Networking is going through a culture shift.
A shift that involves looking at processes, principles, and how networking fits in with the IT organization.
As IT continues to adopt the DevOps culture, which values automation, networking needs to do the same. Cloud infrastructure is making this shift possible. So are advancements in networking technology.
At Datapath.io, we feel there is a necessary shift in networking needed. One towards NetDevOps. This is the adoption of the DevOps mindset in networking. It is the foundation to achieve network automation. Automation begins with a willingness and desire.
To get to automation, we need to look at four steps that help make automation in networking possible.
Infrastructure as Code
DevOps works by making a shift to infrastructure as code. This is most prevalent in using Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS, like other cloud providers, makes it easy to make remote infrastructure changes.
We see this with the adoption of AWS CloudFormation. CloudFormation allows you to simply change your infrastructure stack. This same concept applies to Bare Metal servers and networking. Networking has gone through two technological changes. Both make the NetDevOps and network automation conversation possible.
The changes are software defined networking and network functions virtualization. Both concepts use infrastructure as code to make networking better.
Software Defined Networking
Software defined networking (SDN) allows network engineers to make remote network changes. Writing code to change network routers and network switches. No longer having to use one off scripts for individual router configurations.
The SDN movement was only made possible recently. Possible from a necessary change in networking technology. The change was running open source software on network switches. The concept of white-box switches.
OpenFlow, which we use at Datapath.io, is part of this shift. Also, Cisco now provides white-box switch opportunities. Before this change, you had to run proprietary software on proprietary hardware. This is like the Apple model of MacOS on a MacBook.
This change also brought a new way to build out network infrastructure. Network functions virtualization.
Network Functions Virtualization
Network functions virtualization (NFV) is a concept for building and managing network infrastructure. It separates the network into three categories: infrastructure, functions, and management.
The three categories are important to the network automation conversation. Network automation begins in network design. With network infrastructure, building with white-box switches will make running SDN possible. SDN becomes the technological way to implement automation.
Functions is where SDN technology fits in with NFV. Management is where network automation takes place.
Using NFV, the remaining piece of the puzzle is the cultural shift around automation. It took the DevOps movement time to come together around this concept. Networking is now experiencing the same change. That is why NetDevOps is the answer.
Build a NetDevOps Culture
NetDevOps is a cultural shift. Although the concepts are theoretical, they need to provide the foundation for tactics.
The NetDevOps cultural shift calls for bringing the DevOps mindset to networking. This is a mindset of network automation. A mindset to increase productivity, improve work quality, and network optimization.
These four steps are the road to automation.
Work Towards Network Automation
Once the organization has adopted NetDevOps, which requires the adoption of infrastructure as code, SDN, and NFV, automation is possible.
Currently, most network automation is for firewall management. The reality is that it can be used for so much more. You can use it to:
- Prevent “fat fingers”
- Eliminate repetitive tasks
- Deliver code
- Reproduce and dispose of things
NetDevOps also makes networking align better with the rest of the DevOps organization. Making IT more efficient.
Working towards network automation can be a long process. Using NetDevOps is the best starting point for the implementation of automation in networking.