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If you are going to be at the USENIX/SAGE LISA conference in San Diego in early December, I've scheduled a Network Automation BoF (Birds of a Feather session, where folks interested in a particular topic get together to chat about it) for Thursday night, 8 December 2005, 8:00-9:00pm (right after the conference reception). Right now, they've got us scheduled in Garden Salon 1, but that's subject to change, so check the scheduling board at the conference. I hope to see you there!

BoF info:

Automating Network Configuration & Management

Organizer/Moderator: Brent Chapman, Great Circle Associates
Thursday, 8 December 2005, 8:00 pm-9:00 pm, Garden Salon 1

What's the state of the art for automated network configuration and management? What systems and tools are available, either freely or commercially? Where are these issues being considered and discussed?

Over the last 15 years or so, much of the research in the system administration field has focused on automation. It's now well accepted that a well-run operation doesn't manage 10,000 servers individually, but rather uses tools like cfengine to manage definitions of those servers and then create instances of those servers as needed. In the networking world, though, most of us seem to be still manually configuring (and reconfiguring) every device.

Further info:

If you are going to be at the USENIX conference in Anaheim next week, I've scheduled a Network Automation BoF (Birds of a Feather session, where folks interested in a particular topic get together to chat about it) for Wednesday night, 8:30-9:30pm. Right now, they've got us scheduled in Salon H, but that's subject to change, so check the scheduling board at the conference. I hope to see you there!

BoF info:

Automating Network Configuration & Management

Organizer/Moderator: Brent Chapman, Great Circle Associates
Wednesday, April 13, 8:30 pm-9:30 pm, Salon H

What's the state of the art for automated network configuration and management? What systems and tools are available, either freely or commercially? Where are these issues being considered and discussed?

Over the last 15 years or so, much of the research in the system administration field has focused on automation. It's now well accepted that a well-run operation doesn't manage 10,000 servers individually, but rather uses tools like cfengine to manage definitions of those servers and then create instances of those servers as needed. In the networking world, though, most of us seem to be still manually configuring (and reconfiguring) every device.

Further info:

I've created a Network-Automation mailing list for discussions of issues related to automating network configuration and management, including (but not limited to) methods, mechanisms, techniques, philosophies, policies, and products.

See the list's web page for more information, to view archives, or to subscribe:

http://www.greatcircle.com/network-automation

I look forward to some interesting discussions there, and I hope you'll join us!

-Brent

Infrastructures.ORG

| | Comments (1)

Steve Traugott at Infrastructures.ORG says:

Most IT organizations still install and maintain computers the same way the automotive industry built cars in the early 1900's: An individual craftsman manually manipulates a machine into being, and manually maintains it afterward. This is expensive. The automotive industry discovered first mass production, then mass customization using standard tooling.

Indeed... Most network devices are still configured by hand and manually maintained, with all of the attendant problems (typos, inconsistency of configuration, difficulty making common changes to many systems in parallel, etc.). I'm very interested in taking the same principles that Steve has been codifying and espousing for systems, and applying them to networks.

For the last several years, Steve has been driving this effort, including creating and hosting the Infrastructures mailing list. Their goal is to develop and discuss the

... standards and practices [that] are the standarized tooling needed for mass customization within IT. This tooling enables:
  • Scalable, flexible, and rapid deployments and changes
  • Cost effective, timely return on IT investment
  • Low labor headcount
  • Secure, trustworthy computing environments
  • Reliable enterprise infrastructures

IETF has chartered a Network Configuration Working Group (NETCONF) to "produce a protocol for network configuration". (More details in the full blog entry; click the "Continue reading..." link below.)

Their focus seems to be on defining a protocol to supplant SNMP (a worthy goal, in my opinion; SNMP has proven largely unworkable for network configuration, although it has been useful for network monitoring), but they're intentionally punting on the underlying data model to use to describe how the network ought to be configured (which I think is at least as challenging a problem).