Python, Puppet, Chef, ONIE and ODM – New Terms for the Service Provider Equipment World?

Glenn Hunt
Glenn Hunt

Summary Bullets:

  • IT and network jargon begins to co-mingle, but is this bilateral cross-pollination or one-sided?
  • Who’s courting who in the mashing together of the network, data center and cloud?

Over the past few months, it has become apparent that service providers, as a group, have nearly all endorsed the idea of transforming their networks in order to capture the benefits of a more agile and flexible platform from which they could provide XaaS (anything as a service). One of the initial barriers, which still remains, is the obvious disconnect between the terminology used by the network folks and their counterparts in the IT world to accomplish similar functions – like programming languages and installation processes.

Nowhere was this more evident than when a discussion of their respective development environments was attempted. In many cases, the lack of a common set of definitions created confusion and disagreement, even when both parties were saying the same thing, but were using different terminology. During a vendor panel focused on NFV use cases at MEF’s Gen14 conference this fall, Juniper’s spokesperson noted that the company had added support for Python scripting, as well Puppet and Chef tools to help automate installations. Other vendors such as Cisco and Ericsson are following suite and have integrated their cloud environments with their network controllers and orchestrators to provide a more welcoming environment for developers, in an attempt to provide a common bridge between the network and IT domains.

When it comes to the infrastructure, the move to leverage generic, server-based hardware platforms to host virtual network functions is beginning to stabilize, with the realization that existing hardware-based platforms will need to co-exist for some time to come. Some of this is due to the need for operators to utilize fully recent purchases (per the depreciation cycle), while expansions are being deployed using COTS platforms.

However, it is not all that simple. Take, for example, the need for a high-performance application that is sensitive to latency or throughput. To address this, we are seeing carrier-grade virtual routers (using tried-and-true network operating systems such as Alcatel-Lucent’s SR OS and Juniper’s Junos) to deliver the needed performance. In the same vein, solutions to bolster Linux performance are being offered by companies such as 6Wind (Virtual Accelerator), whose mantra is “Speed Matters,” in order to provide the predictability and performance needed by mission-critical applications.

For 2015, expect to see more co-mingling of IT and network terminology, best practices, as well as a heightened awareness of the need for performance and predictability, regardless of the host environment (i.e., dedicated hardware or virtualized server).

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