Cisco Looks to Make Some Developer Friends

Events in the networking world don’t usually garner all that much attention from developers. But Cisco is hoping that developers are paying attention to both OpenStack, an emerging standard for managing IT infrastructure in cloud computing platforms, and Project Open Daylight, an open source implementation of a software-defined networking controller that Cisco supports.

Cisco and a host of other vendors have pledged their support to both OpenStack and Project Open Daylight as part of an effort develop a common framework for managing IT infrastructure. What a lot of people don’t appreciated about that, says Lauren Cooney, senior director, software strategy and planning at Cisco, is that both Project Open Daylight and OpenStack expose northbound APIs that will give developers more direct control over IT infrastructure, including Cisco routers and switches.

The goal, says Cooney, is to give developer the control they need to optimize the performance of applications that will soon span multiple instances of cloud computing. Without that control, developers will essentially be leaving control of network resources up to others that may not prioritize their application, or make specific resources available.

As IT infrastructure as a whole becomes more programmable, developer are about to discover that their applications don’t necessarily have to held hostage by IT operations teams. Similarly, IT operations teams will be glad of the day when developers have more visibility into how their applications are actually performing in production environments.

Ultimately, Cooney says Cisco is hoping that developers will invoke many of the application services that Cisco has embedded in its network infrastructure. Because there has been no standard way to invoke those resources usage of those network services has been spotty. OpenStack and Project Open Daylight create a standard framework for not only programming Cisco equipment, but also a broad range of IT infrastructure resources that might exist both inside and out of the four walls of any given data center.

Developers have been at war with IT operations teams for years. While there has been a lot of progress made in addressing this so-called DevOps crisis, open standards such as OpenStack will go a long way towards reducing tensions with IT operations teams that don’t always have the time or expertise needed to optimize a particular application.

Of course, that also means that the next time something goes wrong with an application from a performance perspective, developers will have nobody to blame but themselves.


Comments (2)

[full disclosure: I work at a vendor in the SDN space that is a member of OpenDaylight]

There are two great points here that really pop:

- There are capabilities that we collectively leave on the table when we assume that the network and applications ought to exist as ships in the night. Cisco's work to embrace an API framework (both on their own and now through OpenDaylight) is absolutely correct. The interesting thing to note relative to the rest of the industry is that the VMW guys have publicly disagreed with this. They see things through their own business model, usually a characteristic of legacy vendors protecting turf. It will be interesting to watch this play out over the next few years, but I am betting on new possibilities enabled by bi-directional application-network communication.

- There is a noticeable shift from highly-trained specialists towards more programmatic IT infrastructure control. The DevOps movement is real, and people need to pay attention. It will never drive out all the specialists (network engineers will still exist), but the balance will be different, and I predict some of the compensation will move towards DevOps (until there is a scarcity of specialists and it all pendulums back ;)

The point not made is that APIs I suspect will not be enough. We need to pair these with relevant abstractions so that the applications guys can speak in application terms (what they need) and not in device terms (VLANs, for example). That work should heat up in the coming months.


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