No Time Like the Present for Network Automation

        The time has come for IT to once again dive into the world of homegrown automation for running their networks.Network teams have a love/hate relationship with automation, and have had for decades. Time after time, they have tentatively extended the reach of automation, working with everything from PERL scripts, CLIs, and screen scrapes to Python and proper APIs in an effort to reduce the tedium of managing the enterprise campus, WAN, and data center networks. When network teams find ways to waste less time on rote work, they make IT more responsive.

Counting Up the Benefits that Leaf-Spine Architecture Brings to Enterprise Networks

  If your network, like most, is growing in size and complexity, perhaps it’s time to consider whether the traditional three-tier network architecture has run its course. It’s becoming apparent that a flatter, two-tier leaf spine network topology can bring dramatic changes in the way we manage networks – with as good or better performance.

8 “Fake News” Items that Tried to Hold Back Open Networking

  The parallels between the efforts of the various open networking communities to modernize the networking industry and a Saturday afternoon pee-wee soccer scrum are far too close for comfort.  Both are characterized by loads of noisy, colorful – and mostly circular – movement – eventually followed by exhausted players staring at a ball that seems to be sitting pretty much right where it started.

White Box Open Networking: A Cure for Your Regulatory Compliance Ills

Just about every major US regulatory requirement says companies must use software that’s fully supported by the vendor that sells it. Simply put, if you’re using software that is beyond its end of life, you’re not only posing a security risk to your company – you’re also out of regulatory compliance.

50 Shades of Open Source: How to Determine What's Suitable for Enterprise White Box Networking

To date, the open source community has been quite successful in terms of coming up with scalable and reliable implementations for enterprise servers, databases and more. Yet many enterprises remain skittish about implementing open source software, probably no more so than in the networking space.  

Like Watching the Caveman Invent the Rock – Cisco “Discovers” Software

In truth, today’s legacy enterprise networks -- many now decades overdue for replacement -- were built to fight Cold Wars among the vendor powers.  Cisco “big iron” battled Wellfleet “big iron” and, later, Juniper “big iron,” and the throughput/density contests are now the stuff of NetOps legend.  But these aging networks are completely ill-suited to fight today’s data-oriented guerilla warfare, where hackers, DevOps, IoT, mobile, open source, and cloud services clamor for attention and have NetOps IT people desperately trying to manage an environment that feels more like a third-world airport terminal flooded with people fleeing a coup than a predictable business utility.

Thanks, Arista! We’ll Leave a Light on for You

  Wow. Just, wow. Here we were at Pica8, ten days away from announcing a screamingly simplified white box switching architecture for enterprise campus networks – one that makes legacy switch stack and chassis switch replacement with disaggregated white box switches ridiculously easy -- when Arista suddenly pops up and says that the success white box switches are having in the data center is now well and truly annoying to them, so they are starting to plan a future expedition to the enterprise campus in search of replacing lost revenue.

Dismantling Cisco’s Conservation of Complexity Gambit

From the very beginning, Cisco Systems tightly embraced the use of complexity as a market differentiator. Creating a complicated CLI to configure networking gear instead of a relatively simple GUI – Wellfleet’s choice -- was an early move down this path. The next cab off this particular rank was the creation of the CCIE (Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert) program in the early 1990’s, which, in full disclosure, I had a hand in developing back in the day.  This program was explicitly designed to be as difficult and complicated as possible – mirroring the products themselves – so that a CCIE “diploma” on a cubicle wall would be considered a badge of honor and give bragging rights to its owner.  And, with something like 3-1/2-million CCIEs out there today, this particular bit of planned complexity was clearly a winner.The inherent irony in all of this is that ante-Cisco life in networking was quite a simple place, really. (Show of hands anyone who remembers the two top bridging vendors, Halley Systems and Vitalink?)  But, at the end of the day, networks had to grow so that businesses and, eventually, the Internet, could run on them, and bridging technology simply wasn’t up to the task.  So, routers and switches were born.  Cisco fully understood that complexity – for them – worked wonders against their competition by locking in customers. It has doubled down on this tactic ever since.