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

January 22, 2018

Self-service and the concept of “Shift Left” are some of the phrases you will hear the most in the modern service management industry. The reason being is that you want to provide your users with the most important knowledge that you can to help them solve their issues and problems themselves, saving you time to focus on more important priorities. It’s a common problem, sort of a chicken and egg approach, but when you help your internal teams better meet their needs through such efforts, you also want to make sure that what is best for your service department also is best for your users ...

January 19, 2018

Confidence in satisfying and supporting core IT has diminished due in part to a strain on declining IT budgets and initiatives now progressing beyond implementation into production mode, according to TEKsystems' annual IT Forecast research ...

January 18, 2018

Making predictions is always a gamble. But given the way 2017 played out and the way 2018 is shaping up, odds are that certain technology trends will play a significant role in your IT department this year ...

January 17, 2018

With more than one-third of IT Professionals citing "moving faster" as their top goal for 2018, and an overwhelming 99 percent of IT and business decision makers noticing an increasing pace of change in today's connected world, it's clear that speed has become intrinsically linked to business success. For companies looking to compete in the digital economy, this pace of transformation is being driven by their customers and requires speedy software releases, agility through cloud services, and automation ...

January 16, 2018

Looking back on this year, we can see threads of what the future holds in enterprise networking. Specifically, taking a closer look at the biggest news and trends of this year, IT areas where businesses are investing and perspectives from the analyst community, as well as our own experiences, here are five network predictions for the coming year ...

January 12, 2018

As we enter 2018, businesses are busy anticipating what the new year will bring in terms of industry developments, growing trends, and hidden surprises. In 2017, the increased use of automation within testing teams (where Agile development boosted speed of release), led to QA becoming much more embedded within development teams than would have been the case a few years ago. As a result, proper software testing and monitoring assumes ever greater importance. The natural question is – what next? Here are some of the changes we believe will happen within our industry in 2018 ...

January 11, 2018

Application Performance Monitoring (APM) has become a must-have technology for IT organizations. In today’s era of digital transformation, distributed computing and cloud-native services, APM tools enable IT organizations to measure the real experience of users, trace business transactions to identify slowdowns and deliver the code-level visibility needed for optimizing the performance of applications. 2018 will see the requirements and expectations from APM solutions increase in the following ways ...

January 10, 2018

We don't often enough look back at the prior year’s predictions to see if they actually came to fruition. That is the purpose of this analysis. I have picked out a few key areas in APMdigest's 2017 Application Performance Management Predictions, and analyzed which predictions actually came true ...

January 09, 2018

Planning for a new year often includes predicting what’s going to happen. However, we don't often enough look back at the prior year’s predictions to see if they actually came to fruition. That is the purpose of this analysis. I have picked out a few key areas in APMdigest's 2017 Application Performance Management Predictions, and analyzed which predictions actually came true ...

January 08, 2018

The annual list of DevOps Predictions is now a DEVOPSdigest tradition. DevOps experts — analysts and consultants, users and the top vendors — offer predictions on how DevOps and related technologies will evolve and impact business in 2018 ...