|By Derick Winkworth||
|August 5, 2014 02:00 PM EDT||
In a previous article, we talked about “Short T’s.” We talked about how, in network engineering, the “T” is very long: Configuring a network to achieve business goals requires considerable skill and knowledge. While we set up a conceptual model in that post to talk about what “T” means in general terms, we did not discuss in detail how to articulate “T” more specifically for network engineering. In this post, we’ll explore this in a little more detail.
The NetEng Cycle
Network Engineering workflow can be characterized by overlapping cycles of Activity and Modeling. In figure 1, I have depicted 4 cycles. From smallest timescale to largest, these are called: 1. Referential Traversal, 2. Interactive, 3. Design, and 4. Architecture. The crest of each of these cycles is “Activity” and the trough is “Modeling.” Modeling on the smaller cycles is simple and correlative, while on the larger cycles it is more abstract and analytical. Activity on the smaller cycles is characterized by direct interactivity with the network, while on larger scales it is indirect and more design oriented.
As is implied from the diagram, a network engineer will oscillate between activities and modeling. For instance, in the interactive cycle, they may configure a QoS classification policy, but then immediately issue show commands to see if traffic is being classified appropriately. Configuring a policy and issuing of show commands are activities, but the show commands start to transition into modeling. The engineer is attempting to model the immediate effect of the changes they have made. Based on this modeling of “how things are,” the engineer might start thinking about modifications to the classification policy to bring the operation of the network closer to an expected model of “how things should be.” As far as it is possible to do so, an attempt might be made to model “how things will be” to check for possible side effects. The cycle, then, repeats.
However, which show commands should they use to accurately model how the configuration is actually working? If you were to write down the exact sequence of commands, you might find that the engineer is taking data from the output of the first command and using that as either input into the second command, or as a point of reference while examining output from the second command. The output from the second command might be, in turn, used similarly when executing a third show command. This is what is called Referential Traversal. Referential Traversal is when a network engineer engages in iterative data correlation in support of a workflow. In the context of a workflow, this data represents that workflow’s state.
Another well known referential traversal is doing a manual packet-walk of the network: Examining nodes along the way to determine if there is a potential issue along the path between two endpoints on the edge of the network. Here, the engineer will examine lookup tables, arp entries, and LLDP neighbor information, jumping from one node to the next. This particular workflow can tangent in tricky ways such as examining when and what configuration changes were made to see if they could impact traffic between those two endpoints. When tangenting into examination of a device configuration, you enter a different set of correlated data: A route-map applied to an interface can, in turn, reference access-lists or prefix-lists. The rules for evaluating packet flow through a policy follows different logic than the general rules for packet flow across a series of devices.
If you take the set of rules, relationships, and data points from “configuration space” and the rules, relationships, and data points from the “forwarding space,” and you combine them with all other such spaces that a network engineer must deal with in the course of their activities, the sum of these is called “referential space” (See Figure 2). A network engineering workflow will follow some referential path through this space, examining data and following it’s relationships to yet other data. There are numerous interconnected spaces in the management, control, forwarding, and device planes of a network each with their own logic and types of data. There are more abstract spaces as well, such as a “design” space that contains the rules and relationships that govern network design. A network engineer’s expertise is measured by how well they can navigate referential space in support of longer time-scale cycles.
Enablement versus Obviation
The challenge of networking, and the reason that automation (and UX/UI for that matter) has not evolved terribly well, is that these referential paths vary greatly based on what the network engineer is trying to do and how a particular network is built. There is a vast set of rules governing the many relationships that exist between the seemingly infinite array of data types. The dynamic nature of referential traversal, and the intimidating size of referential space, should justify a healthy skepticism of vendors claiming to encapsulate network complexity or automate network workflows. More often than not, they are simply moving the complexity around, while making it more difficult to navigate in the process.
It’s long since overdue to move innovation in networking towards enabling network engineers to be more effective instead of trying to obviate them. Unlike the past, this should happen with a keen understanding of what network engineers actually do and how they think through their activities. We can augment these activities to reduce time-to-completion, and reduce time-to-insight while at the same reducing risk and increasing accountability. There are many networking workflows, which after 20 years, are still notoriously difficult and risky to model and complete. Let’s solve these problems first.
Make Things Better
As a network engineer, how many times have you heard about the glorious wonders of a product that automates networking or encapsulates network complexity in some way? After 20 years, we have been trained to identify this language as snake-oil, or perhaps a little nicer, “marketing speak.” When we buy into these products or features, it’s always just a matter of time before they go unused, or the ugly realities of their operation surfaces.
Encapsulating network complexity, or automating network workflows, can’t just be about “faster.” That’s only part of the problem. It has to make things “better.” This can only happen with a deeper understanding of referential space.
SYS-CON Events announced today that IceWarp will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. IceWarp, the leader of cloud and on-premise messaging, delivers secured email, chat, documents, conferencing and collaboration to today's mobile workforce, all in one unified interface
Sep. 1, 2015 03:00 PM EDT Reads: 439
In his session at @ThingsExpo, Lee Williams, a producer of the first smartphones and tablets, will talk about how he is now applying his experience in mobile technology to the design and development of the next generation of Environmental and Sustainability Services at ETwater. He will explain how M2M controllers work through wirelessly connected remote controls; and specifically delve into a retrofit option that reverse-engineers control codes of existing conventional controller systems so they don't have to be replaced and are instantly converted to become smart, connected devices.
Sep. 1, 2015 02:45 PM EDT Reads: 136
The Internet of Things is in the early stages of mainstream deployment but it promises to unlock value and rapidly transform how organizations manage, operationalize, and monetize their assets. IoT is a complex structure of hardware, sensors, applications, analytics and devices that need to be able to communicate geographically and across all functions. Once the data is collected from numerous endpoints, the challenge then becomes converting it into actionable insight.
Sep. 1, 2015 01:00 PM EDT
With the proliferation of connected devices underpinning new Internet of Things systems, Brandon Schulz, Director of Luxoft IoT – Retail, will be looking at the transformation of the retail customer experience in brick and mortar stores in his session at @ThingsExpo. Questions he will address include: Will beacons drop to the wayside like QR codes, or be a proximity-based profit driver? How will the customer experience change in stores of all types when everything can be instrumented and analyzed? As an area of investment, how might a retail company move towards an innovation methodolo...
Sep. 1, 2015 12:45 PM EDT Reads: 474
SYS-CON Events announced today that HPM Networks will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. For 20 years, HPM Networks has been integrating technology solutions that solve complex business challenges. HPM Networks has designed solutions for both SMB and enterprise customers throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.
Sep. 1, 2015 12:30 PM EDT Reads: 909
Consumer IoT applications provide data about the user that just doesn’t exist in traditional PC or mobile web applications. This rich data, or “context,” enables the highly personalized consumer experiences that characterize many consumer IoT apps. This same data is also providing brands with unprecedented insight into how their connected products are being used, while, at the same time, powering highly targeted engagement and marketing opportunities. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Nathan Treloar, President and COO of Bebaio, will explore examples of brands transforming their businesses by t...
Sep. 1, 2015 12:15 PM EDT Reads: 249
SYS-CON Events announced today that Pythian, a global IT services company specializing in helping companies leverage disruptive technologies to optimize revenue-generating systems, has been named “Bronze Sponsor” of SYS-CON's 17th Cloud Expo, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Founded in 1997, Pythian is a global IT services company that helps companies compete by adopting disruptive technologies such as cloud, Big Data, advanced analytics, and DevOps to advance innovation and increase agility. Specializing in designing, imple...
Sep. 1, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 321
Through WebRTC, audio and video communications are being embedded more easily than ever into applications, helping carriers, enterprises and independent software vendors deliver greater functionality to their end users. With today’s business world increasingly focused on outcomes, users’ growing calls for ease of use, and businesses craving smarter, tighter integration, what’s the next step in delivering a richer, more immersive experience? That richer, more fully integrated experience comes about through a Communications Platform as a Service which allows for messaging, screen sharing, video...
Sep. 1, 2015 11:45 AM EDT Reads: 673
As more and more data is generated from a variety of connected devices, the need to get insights from this data and predict future behavior and trends is increasingly essential for businesses. Real-time stream processing is needed in a variety of different industries such as Manufacturing, Oil and Gas, Automobile, Finance, Online Retail, Smart Grids, and Healthcare. Azure Stream Analytics is a fully managed distributed stream computation service that provides low latency, scalable processing of streaming data in the cloud with an enterprise grade SLA. It features built-in integration with Azur...
Sep. 1, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 229
SYS-CON Events announced today that Micron Technology, Inc., a global leader in advanced semiconductor systems, will exhibit at the 17th International Cloud Expo®, which will take place on November 3–5, 2015, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA. Micron’s broad portfolio of high-performance memory technologies – including DRAM, NAND and NOR Flash – is the basis for solid state drives, modules, multichip packages and other system solutions. Backed by more than 35 years of technology leadership, Micron's memory solutions enable the world's most innovative computing, consumer,...
Sep. 1, 2015 09:45 AM EDT Reads: 242
Contrary to mainstream media attention, the multiple possibilities of how consumer IoT will transform our everyday lives aren’t the only angle of this headline-gaining trend. There’s a huge opportunity for “industrial IoT” and “Smart Cities” to impact the world in the same capacity – especially during critical situations. For example, a community water dam that needs to release water can leverage embedded critical communications logic to alert the appropriate individuals, on the right device, as soon as they are needed to take action.
Sep. 1, 2015 09:00 AM EDT
As more intelligent IoT applications shift into gear, they’re merging into the ever-increasing traffic flow of the Internet. It won’t be long before we experience bottlenecks, as IoT traffic peaks during rush hours. Organizations that are unprepared will find themselves by the side of the road unable to cross back into the fast lane. As billions of new devices begin to communicate and exchange data – will your infrastructure be scalable enough to handle this new interconnected world?
Sep. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 168
While many app developers are comfortable building apps for the smartphone, there is a whole new world out there. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Narayan Sainaney, Co-founder and CTO of Mojio, will discuss how the business case for connected car apps is growing and, with open platform companies having already done the heavy lifting, there really is no barrier to entry.
Sep. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EDT Reads: 147
With the Apple Watch making its way onto wrists all over the world, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a staple in the workplace. In fact, Forrester reported that 68 percent of technology and business decision-makers characterize wearables as a top priority for 2015. Recognizing their business value early on, FinancialForce.com was the first to bring ERP to wearables, helping streamline communication across front and back office functions. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Kevin Roberts, GM of Platform at FinancialForce.com, will discuss the value of business applications on wearable ...
Sep. 1, 2015 08:00 AM EDT
WebRTC has had a real tough three or four years, and so have those working with it. Only a few short years ago, the development world were excited about WebRTC and proclaiming how awesome it was. You might have played with the technology a couple of years ago, only to find the extra infrastructure requirements were painful to implement and poorly documented. This probably left a bitter taste in your mouth, especially when things went wrong.
Sep. 1, 2015 03:00 AM EDT Reads: 466
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.
Aug. 31, 2015 09:00 PM EDT Reads: 381
The Internet of Things (IoT) is about the digitization of physical assets including sensors, devices, machines, gateways, and the network. It creates possibilities for significant value creation and new revenue generating business models via data democratization and ubiquitous analytics across IoT networks. The explosion of data in all forms in IoT requires a more robust and broader lens in order to enable smarter timely actions and better outcomes. Business operations become the key driver of IoT applications and projects. Business operations, IT, and data scientists need advanced analytics t...
Aug. 31, 2015 02:30 PM EDT Reads: 427
Akana has announced the availability of the new Akana Healthcare Solution. The API-driven solution helps healthcare organizations accelerate their transition to being secure, digitally interoperable businesses. It leverages the Health Level Seven International Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (HL7 FHIR) standard to enable broader business use of medical data. Akana developed the Healthcare Solution in response to healthcare businesses that want to increase electronic, multi-device access to health records while reducing operating costs and complying with government regulations.
Aug. 26, 2015 07:00 AM EDT Reads: 200
For IoT to grow as quickly as analyst firms’ project, a lot is going to fall on developers to quickly bring applications to market. But the lack of a standard development platform threatens to slow growth and make application development more time consuming and costly, much like we’ve seen in the mobile space. In his session at @ThingsExpo, Mike Weiner, Product Manager of the Omega DevCloud with KORE Telematics Inc., discussed the evolving requirements for developers as IoT matures and conducted a live demonstration of how quickly application development can happen when the need to comply wit...
Aug. 2, 2015 11:15 AM EDT Reads: 560
The Internet of Everything (IoE) brings together people, process, data and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before – transforming information into knowledge and knowledge into wisdom. IoE creates new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented opportunities to improve business and government operations, decision making and mission support capabilities.
Aug. 1, 2015 10:00 AM EDT Reads: 493