Best Practices for Modeling and Managing Today's Network - Part 2
August 23, 2016

Stefan Dietrich
Glue Networks

Share this

Start with Best Practices for Modeling and Managing Today's Network - Part 1

New Features, New Benefits

Network features and related policies can be mapped using these four constructs:

Domains: Apply configuration settings consistently across multiple devices. An example is a QoS configuration which may be different by business units, hence, different QoS domains would allow network engineers to assign QoS policies across all devices associated with specific business units in each region.

Features: Give the configuration settings for one device at a time, enabling functionality that the device can provide by itself. A good example is the configuration of a device-specific routing table where the device should forward incoming traffic.

Globals: Apply these configuration settings throughout the network; these are the same for every device in the network. A good example is NTP (network time protocol) where the central architecture team is defining the only NTP servers permissible for the network.

Custom: There will always be exceptions, so not everything may be practical to model in a general feature or domain concepts, especially specific exceptions to single devices only. For example, a specific set of Access Control Lists (ACLs) may only be needed on a single device. For these cases where no other dependencies with other features exist, just applying configuration data to a device may be acceptable. 

Whatever network policy is needed can be built using a combination of these constructs. Inherent interdependencies can be flagged by network engineers early, so that a network management system can deploy them in the correct sequential order, optimally applying these features to individual devices as well as across the network to create the target policy. Abstracting network functionality into these types of models allows network engineers to re-focus on the actual network architecture and focus less on the mechanics of the management of configuration data. These lead to a number of benefits:

Any hardware, any manufacturer: How a device is configured is now based on how it should perform, by itself or in concert with other devices. As a result, the actual hardware itself, its specific OS/firmware or even the manufacturer no longer matters, as long as the device is capable of performing the desired functionality.

Logical separation: NetOps is logically separated from implementation and maintenance (DevOps). For example, architects can define the features, domains and global settings needed for a given network infrastructure, assemble them into logical groups and resolve any interdependencies. They can then be tested and validated by, for example, the security team. The assembled features, domains and globals are handed over to the operational team, who will deploy them onto the network and manage them over their lifecycle.

Communal wisdom: When networks are modeled through logical constructs, it allows for a wide exchange of best-practice reference designs based on common user requirements. Different teams of architects can exchange information about the models they use for specific network functionalities without having to revert to low-level configuration settings. This opens the possibility of creating network engineering communities that exchange specific models based on their desired use cases with clearly defined interdependencies and conflict resolution against other models.

Managing the Modern Network

What is needed to create a next-generation network management tool? Nothing less than the development of a sophisticated network-aware orchestration engine that is able to detect any interdependencies, resolve them and deploy network policies automatically over the network.

First, consider these non-technical challenges:

■ Users need to firmly believe that the logical network model will, in fact, result in the correct configuration of all devices in the network. Many network engineers are still most comfortable with command line interface (CLI) created from scripts and templates.

■ The primary focus of network engineers is on proper device configurations and ensuring the device is performing as intended. Any next-generation tools have been designed with a network engineering focus in mind, allowing network engineers to use the system with a much shorter learning curve and minimal programming expertise.

■ Get the buy-in of DevOps and NetOps teams, who may be skeptical to trust device configuration to a new management tool.

Technically speaking, here's what today's management tools should include:

■ Management to handle the high degree of customization needed.

■ Zero-touch provisioning so that the onboarding of new devices into the system is as fluid as possible, allowing generalist IT staff to install routers and trigger device provisioning automatically.

■ The ability to limit or flag unauthorized manual device configuration changes with automatic remediation when needed.

■ Configuration preview that allows dry runs of new configurations to understand all changes that may have to be performed, even on other network devices when needed.

■ Step-by-step verification of device provisioning actions with automatic revert on errors.

A New Approach

Organizations can bring their networks into present-day functionality with tools that provide complete abstraction of network functions while providing deeply integrated model interdependency verification, deployment previews and layer-by-layer provisioning. For example, replacing an existing device with a newer model, even if it's from a different vendor, can be detected and automatically provisioned. Such solutions that can resolve any potential conflicts and interdependencies, even across vendors, are becoming increasingly important as network devices are virtualized on common platforms and the individual strength of vendor-specific solutions are combined into one multi-vendor solution.

A model like this that addresses the entire stack provides clarity to architecture and implementation teams because the handoff points are well defined. This, in turn, leads to faster implementation of business requirements and higher reliability. Such a system creates quicker identification of and recovery from network outages, which increases customer confidence and satisfaction and saves money from unexpected downtime.

Dr. Stefan Dietrich is VP of Product Strategy at Glue Networks.

Share this

The Latest

March 24, 2017

A growing IT delivery gap is slowing down the majority of the businesses surveyed and directly putting revenue at risk, according to MuleSoft's 2017 Connectivity Benchmark Report on digital transformation initiatives and the business impact of APIs ...

March 23, 2017

Why containers are growing in popularity is no surprise — they’re extremely easy to spin up or down, but come with an unforeseen issue. Without the right foresight, DevOps and IT teams may lose a lot of visibility into these containers resulting in operational blind spots and even more haystacks to find the presumptive performance issue needle ...

March 22, 2017

Much emphasis is placed on servers and storage when discussing Application Performance, mainly because the application lives on a server and uses storage. However, the network has considerable importance, certainly in the case of WANs where there are ways of speeding up the transmission of data of a network ...

March 21, 2017

The majority of IT executives believe investment in IT Service Management (ITSM) is important to gain the agility needed to compete in an era of global, cross-industry disruption and digital transformation, according to Delivering Value to Today’s Digital Enterprise: The State of IT Service Management 2017, a report by BMC, conducted in association with Forbes ...

March 17, 2017

Let’s say your company has examined all the potential pros and cons, and moved your critical business applications to the cloud. The advertised benefits of the cloud seem like they’ll work out great. And in many ways, life is easier for you now. But as often happens when things seem too good to be true, reality has a way of kicking in to reveal just exactly how many things can go wrong with your cloud setup – things that can directly impact your business ...

March 16, 2017

IT leadership is more driven to be innovative than ever, but also more in need of justifying costs and showing value than ever. Combining the two is no mean feat, especially when individual technologies are put forward as the single tantalizing answer ...

March 15, 2017

The move to Citrix 7.X is in full swing. This has improved the centralizing of Management and reduction of costs, but End User Experience is becoming top of the business objectives list. However, delivering that is not something to be considered after the upgrade ...

March 14, 2017

As organizations understand the findings of the Cyber Monday Web Performance Index and look to improve their site performance for the next Cyber Monday shopping day, I wanted to offer a few recommendations to help any organization improve in 2017 ...

March 13, 2017

Online retailers stand to make a lot of money on Cyber Monday as long as their infrastructure can keep up with customers. If your company's site goes offline or substantially slows down, you're going to lose sales. And even top ecommerce sites experience performance or stability issues at peak loads, like Cyber Monday, according to Apica's Cyber Monday Web Performance Index ...

March 10, 2017

Applications and infrastructure are being deployed and commissioned at a faster rate than ever before, the number of tools it takes to effectively manage these services is multiplying, and the expectations placed on IT to ensure customer satisfaction is increasing, according to The State of Monitoring 2017 report from BigPanda ...