Welcome!

XML Authors: Liz McMillan, Elizabeth White, Ignacio M. Llorente, Carmen Gonzalez, David Dossot

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java, SOA & WOA, Virtualization

SDN Journal: Blog Post

Scripting Is Automation, But Automation Is Not Scripting

There are many extremely complex clustered applications that rely entirely on exchanging information through APIs

Last week Greg Ferro (@etherealmind) wrote this article about his experience with scripting as a method for network automation, with the ultimate conclusion that scripting does not scale.

Early in my career I managed a small network that grew to be a IP over X.25 hub of Europe for a few years providing many countries with their first Internet connectivity. Scripts were everywhere, small ones to grab stats and create pretty graphs, others that continuously checked the status of links and would send emails when things went wrong.

While it is hard to argue with Greg’s complaints per se, I believe the key point is missing. And it has nothing to do with scripting. In a reply, Ivan’s last comment touches on the real issue.

We have been scripting our networks against CLIs forever and I will bet you most folks will consider it successful, even though it may be a pain. The article lists the pains, but not the reasons why. As a network industry, we have never ever considered the interaction with our network devices an API. Not in the true software engineering sense of an API.

There are many extremely complex clustered applications that rely entirely on exchanging information through APIs that are well documented, well versioned, well abstracted and properly promoted or deprecated. Creating and maintaining APIs is a real software engineering effort, a skill that requires true architecture, engineering and discipline. And we have not given our users anything close to it.

If we (that collective network industry) had truly considered our CLI an API, we would (and should) have been pushed aside a long time ago. The CLI is and always has been a simple interface for a human to tell a device what to do. It was not designed to be automated. It is not structured enough to be automated. Even large vendors have multiple flavors that are all industry standard, but all slightly different. And nowhere would you find a formal, full and complete dictionary of that CLI with all inputs, outputs, versions and options. The closest the network industry has had to a true API is SNMP, and that is indeed a very sad statement.

I think we have mentioned before that the networking industry is a bit slow to get to modern software engineering methods and practices, but the tide is changing. And whether you want to call it SDN or something else, the sheer volume and complexity of interaction with the network is pushing us to provide truly automated access to our devices and our networks.

And creating and maintaining APIs is far more than the technology used to access them. It does not matter whether its XML, JSON, REST, NETCONF or anything else. Those are definitions of how information is carried to and from the device and network. I can build a wonderful REST API that takes a CLI command as an argument and spits me back the output from that CLI command in some format. I am sure that sounds familiar to some, but this is not an API. Not in a truly meaningful way that would elevate our automation abilities.

Designing and implementing APIs is not trivial. Believe me, as an entirely API driven solution, we spend a tremendous amount of time discussing our APIs and abstractions to make sure they find that find balance between granularity, functionality, abstraction, scaling and a few other relevant qualifiers.  But the key is that they are part of any feature design from day one, they are part of the overarching architecture, not bolted on at the end. Our APIs are not perfect, there is no such thing, but they are modeled after the workflow of you the user doing the work required to keep the network running and thriving.

So when you need to configure MLAG on a set of Plexxi switches, we do not have a series of API calls to bundle ports together on a switch, give them a unique ID, then tie the switches together as an MLAG pair that shares that unique ID. Oh, and create an MLAG control channel between them, and make each of the switch local LAGs have the same set of VLANs on them. Our API will simply take a list of port objects from any amount of switches in a Plexxi network and turn them into an MLAG. An then you can simply take that entire entity and stick a VLAN on top, we will make sure the participating switches get the pieces they need. That is abstraction, that is workflow encapsulation, that is what APIs are supposed to give you. That is how simple LAG is supposed to be.

We have a long way to go as an industry to get to full APIs the way real software folks think about APIs. The CLI is not it. Scripting against a CLI (or a CLI hidden behind a layer of official sounding API terms) is a useful tool, but one that should be mostly retired to get to true programmable networks that are controlled by real controller (in the broadest definition of the word) using real APIs. Automation is not scripting.

[Today's fun fact: to make sure you do not think I am anti scripting, I once wrote a large chunk of a 10,000 line Perl4 system. It functioned very nicely for years as the RIPE database for IP address allocations back in the mid 90s. Thankfully it has since been tackled by real software engineers.]

The post Scripting is automation, but automation is not scripting appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Marten Terpstra

Marten Terpstra is a Product Management Director at Plexxi Inc. Marten has extensive knowledge of the architecture, design, deployment and management of enterprise and carrier networks.

@ThingsExpo Stories
Scott Jenson leads a project called The Physical Web within the Chrome team at Google. Project members are working to take the scalability and openness of the web and use it to talk to the exponentially exploding range of smart devices. Nearly every company today working on the IoT comes up with the same basic solution: use my server and you'll be fine. But if we really believe there will be trillions of these devices, that just can't scale. We need a system that is open a scalable and by using the URL as a basic building block, we open this up and get the same resilience that the web enjoys.
The Internet of Things is tied together with a thin strand that is known as time. Coincidentally, at the core of nearly all data analytics is a timestamp. When working with time series data there are a few core principles that everyone should consider, especially across datasets where time is the common boundary. In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Jim Scott, Director of Enterprise Strategy & Architecture at MapR Technologies, discussed single-value, geo-spatial, and log time series data. By focusing on enterprise applications and the data center, he will use OpenTSDB as an example t...
P2P RTC will impact the landscape of communications, shifting from traditional telephony style communications models to OTT (Over-The-Top) cloud assisted & PaaS (Platform as a Service) communication services. The P2P shift will impact many areas of our lives, from mobile communication, human interactive web services, RTC and telephony infrastructure, user federation, security and privacy implications, business costs, and scalability. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Robin Raymond, Chief Architect at Hookflash, will walk through the shifting landscape of traditional telephone and voice services ...
The Domain Name Service (DNS) is one of the most important components in networking infrastructure, enabling users and services to access applications by translating URLs (names) into IP addresses (numbers). Because every icon and URL and all embedded content on a website requires a DNS lookup loading complex sites necessitates hundreds of DNS queries. In addition, as more internet-enabled ‘Things' get connected, people will rely on DNS to name and find their fridges, toasters and toilets. According to a recent IDG Research Services Survey this rate of traffic will only grow. What's driving t...
Enthusiasm for the Internet of Things has reached an all-time high. In 2013 alone, venture capitalists spent more than $1 billion dollars investing in the IoT space. With "smart" appliances and devices, IoT covers wearable smart devices, cloud services to hardware companies. Nest, a Google company, detects temperatures inside homes and automatically adjusts it by tracking its user's habit. These technologies are quickly developing and with it come challenges such as bridging infrastructure gaps, abiding by privacy concerns and making the concept a reality. These challenges can't be addressed w...
Explosive growth in connected devices. Enormous amounts of data for collection and analysis. Critical use of data for split-second decision making and actionable information. All three are factors in making the Internet of Things a reality. Yet, any one factor would have an IT organization pondering its infrastructure strategy. How should your organization enhance its IT framework to enable an Internet of Things implementation? In his session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, James Kirkland, Chief Architect for the Internet of Things and Intelligent Systems at Red Hat, described how to revolutioniz...
Bit6 today issued a challenge to the technology community implementing Web Real Time Communication (WebRTC). To leap beyond WebRTC’s significant limitations and fully leverage its underlying value to accelerate innovation, application developers need to consider the entire communications ecosystem.
The definition of IoT is not new, in fact it’s been around for over a decade. What has changed is the public's awareness that the technology we use on a daily basis has caught up on the vision of an always on, always connected world. If you look into the details of what comprises the IoT, you’ll see that it includes everything from cloud computing, Big Data analytics, “Things,” Web communication, applications, network, storage, etc. It is essentially including everything connected online from hardware to software, or as we like to say, it’s an Internet of many different things. The difference ...
Cloud Expo 2014 TV commercials will feature @ThingsExpo, which was launched in June, 2014 at New York City's Javits Center as the largest 'Internet of Things' event in the world.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Windstream, a leading provider of advanced network and cloud communications, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 16th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on June 9–11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York, NY. Windstream (Nasdaq: WIN), a FORTUNE 500 and S&P 500 company, is a leading provider of advanced network communications, including cloud computing and managed services, to businesses nationwide. The company also offers broadband, phone and digital TV services to consumers primarily in rural areas.
"There is a natural synchronization between the business models, the IoT is there to support ,” explained Brendan O'Brien, Co-founder and Chief Architect of Aria Systems, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at the 15th International Cloud Expo®, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
The major cloud platforms defy a simple, side-by-side analysis. Each of the major IaaS public-cloud platforms offers their own unique strengths and functionality. Options for on-site private cloud are diverse as well, and must be designed and deployed while taking existing legacy architecture and infrastructure into account. Then the reality is that most enterprises are embarking on a hybrid cloud strategy and programs. In this Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo (http://www.CloudComputingExpo.com), moderated by Ashar Baig, Research Director, Cloud, at Gigaom Research, Nate Gordon, Director of T...
An entirely new security model is needed for the Internet of Things, or is it? Can we save some old and tested controls for this new and different environment? In his session at @ThingsExpo, New York's at the Javits Center, Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, reviewed hands-on lessons with IoT devices and reveal a new risk balance you might not expect. Davi Ottenheimer, EMC Senior Director of Trust, has more than nineteen years' experience managing global security operations and assessments, including a decade of leading incident response and digital forensics. He is co-author of t...

ARMONK, N.Y., Nov. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ --  IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that it is bringing a greater level of control, security and flexibility to cloud-based application development and delivery with a single-tenant version of Bluemix, IBM's platform-as-a-service. The new platform enables developers to build ap...

Technology is enabling a new approach to collecting and using data. This approach, commonly referred to as the "Internet of Things" (IoT), enables businesses to use real-time data from all sorts of things including machines, devices and sensors to make better decisions, improve customer service, and lower the risk in the creation of new revenue opportunities. In his General Session at Internet of @ThingsExpo, Dave Wagstaff, Vice President and Chief Architect at BSQUARE Corporation, discuss the real benefits to focus on, how to understand the requirements of a successful solution, the flow of ...
The security devil is always in the details of the attack: the ones you've endured, the ones you prepare yourself to fend off, and the ones that, you fear, will catch you completely unaware and defenseless. The Internet of Things (IoT) is nothing if not an endless proliferation of details. It's the vision of a world in which continuous Internet connectivity and addressability is embedded into a growing range of human artifacts, into the natural world, and even into our smartphones, appliances, and physical persons. In the IoT vision, every new "thing" - sensor, actuator, data source, data con...
"BSQUARE is in the business of selling software solutions for smart connected devices. It's obvious that IoT has moved from being a technology to being a fundamental part of business, and in the last 18 months people have said let's figure out how to do it and let's put some focus on it, " explained Dave Wagstaff, VP & Chief Architect, at BSQUARE Corporation, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at @ThingsExpo, held Nov 4-6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Focused on this fast-growing market’s needs, Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation (Nasdaq: VTSS), a leading provider of IC solutions to advance "Ethernet Everywhere" in Carrier, Enterprise and Internet of Things (IoT) networks, introduced its IStaX™ software (VSC6815SDK), a robust protocol stack to simplify deployment and management of Industrial-IoT network applications such as Industrial Ethernet switching, surveillance, video distribution, LCD signage, intelligent sensors, and metering equipment. Leveraging technologies proven in the Carrier and Enterprise markets, IStaX is designed to work ac...
C-Labs LLC, a leading provider of remote and mobile access for the Internet of Things (IoT), announced the appointment of John Traynor to the position of chief operating officer. Previously a strategic advisor to the firm, Mr. Traynor will now oversee sales, marketing, finance, and operations. Mr. Traynor is based out of the C-Labs office in Redmond, Washington. He reports to Chris Muench, Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Traynor brings valuable business leadership and technology industry expertise to C-Labs. With over 30 years' experience in the high-tech sector, John Traynor has held numerous...
The 3rd International @ThingsExpo, co-located with the 16th International Cloud Expo - to be held June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY - announces that it is now accepting Keynote Proposals. The Internet of Things (IoT) is the most profound change in personal and enterprise IT since the creation of the Worldwide Web more than 20 years ago. All major researchers estimate there will be tens of billions devices - computers, smartphones, tablets, and sensors - connected to the Internet by 2020. This number will continue to grow at a rapid pace for the next several decades.