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Open Source: Article

How Open Source Is Changing Network Management

Embracing an open and collaborative approach to software development

Enterprise networks are growing increasingly complex. Over the past five years, the increased focus on unified security, network optimization, and application acceleration has resulted in an explosion of new technologies, specialty devices, and vendors. The proliferation of high-speed connectivity networks and logical overlay networks – all running over the same physical links – have made it all but impossible for network teams to maintain consistent security, access, audit and change control using manual processes and device-specific management tools.

As a result, there has never been a greater need for automated network management. But most suppliers of management software are struggling to keep pace with the shifting composition of today’s multi-vendor, multi-dimensional enterprise networks. A new approach that pairs a vibrant open source community with an alliance of leading commercial networking solution vendors is addressing this challenge and changing the way that complex enterprise networks are managed.

The Shifting Composition of Today’s Enterprise Networks
In the past, networks were composed primarily of routers and switches from just a few equipment providers. These simple networks have evolved into a multi-dimensional set of virtual, overlay networks composed of a broad range of specialty devices from 20 to 30 vendors. These overlay networks each have their own security settings; are optimized for specific applications; and are configured to behave in accordance with a set of business rules. Critical information – including packet filters, access control lists, and flow control rules – is duplicated and sometimes even contradicted in different devices from different vendors. This makes it impossible for network teams to maintain consistent security, access, audit, and change control and leads to significant duplications in staffing and management tools.

More Stories By Roger Castillo

Roger Castillo is chief technical officer at AlterPoint, a network change and configuration management provider based in Austin, Texas. He is the technical founder of AlterPoint, having conceived and developed the company's NetworkAuthority solution. AlterPoint has integrated the ZipTie open source inventory framework into its NetworkAuthority suite of network automation, CMDB and life-cycle management solutions. As a result, AlterPoint's customers are not dependent upon AlterPoint or network equipment vendors to provide scripts, change templates, rules, policies, adaptors, plug-ins, best practices or other management components.

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