Improving Network Management Tools

In this post, Pete Welcher considers how to improve network management tools. The problem with these is that they are often sold to customers without any consideration for their use-cases and needs. He considers some of the path tracing tools he saw from SolarWinds at Networking Field Day as a great way to frame that information, and suggests that other network management tools would do well to adopt that methodology for other metrics.

Apstra to Demonstrate Intent-Based Data Center Network Automation with VMware vSphere Integration at VMworld

James Green first got a look at Apstra back at Networking Field Day in 2016. The company offers an intent-based networking solution based on their Apstra Operating System. They’ll be presenting at VMworld next week, and James looks at their newly announced vSphere integration. This now allows for viewing the relationships between workloads, applications, tenants, and virtual networks,with specific interfaces, CPUs, and links, to all co-exist in the same graph representation.

Apstra’s Unique Approach to Networking

Pete Welcher looks at Apstra’s intent-based networking automation solution, which he first saw at Networking Field Day last November. The company has a intention-based engine and a working fabric model, which Pete sees as a possible solution to organizations that want to automate without the hassles of scale. For Pete, it’s a solution to “fiddle-ware”. Instead of training an IT team on how to manage a series of kludgy scripts and programs, they can standardize around Apstra.

WAN Design Is Changing: What That Means for You

Based on discussions at Networking Field Day last year, Pete Welcher put together of why and how WAN design is changing. Pete sees this being driven by the needs of SaaS and cloud-based apps, which require low latency. This manifests in three design choices, centralized, decentralized, and regionalized internet access. This is a really thoughtful look on the topic, make sure to check it out!

Assuring your network will do what you think it…

Tim Miller wrote up his thoughts on what he saw from Forward Networks at Networking Field Day last year. Their solution is billed for providing network assurance, which they break down into correctness and performance. Their presentation focused on correctness, which they use sophisticated modeling to formally verify. Tim reviews the implications of their Forward Platform in terms of business intent, highlights their strong search functionality, and predication engine.

Network Verification with Veriflow

Pete Welcher saw a demonstration of Veriflow’s continuous network verification solution. In it, he saw some similarities with what he saw from Forward Networks last year at Networking Field Day. Both use formal verification of a network, with Veriflow pulling information from devices on the network and building a topograpghical model. Pete still has many of the same questions about how this would work as he did for Forward Networks, but ultimately his conclusion is “cool stuff”!

Ixia: Good Defense Leads to a Good Offense

Pete Welcher wrote up his thoughts on what he saw from Ixia at Networking Field Day last year. The company has a diverse and sprawling product line, so Pete focuses the post specifically on their Network Packet Broker solution. Pete sets up the conversation by considering the benefits and costs of setting up network taps. This nicely sets up what he saw from Ixia’s Visibility tool, which seems to be a nice solution rather than tapping everything. This concentrated approach let’s a network engineer prioritize what they are looking for, rather than capture everything and trying to make sense of the mass of data.

To SD-WAN or Not to SD-WAN — and How?

Pete Welcher has been seeing a lot of competing SD-WAN solutions, including a lot from presentations at past Networking Field Day events. He runs down how to determine if these solutions are ideal for your operations. First, if you’re heavily investing in a lot of Cisco routers, just use IWAN. But for organizations with equipment coming to end of life or need ease of deployment without much more needed than routing and QoS, SD-WAN is worth a look. Make sure to read Pete’s piece for all the details.

SD-WAN Series Part 4: Viptela

In another installment of her excellent video series on SD-WAN, Eyvonne Sharp posted another video, this time looking a Viptela. She’s used this in a production environment, so the video goes into some interesting detail. She also breaks down the difference between SD-WAN with a WAN optimization background and those with a routing background, like Viptela.

Viptela: SD-WAN for Enterprise

Peter Welcher wrote a piece on what he saw from Viptela from November’s Networking Field Day. Unlike other SD-WAN vendors specifically targeting service providers, Viptela is squarely focused on the enterprise. Peter seemed really impressed not just by Viptela’s robust routing capabilities, but also their security. Their solution easily allows for rekeying, and includes tamper proofing. If someone gets a hold of an edge device, they won’t be able to use it to backdoor into your network. Seems like a lot of really well thought out solutions!

OpenFlow – Basic Concepts and Theory

In this post, David Varnum goes over some of the fundamental concepts of OpenFlow. He goes as far back as to distinguish the control plane from the data plane. David then goes into great detail about OpenFlow’s design and features. What inspired this deep dive into OpenFlow? At Networking Field Day in November, David saw a presentation from NEC on their ProgrammableFlow controller, a SDN product that uses the OpenFlow protocol. David found it “wildly impressive”, and wanted to get a better understanding of the protocol.

Ixia Vision ONE – Tap the Planet

Tony Mattke wrote up his review for Ixia’s Vision ONE solution, which he saw at Networking Field Day in November. Ixia may have a long history in the load testing market, but for Tony, they represent a new entry into the network packet broker market. Vision ONE is Ixia’s solution to the problem of not knowing if you monitoring tools are accurately capturing network traffic. Tony really liked that this all can be configured within a simple UI, calling it “an easy to use toolset with some seriously capability”. Sounds impressive!

Forward Networks – A forward approach to formal verification

Tony Mattke reviews what he saw from Forward Networks at Networking Field Day in November. It’s been a little bit since their presentation, but Tony is still excited when thinking about the implications of formally verifying a network. He wants to see it in testing in the real world before passing final judgement, but the capabilities as described at NFD “should be making you drool”.

SD-WAN from VeloCloud

Peter Welcher reviews what he saw from VeloCloud at Networking Field Day in November. He came away impressed with the company. In a space that’s increasingly crowded by players with a legacy in WAN optimization, VeloCloud distinguishes itself. Peter was particularly impressed by their support for service chaining and partnerships with virtualized firewall vendors. Overall, Peter sees what VeloCloud is doing as proof that SD-WAN has carved out a definite use case in the enterprise.

NFD13: SolarWinds Presents Its New NetPath Tool

I don’t want to put words into Peter Welcher’s mouth. But in his post about SolarWinds’ NetPath tool, he straight up says, “[i]t turns out, I was very impressed with the new NetPath tool!” Not a lot of room for ambiguity there! SolarWinds presented at Networking Field Day this past November, and spent the entire session going over NetPath. Peter really enjoyed the presentation, not just for what NetPath could do, but also learning the journey SolarWinds took to refine and develop the tool.

See in the Fog with Ixia CloudLens

David Varnum draws a great analogy. In a lot of ways, flying through cloud and managing cloud infrastructure and applications are similar. Both don’t seem to bad to navigate from the outside, but once inside, you lose perspective. This requires both a pilot and systems engineer to have precise instrumentation to properly navigate where they want to go. With Ixia’s CloudLens, David sees someone finally providing that instrumentation.

Apstra’s Ethereal Network State

Apstra has a really interesting idea. What if you could design your network based on what you wanted to do with it? Instead of chaffing with the constraints of vendors and hardware, Apstra provides an abstraction layer to allow you to do this. Ethan Banks saw their presentation at Networking Field Day. He wrangled with the idea that Apstra is simply providing configuration management. But instead, they are providing a solution that takes a look at the network as a whole, something network engineers rarely can do. Instead, you state what you want to do with the network, and the Apstra Operating System tells you how to make that happens. It then knows the intent of the network, and is able to heal and remediate to keep that intent in place. Ethan thinks they’re entering into a crowded market, but that kind of model could really allow them to stand out.

NFD13: Forward Networks Comes Out of Stealth to Impress

Peter Welcher reviews what he saw from Forward Networks once they came out of stealth. Peter seemed impressed with how Forward is able to put together a database model of network configurations that can be searched and indexed independent of actually operating on the network. This can then be used for fast troubleshooting, as well as testing configurations to make sure they’re operating within a desired state. Overall, Peter sees this as a way to not spread you senior enterprise talent too thin. While there isn’t any automated remediation backed in, the powerful forecasting tools they present make it possible to better utilize talent in your organization.

Generating Maps of Your Traffic

For a network engineer, it sometimes feels impossible to avoid traceroute. Tim Miller thinks it can be a valuable tool to see where traffic is getting dropped, but it’s not without its issues. He’s highlighted some other solutions in previous posts, but the one he’s looking at today is SolarWinds. Their NetPath tool has gone from a lab toy to an official feature of their Network Performance Monitor solution in a little under a year. Tim finds it a really impressive tool. Even though it requires Windows-based polling appliances in a network, a Linux guy like Tim can still be tempted. It gives historical information layer on top of what you would find with a traceroute, and adds multipathing. Overall, Tim sees this as a very practical tool to help disentangle issues in increasingly complex networks.

On Network Blindness

Notable beard accomplisher and Apstra systems engineer Derick Winkworth shares some thoughts about network blindness. He compares it to face blindness, where people can see all the individual components, but cannot recognize them together. In much the same way, many network engineers build automation into their systems, without recognizing what the purpose of that network is, suffer from that same kind of affliction. Apstra developed with Apstra Operating System in response to this. It provides an abstraction over hardware to create networks with intentionality. The benefit of this is that it allows you to built a network around what you want to do, not change your behaviors based on the network. Derick gets into the nuts in bolts in the piece, but conceptually, its a refreshing take.

If you enjoy the piece, make sure to check out all of Apstra’s videos from Networking Field Day.