|By Derick Winkworth||
|August 5, 2014 02:00 PM EDT||
In a previous article, we talked about “Short T’s.” We talked about how, in network engineering, the “T” is very long: Configuring a network to achieve business goals requires considerable skill and knowledge. While we set up a conceptual model in that post to talk about what “T” means in general terms, we did not discuss in detail how to articulate “T” more specifically for network engineering. In this post, we’ll explore this in a little more detail.
The NetEng Cycle
Network Engineering workflow can be characterized by overlapping cycles of Activity and Modeling. In figure 1, I have depicted 4 cycles. From smallest timescale to largest, these are called: 1. Referential Traversal, 2. Interactive, 3. Design, and 4. Architecture. The crest of each of these cycles is “Activity” and the trough is “Modeling.” Modeling on the smaller cycles is simple and correlative, while on the larger cycles it is more abstract and analytical. Activity on the smaller cycles is characterized by direct interactivity with the network, while on larger scales it is indirect and more design oriented.
As is implied from the diagram, a network engineer will oscillate between activities and modeling. For instance, in the interactive cycle, they may configure a QoS classification policy, but then immediately issue show commands to see if traffic is being classified appropriately. Configuring a policy and issuing of show commands are activities, but the show commands start to transition into modeling. The engineer is attempting to model the immediate effect of the changes they have made. Based on this modeling of “how things are,” the engineer might start thinking about modifications to the classification policy to bring the operation of the network closer to an expected model of “how things should be.” As far as it is possible to do so, an attempt might be made to model “how things will be” to check for possible side effects. The cycle, then, repeats.
However, which show commands should they use to accurately model how the configuration is actually working? If you were to write down the exact sequence of commands, you might find that the engineer is taking data from the output of the first command and using that as either input into the second command, or as a point of reference while examining output from the second command. The output from the second command might be, in turn, used similarly when executing a third show command. This is what is called Referential Traversal. Referential Traversal is when a network engineer engages in iterative data correlation in support of a workflow. In the context of a workflow, this data represents that workflow’s state.
Another well known referential traversal is doing a manual packet-walk of the network: Examining nodes along the way to determine if there is a potential issue along the path between two endpoints on the edge of the network. Here, the engineer will examine lookup tables, arp entries, and LLDP neighbor information, jumping from one node to the next. This particular workflow can tangent in tricky ways such as examining when and what configuration changes were made to see if they could impact traffic between those two endpoints. When tangenting into examination of a device configuration, you enter a different set of correlated data: A route-map applied to an interface can, in turn, reference access-lists or prefix-lists. The rules for evaluating packet flow through a policy follows different logic than the general rules for packet flow across a series of devices.
If you take the set of rules, relationships, and data points from “configuration space” and the rules, relationships, and data points from the “forwarding space,” and you combine them with all other such spaces that a network engineer must deal with in the course of their activities, the sum of these is called “referential space” (See Figure 2). A network engineering workflow will follow some referential path through this space, examining data and following it’s relationships to yet other data. There are numerous interconnected spaces in the management, control, forwarding, and device planes of a network each with their own logic and types of data. There are more abstract spaces as well, such as a “design” space that contains the rules and relationships that govern network design. A network engineer’s expertise is measured by how well they can navigate referential space in support of longer time-scale cycles.
Enablement versus Obviation
The challenge of networking, and the reason that automation (and UX/UI for that matter) has not evolved terribly well, is that these referential paths vary greatly based on what the network engineer is trying to do and how a particular network is built. There is a vast set of rules governing the many relationships that exist between the seemingly infinite array of data types. The dynamic nature of referential traversal, and the intimidating size of referential space, should justify a healthy skepticism of vendors claiming to encapsulate network complexity or automate network workflows. More often than not, they are simply moving the complexity around, while making it more difficult to navigate in the process.
It’s long since overdue to move innovation in networking towards enabling network engineers to be more effective instead of trying to obviate them. Unlike the past, this should happen with a keen understanding of what network engineers actually do and how they think through their activities. We can augment these activities to reduce time-to-completion, and reduce time-to-insight while at the same reducing risk and increasing accountability. There are many networking workflows, which after 20 years, are still notoriously difficult and risky to model and complete. Let’s solve these problems first.
Make Things Better
As a network engineer, how many times have you heard about the glorious wonders of a product that automates networking or encapsulates network complexity in some way? After 20 years, we have been trained to identify this language as snake-oil, or perhaps a little nicer, “marketing speak.” When we buy into these products or features, it’s always just a matter of time before they go unused, or the ugly realities of their operation surfaces.
Encapsulating network complexity, or automating network workflows, can’t just be about “faster.” That’s only part of the problem. It has to make things “better.” This can only happen with a deeper understanding of referential space.
Machine Learning helps make complex systems more efficient. By applying advanced Machine Learning techniques such as Cognitive Fingerprinting, wind project operators can utilize these tools to learn from collected data, detect regular patterns, and optimize their own operations. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, Stuart Gillen, Director of Business Development at SparkCognition, discussed how research has demonstrated the value of Machine Learning in delivering next generation analytics to imp...
Jul. 31, 2016 05:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,603
The Internet of Things will challenge the status quo of how IT and development organizations operate. Or will it? Certainly the fog layer of IoT requires special insights about data ontology, security and transactional integrity. But the developmental challenges are the same: People, Process and Platform. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Craig Sproule, CEO of Metavine, demonstrated how to move beyond today's coding paradigm and shared the must-have mindsets for removing complexity from the develo...
Jul. 31, 2016 03:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,702
The IETF draft standard for M2M certificates is a security solution specifically designed for the demanding needs of IoT/M2M applications. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Romansky, VP of Strategic Technology at TrustPoint Innovation, explained how M2M certificates can efficiently enable confidentiality, integrity, and authenticity on highly constrained devices.
Jul. 31, 2016 02:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,225
In today's uber-connected, consumer-centric, cloud-enabled, insights-driven, multi-device, global world, the focus of solutions has shifted from the product that is sold to the person who is buying the product or service. Enterprises have rebranded their business around the consumers of their products. The buyer is the person and the focus is not on the offering. The person is connected through multiple devices, wearables, at home, on the road, and in multiple locations, sometimes simultaneously...
Jul. 31, 2016 01:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,030
Basho Technologies has announced the latest release of Basho Riak TS, version 1.3. Riak TS is an enterprise-grade NoSQL database optimized for Internet of Things (IoT). The open source version enables developers to download the software for free and use it in production as well as make contributions to the code and develop applications around Riak TS. Enhancements to Riak TS make it quick, easy and cost-effective to spin up an instance to test new ideas and build IoT applications. In addition to...
Jul. 31, 2016 12:45 AM EDT Reads: 2,044
Identity is in everything and customers are looking to their providers to ensure the security of their identities, transactions and data. With the increased reliance on cloud-based services, service providers must build security and trust into their offerings, adding value to customers and improving the user experience. Making identity, security and privacy easy for customers provides a unique advantage over the competition.
Jul. 30, 2016 11:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,348
CenturyLink has announced that application server solutions from GENBAND are now available as part of CenturyLink’s Networx contracts. The General Services Administration (GSA)’s Networx program includes the largest telecommunications contract vehicles ever awarded by the federal government. CenturyLink recently secured an extension through spring 2020 of its offerings available to federal government agencies via GSA’s Networx Universal and Enterprise contracts. GENBAND’s EXPERiUS™ Application...
Jul. 30, 2016 10:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,949
"We've discovered that after shows 80% if leads that people get, 80% of the conversations end up on the show floor, meaning people forget about it, people forget who they talk to, people forget that there are actual business opportunities to be had here so we try to help out and keep the conversations going," explained Jeff Mesnik, Founder and President of ContentMX, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jul. 30, 2016 09:45 PM EDT Reads: 1,506
I wanted to gather all of my Internet of Things (IOT) blogs into a single blog (that I could later use with my University of San Francisco (USF) Big Data “MBA” course). However as I started to pull these blogs together, I realized that my IOT discussion lacked a vision; it lacked an end point towards which an organization could drive their IOT envisioning, proof of value, app dev, data engineering and data science efforts. And I think that the IOT end point is really quite simple…
Jul. 30, 2016 07:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,330
Internet of @ThingsExpo, taking place November 1-3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA, is co-located with the 19th International Cloud Expo and will feature technical sessions from a rock star conference faculty and the leading industry players in the world and ThingsExpo Silicon Valley Call for Papers is now open.
Jul. 30, 2016 07:00 PM EDT Reads: 2,781
You think you know what’s in your data. But do you? Most organizations are now aware of the business intelligence represented by their data. Data science stands to take this to a level you never thought of – literally. The techniques of data science, when used with the capabilities of Big Data technologies, can make connections you had not yet imagined, helping you discover new insights and ask new questions of your data. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Sarbjit Sarkaria, data science team lead ...
Jul. 30, 2016 05:00 PM EDT Reads: 1,315
"My role is working with customers, helping them go through this digital transformation. I spend a lot of time talking to banks, big industries, manufacturers working through how they are integrating and transforming their IT platforms and moving them forward," explained William Morrish, General Manager Product Sales at Interoute, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 18th Cloud Expo, held June 7-9, 2016, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
Jul. 30, 2016 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 2,287
WebRTC is bringing significant change to the communications landscape that will bridge the worlds of web and telephony, making the Internet the new standard for communications. Cloud9 took the road less traveled and used WebRTC to create a downloadable enterprise-grade communications platform that is changing the communication dynamic in the financial sector. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Leo Papadopoulos, CTO of Cloud9, discussed the importance of WebRTC and how it enables companies to focus...
Jul. 30, 2016 04:30 PM EDT Reads: 1,129
SYS-CON Events announced today that 910Telecom will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Housed in the classic Denver Gas & Electric Building, 910 15th St., 910Telecom is a carrier-neutral telecom hotel located in the heart of Denver. Adjacent to CenturyLink, AT&T, and Denver Main, 910Telecom offers connectivity to all major carriers, Internet service providers, Internet backbones and ...
Jul. 30, 2016 01:30 PM EDT Reads: 999
SYS-CON Events announced today that LeaseWeb USA, a cloud Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) provider, will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. LeaseWeb is one of the world's largest hosting brands. The company helps customers define, develop and deploy IT infrastructure tailored to their exact business needs, by combining various kinds cloud solutions.
Jul. 30, 2016 11:30 AM EDT Reads: 1,426
For basic one-to-one voice or video calling solutions, WebRTC has proven to be a very powerful technology. Although WebRTC’s core functionality is to provide secure, real-time p2p media streaming, leveraging native platform features and server-side components brings up new communication capabilities for web and native mobile applications, allowing for advanced multi-user use cases such as video broadcasting, conferencing, and media recording.
Jul. 30, 2016 10:45 AM EDT Reads: 1,157
SYS-CON Events announced today that Venafi, the Immune System for the Internet™ and the leading provider of Next Generation Trust Protection, will exhibit at @DevOpsSummit at 19th International Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Venafi is the Immune System for the Internet™ that protects the foundation of all cybersecurity – cryptographic keys and digital certificates – so they can’t be misused by bad guys in attacks...
Jul. 30, 2016 10:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,538
ReadyTalk has expanded the capabilities of the FoxDen collaboration platform announced late last year to include FoxDen Connect, an in-room video collaboration experience that launches with a single touch. With FoxDen Connect, users can now not only engage in HD video conferencing between iOS and Android mobile devices or Chrome browsers, but also set up in-person meeting rooms for video interactions. A host’s mobile device automatically recognizes the presence of a meeting room via beacon tech...
Jul. 30, 2016 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 578
The cloud market growth today is largely in public clouds. While there is a lot of spend in IT departments in virtualization, these aren’t yet translating into a true “cloud” experience within the enterprise. What is stopping the growth of the “private cloud” market? In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Nara Rajagopalan, CEO of Accelerite, explored the challenges in deploying, managing, and getting adoption for a private cloud within an enterprise. What are the key differences between wh...
Jul. 30, 2016 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 2,194
It’s 2016: buildings are smart, connected and the IoT is fundamentally altering how control and operating systems work and speak to each other. Platforms across the enterprise are networked via inexpensive sensors to collect massive amounts of data for analytics, information management, and insights that can be used to continuously improve operations. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Brian Chemel, Co-Founder and CTO of Digital Lumens, will explore: The benefits sensor-networked systems bring to ...
Jul. 30, 2016 09:15 AM EDT Reads: 1,675