SYS-CON MEDIA Authors: Elizabeth White, Liz McMillan, Pat Romanski, Esmeralda Swartz, Kevin Jackson

Related Topics: SDN Journal, Virtualization, Cloud Expo

SDN Journal: Blog Feed Post

Abstracting vs Ignoring

The primary goal of abstraction is to break something down into its most essential elements

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?]

The post Abstracting vs Ignoring appeared first on Plexxi.

Read the original blog entry...

More Stories By Michael Bushong

The best marketing efforts leverage deep technology understanding with a highly-approachable means of communicating. Plexxi's Vice President of Marketing Michael Bushong has acquired these skills having spent 12 years at Juniper Networks where he led product management, product strategy and product marketing organizations for Juniper's flagship operating system, Junos. Michael spent the last several years at Juniper leading their SDN efforts across both service provider and enterprise markets. Prior to Juniper, Michael spent time at database supplier Sybase, and ASIC design tool companies Synopsis and Magma Design Automation. Michael's undergraduate work at the University of California Berkeley in advanced fluid mechanics and heat transfer lend new meaning to the marketing phrase "This isn't rocket science."

Latest Stories
“DevOps is really about the business. The business is under pressure today, competitively in the marketplace to respond to the expectations of the customer. The business is driving IT and the problem is that IT isn't responding fast enough," explained Mark Levy, Senior Product Marketing Manager at Serena Software, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"SOASTA built the concept of cloud testing in 2008. It's grown from rather meager beginnings to where now we are provisioning hundreds of thousands of servers on a daily basis on behalf of customers around the world to test their applications," explained Tom Lounibos, CEO of SOASTA, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at DevOps Summit, held Nov 4–6, 2014, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
SYS-CON Events announced today that ActiveState, the leading independent Cloud Foundry and Docker-based PaaS provider, has been named “Silver Sponsor” of SYS-CON's DevOps Summit New York, which will take place June 9-11, 2015, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY. ActiveState believes that enterprises gain a competitive advantage when they are able to quickly create, deploy and efficiently manage software solutions that immediately create business value, but they face many challenges that ...
“This win means a great deal to us because it is decided by the readers – the people who understand how use of our technology enables new insights that drive the business,” said Matt Davies, senior director, EMEA marketing, Splunk. “Splunk Enterprise enables organizations to improve service levels, reduce operations costs, mitigate security risks, enhance DevOps collaboration, create new product and service offerings and obtain deeper insight into customer behavior. Being named Best Business App...
The Industrial Internet revolution is now underway, enabled by connected machines and billions of devices that communicate and collaborate. The massive amounts of Big Data requiring real-time analysis is flooding legacy IT systems and giving way to cloud environments that can handle the unpredictable workloads. Yet many barriers remain until we can fully realize the opportunities and benefits from the convergence of machines and devices with Big Data and the cloud, including interoperability, ...
The move in recent years to cloud computing services and architectures has added significant pace to the application development and deployment environment. When enterprise IT can spin up large computing instances in just minutes, developers can also design and deploy in small time frames that were unimaginable a few years ago. The consequent move toward lean, agile, and fast development leads to the need for the development and operations sides to work very closely together. Thus, DevOps become...
SYS-CON Media announced that Cisco, a worldwide leader in IT that helps companies seize the opportunities of tomorrow, has launched a new ad campaign in Cloud Computing Journal. The ad campaign, a webcast titled 'Is Your Data Center Ready for the Application Economy?', focuses on the latest data center networking technologies, including SDN or ACI, and how customers are using SDN and ACI in their organizations to achieve business agility. The Cisco webcast is available on-demand.
Datapipe has acquired GoGrid, a provider of multi-cloud solutions for Big Data deployments. GoGrid’s proprietary orchestration and automation technologies provide 1-Button deployment for Big Data solutions that speed creation and results of new cloud projects. “GoGrid has made it easy for companies to stand up Big Data solutions quickly,” said Robb Allen, CEO, Datapipe. “Datapipe customers will achieve significant value from the speed at which we can now create new Big Data projects in the clou...
IoT is still a vague buzzword for many people. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Kavis, Vice President & Principal Cloud Architect at Cloud Technology Partners, discussed the business value of IoT that goes far beyond the general public's perception that IoT is all about wearables and home consumer services. He also discussed how IoT is perceived by investors and how venture capitalist access this space. Other topics discussed were barriers to success, what is new, what is old, and what th...
The Internet of Things (IoT) is rapidly in the process of breaking from its heretofore relatively obscure enterprise applications (such as plant floor control and supply chain management) and going mainstream into the consumer space. More and more creative folks are interconnecting everyday products such as household items, mobile devices, appliances and cars, and unleashing new and imaginative scenarios. We are seeing a lot of excitement around applications in home automation, personal fitness,...
Security can create serious friction for DevOps processes. We've come up with an approach to alleviate the friction and provide security value to DevOps teams. In her session at DevOps Summit, Shannon Lietz, Senior Manager of DevSecOps at Intuit, will discuss how DevSecOps got started and how it has evolved. Shannon Lietz has over two decades of experience pursuing next generation security solutions. She is currently the DevSecOps Leader for Intuit where she is responsible for setting and driv...
Dale Kim is the Director of Industry Solutions at MapR. His background includes a variety of technical and management roles at information technology companies. While his experience includes work with relational databases, much of his career pertains to non-relational data in the areas of search, content management, and NoSQL, and includes senior roles in technical marketing, sales engineering, and support engineering. Dale holds an MBA from Santa Clara University, and a BA in Computer Science f...
The Internet of Things (IoT) promises to evolve the way the world does business; however, understanding how to apply it to your company can be a mystery. Most people struggle with understanding the potential business uses or tend to get caught up in the technology, resulting in solutions that fail to meet even minimum business goals. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Jesse Shiah, CEO / President / Co-Founder of AgilePoint Inc., showed what is needed to leverage the IoT to transform your business. ...
SYS-CON Media announced today that PagerDuty has launched a popular blog feed on DevOps Journal. DevOps Journal is focused on this critical enterprise IT topic in the world of cloud computing. DevOps Journal brings valuable information to DevOps professionals who are transforming the way enterprise IT is done.
Things are being built upon cloud foundations to transform organizations. This CEO Power Panel at 15th Cloud Expo, moderated by Roger Strukhoff, Cloud Expo and @ThingsExpo conference chair, addressed the big issues involving these technologies and, more important, the results they will achieve. Rodney Rogers, chairman and CEO of Virtustream; Brendan O'Brien, co-founder of Aria Systems, Bart Copeland, president and CEO of ActiveState Software; Jim Cowie, chief scientist at Dyn; Dave Wagstaff, VP ...