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Building network automation solutions

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Cross-Data-Center L4-7 Services with Cisco ACI

Craig Weinhold sent me his thoughts on using Cisco ACI to implement cross-data-center L4-7 services. While we both believe this is not the way to do things (because you should start with proper application architecture), you might find his insights useful if you have to deal with legacy environments that believe in Santa Claus and solving application problems with networking infrastructure.


An “easy button” for multi-DC is like the quest for the holy grail. I explain to my clients that the answer is right in front of them – local IP addressing, L3 routing, and DNS. But they refuse to accept that, draw their swords, and engage in a fruitless war against common sense. Asymmetry, stateful inspection, ingress routing, split-brain, quorums, host mobility, cache coherency, non-RFC complaint ARP, etc.  

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Last Week on ipSpace.net (2019W7)

Last Tuesday we continued the deep dive into new Ansible networking modules functionality introduced in recent software releases (up to 2.7), including a demonstration of a few simple playbooks that collect printouts from network devices and check software version or end-to-end connectivity.

In the second half of the live session we started digging into the intricacies of device configuration management, ending with the truly “fun part”: changing access control lists on Cisco IOS.

The Ansible for Networking Engineers webinar is part of standard ipSpace.net subscription and Building Network Automation Solutions online course.

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Worth Reading: Blockchain and Trust

One of the rules of sane social media presence should be don’t ever engage with evangelists believing in a particular technology religion, more so if their funding depends on them spreading the gospel. I was called old-school networking guru from ivory tower when pointing out the drawbacks of TRILL, and clueless incompetent (in more polite words) when retweeting a tweet pointing out the realities of carbon footprint of proof-of-work technologies.

Interestingly, just a few days after that Bruce Schneier published a lengthy essay on blockchain and trust, and even the evangelists find it a bit hard to call him incompetent on security topics. Please read what he wrote every time someone comes along explaining how blockchains will save the world (or solve whatever networking problems like VTEP-to-MAC mappings).

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Loop Avoidance in VXLAN Networks

Antonio Boj sent me this interesting challenge:

Is there any way to avoid, prevent or at least mitigate bridging loops when using VXLAN with EVPN? Spanning-tree is not supported when using VXLAN encapsulation so I was hoping to use EVPN duplicate MAC detection.

MAC move dampening (or anything similar) doesn’t help if you have a forwarding loop. You might be able to use it to identify there’s a loop, but that’s it… and while you’re doing that your network is melting down.

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Video: Automating Simple Reports

Network automation is scary when you start using it in a brownfield environment. After all, it’s pretty easy to propagate an error to all devices in your network. However, there’s one thing you can do that’s usually pretty harmless: collect data from network devices and create summary reports or graphs.

I collected several interesting solutions created by attendees of our Building Network Automation Solutions online course and described them in a short video.

Want to create something similar? No time to procrastinate – the registration for the Spring 2019 course ends tomorrow.

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Operating Cisco ACI the Right Way

This is a guest blog post by Andrea Dainese, senior network and security architect, and author of UNetLab (now EVE-NG) and  Route Reflector Labs. These days you’ll find him busy automating Cisco ACI deployments.


In this post we’ll focus on a simple question that arises in numerous chats I have with colleagues and customers: how should a network engineer operate Cisco ACI? A lot of them don’t use any sort of network automation and manage their Cisco ACI deployments using the Web Interface. Is that good or evil? As you’ll see we have a definite answer and it’s not “it depends”.

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Last Week on ipSpace.net (2019W6)

Last week Howard Marks completed the Hyperconverged Infrastructure Deep Dive trilogy covering smaller HCI players (including Cisco’s Hyperflex) and explaining the intricacies of costing and licensing HCI solutions.

On Thursday I finally managed to start the long-overdue Data Center Interconnects update. The original webinar was recorded in 2011, and while the layer-3 technologies haven’t changed much (with LISP still being mostly a solution in search of a problem), most of the layer-2 technologies I described at that time vanished, with OTV being a notable exception. Keep that in mind the next time your favorite $vendor starts promoting another wonderful technology.

You can get access to both webinars with standard ipSpace.net subscription.

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SD-WAN Security Under the Hood

A while ago we published a guest blog post by Christoph Jaggi explaining the high-level security challenges of most SD-WAN solutions… but what about the low-level details?

Sergey Gordeychik dived deep into implementation details of SD-WAN security in his 35C3 talk (slides, video).

TL&DW: some of the SD-WAN boxes are as secure as $19.99 Chinese webcam you bought on eBay.

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Tech Field Day Extra @ CLEUR19 Recap

I spent most of last week with a great team of fellow networking and security engineers in a windowless room listening to good, bad and plain boring presentations from (mostly) Cisco presenters describing new technologies and solutions – the yearly Tech Field Day Extra @ Cisco Live Europe event.

This year’s hit rate (the percentage of good presentations) was about 50% and these are the ones I found worth watching (in chronological order):

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Worth Reading: Should I Write a Book?

Erik Dietrich (of the Expert Beginner fame) published another great blog post explaining when and why you should write a book. For the attention-challenged here’s my CliffNotes version:

  • Realize you have no idea what you’re doing (see also: Dunning-Kruger effect)
  • Figure out why you’d want to spend a significant amount of your time on a major project like book writing;
  • It will take longer (and will be more expensive) than you expect even when considering Hofstadter’s law.
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