Network Enhancers - "Delivering Beyond Boundaries" Headline Animator

Monday, September 29, 2014


Courtesy - MARK MANSON
“I spent my 20s recklessly, but your 30s should be when you make a big financial push. Retirement planning is not something to put off. Understanding boring things like insurance, 401ks & mortgages is important since its all on your shoulders now. Educate yourself.” (Kash, 41)
The most common piece of advice — so common that almost every single email said at least something about it — was to start getting your financial house in order and to start saving for retirement… today.
There were a few categories this advice fell into:
  • Make it your top priority to pay down all of your debt as soon as possible.
  • Keep an “emergency fund” — there were tons of horror stories about people getting financially ruined by health issues, lawsuits, divorces, bad business deals, etc.
  • Stash away a portion of every paycheck, preferably into a 401k, an IRA or at the least, a savings account.
  • Don’t spend frivolously. Don’t buy a home unless you can afford to get a good mortgage with good rates.
  • Don’t invest in anything you don’t understand. Don’t trust stockbrokers.
One reader said, “If you are in debt more than 10% of your gross annual salary this is a huge red flag. Quit spending, pay off your debt and start saving.” Another wrote, “I would have saved more money in an emergency fund because unexpected expenses really killed my budget. I would have been more diligent about a retirement fund, because now mine looks pretty small.”

And then there were the readers who were just completely screwed by their inability to save in their 30s. One reader named Jodi wishes she had started saving 10% of every paycheck when she was 30. Her career took a turn for the worst and now she’s stuck at 57, still living paycheck to paycheck. Another woman, age 62, didn’t save because her husband out-earned her. They later got divorced and she soon ran into health problems, draining all of the money she received in the divorce settlement. She, too, now lives paycheck to paycheck, slowly waiting for the day social security kicks in. Another man related a story of having to be supported by his son because he didn’t save and unexpectedly lost his job in the 2008 crash.
The point was clear: save early and save as much as possible. One woman emailed me saying that she had worked low-wage jobs with two kids in her 30s and still managed to sock away some money in a retirement fund each year. Because she started early and invested wisely, she is now in her 50s and financially stable for the first time in her life. Her point: it’s always possible. You just have to do it.
“Your mind’s acceptance of age is 10 to 15 years behind your body’s aging. Your health will go faster than you think but it will be very hard to notice, not the least because you don’t want it to happen.” (Tom, 55)
We all know to take care of our health. We all know to eat better and sleep better and exercise more and blah, blah, blah. But just as with the retirement savings, the response from the older readers was loud and unanimous: get healthy and stay healthy now.
So many people said it that I’m not even going to bother quoting anybody else. Their points were pretty much all the same: the way you treat your body has a cumulative effect; it’s not that your body suddenly breaks down one year, it’s been breaking down all along without you noticing. This is the decade to slow down that breakage.

The key to salad is to laugh while eating it.

And this wasn’t just your typical motherly advice to eat your veggies. These were emails from cancer survivors, heart attack survivors, stroke survivors, people with diabetes and blood pressure problems, joint issues and chronic pain. They all said the same thing: “If I could go back, I would start eating better and exercising and I would not stop. I made excuses then. But I had no idea.”
“Learn how to say “no” to people, activities and obligations that don’t bring value to your life.” (Hayley, 37)
After calls to take care of your health and your finances, the most common piece of advice from people looking back at their 30-year-old selves was an interesting one: they would go back and enforce stronger boundaries in their lives and dedicate their time to better people. “Setting healthy boundaries is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself or another person.” (Kristen, 43)
What does that mean specifically?
“Don’t tolerate people who don’t treat you well. Period. Don’t tolerate them for financial reasons. Don’t tolerate them for emotional reasons. Don’t tolerate them for the children’s sake or for convenience sake.” (Jane, 52)
“Don’t settle for mediocre friends, jobs, love, relationships and life.” (Sean, 43)
“Stay away from miserable people… they will consume you, drain you.” (Gabriella, 43)
“Surround yourself and only date people that make you a better version of yourself, that bring out your best parts, love and accept you.” (Xochie)
People typically struggle with boundaries because they find it difficult to hurt someone else’s feelings, or they get caught up in the desire to change the other person or make them treat them the way they want to be treated. This never works. And in fact, it often makes it worse. As one reader wisely said, “Selfishness and self-interest are two different things. Sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.”
When we’re in our 20s, the world is so open to opportunity and we’re so short on experience that we cling to the people we meet, even if they’ve done nothing to earn our clingage. But by our 30s we’ve learned that good relationships are hard to come by, that there’s no shortage of people to meet and friends to be made, and that there’s no reason to waste our time with people who don’t help us on our life’s path.
“Show up with and for your friends. You matter, and your presence matters.” (Jessica, 40)
Conversely, while enforcing stricter boundaries on who we let into our lives, many readers advised to make the time for those friends and family that we do decide to keep close.
“I think sometimes I may have taken some relationships for granted, and when that person is gone, they’re gone. Unfortunately, the older you get, well, things start to happen, and it will affect those closest to you.” (Ed, 45)
“Appreciate those close to you. You can get money back and jobs back, but you can never get time back.” (Anne, 41)
“Tragedy happens in everyone’s life, everyone’s circle of family and friends. Be the person that others can count on when it does. I think that between 30 and 40 is the decade when a lot of shit finally starts to happen that you might have thought never would happen to you or those you love. Parents die, spouses die, babies are still-born, friends get divorced, spouses cheat… the list goes on and on. Helping someone through these times by simply being there, listening and not judging is an honor and will deepen your relationships in ways you probably can’t yet imagine.” (Rebecca, 40)
“Everything in life is a trade-off. You give up one thing to get another and you can’t have it all. Accept that.” (Eldri, 60)
In our 20s we have a lot of dreams. We believe that we have all of the time in the world. I myself remember having illusions that my website would be my first career of many. Little did I know that it took the better part of a decade to even get competent at this. And now that I’m competent and have a major advantage and love what I do, why would I ever trade that in for another career?
“In a word: focus. You can simply get more done in life if you focus on one thing and do it really well. Focus more.” (Ericson, 49)
Another reader: “I would tell myself to focus on one or two goals/aspirations/dreams and really work towards them. Don’t get distracted.” And another: “You have to accept that you cannot do everything. It takes a lot of sacrifice to achieve anything special in life.”
A few readers noted that most people arbitrarily choose their careers in their late teens or early 20s, and as with many of our choices at those ages, they are often wrong choices. It takes years to figure out what we’re good at and what we enjoy doing. But it’s better to focus on our primary strengths and maximize them over the course of lifetime than to half-ass something else.
“I’d tell my 30 year old self to set aside what other people think and identify my natural strengths and what I’m passionate about, and then build a life around those.” (Sara, 58)
For some people, this will mean taking big risks, even in their 30s and beyond. It may mean ditching a career they spent a decade building and giving up money they worked hard for and became accustomed to. Which brings us to…
“While by age 30 most feel they should have their career dialed in, it is never too late to reset. The individuals that I have seen with the biggest regrets during this decade are those that stay in something that they know is not right. It is such an easy decade to have the days turn to weeks to years, only to wake up at 40 with a mid-life crisis for not taking action on a problem they were aware of 10 years prior but failed to act.” (Richard, 41)
“Biggest regrets I have are almost exclusively things I did *not* do.” (Sam, 47)
Many readers commented on how society tells us that by 30 we should have things “figured out” — our career situation, our dating/marriage situation, our financial situation and so on. But this isn’t true. And, in fact, dozens and dozens of readers implored to not let these social expectations of “being an adult” deter you from taking some major risks and starting over. As someone on my Facebook page responded: “All adults are winging it.”
“I am about to turn 41 and would tell my 30 year old self that you do not have to conform your life to an ideal that you do not believe in. Live your life, don’t let it live you. Don’t be afraid of tearing it all down if you have to, you have the power to build it all back up again.” (Lisa, 41)
Multiple readers related making major career changes in their 30s and being better off for doing so. One left a lucrative job as a military engineer to become a teacher. Twenty years later, he called it one of the best decisions of his life. When I asked my mom this question, her answer was, “I wish I had been willing to think outside the box a bit more. Your dad and I kind of figured we had to do thing A, thing B, thing C, but looking back I realize we didn’t have to at all; we were very narrow in our thinking and our lifestyles and I kind of regret that.”

“Less fear. Less fear. Less fear. I am about to turn 50 next year, and I am just getting that lesson. Fear was such a detrimental driving force in my life at 30. It impacted my marriage, my career, my self-image in a fiercely negative manner. I was guilty of: Assuming conversations that others might be having about me. Thinking that I might fail. Wondering what the outcome might be. If I could do it again, I would have risked more.” (Aida, 49)
“You have two assets that you can never get back once you’ve lost them: your body and your mind. Most people stop growing and working on themselves in their 20s. Most people in their 30s are too busy to worry about self-improvement. But if you’re one of the few who continues to educate themselves, evolve their thinking and take care of their mental and physical health, you will be light-years ahead of the pack by 40.” (Stan, 48)
It follows that if one can still change in their 30s — and should continue to change in their 30s — then one must continue to work to improve and grow. Many readers related the choice of going back to school and getting their degrees in their 30s as one of the most useful things they had ever done. Others talked of taking extra seminars and courses to get a leg up. Others started their first businesses or moved to new countries. Others checked themselves into therapy or began a meditation practice.
As Warren Buffett once said, the greatest investment a young person can make is in their own education, in their own mind. Because money comes and goes. Relationships come and go. But what you learn once stays with you forever.
“The number one goal should be to try to become a better person, partner, parent, friend, colleague etc. — in other words to grow as an individual.” (Aimilia, 39)
“Unless you are already dead — mentally, emotionally, and socially — you cannot anticipate your life 5 years into the future. It will not develop as you expect. So just stop it. Stop assuming you can plan far ahead, stop obsessing about what is happening right now because it will change anyway, and get over the control issue about your life’s direction. Fortunately, because this is true, you can take even more chances and not lose anything; you cannot lose what you never had. Besides, most feelings of loss are in your mind anyway – few matter in the long term.”(Thomas, 56)
In my article about what I learned in my 20s, one of my lessons was “Nobody Knows What They’re Doing,” and that this was good news. Well, according to the 40+ crowd, this continues to be true in one’s 30s and, well, forever it seems; and it continues to be good news forever as well.
“Most of what you think is important now will seem unimportant in 10 or 20 years and that’s OK. That’s called growth. Just try to remember to not take yourself so seriously all the time and be open to it.” (Simon, 57)
“Despite feeling somewhat invincible for the last decade, you really don’t know what’s going to happen and neither does anyone else, no matter how confidently they talk. While this is disturbing to those who cling to permanence or security, it’s truly liberating once you grasp the truth that things are always changing. To finish, there might be times that are really sad. Don’t dull the pain or avoid it. Sorrow is part of everyone’s lifetime and the consequence of an open and passionate heart. Honor that. Above all, be kind to yourself and others, it’s such a brilliant and beautiful ride and keeps on getting better.” (Prue, 38)
“I’m 44. I would remind my 30 year old self that at 40, my 30s would be equally filled with dumb stuff, different stuff, but still dumb stuff… So, 30 year old self, don’t go getting on your high horse. You STILL don’t know it all. And that’s a good thing.” (Shirley, 44)
“Spend more time with your folks. It’s a different relationship when you’re an adult and it’s up to you how you redefine your interactions. They are always going to see you as their kid until the moment you can make them see you as your own man. Everyone gets old. Everyone dies. Take advantage of the time you have left to set things right and enjoy your family.” (Kash, 41)
I was overwhelmed with amount of responses about family and the power of those responses. Family is the big new relevant topic for this decade for me, because you get it on both ends. Your parents are old and you need to start considering how your relationship with them is going to function as a self-sufficient adult. And then you also need to contemplate creating a family of your own.
Pretty much everybody agreed to get over whatever problems you have with your parents and find a way to make it work with them. One reader wrote, “You’re too old to blame your parents for any of your own short-comings now. At 20 you could get away with it, you’d just left the house. At 30, you’re a grown-up. Seriously. Move on.”
But then there’s the question that plagues every single 30-year-old: to baby or not to baby?
“You don’t have the time. You don’t have the money. You need to perfect your career first. They’ll end your life as you know it. Oh shut up… Kids are great. They make you better in every way. They push you to your limits. They make you happy. You should not defer having kids. If you are 30, now is the time to get real about this. You will never regret it.” (Kevin, 38)
“It’s never the ‘right time’ for children because you have no idea what you’re getting into until you have one. If you have a good marriage and environment to raise them, err on having them earlier rather than later, you’ll get to enjoy more of them.” (Cindy, 45)
“All my preconceived notions about what a married life is like were wrong. Unless you’ve already been married, everyone’s are. Especially once you have kids. Try to stay open to the experience and fluid as a person; your marriage is worth it, and your happiness seems as much tied to your ability to change and adapt as anything else. I wasn’t planning on having kids. From a purely selfish perspective, this was the dumbest thing of all. Children are the most fulfilling, challenging, and exhausting endeavor anyone can ever undertake. Ever.” (Rich, 44)
The consensus about marriage seemed to be that it was worth it, assuming you had a healthy relationship with the right person. If not, you should run the other way (See #3).
But interestingly, I got a number of emails like the following:
“What I know now vs 10-13 years ago is simply this… bars, woman, beaches, drink after drink, clubs, bottle service, trips to different cities because I had no responsibility other than work, etc… I would trade every memory of that life for a good woman that was actually in love with me… and maybe a family. I would add, don’t forget to actually grow up and start a family and take on responsibilities other than success at work. I am still having a little bit of fun… but sometimes when I go out, I feel like the guy that kept coming back to high school after he graduated (think Matthew McConaughey’s character in Dazed and Confused). I see people in love and on dates everywhere. “Everyone” my age is in their first or second marriage by now! Being perpetually single sounds amazing to all of my married friends but it is not the way one should choose to live their life.” (Anonymous, 43)
“I would have told myself to stop constantly searching for the next best thing and I would have appreciated the relationships that I had with some of the good, genuine guys that truly cared for me. Now I’m always alone and it feels too late.” (Fara, 38)
On the flip side, there were a small handful of emails that took the other side of the coin:
“Don’t feel pressured to get married or have kids if you don’t want to. What makes one person happy doesn’t make everyone happy. I’ve chosen to stay single and childless and I still live a happy and fulfilled life. Do what feels right for you.” (Anonymous, 40)
Conclusion: It seems that while family is not absolutely necessary to have a happy and fulfilling life, the majority of people have found that family is always worth the investment, assuming the relationships are healthy and not toxic and/or abusive.
“Be a little selfish and do something for yourself every day, something different once a month and something spectacular every year.” (Nancy, 60)
This one was rarely the central focus of any email, but it was present in some capacity in almost all of them: treat yourself better. Almost everybody said this in one form or another. “There is no one who cares about or thinks about your life a fraction of what you do,” one reader began, and, “life is hard, so learn to love yourself now, it’s harder to learn later,” another reader finished.
Or as Renee, 40, succinctly put it: “Be kind to yourself.”
Many readers included the old cliche: “Don’t sweat the small stuff; and it’s almost all small stuff.” Eldri, 60, wisely said, “When confronted with a perceived problem, ask yourself, ‘Is this going to matter in five years, ten years?’ If not, dwell on it for a few minutes, then let it go.” It seems many readers have focused on the subtle life lesson of simply accepting life as is, warts and all.
Which brings me to the last quote from Martin, age 58:
“When I turned forty my father told me that I’d enjoy my forties because in your twenties you think you know what’s going on, in your thirties you realize you probably don’t, and in your forties you can relax and just accept things. I’m 58 and he was right.”

Monday, September 22, 2014

Top tips to prepare for SDN

Software Defined Networking requires a big change, so think carefully before jumping in

Making the leap to SDN? Don't jump in blind. It helps to know what software-defined networking is, first off, and then what it can do for you.  
Then it's smart to know all the inner workings of an SDN controller, the differences between products offered by established vendors and start-ups, and whether open source and bare metal switching might be an option. Lastly, learn your own network -- will it even support SDN or require a wholesale rip-and-replace? -- and then learn from your peers about their experiences. Here's an 11-tip guide on how to prep for SDNs:
1) Educate yourself on it: Many organisations still do not know what software-defined networking is, what it's comprised of, and how they might benefit from it. It's obvious, but familiarity is the first step to understanding how SDN can help or hinder your enterprise network. Google, Facebook, Yahoo and Amazon Web Services regularly tout the benefits and steer the standards work, but those organisation are not the mainstream; they are on the bleeding edge of everything in compute and networking. Read up on the various flavors and iterations of SDN, what's new, what's old, etc. You may even come up with your own definition.
2) Know what you want to do: Goldman Sachs wants open standards, commodity scale architectures, independent and programmatic data and control planes, virtualised Layer 4-7 services, merchant this, open source that... Pretty much the whole ball of wax across all of its networks. SDN was targeted initially at the data center but now the enterprise WAN is a prime focus for the automation and orchestration benefits of SDN. Do you want a centralised or distributed control plane? Why or why not? Some of the more compelling SDN applications are analytics and packet monitoring -- TAP -- due to SDN's ability to rapidly steer traffic with just a few mouse clicks. Orchestrating and automating the network through software can save on capital and operational expenses as well, proponents say. Determine what your goal or objective is with SDN and implement accordingly, yet prudently, gradually.
3) Consider security implications: Centralising all control of the SDN may make life easier for the network operator; but it may also offer a single point of catastrophic failure or attack for a hacker or malicious content. How would a controller deal with outages that require re-routing of traffic? If a hacker gains control of your controller, could that intruder bring your network to its knees?
4) Think about where to start: As mentioned above, SDN was initially and still is targeted at the data center where much of the automation and orchestration, capital and operational cost reduction benefits are obvious. But the enterprise WAN is now being mentioned more frequently as a prime focus for SDN. WANs can equally benefit from the automation and simplified management SDNs bring, proponents say. Major IT trends such as SaaS, private clouds, BYOD, mobility and voice/data convergence are stressing the quality of links in an enterprise WAN. And WAN links now require improved security, lower latency, higher reliability and support for any device in any location to accommodate these trends. SDNs can help enterprise IT accomplish this without the expense of upgrading individual WAN links, advocates say, and can allow for application and traffic prioritisation, ease of provisioning and enhanced security.
5) Weigh how to start: Start small, those with experience say. Carve out a small slice of a test and development network for SDN experimentation instead of going for the whole shebang. That way, if anything goes wrong, you're not affecting the whole production network. Once things are humming along nicely, you can gradually meld the SDN pilot back into the production network and carve out another little piece to transition over. And when things are running smoothly, SDN can facilitate the combination of the development and operations networks into a single DevOps environment where new capabilities can be quickly turned up into production mode once they are developed and tested.
6) Evaluate different vendor offerings: Know the ins and outs of the major, established vendors and their SDN/programmable network offerings: Cisco's Application Centric Infrastructure, VMware's NSX, HP's Virtual Application Networks, Juniper's Contrail, etc. Know how they differ -- physical/virtual underlays, network virtualisation overlays, OpenFlow-based forwarding and flow management -- and how they are similar. Take into account the implementation with what you're trying to accomplish. Peruse their application ecosystems for solutions to your problems.
7) Peruse open source and whitebox offerings: Hey, if it works for Google... There are perhaps no more sophisticated or complicated data centers than those of the Webscale companies. They find a lot of their solutions in off-the-shelf hardware and software, like merchant silicon-based switches from Original Design Manufacturers and open source software. And the OpenDaylight Project has developed an open source SDN framework from the code of multiple established vendors in case any enterprises are worried about downloading SDN from the "community." But the Googles of the world add a lot of their own secret sauce and cobble all this stuff together by themselves. Open source and whitebox switches may be up to the SDN task, but you'll have to design, install, operate, manage, maintain, service and support the infrastructure by yourself. Unless you opt to purchase from a partnership like Dell and Cumulus...
8) Check out start-up offerings: Speaking of Cumulus, they're a start-up with an intriguing open source/whitebox proposition that involves a Linux operating system specifically for networking that can run on bare metal switches. That promises to drastically cut down the expense of data center networking, and with the Dell partnership, customers can now get service and support from a data center giant. Start-ups are all over the SDN map: Vello Systems has OpenFlow 1.4 software for optical enterprise SDNs; Pluribus and Adara combine servers with switching to tightly integrate virtual services with the physical infrastructure; Big Switch Networks focuses on orchestration of physical and virtual networking resources; Anuta Networks' NCX system is a software VM or x86 appliance-based controller and agents that interact via an array of protocols and APIs -- including OpenFlow -- to automate the provisioning and orchestration of Layer 2-7 networking services across existing infrastructures; and the list goes on. Enterprises would be wise to consider cutting-edge technologies from start-ups for their SDNs.
9) Determine the functionality you need from an SDN controller: Ethan Banks has written a treatise for us on what to look for in an SDN controller. Such considerations include performance, capacity, topology, capability and functionality, openness vs. vendor uniqueness (lock-in), and others. But Banks concludes that enterprises must conduct due diligence on their networks and what they want SDN to do on it, in addition to thoroughly educating themselves on the controller itself.
10) Learn from experiences and best practices of your peers:Goldman Sachs is all in. It's been doing SDNs before the technology was called that. Now the financial firm wants a little more consistency, uniformity and openness. The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center is all in -- it's looking to SDN and a private cloud to bring the network up to where the school's virtualisation is. Marist College is all in -- the school is bullish on OpenFlow as a way to interconnect data centers over optical fiber. It's using open source controllers as well as server monitors. It's moving workloads between data centers, experimenting with scalability, researching SDNs with IBM, and can share a wealth of experience. Bloomberg has a purpose-built SDN for traffic monitoring and tapping of financial application development, and is also looking at how an SDN overlay scales for onboarding and off-boarding inter-cloud users. All users agree on one thing: go slow with SDN. 
11) Consider the impact on your existing network: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center found its existing network was not up to the task when moving virtual machines around, so it went with an SDN private cloud. Most SDNs are likely to require wholesale upgrades to networks that are more than five years old. Cisco is ushering in a whole new switching line for its Application Centric Network programmability play. Juniper's new SDN core switch, the EX9200, will require a forklift upgrade of the EX8200 base. Indeed, SDN is leaving many older switches behind. Before making the leap to SDNs, it might be helpful to know how much of a leap is required. And if it ain't broke without SDN, is it worth fixing?

Sunday, September 21, 2014

SDN Applications

SDN Applications

A discussion of technology always has inherent value, particularly from an educational perspective. But from a practical standpoint, the reason technology exists is to deliver functional benefits. In SDN that value largely derives from what the applications can do for you. Therefore no discussion of SDN is complete without considering the specific benefits of applications.

Note that it is not within the scope of this paper to discuss the exact details of how to program an application. Specific implementations are based upon the controller or orchestrator interface as it was built by the vendor. Most interfaces will be RESTful with JSON and/or XML for data transport, 
but vendors are not constrained to these and individual interfaces may vary. The vendor should provide a well-documented SDK for interface building. 

Many applications can be used in an SDN network. Figure 4 shows a list of examples, broken down by application type. This list is by no means exhaustive; it also contains some examples that may not apply to the transport network. However, while some of the functions may not apply to 
the transport section, having the orchestration layer means that you can control many different sections of your network, including those that are not transport-related. As such the list in Figure 4 is informative as to the tremendous number of functions that can be used in an SDN-capable 

Path Computation

Let's consider a few examples of the SDN applications that specifically apply to service provider networks. One common application will be path computation, or end-to-end provisioning. Over the years there have been many methods that have sought to provide a PCE. One attempt was to 
embed the PCE into the NEs. This idea is, in fact, the opposite concept from SDN, because it mingles the control and data layers. From a practical standpoint, merging these two layers has several limitations. One is that, because the hardware on the NEs is limited, the scale of the domain 
this hardware manages is also limited. SDN overcomes this issue by the very nature of the hardware it runs on, specifically a server. Should the server become unable to manage the network due to size, additional capacity can be added by simply increasing the hardware (e.g. adding a blade or hard drive) or, if running on an elastic computing platform, by simply requesting additional computing resources. Another limitation of merged control and data layers is interoperability with other devices via the control layer. Since not all systems share common signaling protocols, the systems with embedded controls will become isolated. In the case of SDN, the southbound adaptors mitigate this issue by not only being able to work with disparate protocols but also by being able to manage systems that do not have embedded controllers.

With the ability to compute a path across the network, another logical application is workflow or flow-through provisioning. Order entry systems can query the SDN layer to see what resources are available. These are real time queries of the actual network, and not just of a database that could potentially have out-of-date information. This means the network is used more efficiently. The order system can then programmatically build the RESTful commands needed to tell the SDN orchestrator or controller what the endpoints, bandwidth demands, and restrictions of the needed services are, and the SDN layer can automatically provision them. Additionally the SDN system can interface with the billing system for auditing purposes.

SDN and OTN Applications

A prime example of SDN being used to configure services can be seen when it is applied to OTN. OTN is a multilayered technology that allows users to densely and efficiently pack different service types into a single DWDM wavelength. OTN can greatly benefit the network by optimizing 
transport, but it does add some complexity that can be simplified using SDN.

A user might have multiple Ethernet flows that are headed to the same destination (perhaps a datacenter). OTN can optimally transport all of them in an aggregate flow. Assuming that the flows are smaller services (1 Gb or smaller), these can be mapped into a LO ODU0. SDN can multiplex the multiple LO containers bound for a particular destination into HO OTU containers. It can then map the HO containers onto wavelengths that connect the two points so there is no regeneration in between, which makes the network more efficient.

Needless to say, not all flows will be carried by LO ODUs. As such, SDN can determine what type of container or transport is available and required for the service. As mentioned above, SDN could map the service to an aggregated flow in an OTN container, which is riding on a wavelength. But perhaps a needed segment does not have OTN, or perhaps the service is large in and of itself (e.g. 100 Gb), so that it does not need to be combined with another service. In that case, SDN could map the service directly to a wavelength. The decision of whether to aggregate into an LO or HO OTU, or to just use a wavelength, can be made from the logic programmed into the SDN application, making the network even more efficient. 

Network Optimization 

Another area where SDN can improve network utilization is by optimizing the network so that over time, it can make better use of resources. Again, using the example of OTN, SDN applications can be used to reroute OTN paths to minimize latency, to prepare for cutovers, or based on churn in demand. The application can run as a background scheduled task to automatically look for opportunities to perform optimizations. It can then generate executive reports showing how it has performed the optimization. 

Automated Testing

Once the system has created the end-to-end service, another application (or perhaps part of the turn-up application) can perform automated testing. Where software test connections are possible, the system can not only turn up the cross connects for the test but can activate the testing protocols. For example, as part of turning up an Ethernet service, the system could create a Y.1564 service “birth certificate.” Once the test is complete, the SDN system can take the report that is generated on the test gear and, if it fails, notify a technician that there is a problem with the circuit. If the circuit passes the test, the system can send the report to the inventory database, where it can be archived with the other circuit information.

Protection and Restoration

Another application that can be built is for protection and restoration. As mentioned earlier, in order to meet the required 50 ms protection needed in carrier-class networks much of the switching must take place in the hardware on the NEs. This means the SDN controller will be passing to the hardware messages that define the protection path. One advantage is that the SDN system can systematically search for the best possible restoration paths, even as new links are added to the existing network. It can search and find the most efficient path as they become available. This means the system could discover and utilize a 1:n protection scheme instead of using a less effective one-for-one method. It also means that if there is a failure, the system can dynamically compute additional protection paths. Today there are systems that can do this using embedded controllers. Unfortunately after multiple failures, the network becomes fragmented as the system moves services to different links. This can be thought of as being similar to the fragmentation of a hard drive. Typically, tools need to be run to optimize the network, much like the manual defragmentation process that needed to be run in older versions of Windows. Like the newer versions of Windows, SDN can automatically “defragment” to optimize the network as part of the protection application

SLA Management

Another possible application is SLA management, which has become a key challenge for many customers. End customers have SLA requirements associated with the services they have purchased, and they want to have a Web portal to view conformance data. The Web portal can be of great 
benefit, premiums are charged for both the SLA and the Web portal. If the user thinks they are having an issue and they look at their portal they may find that they have more traffic than what is covered by the SLA. This means more than just saving a troubleshooting call to the service department. It means that the customer may look at adding additional bandwidth, driving new revenue for the service provider. It is important to understand, whether adding an SLA portal or using an existing system, pulling the information via SDN is simpler, especially given the fact that REST is a web interface.

Custom Applications

Custom applications can also be written to meet a service provider's specific needs. One example might be an application to backup large databases without affecting traffic. Using SDN you can not only schedule the backup itself, but also an increase in available bandwidth during the file transfer. The timing can be set to a known off-peak time when transport bandwidth is underutilized. After the transfer is over the bandwidth can be restored to the original size, causing no impact to customer traffic. 

Network Function Virtualization (NFV)

In addition to applications, SDN becomes an enabler of NFV. NFV allows companies to provide services that currently run on dedicated hardware located on the end user's premises by moving the functionality to the network. Content delivery, such as Netflix video on demand, is a prime 
example of this. Content (movies) that was once delivered exclusively on VCRs, DVDs and BluRay, can now be streamed over the network with full pause, rewind, and fast-forward functions. An example of an NFV function that service providers can deliver in context of network services would 
be a firewall. Instead of a customer (who is using a service-provider Internet connection) setting up and maintaining a firewall in their office, they could subscribe to the service. In NFV this is known as a virtual appliance.

The ABCs of the Internet of Things

These frequently asked questions help explain it all

You've heard the term and probably read stories about smart homes where the toaster talks to the smoke detector. But what makes it all connect? When will it become mainstream, and will it work? These frequently asked questions help explain it all.
What is the Internet of Things?
There is no agreed-upon definition, but there is a test for determining whether something is part of the IoT: Does one vendor's product work with another's? Does a door lock by one vendor communicate with a light switch by another vendor, and do you want the thermostat to be part of the conversation?
Here's the scenario: As you approach the front door of your house, a remote control built into your key unlocks the door. The door's wireless radio messages the network, which prompts the hall light to turn on. The house thermostat, which was lowered after you left for work, returns to a comfort zone. Everything is acting in concert, which brings us to the elegant definition of IoT by Paul Williamson, director of low power wireless for semiconductor maker CSR: "A true Internet of Things is coordination between multiple devices."
What makes the Internet of Things almost human?
In a word: Sensors. Many IoT devices have sensors that can register changes in temperature, light, pressure, sound and motion. They are your eyes and ears to what's going on the world. Before we talk about what they do, let's describe them. These sensors are part of a device category called a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) and are manufactured in much the same way microprocessors are manufactured, through a lithography process. These sensors can be paired with an application-specific integrated circuit or an ASIC. This is a circuit with a limited degree of programming capability and is hardwired to do something specific. It can also be paired with microprocessor and will likely be attached to a wireless radio for communications.
Can you give an example of how IoT sensors work?
Here's the scene: You are away on vacation and the house is empty. A moisture sensor detects water on the basement floor. That sensor finding is processed by an app, which has received another report from a temperature sensor that detects the flow of water in the main water pipe. (When water flows, it takes away heat and lowers the temperature).
That both sensors are detecting anomalies is cause for concern. A high rate of flowing water may signal a burst pipe, triggering an automated valve shutoff; a slight water flow might be a running toilet, and the water on the basement floor by routine leakage from a heavy rain. In either case, you get a machine-generated message describing the findings.
Here's how you investigate. Via a mobile app, you get two one-time codes to unlock your front door, one for your neighbor and another for a plumber. When the door is unlocked, a text alert tells you who entered. Having knowledge of the condition of your home may be a big driver of IoT adoption.
How will IoT sensors work in public spaces?
Take parking. Cities are embedding sensors in on-street parking spaces from a company called Streetline that can detect if a car is parked in one. Drivers looking for a parking space use the company's mobile app, which lets them know when a space becomes available. Streetline has also added sound level and surface temperature sensors to help cities determine the best times to apply salt and use noise sensors to ensure compliance with ordinances.
In the public arena, a smartphone can double as a sensor. In Boston, as people drive down a road, the phone's accelerometer sensor will keep track of bumps. An accelerometer can tell up from down, but more precisely it measures acceleration. All it took to turn a smartphone into a road condition monitoring tool, was an app that used its existing sensor in a new way.
Do you want your bathroom scale to talk to your refrigerator?
The IoT opens up a lot of opportunity for creative app writers. Let's start with a smart refrigerator. You buy your groceries online and have them delivered to your home. It has now become advantageous for grocers and food product makers to add RFID tags to their products. The refrigerator knows what is inside via weight-sensitive shelves and expiration dates. It can also help you keep a grocery list, automate orders and provide nutritional information.
For instance, let's say you decide to take a pint of Ben and Jerry's ice cream out of the freezer. When that happens, a connected wireless speaker announces, loudly: "Please reconsider this selection. As requested, here is your most recent weight and BMI." The wireless speaker is reporting data collected from your bathroom scale. The scale was never designed to communicate with a refrigerator, but an app writer made it so by linking data from the scale and fridge. This scale-fridge-speaker combination may seem silly, but here's the point: In the IoT, app writers now have the ability to connect seemingly disparate things to create new types of functionality.
How do IoT devices communicate?
An IoT device will have a radio that can send and receive wireless communications. IoT wireless protocols are designed to accomplish some basic services: Operate on low power, use low bandwidth and work on a mesh network. Some work on the 2.4 GHz band, which is also used by Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and the sub-GHz range. The sub-GHz frequencies, including 868 and 915 MHz bands, may have the advantage of less interference.
Why is low power and low bandwidth important in IoT?
Some IoT devices will get power from electrical systems, but many, such as door locks and standalone sensors, will use batteries. These devices send and receive small amounts of information intermittently or periodically. Consequently, the battery life of an IoT device can range from 1.5 years to a decade, if the battery lasts that long. One IoT maker, Insteon, uses both radio and powerline communication, which can send data over existing electrical wiring as well as via a radio, which it says will offer an increased measure of reliability.
What is a mesh network?
Devices in a mesh network connect directly with one another, and pass signals like runners in a relay race. It is the opposite of a centralized network. The transmission range of an IoT device on a mesh network is anywhere from 30 feet to more than 300 feet.
Since mesh network devices can hand-off signals, they have an ability to connect thousands of sensors over a wide area, such as a city, and operate in concert. Mesh networks have the added ability of working around the failure of any individual device. Wireless mesh IoT protocols include the Z-Wave Alliance, the Zigbee Alliance, and Insteon, which also has an alliance of vendors. These protocols aren't directly interoperable, although there are workarounds via hubs (more on this later).
ZigBee is an open protocol, but its critics say that not all of its implementations are necessarily the same. ZigBee runs a certification to ensure standard deployments. Insteon and Z-Wave are proprietary, which may ensure standardization of implementation.
What's the best wireless network for the IoT?
Today, no wireless technology has a dominant market share in IoT applications. Nick Jones, an analyst at research firm Gartner, said more than 10 IoT wireless technologies will "get significant traction" in IoT applications. These wireless technologies include cellular, satellites and new communications such as Weightless, which uses "white space," or unoccupied TV channels. More importantly, no one wireless technology will meet every need and circumstance. A connected car, for instance, will use a cellular network to contact your home network.
Will I need a gateway or hub in the IoT?
A gateway, bridge or hub provides a connection point between your home network and other devices. The hub works with your home router and provides communications to the machines, devices and sensors that are part of your IoT universe. You will want, by default, your Zigbee smart meter to communicate with your Z-Wave or Insteon thermostat. This will also be true for the washing machine that is connected to a smart metering system and starts a wash only when electric rates are at their lowest point. These connections will be established through hubs that support multiple wireless technologies.
SmartThings, for instance, makes a hub that supports both Zigbee and Z-Wave, as well as a platform to build connecting applications. Eventually, these wireless technologies may be included in home routers, set-top boxes from your cable companies, or even devices such as a Google Chromecast.
Won't Bluetooth win in the end?
Bluetooth Low Energy was originally aimed at wearable technology, not the broad IoT market. But in early 2014, CSR, a semiconductor maker, announced a mesh network for Bluetooth, meaning it could now connect to thousands of things.
Bluetooth's ubiquity in mobile devices means that a Bluetooth mesh network as a broad IoT platform will have some advantages. Because Bluetooth is already a feature on smartphones, a smartphone could act as a management hub inside a home. But it's not perfect. A hub will be needed if someone wants to connect with the home network remotely, such as from work.
Do the big consumer product vendors really want an Internet of Things?
Skeptics say it's unlikely that all the big vendors will embrace open standards. A more likely outcome for the IoT are technological islands defined by proprietary data interchanges.
Without open standards or open communication protocols, devices on the network won't be able to share data and work in concert. Will Apple develop products that can connect with Samsung products? Will Bosch products communicate with those from Samsung or Sears? Maybe not.
Consumers will be frustrated and will be told that they need to buy into a particular vendor's product partner network to get a full IoT experience.
Can open source force the big vendors to play nice?
Open source advocates are hoping they can avert a fracturing of the IoT. The Linux Foundation, a nonprofit consortium, created the AllSeen Aliance and released a code stack in late 2013 that can be used by any electronics or appliance maker to connect to another product. The alliance hopes that the sheer weight of adoption of this stack, called AllJoyn, will help to push the IoT toward open standards. AllJoyn is agnostic about wireless protocols, and support for Bluetooth LE, ZigBee and Z-Wave can be added easily by the community.
Will the IoT destroy what little privacy you have left?
Privacy advocates are plenty worried about the IoT's impact on consumers. Part of this is due to the arrival of IPv6 addresses, the next generation Internet protocol. It replaces IPv4, which assigned 32-bit addresses, with a total limit of 4.3 billion; IPv6 is 128-bit, and allows for 340 trillion trillion trillion addresses or 340,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. This makes it possible to assign a unique identifier to anything that's part of the IoT (although not everything needs to be IP addressable, such as light switches). This may enable deep insights into a home. Smart metering systems, for instance, will be able to track individual appliance use.
"Information about a power consumer's schedule can reveal intimate, personal details about their lives, such as their medical needs, interactions with others, and personal habits," warned the Electronic Privacy Information Center, in testimony in late 2013 at a Federal Trade Commission workshop. This is information that may be shared with third parties. At this same FTC workshop, another leading privacy group, the Center for Democracy and Technology, outlined its nightmare scenario.
Light sensors in a home can tell how often certain rooms are occupied, and temperature sensors may be able to tell when one bathes, exercises or leaves the house; microphones can easily pick up the content of conversations. The message is clear: Courts, regulators and lawmakers will be fighting over IoT privacy safeguards for years to come.
Will my smart washer attack me?
Security experts are worried that consumers won't be able to tell the difference between secure and insecure devices on their home network. It will be a threat to enterprise networks as well. These devices, many of which will be cheap and junky and made by who-knows-who overseas, may not have any security of their own.
Security researchers imagine problems, such as the connected toilet, demonstrated at a recent Black Hat conference, which flushed and closed its lid repeatedly. Hackers could create havoc by turning appliances and HVAC systems on and off. Baby monitors have been successfully taken over by outsiders. One advantage that IoT security may have is it's still in its early stages, and the security community has a chance to build IoT systems with a strong measure of protection. Cisco is fishing around for ideas. The company is running a contest (with a June 17 submission deadline) with $300,000 in prize money for ideas for securing the IoT.
When will the Internet of Things be ready for prime time?
Vendors will be sorting out the various protocols and technologies for years. Consumers are curious, perhaps, but sensors and hubs for the home aren't flying off the shelves. There are real IoT uses today, especially for home monitoring and security. For now, the big users of sensor networks and remote intelligence gathering are businesses and governments.
Governments are deploying sensors to alert them to failed street lights, leaks in water systems and full trash cans. Sensors will likely have a major role in traffic control, forest fire and landslide detection. Remote sensing is already mainstream in many industries, office buildings and in the energy supply.
It's the consumer applications that get the most attention because they involve almost every industry and platform: health systems, home energy use, hardware, home building, electronics and the entire category of wearables, including clothing. Even plumbers will have to be aware of the IoT because of connected shut-off valves. But no one is going to stand in line for the latest smart refrigerator. It isn't the next iPad. The IoT rollout will be slow and will occur over many years, as appliances are replaced and home electrical systems are upgraded with smart devices.
What's the worst case scenario?
That a true coordination between multiple devices never comes to pass. Vendors, initially, will build islands, closed IoT environments that only work with their products and those made by selected partners. Privacy protections may be treated loosely, with users forced to opt out if they don't want their home turned into a giant spy cam for marketers.
We haven't even mentioned things like Google Glass. Imagine a scenario where people agree to share live streams as part of a Neighborhood Block Watch. A surveillance state may arrive on a flood of good intentions. But the IoT has potential to make life more efficient, safer, healthier and environmentally friendly.
In particular, people who install solar energy systems and use net metering, essentially selling surplus energy back to the utility, will have powerful reasons to install aware and connected systems. But whether these systems can work together will depend on the willingness of vendors to make their products connectable. There is no vendor large enough to control the IoT, but there are vendors large enough to make a mess of it.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Incremental SDN: Automating Network Device Configuration

Courtesy - TechWorld

Automation is a logical next step in the SDN migration journey.

The definition of Software Defined Networking (SDN) continues to broaden, today including functions such as configuration automation and orchestration. While these tasks aren't strictly SDN, the fact is software is used to define some aspect of the network infrastructure in both cases, so vendors have stretched the definition of SDN to bring configuration automation and orchestration platforms into the mix.
In fairness, the line gets blurry, as some modern orchestration systems use programmatic interfaces to provision the network instead of traditional configuration tools such as SSH or SNMP.
In many organisations, automating the configuration of network devices is where "SDN" is initially gaining traction. The impetus for this is straightforward: configuring network devices is woefully complicated. As vendors build more features into their routers, switches, firewalls and application delivery controllers, the command line syntax required to configure those devices becomes increasingly loaded with options and syntactic choices. Web-based GUIs are often a CLI alternative, but are slow to navigate. Web GUIs also have a way of obfuscating functions by hiding them in unlikely pages, making access to them a series of annoying clicks.
The point of commonality in traditional network device configuration is humans -- whether they use a CLI or a GUI -- and, for all our considerable merits, we aren't as competent as computers at syntax, perfectly inputting long strings of data, or remembering each step of a complex task. In my experience, humans are the No. 1 cause of network outages in the form of network engineers making an honest mistake.
Asking a human to a make a change to a production network is akin to asking a human to change the air filter on a car. While the car's engine is running. And the car is traveling down the highway at 70 miles per hour.
Can it be done? Yes. Should it be done? Hmm. Seems a little risky. And yet, organisations take exactly these risks every day, often mitigating that risk with scheduled maintenance windows. However, even those windows don't change the fact that a modern network is expected to be up 100% of the time.
For years now, server administrators have been automating repeatable and complex tasks with several different tools. Network devices are not servers, but of late, several tools from the server world are being used by the network community. These tools are addressing the issue of complexity and human error in device configuration. These tools could also be considered an incremental step on the SDN journey. While configuration automation isn't pure SDN, it certainly moves an organisation closer. Let's take a look at a few tools to introduce this emerging trend.

A choice of tools

Python.  The Python programming language comes first in this list because it is widely available, popular, well-documented, and considered by many to be easy to use. In addition, some other tools that might be used for network configuration are written in Python. Therefore, Python is a flexible, multi-use tool that network engineers have been using to help them with network configuration either directly or indirectly.
The big idea behind using a programming language to create network device configurations is that a program both ensures a predictable result and can iterate through repetitive tasks. For example, let's say an organisation needs to build configurations for 100 switches, that are all configured identically except for details like the hostname and perhaps VLAN membership. A program could be written in Python to generate the required configuration over and over again, substituting in the unique elements of a specific switch per iteration. Rather than an engineer building each switch by hand, copying and pasting sections of configuration and making sure the unique bits get swapped out as needed, a program does all of that work.
Python is far from the only programming language that can do this sort of work. For simple tasks as described above, all sorts of options are available. But Python has the benefit of a powerful set of libraries to access network devices and otherwise make it relatively easy to not only create configurations, but also apply those configurations.
Notably, network vendors are writing APIs for their equipment with support for Python. Cisco onePK supports Python, for example, Arista's EOS-API can be accessed with Python, and Juniper has released a "PyEZ" library to enable access to Junos devices via Python.
Jinja2.  One example of Python's extensibility is Jinja2. Jinja2 is a Python library acting as a template engine. Templates are used for repeated bits of code, where perhaps just a few variables change from device to device. In network engineering, templates are useful for configuring big chunks of code that are identical on all devices of a certain class, such as a router, or for paragraphs of code in a device describing interfaces, VLANs, VRFs, and so on.
Jinja2 adds template functionality to Python, making it possible for a network engineer to iterate through all the interfaces on a device, adding unique descriptions and VLAN assignments for each one without having to manually configure each interface separately. As most data centers have a standard set of commands used on all of their interfaces, Jinja2 templates both save time and reduce potential errors when generating configuration with Python.
Puppet.  For those not wanting to learn a programming language, there are several configuration tools popular in the server world that could be considered for network device configuration. Puppet, Chef, Ansible and Salt are most frequently named. In the network community, Puppet and Ansible have the strongest followings.
Puppet is a model-driven configuration tool that relies on a client-server architecture to deliver configurations from the controlling server to the client device being configured.
In the network world, this is a challenge in that a Puppet server needs to talk to a Puppet agent running on the client system. The requirement for an agent has ruled out many network devices, as Puppet agents simply aren't available for most network gear. The initial drive for Puppet in the network space was to extend the functionality of a tool already deployed in many enterprises to manage servers. Why use a different tool for network device configuration if Puppet is available and already being used by the organisation?
Puppet uses its own human-friendly language that allows people to describe how they want a device configured. The Puppet server translates that manifest into a configuration suitable for that device, generating a catalog. The Puppet agent polls the Puppet server periodically to retrieve any new catalogs, and make the required changes.
Puppet can be used to configure a limited number of Cisco devices, as well as certain devices from Juniper, F5, Mellanox, Arista, and presumably others. Note that "Puppet support" does not mean that every network device function will necessarily be supported by Puppet. In fact, most network engineers find that the functions they can actually configure via Puppet are limited.
Puppet is available in both open source and commercial variants.
Ansible.  Similar to Puppet in overall scope, Ansible is growing in popularity in part because the design is an agentless push architecture. Ansible interacts with a remote network device via SSH, NETCONF, or other means as specified in the module written for the remote device. SSH is used frequently, although this is not something the Ansible consumer has to be overly concerned with. The module handles the work of getting the intended configuration to the remote device, whatever the means.
Network engineers describe what they would like the network configuration to be using playbooks. Playbooks are written in an easy-to-read language called YAML. Just like Puppet is limited in what specific network functions it supports, Ansible is limited by the functions described in a device's module.
In addition to its agentless nature, Ansible is gaining popularity due to reported ease of use and flexibility. Like Puppet, there are both open source and commercial flavors of Ansible.
A few other tools network engineers find useful as they look to automate their network configurations include:
Github, a free-to-use online repository for code that includes a versioning system. Of late, Github has been the go-to site to obtain code related to network configuration automation. Cisco, Arista, Juniper, Mellanox, and other network vendors maintain freely available code that supports configuration of their network devices or integration with cloud computing platforms such as OpenStack.
Vagrant, which is used to automate the creation of virtual machines. As many network devices are available as a virtual machine, Vagrant becomes useful as a way to automate the spinning up of network device VMs on VirtualBox, VMware and other hypervisors. Vagrant can also call to Ansible or Puppet to provision virtual machines once they have been instantiated.

What's next?

Network consumers interested in automating their network device configuration need to pay close attention to emerging technologies in the SDN space. APIs continue to grow in importance, providing access to SDN controllers, software modules that plug into controllers, and the network devices that sit underneath those controllers. The configuration work done by a home-grown Python program or Ansible playbook today could (and in some cases can) be done by a software defined application communicating network needs to a controller that provisions the network devices.
In fact, some SDN platforms take the network device configuration work out of the hands of human beings altogether. For example, about the only work a network engineer does on an NEC ProgrammableFlow switch is to point the switch to the controller's IP address. The rest of the configuration is done via the controller itself.Put another way, automating the configuration of network devices using tools as described in this article is truly incremental. Humans are still articulating the specifics of minutiae like VLAN numbers and routing configurations, but using better tools than the CLI or GUI to generate and install the required configuration.
Ultimately, SDN purports to take even those sorts of requirements away, allowing businesses to express their needs as policies related to security and application importance. Those abstract policy descriptions will result in software defined network device configurations that meet business needs and ensure user experience and regulatory compliance. The battle the industry is fighting now is about exactly how that complexity should be abstracted, expressed and programmatically implemented. For now, automating network configuration using powerful tools is a very good place for organisations to start.

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