicity.

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Can We Make REST API Transactional Across Multiple Calls?

I got interesting feedback from one of my readers after publishing my REST API Is Not Transactional blog post:

One would think a transactional REST interface wouldn’t be too difficult to implement. Using HTTP1/1, it is possible to multiplex several REST calls into one connection to a specific server. The first call then is a request for start a transaction, returning a transaction ID, to be used in subsequent calls. Since we’re not primarily interested in the massive scalability of stateless REST calls, all the REST calls will be handled by the same frontend. Obviously the last call would be a commit.

I wouldn’t count on HTTP pipelining to keep all requests in one HTTP session (mixing too many layers in a stack never ends well) but we wouldn’t need it anyway the moment we’d have a transaction ID which would be identical to session ID (or session cookie) traditional web apps use.

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MUST READ: The NTP Bible

A few months ago Johannes Weber sent me a short email saying “hey, I plan to write a few NTP posts” and I replied “well, ping me when you have something ready”.

In the meantime he wrote a veritable NTP bible - a series of NTP-related blog posts covering everything from Why Should I Run My Own NTP Servers to authentication, security and monitoring - definitely a MUST READ if you care about knowing what time it is.

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You Cannot Have a Public Cloud without Networking

Listening to (some) industry evangelists you would believe that there’s no future in being a networking engineer. After all, all workloads will move into the cloud, and all clients will connect through a universal 5G network… but even if that utopia eventually comes true, you can’t get away from the laws of physics (and the need networking infrastructure).

TL&DR: our new online course will help you master the shiny new world. You can register right now or keep reading ;)

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Disaster Recovery Faking, Take Two

An anonymous (for reasons that will be obvious pretty soon) commenter left a gem on my Disaster Recovery Test Faking blog post that is way too valuable to be left hidden and unannotated.

Here’s what he did:

Once I was tasked to do a DR test before handing over the solution to the customer. To simulate the loss of a data center I suggested to physically shutdown all core switches in the active data center.

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How Did We End with 1500-byte MTU?

A subscriber sent me this intriguing question:

Is it not theoretically possible for Ethernet frames to be 64k long if ASIC vendors simply bothered or decided to design/make chipsets that supported it? How did we end up in the 1.5k neighborhood? In whose best interest did this happen?

Remember that Ethernet started as a shared-cable 10 Mbps technology. Transmitting a 64k frame on that technology would take approximately 50 msec (or as long as getting from East Coast to West Coast). Also, Ethernet had no tight media access control like Token Ring, so it would be possible for a single host to transmit multiple frames without anyone else getting airtime, resulting in unacceptable delays.

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How Do You Provision a 500-Switch Network in a Few Days?

TL&DR: You automate the whole process. What else do you expect?

During the Tech Field Day Extra @ Cisco Live Europe 2019 we were taken on a behind-the-stage tour that included a chat with people who built the Cisco Live network, and of course I had to ask how they automated the whole thing. They said “well, we have the guy that wrote the whole system onsite and he’ll be able to tell you more”. Turns out the guy was my good friend Andrew Yourtchenko who graciously showed the system they built and explained the behind-the-scenes details.

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New Content: EVPN on Linux Hosts and External Azure Connectivity

Dinesh Dutt added another awesome chapter to the EVPN saga last week explaining how (and why) you could run VXLAN encapsulation with EVPN control plane on Linux hosts (TL&DR: think twice before doing it).

In the last part of current Azure Networking series I covered external VNet connectivity, including VNet peering, Internet access, Virtual Network Gateways, VPN connections, and ExpressRoute. The story continues on February 6th 2020 with Azure automation.

You’ll need Standard ipSpace.net Subscription to access both webinars.

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Video: Retransmissions and Flow Control in Computer Networks

Grouping the features needed in a networking stack in bunch of layered modules is a great idea, but unfortunately it turns out that you could place a number of important features like error recovery, retransmission and flow control in a number of different layers, from data link layer dealing with individual network segments to transport layer dealing with reliable end-to-end transmissions.

So where should we put those modules? As always, the correct answer is it depends, in this particular case on transmission reliability, latency, and cost of bandwidth. You’ll find more details in the Retransmissions and Flow Control part of How Networks Really Work webinar.

You need free ipSpace.net subscription to watch the video, or a paid ipSpace.net subscriptions to watch the whole webinar.

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Automation Solution: Network Health State Report

How nice would it be to have a fabric health dashboard displaying a summary of numerous parameters you’re interested in (number of operational uplinks, number of BGP sessions…) for every switch in your fabric.

I’m positive you could hack something together using the customization capabilities of your favorite network management system… or you could write a simple data gathering solution like Stephen Harding did while attending the Building Network Automation Solutions online course.

I collected dozens of automation solutions created by course attendees in the last few years. Enjoy!
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VMware NSX Killed My EVPN Fabric

A while ago I had an interesting discussion with someone running VMware NSX on top of VXLAN+EVPN fabric - a pretty common scenario considering:

  • NSX’s insistence on having all VXLAN uplink from the same server in the same subnet;
  • Data center switching vendors being on a lemming-like run praising EVPN+VXLAN;
  • Non-FANG environments being somewhat reluctant to connect a server to a single switch.

His fabric was running well… apart from the weird times when someone started tons of new VMs.

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The Cost of Disruptiveness and Guerrilla Marketing

A Docker networking rant coming from my good friend Marko Milivojević triggered a severe case of Deja-Moo, resulting in a flood of unpleasant memories caused by too-successful “disruptive” IT vendors.

Before moving on, please note that the following observations were made from my outsider perspective. If I got something badly wrong, please correct me in a comment.

Imagine you’re working for a startup creating a cool new product in the IT infrastructure space (if you have an oversized ego you would call yourself “disruptive thought leader” on your LinkedIn profile) but nobody is taking you seriously. How about some guerrilla warfare: advertising your product to people who hate the IT operations (today we’d call that Shadow IT).

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Optimizing Environment Setup in Ansible Playbooks

Have you ever seen an Ansible playbook where 90% of the code prepares the environment, and then all the work is done in a few template and assemble modules? Here’s an alternative way of getting that done. Is it better? You tell me ;)

You might also want to explore similar Ansible articles and our Ansible for Networking Engineers content.
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Worth Reading: Anycast DNS in Enterprise Networks

Anycast (advertising the same IP address from multiple servers/locations) has long been used to implement scale-out public DNS services (the whole root DNS system runs on massive anycast), but it’s not as common in enterprise networks.

The blog posts written by Tom Bowles should get you there. He started with the idea and described his implementation using Infoblox DNS.

Want to know even more? I covered numerous load balancing mechanisms including anycast in Data Centers Infrastructure for Networking Engineers webinar.

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Redundant BGP Connectivity on a Single ISP Connection

A while ago Johannes Weber tweeted about an interesting challenge:

We want to advertise our AS and PI space over a single ISP connection. How would a setup look like with 2 Cisco routers, using them for hardware redundancy? Is this possible with only 1 neighboring to the ISP?

Hmm, so you have one cable and two router ports that you want to connect to that cable. There’s something wrong with this picture ;)

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Network Automation Beyond Configuration Templating

Remember Nicky Davey describing how he got large DMVPN deployment back on track with configuration templating? In his own words…:

Configuration templating is still as big win a win for us as it was a year ago. We have since expanded the automation solution, and reading the old blog post makes me realise how far we have come. I began working with this particular customer in May 2017, so 2 years now. At that time the new WAN project was on the horizon and the approach to network configuration was entirely manual.

Here’s how far he got in the meantime:

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New Content: Azure Networking and Automation Source-of-Truth

Last week I covered network security groups, application security groups and user-defined routes in the second live session of Azure Networking webinar.

We also had a great guest speaker on the Network Automation course: Damien Garros explained how he used central source-of-truth based on NetBox and Git to set up a network automation stack from the grounds up.

Recordings are already online; you’ll need Standard ipSpace.net Subscription to access the Azure Networking webinar, and Expert ipSpace.net Subscription to access Damien’s presentation. Azure Networking webinar is also part of our new Networking in Public Clouds online course.

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Changing Cisco IOS BGP Policies Based on IP SLA Measurements

This is a guest blog post by Philippe Jounin, Senior Network Architect at Orange Business Services.


You could use track objects in Cisco IOS to track route reachability or metric, the status of an interface, or IP SLA compliance for a long time. Initially you could use them to implement reliable static routing (or even shut down a BGP session) or trigger EEM scripts. With a bit more work (and a few more EEM scripts) you could use object tracking to create time-dependent static routes.

Cisco IOS 15 has introduced Enhanced Object Tracking that allows first-hop router protocols like VRRP or HSRP to use tracking state to modify their behavior.

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Networking in Public Clouds - New ipSpace.net Online Course

I have exciting news I’d love to share with you: we’re launching a new online course focused on networking in public clouds starting in February 2020 (I’ve been mulling over this idea and polishing the concept for almost 18 months, and finally it all came together ;)

With Go To The Cloud becoming the answer to all questions (regardless of what the question is), you can find tons of materials describing various aspects of public clouds, so you might wonder why I decided to enter the fray. The answer is simple: with everyone being focused on developers, there’s not much that an infrastructure engineer could use to help him survive when the developers move on and he’s left to manage whatever they put in place.

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Worth Reading: Koding Academies

Every few weeks I stumble upon an article (or twitter storm) in which someone claims you don’t need formal education to get started as a Software Engineer (or whatever else) - all you need is a coding academy/bootcamp and you're all set.

George V. Neville-Neil wrote a hilarious rebuttal of this idea followed by some pretty good advice. Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as I did ;)

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Worth Reading: SDN Ate My Hamster

A long while ago Daniel Dib wrote a nice blog post on “SDN will make the networking engineers obsolete” theme. While it sounds like beating a dead horse, the SDN craze isn’t subsiding, so another healthy dose of common sense might come handy.

Hint: if you’re not following Daniel’s blog, you should… even though he decided to make old farts’ life harder by publishing on LinkedIn.

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Net2Text: Natural-Language Interface to Network Operations

Sick-and-tired of intent-based GUIs that are barely better than CiscoWorks on steroids? How about asking Siri-like assistant queries about network state in somewhat-limited English and getting replies back in full-blown sentences?

Warning: you might be reentering the land of unicorns driving flying DeLoreans... but then keep in mind what Arthur Clarke had to say on this topic ;).

Welcome to Net2Text, another proof-of-concept tool created by the group led by Laurent Vanbever… who joined us for a short chat to discuss it, resulting in Episode 105 of Software Gone Wild.

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Upcoming Events and Webinars (October 2019)

The autumn 2019 webinar season is in full swing ;) We’re almost done with Azure Networking webinar (the last session will take place on October 10th) and the network automation course is nicely chugging along – a few weeks ago Matthias Luft talked about supply-chain security in open-source software and today we’ll enjoy the start with a single source of truth presentation by Damien Garros.

Dinesh Dutt is coming back on October 8th with another installment of EVPN saga, this time focused on running EVPN on Linux hosts, and on October 22nd Donald Sharp will tell us all about the underlying magic box – the Free Range Routing software.

But there are even more open-source goodies waiting for you: on October 15th we’ll have Pete Lumbis describing the new features Cumulus Linux got in the last year, including AutoBGP and AutoMLAG.

Most everything I mentioned above apart is accessible with Standard ipSpace.net Subscription, and you’ll need Expert Subscription to enjoy the automation course contents.

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Automation Solution: Deploy BGP Routing with YANG Data Models

A while ago Ruben Tripiana tried to configure BGP on Cisco IOS using IETF YANG data models… and failed. In Spring 2019 Building Network Automation Solutions online course Chris Crook decided to deploy BGP routing on multiple platforms using YANG data models instead of configuration templates. Not only did he succeed, he also documented his work and the tools he used, and published the solution so you can replicate his efforts.

You can find many more network automation solutions created by the attendees of our automation course in solutions showcase.

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On the Usability of OSI Layered Networking Model

Two weeks ago I replied to a battle-scar reaction to 7-layer OSI model, this time I’ll address a much more nuanced view from Russ White. Please read his article first (as always, it’s well worth reading) and when you come back we’ll focus on this claim:

The OSI Model does not accurately describe networks.

Like with any tool in your toolbox, you can view the 7-layer OSI model in a number of ways. In the case of OSI model, it can be used:

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Just Published: Network Services Integration in EVPN Fabrics

In last week’s continuation of EVPN never-ending story Lukas Krattiger described how you could use EVPN constructs (VNIs, VRFs) to implement service insertion, and how you could combine then with policy-based routing.

TL&DW: It’s bridging and routing ;)

You’ll need Standard ipSpace Subscription to access the videos.

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Worth Following: Explaining Computer Things

People who can explain complex topics in simple terms, or focus on the essentials of a particular topic are exceedingly rare… and two of the best are Randall Munroe of the XKCD fame and Julia Evans, the mastermind behind WizardZines. I loved her recent curl and git exercises, and I’m guessing a lot of people in this industry would benefit from her latest HTTP zine.

Similarly to what I did a long time ago with ipSpace.net, Julia recently decided to go all-in, leaving her job and focusing on explaining things. I hope it will work out and we’ll keep enjoying her tidbits of wisdom for years to come.

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Video: The Need for Network Layers

After identifying some of the challenges every network solution must address (part 1, part 2, part 3) we tried to tackle an interesting question: “how do you implement this whole spaghetti mess in a somewhat-reliable and structured way?

The Roman Empire had an answer more than 2000 years ago: divide-and-conquer (aka “eating the elephant one bite at a time”). These days we call it layering and abstractions.

In the Need for Network Layers video I listed all the challenges we have to address, and then described how you could group them in meaningful modules (called networking layers).

You need free ipSpace.net subscription to watch the video, or a paid ipSpace.net subscriptions to watch the whole webinar.

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Paramiko, Netmiko, NAPALM or Nornir?

I had a fantastic chat with David Bombal a while ago in which we covered tons of network automation topics including “should I use Nornir or NAPALM or Netmiko?

The only answer one can give would be “it depends… on what you’re trying to do” as these three tools solve completely different challenges.

Paramiko is SSH implementation in Python. It’s used by most Python tools that want to use SSH to connect to other hosts (including networking devices).

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Worth Reading: TCP MSS Values in the Wild

In Never-Ending Story of IP Fragmentation I described how you could use TCP Maximum Segment Size to minimize the impact of IP fragmentation and PMTUD blackholes (more details on TCP MSS clamping)… but one has to wonder how people use TCP MSS in the wild and what values you might see.

As is often the case, Geoff Houston found a way to measure them, and published the answer: TCP MSS Values

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Beware the Marketing Magic of GUI-Based Programming

Someone working for a network automation startup desperately tried to persuade me how cool their product is. Here’s what he sent me:

We let network engineers build their own network automation solutions in no time without requiring coding or scripting knowledge. It’s all GUI based, specifically geared towards network engineers - they can simply model services or roll-out networks “as-designed”.

The only problem: I’ve seen that same argument numerous times…

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Just Published: High-Level Azure Networking Concepts

Last week we started the Microsoft Azure Networking saga that will eventually mirror the AWS Networking materials.

I recorded the hands-on demos in advance so we had plenty of time to discuss Azure API and CLI, geographies, regions and availability zones, high-availability concepts, and deployments models… and spent the second half of the live session focusing on virtual networks, subnets, interface, and IP addresses. The videos are already online and accessible with Standard ipSpace.net Subscription.

Next step (on September 24th): network security and user-defined routes.

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If You Travel to Slovenia, You SHOULD NOT Fly with Adria Airways

I apologize to my regular readers for a completely off-topic post, but if I manage to save a single traveller the frustrations I experienced a few weeks ago it was well worth it. Also, please help spread the word…

TL&DR: If you travel to Slovenia, DO NOT even consider flying with Adria Airways (and carefully check the code-share flights, they might be hiding under a Lufthansa or Swiss flight number). Their actual flight schedule is resembling a lottery, and while I always had great experience with the friendly, courteous and highly professional cabin crews, it’s totally impossible to reach their customer service.

2019-09-30: The agony ended sooner than I expected. On September 30th Adria Airways declared bankruptcy, ending the frustration and uncertainty of thousands of passengers they left stranded across Europe for almost 10 days. So long Adria, and thanks for all the good flights (we'll eventually forget all the mess you made in the last year)

2019-09-22: Added updates on what happened during last week. The whole thing is becoming a soap opera

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Video: Beyond Two Nodes

In the introductory videos of How Networks Really Work webinar I described the mandatory elements of any networking solution and additional challenges you have to solve when you can’t pull a cable between the adjacent nodes.

It’s time for the next bit of complexity: what if we have more than two nodes connected to the same network segment? Welcome to the world of multi-access networks and data link control.

You need free ipSpace.net subscription to watch the videos in Overview of Networking Challenges section, or a paid ipSpace.net subscriptions to watch the rest of the webinar.

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Disaster Recovery Test Faking: Another Use Case for Stretched VLANs

The March 2019 Packet Pushers Virtual Design Clinic had to deal with an interesting question:

Our server team is nervous about full-scale DR testing. So they have asked us to stretch L2 between sites. Is this a good idea?

The design clinic participants were a bit more diplomatic (watch the video) than my TL&DR answer which would be: **** NO!

Let’s step back and try to understand what’s really going on:

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Response: The OSI Model Is a Lie

Every now and then I stumble upon a blog post saying “OSI 7-layer model sucks” or “OSI 7-layer model is a lie”, most recent one coming from Robert Graham.

Before going into the details, let’s agree on the fundamentals.

Most everyone who ever tried to build a network spanning more than one transmission technology and including intermediate nodes came to the conclusion that layered approach to networking makes sense.

Whether you have three, four, five, or seven layers in your model doesn’t matter. What really matters is that your model contains all the functionality you need to implement host-to-host networking in target environment.

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Supply-Chain Security in Open-Source Software

Last week we started the Autumn 2019 Building Network Automation Solutions online course with an interesting presentation from Matthias Luft focused on open-source supply chain security

TL&DR: Can I download whatever stuff I found as my first Google hit and use it in my automation solution? ****, NO!

Matthias covered these topics:

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Intent-Based Networking with Batfish on Software Gone Wild

Imagine you would have a system that would read network device configurations, figure out how those devices might be connected, reverse-engineer the network topology, and be able to answer questions like “what would happen if this link fails” or “do I have fully-redundant network” or even “how will this configuration change impact my network”. Welcome to Batfish.

Interested? You’ll find more in Episode 104 of Software Gone Wild.

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Measure Twice, Cut Once: Ansible net_interface

As I was preparing the materials for Ansible 2.7 Update webinar sessions I wanted to dive deeper into declarative configuration modules, starting with “I wonder what’s going on behind the scenes

No problem: configure EEM applet command logging on Cisco IOS and execute an ios_interface module (more about that in another blog post)

Next step: let’s see how multi-platform modules work. Ansible has net_interface module that’s supposed to be used to configure interfaces on many different platforms significantly simplifying Ansible playbooks.

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If You Have to Simulate Your Whole Network, You're Doing It Wrong

This blog post was initially sent to subscribers of my SDN and Network Automation mailing list. Subscribe here.

Have you ever seen a presentation in which a startup is telling you how awesome their product is because it allows you to simulate your whole network in a virtual environment? Not only that, you can use that capability to build a test suite and a full-blown CI/CD pipeline and test whether your network works every time you make a change to any one box in the network.

Sounds awesome, right? It’s also dead wrong. Let me explain why that’s the case.

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Just Published: NSX-T Technical Deep Dive Slide Deck

Last year when I was creating the first version of VMware NSX Deep Dive content, NSX-V was mainstream and NSX-T was the new kid on the block. A year later NSX-V is mostly sidelined, and all the development efforts are going into NSX-T. Time to adapt the webinar to new reality… taking the usual staged approach:

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Video: Introducing Transmission Technologies

After discussing the challenges one encounters even in the simplest networking scenario connecting two computers with a cable we took a short diversion into an interesting complication: what if the two computers are far apart and we can’t pull a cable between them?

Trying to answer that question we entered the wondrous world of transmission technologies. It’s a topic one can spent a whole life exploring and mastering, so we were not able to do more than cover the fundamentals of modulations and multiplexing technologies.

You need free ipSpace.net subscription to watch the video, or a paid ipSpace.net subscriptions to watch the rest of the webinar.

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Upcoming Events and Webinars (September 2019)

We’re back from the summer break for real - the first autumn 2019 ipSpace.net event takes place today: I’ll talk about the fallacies of distributed computing.

September will be an intensive month:

Of course, we’ll keep going… our event calendar is fully packed till mid-November. More about that in a month.

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Updated: Never-Ending Story of IP Fragmentation

In mid 2000s I wrote a number of articles describing various TCP/IP features. Most of them are a bit outdated, so I decided to clean up, update and repost the most interesting ones on ipSpace.net, starting with Never-Ending Story of IP Fragmentation.

The first part of that article is already online, covering MTU basics and drawbacks of IP fragmentation.

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Recently Published: Azure Networking Demo Videos

Remember my rant about the glacial speed of Azure orchestration system? I decided I won’t allow it to derail yet another event and recorded the demos in advance of the first live session. The final videos are just over an hour long; it probably took me at least three hours to record them.

If you plan to attend the live webinar session on September 12th, you might want to watch at least the first few videos before the live session - I will not waste everyone’s time repeating the demos during the live session.

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Video: Networking Challenges

Whenever you’re discussing a complex topic it’s worth adhering to two principles: (A) identify the challenges you’re trying to solve and (B) start as simple as you can and add complexity later.

We did exactly that in the Introducing Networking Challenges part of How Networks Really Work webinar. We started with the simplest possible case of two computers connected with a cable… and even there identified a plethora of challenges that had to be solved more than half a century ago (and still have to be solved today no matter what magic software-defined technology someone pulls out of their wizard hat).

You need free ipSpace.net subscription to watch the video, or a paid ipSpace.net subscriptions to watch the rest of the webinar.

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Must Read: When Redundancy Actually Helps

Stumbled upon an excellent redundancy-focused blog post (HT: High Scalability). Here are just a few important points:

  • Don’t make things too complex;
  • Don’t add more risk than you take away;
  • You’ve got to fail over in the right direction;
  • You must be able to return to fully-redundant mode.

I’m guessing that people promoting stretched VLANs, vSphere and/or NSX clusters running across multiple sites, weird combination of EVPN and OTV, and a dozen similar shenanigans never considered any one of these points.

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Brief History of VMware NSX

I spent a lot of time during this summer figuring out the details of NSX-T, resulting in significantly updated and expanded VMware NSX Technical Deep Dive material… but before going into those details let’s do a brief walk down the memory lane ;)

We’re running an NSX Deep Dive workshop in Zurich in early September, followed by NSX-T update webinar in mid-November.

You might remember a startup called Nicira that was acquired by VMware in mid-2012… supposedly resulting in the ever-continuing spat between Cisco and VMware (and maybe even triggering the creation of Cisco ACI).

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The First Networking Fundamentals Videos are Online

In mid-June I started another pet project - a series of webinars focused on networking fundamentals. In the first live session on June 18th we focused on identifying the challenges one has to solve when building an end-to-end networking solution, and the role of layered approach to networking.

Not surprisingly, we quickly went down the rabbit holes of computer networking history, including SCSI cables, serial connections and modems… but that’s where it all started, and some of the concepts developed at that time are still used today… oftentimes heavily morphed by recursive application of RFC 1925 Rule 11.

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Migrating ipSpace.net Infrastructure to AWS

I’m too stupid to unwind and relax over summer - there’s always some janitorial task to be done, and I simply cannot leave it alone. This summer, I decided to migrate our server infrastructure to AWS.

TL&DR: It went smoother than I expected, and figuring out how AWS virtual networks, public IP addresses, and security groups work while creating AWS Networking webinar definitely helped, but it also took way longer than I expected.

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Reinventing Your Own STP Wheel...

One of my readers sent me a link to an interesting L2-over-IP "design". Someone tried to connect two data centers with redundant etherip links using home-brewed redundancy mechanism and (surprise, surprise) managed to bring both of them down. The obvious fix: patch the etherip device driver.

EtherIP is pre-VXLAN Ethernet-over-IP technology yet again proving RFC1925 Rule 11.

I don't know enough about OpenBSD to figure out whether (A) it doesn't have STP at all, (B) STP doesn't work over EtherIP, (C) host routing based on ARP entries would be too much of a hassle, (D) some people don't understand the networking fundamentals, (E) everything looks like a nail once you found a hammer, or (F) all of the above. Insightful comments would be highly appreciated.

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Why You Can't Fix a System from the Inside

Stumbled upon an interesting article describing numerous examples of how it's impossible to fix a system from the inside because the good guys always lose to the more aggressive (and less scrupulous) individuals.

It's amazing how well the same ideas apply to TCP-versus-UDP, P2P traffic versus everything else (this one has been fixed after a lot of pressure from the outside), latency- versus drop-based TCP congestion management and $vendor marketing.

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Software Engineers and Network Automation

I was saying “you’ll get the best network automation (or SDN) results if you pair network engineers with software engineers” for ages, but there’s always someone else saying it more eloquently, in this case Jeremy Schulman in his recent blog post.

Jeremy will talk about ChatOps in Autumn 2019 Building Network Automation Solutions online course, but of course you’re more than welcome to ask him other questions as well.

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Rant: Some Internet Service Providers Should Really Know Better...

I was listening to a nice podcast with Nick Buraglio discussing the recent BGP hijack SNAFU impacting Cloudflare (and their reaction) and while I usually totally agree with Nick, I think that he tried to be way too nice when saying (paraphrasing) “I think Cloudflare was a bit harsh - I would prefer a more community-oriented approach along the lines of how could we help you do your job better

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We Are on a Break ;)

It’s high time for another summer break (I get closer and closer to burnout every year - either I’m working too hard or I’m getting older ;).

Of course we’ll do our best to reply to support (and sales ;) requests, but it might take us a bit longer than usual. I will publish an occasional worth reading or watch out blog post, but don’t expect anything deeply technical for the new two months.

We’ll be back (hopefully refreshed and with tons of new content) in early September, starting with network automation course on September 3rd and VMware NSX workshop on September 10th.

In the meantime, try to get away from work (hint: automating stuff sometimes helps ;), turn off the Internet, and enjoy a few days in your favorite spot with your loved ones!

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First-hand Feedback: ipSpace.net Network Automation Course

Daniel Teycheney attended the Spring 2019 Building Network Automation Solutions online course and sent me this feedback after completing it (and creating some interesting real-life solutions on the way):


I spent a bit of time the other day reflecting on how much I’ve learn’t from the course in terms of technical skills and the amount I’ve learned has been great. I literally no idea about things like Git, Jinja2, CI testing, reading YAML files and had only briefly seen Ansible before.

I’m not an expert now, but I understand these things and have real practical experience on these subjects which has given me great confidence to push on and keep getting better.

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Device Configuration Synthesis with NetComplete on Software Gone Wild

When I was still at university the fourth-generation programming languages were all the hype, prompting us to make jokes along the lines “fifth generation will implement do what I don’t know how

The research team working in Networked Systems Group at ETH Zurich headed by prof. Laurent Vanbever got pretty close. The description of their tool says:

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Impact of Controller Failures in Software-Defined Networks

Christoph Jaggi sent me this observation during one of our SD-WAN discussions:

The centralized controller is another shortcoming of SD-WAN that hasn’t been really addressed yet. In a global WAN it can and does happen that a region might be cut off due to a cut cable or an attack. Without connection to the central SD-WAN controller the part that is cut off cannot even communicate within itself as there is no control plane…

A controller (or management/provisioning) system is obviously the central point of failure in any network, but we have to go beyond that and ask a simple question: “What happens when the controller cluster fails and/or when nodes lose connectivity to the controller?”

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Real-Life SD-WAN Experience

SD-WAN is the best thing that could have happened to networking according to some industry “thought leaders” and $vendor marketers… but it seems there might be a tiny little gap between their rosy picture and reality.

This is what I got from someone blessed with hands-on SD-WAN experience:

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Read Network Device Information with REST API and Store It Into a Database

One of my readers sent me this question:

How can I learn more about reading REST API information from network devices and storing the data into tables?

Long story short: it’s like learning how to drive (well) - you have to master multiple seemingly-unrelated tasks to get the job done.

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How Microsoft Azure Orchestration System Crashed My Demos

One of the first things I realized when I started my Azure journey was that the Azure orchestration system is incredibly slow. For example, it takes almost 40 seconds to display six routes from per-VNIC routing table. Imagine trying to troubleshoot a problem and having to cope with 30-second delay on every single SHOW command. Cisco IGS/R was faster than that.

If you’re old enough you might remember working with VT100 terminals (or an equivalent) connected to 300 baud modems… where typing too fast risked getting the output out-of-sync resulting in painful screen repaints (here’s an exercise for the youngsters: how long does it take to redraw an 80x24 character screen over a 300 bps connection?). That’s exactly how I felt using Azure CLI - the slow responses I was getting were severely hampering my productivity.

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Feedback: Ansible for Networking Engineers

I always love to hear from networking engineers who managed to start their network automation journey. Here’s what one of them wrote after watching Ansible for Networking Engineers webinar (part of paid ipSpace.net subscription, also available as an online course).

This webinar helped me a lot in understanding Ansible and the benefits we can gain. It is a big area to grasp for a non-coder and this webinar was exactly what I needed to get started (in a lab), including a lot of tips and tricks and how to think. It was more fun than I expected so started with Python just to get a better grasp of programing and Jinja.

In early 2019 we made the webinar even better with a series of live sessions covering new features added to recent Ansible releases, from core features (loops) to networking plugins and new declarative intent modules.

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Running OSPF in a Single Non-Backbone Area

One of my subscribers sent me an interesting puzzle:

> One of my colleagues configured a single-area OSPF process in a customer VRF customer, but instead of using area 0, he used area 123 nssa. Obviously it works, but I was thinking: “What the heck, a single OSPF area MUST be in Area 0

Not really. OSPF behaves identically within an area (modulo stub/NSSA behavior) regardless of the area number…

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Switch Buffer Sizes and Fermi Estimates

In my quest to understand how much buffer space we really need in high-speed switches I encountered an interesting phenomenon: we no longer have the gut feeling of what makes sense, sometimes going as far as assuming that 16 MB (or 32MB) of buffer space per 10GE/25GE data center ToR switch is another $vendor shenanigan focused on cutting cost. Time for another set of Fermi estimates.

Let’s take a recent data center switch using Trident II+ chipset and having 16 MB of buffer space (source: awesome packet buffers page by Jim Warner). Most of switches using this chipset have 48 10GE ports and 4-6 uplinks (40GE or 100GE).

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Use Per-Link Prefixes in Network Data Models

We got pretty far in our data deduplication in network data model journey, from initial attempts to network modeled as a graph… but we still haven’t got rid of all the duplicate information.

For example, if we have multiple devices connected to the same subnet, why should we have to specify IP address and subnet mask for every device (literally begging the operators to make input errors). Wouldn’t it be better (assuming we don’t care about exact IP addresses on core links) to assign IP addresses automatically?

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Repost: Automation Without Simplification

The No Scripting Required to Start Your Automation Journey blog post generated lively discussions (and a bit of trolling from the anonymous peanut gallery). One of the threads focused on “how does automation work in real life IT department where it might be challenging to simplify operations before automating them due to many exceptions, legacy support…

Here’s a great answer provided by another reader:

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As Expected: Where Have All the SDN Controllers Gone?

Roy Chua (SDx Central) published a blog post titled “Where Have All the SDN Controllers Gone” a while ago describing the gradual disappearance of SDN controller hype.

No surprise there - some of us were pointing out the gap between marketing and reality years ago.

It was evident to anyone familiar with how networking actually works that in a generic environment the drawbacks of orthodox centralized control plane SDN approach far outweigh its benefits. There are special use cases like intelligent patch panels where a centralized control plane makes sense.

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Stop Using GUI to Configure SDN or Intent-Based Products

This blog post was initially sent to subscribers of my SDN and Network Automation mailing list. Subscribe here.

At the end of my vNIC 2018 keynote speech I made a statement along these lines:

The moment you start using GUI with an SDN product you’re back to square one.

That claim confused a few people – Mark left this comment on my blog:

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Do Packet Drops Matter for TCP Performance?

Approximately two years ago I tried to figure out whether aggressive marketing of deep buffer data center switches makes sense, recorded a few podcasts on the topic and organized a webinar with JR Rivers.

Not surprisingly, the question keeps popping up, so it seems it’s time for another series of TL&DR articles. Let’s start with the basics:

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Generalize the Network-as-Graph Data Model

Remember the avoid duplicate data in network automation data models challenge and the restructuring we did to represent a network as a graph.

Well, I was not happy with the end result - I hated the complexity of supporting Jinja2 templates that had to check left- and right nodes of a link, so I generalized the data structure a bit, and all of a sudden I could model stub interfaces, P2P links and multi-access networks.

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Know Thy Environment Before Redesigning It

A while ago I had an interesting consulting engagement: a multinational organization wanted to migrate off global Carrier Ethernet VPN (with routers at the edges) to MPLS/VPN.

While that sounds like the right thing to do (after all, L3 must be better than L2, right?) in that particular case they wanted to combine the provider VPN with Internet-based IPsec VPN… and doing that in parallel with MPLS/VPN tends to become an interesting exercise in “how convoluted can I make my design before I give up and migrate to BGP”.

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MUST READ: Thou shalt not commit logical fallacies

Found a fantastic list of common logical fallacies. It's a must read for anyone having at least occasional interaction with non-Vulcans... and when you stop laughing (or screaming, or both) make sure you go through the companion web site to understand bugs in your wetware that sabotage your attempts at being perfectly logical.

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Upcoming Webinars and Events (June 2019)

I’m always amazed at how fast the time flies. I have no idea where May disappeared to, it seems like it was only yesterday when I was writing about webinar plans in 2019… and yet it’s only a month till ipSpace.net Summer Break™.

During June 2019 I’ll continue updating Designing the Private Cloud Infrastructure webinar, and start a new pet project: How Networks Really Work – I’m literally minutes away from traveling to a quiet spot in the middle of nowhere where I’ll work on the materials. In between these webinars you’ll find me in Zurich where I’ll run Microsoft Azure Networking workshop on June 12th in parallel with SIGS Technology Conference.

As you might expect we have plenty of things already lined up for autumn 2019… more about that in a week or two.

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Remember: Don’t Panic

I hate listening to “this is what we were doing this year” podcasts as they usually turn into pointless blabbering, self-congratulations and meaningless plans (think New Year resolutions). The Full Stack Journey Episode 28 with Scott Lowe was an amazing deviation from this too-common template.

If you don’t have time to listen to the podcast (but you OUGHT TO do it) here’s what I loved most: “When faced with the onslaught of new technologies, don’t panic. Wait a few months to see which ones survive”.

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IPv6 Support in Microsoft Azure

TL&DR: MIA

Six years ago, when I was talking about overlay virtual networks at Interop, I loved to joke that we must be living on a weird planet where Microsoft has the best overlay virtual networking implementation… at least as far as IPv6 goes.

Even then, their data plane implementation which was fully dual-stack-aware on both tenant- and underlay level was way ahead of what System Center could do.

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Model Your Network as a Graph not a Set of Boxes

Last week I explained how you could take a typical first attempt at a network automation data model and reduce the amount of duplicate data… but the data model we used was still describing a set of seemingly disconnected boxes.

How about restructuring the whole thing and describing what networks really are - graphs made of nodes (network devices) and links?

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It's Time for Another Pet Project

More than a decade ago I decided to start a pet project: a blog describing interesting details of networking technologies. The idea quickly morphed into vendor-neutral webinars - the first one took place in February 2010. A year or two later I had my first guest speaker and as of today we had more than 50 industry experts participating in ipSpace.net webinars and online courses.

In the meantime the ipSpace.net team grew: I had video and audio editors for years, Irena Marčetič took over marketing, logistics, and production in 2018, and we got a team of webinar moderators that will help us with guest speaker webinars (last week we ran the first guest speaker webinar where I didn’t have to be involved - hooray ;)

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If You Worry About 768K Day, You’re Probably Doing Something Wrong

A few years ago we “celebrated” 512K day - the size of the full Internet routing table exceeded 512K (for whatever value of K ;) prefixes, overflowing TCAMs in some IP routers and resulting in interesting brownouts.

We’re close to exceeding 768K mark and the beware 768K day blog posts have already started appearing. While you (RFC 2119) SHOULD check the size of your forwarding table and the maximum capabilities of your hardware, the more important question should be “Why do I need 768K forwarding entries if I’m not a Tier-1 provider

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How Hard Is It to Manage Your Intent?

This blog post was initially sent to subscribers of my SDN and Network Automation mailing list. Subscribe here.

Remember the “every device configuration is really an expression of our intent” discussion? Forgetting the wrong level of abstraction (we mostly don’t want to deal with all the idiosyncratic stuff network devices want to see in their configurations) and box-oriented thinking caused by device-level intent for the moment, let’s focus on another aspect: how hard is it to manage your intent?

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Don't Base Your Design on Vendor Marketing

Remember how Arista promoted VXLAN coupled with deep buffer switches as the perfect DCI solution a few years ago? Someone took Arista’s marketing too literally, ran with the idea and combined VXLAN-based DCI with traditional MLAG+STP data center fabric.

While I love that they wrote a blog post documenting their experience (if only more people would do that), it doesn’t change the fact that the design contains the worst of both worlds.

Here are just a few things that went wrong:

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Data Deduplication in Network Automation Data Models

One of the toughest challenges in the hands-on part of Building Network Automation Solutions online course is the create a data model describing your service exercise.

Networking engineers never had to think about data models describing their networks or services, and the first attempt often results in something that looks like simplified device configuration in YAML or JSON format.

I wrote a long article describing how you can slowly redesign your box-focused data model into a network-focused one. The first parts describing the problem and initial deduplication are already online.

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Microsoft Azure Networking Slide Deck Is Ready

After a few weeks of venting my frustrations on Twitter I finally completed Microsoft Azure Networking slide deck last week and published the related demos on GitHub.

I will use the slide deck in a day-long workshop in Zurich (Switzerland) on June 12th and run a series of live webinar sessions in autumn. If you’re a (paid) subscriber you can already download the slides and it would be great if you’d have time to attend the Zurich workshop – it’s infinitely better to discuss interesting challenges face-to-face than to type questions in a virtual classroom.

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