As Head of Enterprise Networking at ANS, I often find myself speaking to customers about architectural network components such as high availability, scalability, performance, visibility, redundancy and so on and as every architect will tell you, these standardised design deliverables haven’t changed for a good number of years due to the fact that the network has traditionally been viewed as a pure connectivity solution.
Today, organisations across every sector are undergoing transformation like we’ve never seen before. In a time when it’s becoming more challenging to differentiate brands, products, and services, competition has never been more prevalent. In the race to win over new customers and retain current ones, we’re now seeing more organisations turning to artificial intelligence, big data and IoT to create unique, personalised and relevant experiences to attract today’s digitally demanding consumers. To support this digital evolution, organisations are quickly beginning to realise they need to be able to rely on a robust network to support bandwidth hungry devices and applications such as high performance data, voice and video. The network must also be powered by deep intelligence and integrated security to deliver automation and analytics across the entire organisation at scale. Crucially then, organisations must embrace a new era of networking to enable them to deliver on these ever-growing digital demands. It’s not surprising then that I now find customers steering the conversation towards technologies such as Cisco DNA, ACI, ISE and StealthWatch.
Customers are also looking at how predictive analytics will present information back to operations and also at how these systems can start to self-heal and prevent issues arising before the event. This is only available in a software defined world with the right tooling.
What Tooling options are available to you?
As the network landscape changes, we’re now finding customers are wanting to use the same principles with CI/CD but for the network, using internal existing scripting and tooling skills to deliver the necessary code to consume networking and security services in line with development and production cultures. In these environments, there may also be significant use of DevOps methodologies, with teams of developers making regular high demands of the network teams. Ansible, Puppet, Chef, Salt or any of the other myriad of orchestration tool sets could be used to build workflows across the whole IT environment – including the network – or exposed APIs for the network controllers can be used from programming languages such as Python. Monitoring tools can sit in the background tracking usage, reporting errors and maintaining configuration backups. This is a massive shift for customers who don’t have the necessary skills, processes or strategy to build on this paradigm. However, we’ve experienced this first hand at ANS, having delivered several private and public cloud products which have required extensive tooling to deliver self-service portals, workflows and processes for the datacentre infrastructure space.
Here at ANS we’re now engaging with customers from a tooling down perspective, allowing the tooling to define the networking and security infrastructure requirements. This is a brand-new approach that we believe will support our customers adoption of software defined services and the necessary tooling to support the benefits of automation, orchestration, machine learning, AI and IoT application deployment initiatives.