“Sometimes my head is a bit of an idiot” is something my daughter might say and that happens to me too, if that time is today and this article, let me know. If you don’t get the Cabbage Patch reference and its juxtaposition to automation, see here. I’ve tried to avoid sarcasm (and arrogance) but have failed I’m sure.
I dreamt I started a new job a couple of weeks ago; my dream job funnily enough. I was part of a ‘DevOps’ team that was formed to be both disruptive (in the nicest possible way of course) to the typical company (legacy) culture and demonstrate to that company what could be achieved and gained in the modern age. What is possible? Speed and fluidity (dare I say agility); everything else is secondary. Continuous integration and development – sure. A shorter time to market – got it. Innovation – check. Fast time to fix – roger, roger. Golf Lima Foxtrot – that’s a 10-4 my friend, let’s leave everyone else in the dust. Let’s keep it simple but keep it resilient; smarts over numbers – you get the idea. IT is the business, the business is IT; we just made it awesome!
So far, so good. You name it, it’s there; OpenStack, Puppet, Docker, Python, Java, Jenkins, Linux, VWware, NSX and all the rest. Of course, that’s not even the beginning, culture is almost all and it’s certainly what counts. There’s a veritable Russian doll of silos within silos within teams, within people’s heads… you get the idea (Schizophrenia aside). That needs tackling, in a big way, and I’ve no misconceptions about that, let’s go. If you’re a genius geek with no social skills, please don’t apply; go code something useful instead (SSLv4 perhaps? – I jest). Communication (face to face) is everything (please take a shower), facial hair is the boss it seems. Its amazing what you can get done and amazing what you might learn.
But, getting back to those tools, tool-chains and so-called ‘enablers’, is any of what’s available today useful from a network perspective? Sorry but no, it’s not (in my view). APIs aplenty but really, what can you do with them? How can you secure them? What kind of security, session and transaction control is available? How do you deal with more than one? What is your solution? Bash scripts, Python scripts and programs, sure; home-grown, roll your own goodness, but see what happens when another member of the team has to provide support. You version controlling that? Compute is compute, a service is a service, storage is just that – no special snowflakes or kittens necessary. But networking, well, it seems it is.
The paradigm these tools bring isn’t suited to our world, sorry. Want to update the SNMP community string on 50+ devices, sure, go ahead and perhaps save some time. Build a new network, err… no. Build a new service, sorry, no can do, gimme a day or two. Variables might save us, along with templates, YAML, Jinja2 and more? No, really, no. The time taken to write what needs writing, specific to each device, AS, area, domain, tree, IP and MAC is unique in every case and genuinely time-consuming. The management is just as bad. Prescriptive topology manager, now we’re talking, let’s manually build another file along with the Visio diagram, Excel spreadsheet and labels and keep all that consistent and correct, super. Oh, wow, let’s parse some LLDP output – it doesn’t get better than this in the 21st century. Someone offer me some hope here please?
Perhaps I’m missing something, I’m really interested in ‘all this’ but right now the trough of disillusionment is my home. Let’s hope Schprokits can bring something new to the table. Whatever happened to CPAL? Damn Cisco for buying Tail-F. Somebody give me a product I can use so I don’t have to re-invent the wheel and roll my own every day of the week. I don’t want cuddles, I want speed, and power, and visibility… oh and did I mention ease of use? I really could write my own and I will (really I will) but really, should I have to? I can change the brake pads on my car at the weekend but I’d rather be spending time with my kids and wife and pay someone else to do it.
Yes I’m ignoring SDN in a number of forms but still… help me out here. Don’t even get me started on the operations side of the house. Disagree? Comments below are always welcome. Have we made any real progress? Show me the light.