I recently had an opportunity to spend some time in San Jose for the Data Field Day Roundtable. This event was put on by Stephen Foskett and the Tech Field Day crew. We had an open discussion on network management and all I could think after the discussion is that if are trying to solve the problem of having too many touch points for network management, we’ve got a long way to go.
One of the things that bothers me when we talk about network management is how everyone wants to get away from the command line. I’m not saying that because I love the CLI and want to use it all then time. And I can understand the need to automate certain functions of a network. However, I don’t think the entire network as the system needs to be automated. And I don’t think the CLI should be killed off and only an API be exposed to manage a device. Each of these things has their place and a time when appropriate to use. The CLI is fitting for troubleshooting individual devices whereas a tool that uses an API to access configuration elements may be better suited for large scale monitoring and configuration changes. Using a tool like this would also offer the ability to track changes more easily than CLI.
Another thing to think about are the number of vendors that would have to be in agreement to pull this off a single management tool. What could happen is that we end up being stuck in the same situation we are now with products like CiscoWorks, Cisco Prime, SolarWinds, and others. While they do cover a great deal of products there are still some that are missing, and still certain aspects of the products capabilities that are not exposed to the tool. This is could happen probably because were using protocols like SNMP which are outdated.
Still it’s nice to see the innovation that many of these companies are involved in. Anees Shaikh, with Google,Spoke to us about OpenConfig. this is an informal workgroup of large network operators that are trying to standardize on a method for configuring multiple vendor devices with multiple device roles. I think of everything that I heard at data field day this in my mind is the most likely answer, provided it gets backing from the major networking vendors. I don’t think it’s something that can happen overnight but a man can dream.
If you haven’t caught any of the videos from data field day, then be sure to watch the two videos I’ve embedded below. The first video is our open discussion on network management, followed by the second video on open network management. The first video is a really good set up for the second video.