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Category: SDN

The Never-Ending Story of CLI or API

Over the last weekend I almost got pulled into yet-another CLI-or-automation Twitter spat. The really sad part: I thought we were past that point. After all, I’ve been ranting about that topic for almost seven years… and yet I’m still hearing the same arguments I did in those days.

Just for the giggles I collected a few old blog posts on the topic (not that anyone evangelizing their opinions on Twitter would ever take the time to read them ;).

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Machine Learning in Networking Products

AI is the new SDN, and we’re constantly bombarded with networking vendor announcements promising AI-induced nirvana, from reinventing Clippy to automatic anomaly- and threat identifications.

If you still think these claims are realistic, it’s time you start reading what people involved in AI/ML have to say about hype in their field. I posted a few links in the past, and the Packet Pushers Human Infrastructure magazine delivered another goodie into my Inbox.

You REALLY SHOULD read the original article, here’s the TL&DR summary for differently-attentive:

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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