|By Michael Bushong||
|April 30, 2014 02:15 PM EDT||
There’s a running meme in networking that has caught a lot of momentum with SDN: abstraction. Just about every vendor these days has bold ambitions to abstract out the complexity. There are APIs, abstraction layers, and architectural shims that all aim to hide complexity from the user. But what does that really mean?
The primary goal of abstraction is to break something down into its most essential elements. You then expose only those parts that require end-user participation (think: configuration knobs, for example). Ideally, a small set of relatively well-understood parameters can then move the mass of hulking machinery underneath. The complexity? It is hidden, cleverly abstracted away from the user.
This leads to an interesting question: which bits need to be exposed to the end user?
The question seems innocuous enough. But the answer depends an awful lot on your context.
Networking has long been a management-through-precision proposition. That is to say that network behavior is determined by correctly setting a bunch of configuration knobs. The problem is at its absolute most horrible when specifying edge policy. So acute is our collective need for control that we have developed entire businesses around merely demonstrating proficiency in the knobs themselves.
The subtle point about abstraction is that by reducing networking to only the most critical characteristics, you are actually taking away some of the power from a user base that has defined their careers by their knowledge of said details. On the other extreme, you have an entire class of companies for whom the network is just not that interesting. At the limit, these companies simply want the network to work. That this currently requires an army of specialists with total command over thousands of widgets is more necessary evil than desired outcome.
So what do we do?
In some ways, we need to fight our own instincts. Our need for absolute control is our own doing. We have taken a largely incremental approach to networking for more than a couple of decades now. We have layered functionality on top of functionality, using configuration to incrementally enable each piece. The thought of things working across the whole of the network is a scary proposition, so we have grown accustomed to piecemeal deployments. And change has become so difficult that you don’t dare do anything unless you absolutely have to.
But despite all of this, where are we headed now?
We want to code our way out of the problem. We want to add another complex system on top of an already complex—and crumbling—system. Consider that SDN is largely an organic reaction to the failure of vendors to make networks that are manageable. Building another management layer on top of the existing failed infrastructure might hide the complexity, but it doesn’t remove the source of the underlying infrastructure rot. Without cutting away that rot, we are really just punting the problem into the future.
None of this is meant to suggest that APIs and programmability are not important. For a certain class of user, they are extremely powerful. But not every user has or event wants the kind of sophistication that goes with this type of approach. And fewer still have a solid enough foundation from which to build.
How do I know? We celebrate programmability while swapping stories of companies relying on screen scraping. How is that latter class of networking professionals going to make the leap?
The answer is actually simple: they won’t.
This creates an interesting market dynamic. The number of companies who are actively pushing the envelope is relatively small. Sure, there are lots of people who are constantly evaluating new technologies, but if you measure actual deployments, the business tilts heavily to the less sexy, less risky networks of yesteryear. For every SDN trial that nets a couple of devices in some deal and generates a snazzy press release, there is a pile of uncontested deals that get closed with the incumbent vendors.
Why? Because things barely work the way they are, and adding more capability on top of existing stuff isn’t actually the need for most people.
There is an enormous opportunity for companies that provide a solution to the underlying infrastructure rot. The billions of dollars spent on networks that users wish they could just ignore are mostly in play. The vendors pursuing those dollars need to make sure they keep their eye on the ball. The shiny object that is abstraction and programmability will undoubtedly be important, but pursuing that at the expense of fixing the underlying network is chasing an opportunity that might very well forever be just on the horizon. Over time, the obvious end game here is that both things needs to happen. Abstraction and underlying correction are both required.
While it might be the CTOs and CIOs at the largest enterprises and carriers that drive overarching requirements, the middle and lower tiers of the market consume an awful lot. Interestingly enough, that business is somehow lost in all the noise. To make a difference here, networking doesn’t need to be more abstract; it just needs to be a whole lot more instinctive.
[Today’s fun fact: 100% of all lottery winners gain weight. Seriously, how does anyone know this is a fact?]
Two weeks ago (November 3-5), I attended the Cloud Expo Silicon Valley as a speaker, where I presented on the security and privacy due diligence requirements for cloud solutions. Cloud security is a topical issue for every CIO, CISO, and technology buyer. Decision-makers are always looking for insights on how to mitigate the security risks of implementing and using cloud solutions. Based on the presentation topics covered at the conference, as well as the general discussions heard between sessi...
Nov. 26, 2015 06:15 AM EST Reads: 294
Culture is the most important ingredient of DevOps. The challenge for most organizations is defining and communicating a vision of beneficial DevOps culture for their organizations, and then facilitating the changes needed to achieve that. Often this comes down to an ability to provide true leadership. As a CIO, are your direct reports IT managers or are they IT leaders? The hard truth is that many IT managers have risen through the ranks based on their technical skills, not their leadership ab...
Nov. 26, 2015 06:00 AM EST Reads: 344
Continuous processes around the development and deployment of applications are both impacted by -- and a benefit to -- the Internet of Things trend. To help better understand the relationship between DevOps and a plethora of new end-devices and data please welcome Gary Gruver, consultant, author and a former IT executive who has led many large-scale IT transformation projects, and John Jeremiah, Technology Evangelist at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE), on Twitter at @j_jeremiah. The discussion...
Nov. 26, 2015 03:45 AM EST Reads: 689
Too often with compelling new technologies market participants become overly enamored with that attractiveness of the technology and neglect underlying business drivers. This tendency, what some call the “newest shiny object syndrome” is understandable given that virtually all of us are heavily engaged in technology. But it is also mistaken. Without concrete business cases driving its deployment, IoT, like many other technologies before it, will fade into obscurity.
Nov. 26, 2015 03:00 AM EST Reads: 302
With all the incredible momentum behind the Internet of Things (IoT) industry, it is easy to forget that not a single CEO wakes up and wonders if “my IoT is broken.” What they wonder is if they are making the right decisions to do all they can to increase revenue, decrease costs, and improve customer experience – effectively the same challenges they have always had in growing their business. The exciting thing about the IoT industry is now these decisions can be better, faster, and smarter. Now ...
Nov. 26, 2015 02:00 AM EST Reads: 184
The Internet of Things is clearly many things: data collection and analytics, wearables, Smart Grids and Smart Cities, the Industrial Internet, and more. Cool platforms like Arduino, Raspberry Pi, Intel's Galileo and Edison, and a diverse world of sensors are making the IoT a great toy box for developers in all these areas. In this Power Panel at @ThingsExpo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists discussed what things are the most important, which will have the most profound...
Nov. 26, 2015 01:30 AM EST Reads: 431
In today's enterprise, digital transformation represents organizational change even more so than technology change, as customer preferences and behavior drive end-to-end transformation across lines of business as well as IT. To capitalize on the ubiquitous disruption driving this transformation, companies must be able to innovate at an increasingly rapid pace. Traditional approaches for driving innovation are now woefully inadequate for keeping up with the breadth of disruption and change facin...
Nov. 26, 2015 01:00 AM EST Reads: 434
Growth hacking is common for startups to make unheard-of progress in building their business. Career Hacks can help Geek Girls and those who support them (yes, that's you too, Dad!) to excel in this typically male-dominated world. Get ready to learn the facts: Is there a bias against women in the tech / developer communities? Why are women 50% of the workforce, but hold only 24% of the STEM or IT positions? Some beginnings of what to do about it! In her Day 2 Keynote at 17th Cloud Expo, San...
Nov. 26, 2015 12:00 AM EST Reads: 521
Discussions of cloud computing have evolved in recent years from a focus on specific types of cloud, to a world of hybrid cloud, and to a world dominated by the APIs that make today's multi-cloud environments and hybrid clouds possible. In this Power Panel at 17th Cloud Expo, moderated by Conference Chair Roger Strukhoff, panelists addressed the importance of customers being able to use the specific technologies they need, through environments and ecosystems that expose their APIs to make true ...
Nov. 26, 2015 12:00 AM EST Reads: 483
In his General Session at DevOps Summit, Asaf Yigal, Co-Founder & VP of Product at Logz.io, explored the value of Kibana 4 for log analysis and provided a hands-on tutorial on how to set up Kibana 4 and get the most out of Apache log files. He examined three use cases: IT operations, business intelligence, and security and compliance. Asaf Yigal is co-founder and VP of Product at log analytics software company Logz.io. In the past, he was co-founder of social-trading platform Currensee, which...
Nov. 26, 2015 12:00 AM EST Reads: 152
PubNub has announced the release of BLOCKS, a set of customizable microservices that give developers a simple way to add code and deploy features for realtime apps.PubNub BLOCKS executes business logic directly on the data streaming through PubNub’s network without splitting it off to an intermediary server controlled by the customer. This revolutionary approach streamlines app development, reduces endpoint-to-endpoint latency, and allows apps to better leverage the enormous scalability of PubNu...
Nov. 26, 2015 12:00 AM EST Reads: 280
Microservices are a very exciting architectural approach that many organizations are looking to as a way to accelerate innovation. Microservices promise to allow teams to move away from monolithic "ball of mud" systems, but the reality is that, in the vast majority of organizations, different projects and technologies will continue to be developed at different speeds. How to handle the dependencies between these disparate systems with different iteration cycles? Consider the "canoncial problem"...
Nov. 25, 2015 10:00 PM EST Reads: 392
I recently attended and was a speaker at the 4th International Internet of @ThingsExpo at the Santa Clara Convention Center. I also had the opportunity to attend this event last year and I wrote a blog from that show talking about how the “Enterprise Impact of IoT” was a key theme of last year’s show. I was curious to see if the same theme would still resonate 365 days later and what, if any, changes I would see in the content presented.
Nov. 25, 2015 09:00 PM EST Reads: 366
Apps and devices shouldn't stop working when there's limited or no network connectivity. Learn how to bring data stored in a cloud database to the edge of the network (and back again) whenever an Internet connection is available. In his session at 17th Cloud Expo, Ben Perlmutter, a Sales Engineer with IBM Cloudant, demonstrated techniques for replicating cloud databases with devices in order to build offline-first mobile or Internet of Things (IoT) apps that can provide a better, faster user e...
Nov. 25, 2015 08:30 PM EST Reads: 366
Container technology is shaping the future of DevOps and it’s also changing the way organizations think about application development. With the rise of mobile applications in the enterprise, businesses are abandoning year-long development cycles and embracing technologies that enable rapid development and continuous deployment of apps. In his session at DevOps Summit, Kurt Collins, Developer Evangelist at Built.io, examined how Docker has evolved into a highly effective tool for application del...
Nov. 25, 2015 05:00 PM EST Reads: 302