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Will automation define the future of network technology?

This week, bloggers look at automation as the future of network technology, weigh in on Cumulus' EVPN features and examine ExtraHop's Addy machine learning analytics.

Ethan Banks, blogging in Packet Pushers, said he believes that the future of network technology will be defined by automation. Most configurations will be done automatically rather than by network engineers using command line interfaces or GUIs. Banks said that sparing engineers the repetitive and often boring task of configuration would be a benefit, both from the standpoint of personal satisfaction and business success. When it comes to the future of network technology, he sees the potential of well-written software eliminating many of the mistakes that tired or distracted people make. He said that where the future of network technology is concerned, automating IT is a way for businesses to cut down on risks in IT changes.

What should engineers do with the rise of automation? Banks said understanding and leveraging automation tools and focusing on systems-level thinking will become the new job roles for engineers. A preconfigured automation system won't work instantly for most businesses and it falls on engineers who understand the business and its processes to adopt automation offerings. "I predict automation scope creep in IT infrastructure automation as well. Perhaps you'll start by automating the creation of a VLAN. Then you'll figure out how to hook that simple VLAN creation script into the IPAM API, and reserve a new IP block from the IPAM at the same time the VLAN is created. And then you'll realize that with a little more code, you can inject the new IP block into the routing domain," Banks said.

Dig deeper into Banks' thoughts on the future of network technology.

EVPN isn't everything it's cracked up to be

Ivan Pepelnjak, blogging in ipSpace, shared his thoughts on the new Ethernet Virtual Private Network, or EVPN, implementation that shipped with Cumulus Linux 3.2. While many groups, such as small ASIC makers that were eager to get a control plane for hardware VXLAN tunnel endpoint, or VTEP functionalities, were excited by the inclusion, Pepelnjak believes that the benefits of EVPN are exaggerated.

Pepelnjak terms EVPN "SIP for networking." He draws comparisons between Cumulus Linux, which implements on Type-3 routes and relies on dynamic MAC learning, and Cisco and Juniper, which offer BGP-based MAC learning, as well as IP address propagation on Type-2 routes. Pepelnjak disagrees with an assessment of EVPN from David Iles, senior director at Mellanox, who suggested that EVPN offers an industry-standard control plane for VTEP orchestration, using an extension of BGP, thereby delivering the promise of Cisco's FabricPath, TRILL or Brocade's VCS. Rather, Pepelnjak believes that among the data center fabrics that Iles named, TRILL is at least as standard as EVPN and because it has fewer options, tends to be more interoperable.

Explore more of Pepelnjak's thoughts on EVPN.

ExtraHop Addy applies cloud-based machine learning for network data

Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates in Boulder, Colo., rated IT analytics vendor ExtraHop's release of a new cloud-based service that applies machine learning to packet stream analysis. The new service, ExtraHop Addy, collects wireline data from all ExtraHop appliances on a user's system and establishes network baselines. Initially, the service is intended to spot anomalies but in the long-run, its global analysis capabilities are aimed at tracking industry benchmarks and emerging security threats.

McGillicuddy sees ExtraHop Addy fitting into a broader trend favoring analytics in the enterprise. EMA research found that 50% of enterprise network infrastructure organizations use advanced analytics capabilities like machine learning and big data processing to boost network security monitoring and process optimization. According to McGillicuddy, interpreted packet flows are one of the most common approaches to this type of analytics and he said he believes that enterprises should consider for themselves whether Addy will fit their operations.

Read more of McGillicuddy's thoughts on ExtraHop Addy.

Next Steps

Understanding network automation

Looking into Cumulus Linux

ExtraHop boosts wireline analytics

Dig Deeper on Network Performance Management

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