Welcome!

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Java IoT, Microservices Expo, Containers Expo Blog

SDN Journal: Blog Post

Scripting Is Automation, But Automation Is Not Scripting

There are many extremely complex clustered applications that rely entirely on exchanging information through APIs

Last week Greg Ferro (@etherealmind) wrote this article about his experience with scripting as a method for network automation, with the ultimate conclusion that scripting does not scale.

Early in my career I managed a small network that grew to be a IP over X.25 hub of Europe for a few years providing many countries with their first Internet connectivity. Scripts were everywhere, small ones to grab stats and create pretty graphs, others that continuously checked the status of links and would send emails when things went wrong.

While it is hard to argue with Greg’s complaints per se, I believe the key point is missing. And it has nothing to do with scripting. In a reply, Ivan’s last comment touches on the real issue.

We have been scripting our networks against CLIs forever and I will bet you most folks will consider it successful, even though it may be a pain. The article lists the pains, but not the reasons why. As a network industry, we have never ever considered the interaction with our network devices an API. Not in the true software engineering sense of an API.

There are many extremely complex clustered applications that rely entirely on exchanging information through APIs that are well documented, well versioned, well abstracted and properly promoted or deprecated. Creating and maintaining APIs is a real software engineering effort, a skill that requires true architecture, engineering and discipline. And we have not given our users anything close to it.

If we (that collective network industry) had truly considered our CLI an API, we would (and should) have been pushed aside a long time ago. The CLI is and always has been a simple interface for a human to tell a device what to do. It was not designed to be automated. It is not structured enough to be automated. Even large vendors have multiple flavors that are all industry standard, but all slightly different. And nowhere would you find a formal, full and complete dictionary of that CLI with all inputs, outputs, versions and options. The closest the network industry has had to a true API is SNMP, and that is indeed a very sad statement.

I think we have mentioned before that the networking industry is a bit slow to get to modern software engineering methods and practices, but the tide is changing. And whether you want to call it SDN or something else, the sheer volume and complexity of interaction with the network is pushing us to provide truly automated access to our devices and our networks.

And creating and maintaining APIs is far more than the technology used to access them. It does not matter whether its XML, JSON, REST, NETCONF or anything else. Those are definitions of how information is carried to and from the device and network. I can build a wonderful REST API that takes a CLI command as an argument and spits me back the output from that CLI command in some format. I am sure that sounds familiar to some, but this is not an API. Not in a truly meaningful way that would elevate our automation abilities.

Designing and implementing APIs is not trivial. Believe me, as an entirely API driven solution, we spend a tremendous amount of time discussing our APIs and abstractions to make sure they find that find balance between granularity, functionality, abstraction, scaling and a few other relevant qualifiers.  But the key is that they are part of any feature design from day one, they are part of the overarching architecture, not bolted on at the end. Our APIs are not perfect, there is no such thing, but they are modeled after the workflow of you the user doing the work required to keep the network running and thriving.

So when you need to configure MLAG on a set of Plexxi switches, we do not have a series of API calls to bundle ports together on a switch, give them a unique ID, then tie the switches together as an MLAG pair that shares that unique ID. Oh, and create an MLAG control channel between them, and make each of the switch local LAGs have the same set of VLANs on them. Our API will simply take a list of port objects from any amount of switches in a Plexxi network and turn them into an MLAG. An then you can simply take that entire entity and stick a VLAN on top, we will make sure the participating switches get the pieces they need. That is abstraction, that is workflow encapsulation, that is what APIs are supposed to give you. That is how simple LAG is supposed to be.

We have a long way to go as an industry to get to full APIs the way real software folks think about APIs. The CLI is not it. Scripting against a CLI (or a CLI hidden behind a layer of official sounding API terms) is a useful tool, but one that should be mostly retired to get to true programmable networks that are controlled by real controller (in the broadest definition of the word) using real APIs. Automation is not scripting.

[Today's fun fact: to make sure you do not think I am anti scripting, I once wrote a large chunk of a 10,000 line Perl4 system. It functioned very nicely for years as the RIPE database for IP address allocations back in the mid 90s. Thankfully it has since been tackled by real software engineers.]

The post Scripting is automation, but automation is not scripting appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Marten Terpstra

Marten Terpstra is a Product Management Director at Plexxi Inc. Marten has extensive knowledge of the architecture, design, deployment and management of enterprise and carrier networks.

Latest Stories
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.
SYS-CON Events announced today that Niagara Networks 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. Niagara Networks offers the highest port-density systems, and the most complete Next-Generation Network Visibility systems including Network Packet Brokers, Bypass Switches, and Network TAPs.
Cognitive Computing is becoming the foundation for a new generation of solutions that have the potential to transform business. Unlike traditional approaches to building solutions, a cognitive computing approach allows the data to help determine the way applications are designed. This contrasts with conventional software development that begins with defining logic based on the current way a business operates. In her session at 18th Cloud Expo, Judith S. Hurwitz, President and CEO of Hurwitz & ...
While DevOps promises a better and tighter integration among an organization’s development and operation teams and transforms an application life cycle into a continual deployment, Chef and Azure together provides a speedy, cost-effective and highly scalable vehicle for realizing the business values of this transformation. In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 19th Cloud Expo, Yung Chou, a Technology Evangelist at Microsoft, will present a unique opportunity to witness how Chef and Azure work tog...
SYS-CON Events announced today that ReadyTalk, a leading provider of online conferencing and webinar services, has been named Vendor Presentation Sponsor 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. ReadyTalk delivers audio and web conferencing services that inspire collaboration and enable the Future of Work for today’s increasingly digital and mobile workforce. By combining intuitive, innovative tec...
There is growing need for data-driven applications and the need for digital platforms to build these apps. In his session at 19th Cloud Expo, Muddu Sudhakar, VP and GM of Security & IoT at Splunk, will cover different PaaS solutions and Big Data platforms that are available to build applications. In addition, AI and machine learning are creating new requirements that developers need in the building of next-gen apps. The next-generation digital platforms have some of the past platform needs a...
Almost two-thirds of companies either have or soon will have IoT as the backbone of their business in 2016. However, IoT is far more complex than most firms expected. How can you not get trapped in the pitfalls? In his session at @ThingsExpo, Tony Shan, a renowned visionary and thought leader, will introduce a holistic method of IoTification, which is the process of IoTifying the existing technology and business models to adopt and leverage IoT. He will drill down to the components in this fra...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pulzze Systems 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. Pulzze Systems, Inc. provides infrastructure products for the Internet of Things to enable any connected device and system to carry out matched operations without programming. For more information, visit http://www.pulzzesystems.com.
I'm a lonely sensor. I spend all day telling the world how I'm feeling, but none of the other sensors seem to care. I want to be connected. I want to build relationships with other sensors to be more useful for my human. I want my human to understand that when my friends next door are too hot for a while, I'll soon be flaming. And when all my friends go outside without me, I may be left behind. Don't just log my data; use the relationship graph. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Ryan Boyd, Engi...
The Transparent Cloud-computing Consortium (abbreviation: T-Cloud Consortium) will conduct research activities into changes in the computing model as a result of collaboration between "device" and "cloud" and the creation of new value and markets through organic data processing High speed and high quality networks, and dramatic improvements in computer processing capabilities, have greatly changed the nature of applications and made the storing and processing of data on the network commonplace.
In his general session at 18th Cloud Expo, Lee Atchison, Principal Cloud Architect and Advocate at New Relic, discussed cloud as a ‘better data center’ and how it adds new capacity (faster) and improves application availability (redundancy). The cloud is a ‘Dynamic Tool for Dynamic Apps’ and resource allocation is an integral part of your application architecture, so use only the resources you need and allocate /de-allocate resources on the fly.
Using new techniques of information modeling, indexing, and processing, new cloud-based systems can support cloud-based workloads previously not possible for high-throughput insurance, banking, and case-based applications. In his session at 18th Cloud Expo, John Newton, CTO, Founder and Chairman of Alfresco, described how to scale cloud-based content management repositories to store, manage, and retrieve billions of documents and related information with fast and linear scalability. He addres...
From wearable activity trackers to fantasy e-sports, data and technology are transforming the way athletes train for the game and fans engage with their teams. In his session at @ThingsExpo, will present key data findings from leading sports organizations San Francisco 49ers, Orlando Magic NBA team. By utilizing data analytics these sports orgs have recognized new revenue streams, doubled its fan base and streamlined costs at its stadiums. John Paul is the CEO and Founder of VenueNext. Prior ...
SYS-CON Events announced today that Numerex Corp, a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT), will exhibit at the 19th International Cloud Expo | @ThingsExpo, which will take place on November 1–3, 2016, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Numerex Corp. (NASDAQ:NMRX) is a leading provider of managed enterprise solutions enabling the Internet of Things (IoT). The Company's solutions produce new revenue streams or create operating...
WebRTC adoption has generated a wave of creative uses of communications and collaboration through websites, sales apps, customer care and business applications. As WebRTC has become more mainstream it has evolved to use cases beyond the original peer-to-peer case, which has led to a repeating requirement for interoperability with existing infrastructures. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Graham Holt, Executive Vice President of Daitan Group, will cover implementation examples that have enabled ea...