Software defined networking is quickly becoming part of the established norm for data centers across the world. Approximately half of all network professionals are at some stage of deploying a software defined network in their datacenter. By and large, these SDN solutions are primarily a vendor-specific solution rather than an open solution. The two most popular vendors in this area are Cisco ACI and VMware NSX. These vendor specific-solutions have an available management tool that can be used to manage their SDN components, which are all useful tools. However, there are critical capabilities in Micro Focus Network Operations Management (NOM) that vendor specific solutions do not offer.
For this post, I list what I think are some of the most compelling reasons to utilize NOM as your network operations tool. It is important to know what you truly can accomplish rather than relying solely on the management tools that are specific to your chosen SDN vendor or vendors.
#1 Manage Multiple Pods
The Cisco ACI fabric is normally built on a leaf-and-spine network of switches. The leaf-and-spine network architecture is also referred to as a Clos Architecture—named after Charles Clos at Bell Labs in the 1950s. Some of you may properly refer to a single collection of leaf-and-spine switches as a cluster, but for the sake of this article, I will refer to each leaf-and-spine network in your infrastructure as a single pod.
Although many spine-and-leaf networks could theoretically get rather large; today I am seeing that most are usually limited to 4 spines and about 40 leafs. Therefore, it would not be uncommon for a single data center to have more than one pod.
As useful as the Cisco APIC controller is for helping us configure your SDN fabric, each one is only able to manage a single pod. Therefore, if you have multiple pods in your data center, you will need to configure them via separate APIC controllers. That is not the case with Network Operations Management.
NOM is capable of discovering and visualizing all of your pods together. Imagine the potential of one interface, one data base, and a single set of dashboards. Furthermore, you want to manage your pods consistently across your infrastructure.
#2 Manage combined legacy and SDN networks
Networking is nothing new to any of us, but SDN is a fairly new practice. As a result, we can expect our data center network to be a mix of existing network infrastructure and SDN. Therefore, why should we limit ourselves to tools that only support one or the other? You need comprehensive support across your entire network.
Micro Focus Network Operations Management understands the paths that cross all of your network technologies. It doesn’t treat them as technologies which should be managed separately from each other. Hopefully you will agree that these paths should be managed together. Surely your SDN will be expected to seamlessly integrate with the existing network infrastructure, so why would we expect any less of our management tool?
#3 Ensure Regulatory and Security Compliance
This one is pretty simple. Adding a SDN to your infrastructure does not give network engineers a pass on meeting the regulatory and security compliance policies of your organization. If the vendor-specific tools don’t help you with this requirement, then you will need to find a solution that does.
NOM has a strong reputation of helping its users ensure compliance that policies are maintained in your infrastructure. Given the dynamic nature inherent in SDN, it is all the more necessary for your network to automatically stay compliant.
#4 Manage multiple vendors
In an ideal world, we would build our network infrastructure on the few vendors that we trust and know. But in this dynamic business environment, nearly all of us have experience with our organizations acquiring others or being acquired. Note: The SDN world is not immune to this phenomenon. In these situations, we find ourselves integrating new infrastructures into our own, and these networks often use vendors different from our own. The result is that we have to be able to manage both—and to do so comfortably.
In this scenario, if we overly rely on vendor-specific tools to manage our SDN, we will be required to learn new tools, and then swivel our chair between all the tools in our network menagerie. As you can imagine, this can grow to quite a complex task.
With NOM, you can simply discover and add this newly acquired infrastructure into your set of managed devices--even if the infrastructure utilizes multiple SDN vendors. NOM is a single management tool for your entire network.
#5 Change Detection with Automated Remediation
We all know that the ‘S’ in SDN stands for software. And with all software, there are never any defects or mistakes, right? Wrong! Yes, a SDN can and will have defects.
In fact, one of the most difficult defects to detect and discover are those that involve rogue node configurations. Imagine if you will, a single network node in a SDN underlay that is improperly configured by a well-meaning, but naive co-worker. I cringe just saying it, but we all know it can happen.
One of the most powerful capabilities of Micro Focus NOM is the ability to detect configuration changes made to any network node—even if those changes were not made with NOM. Upon detecting such changes, it can even be configured with a policy to automatically revert the offending node configuration back to a last known good configuration.
This automated remediation can provide great comfort to any network operator to know that the SDN is in a known good state. As for now, this is not available in any of the vendor-specific SDN management tools.
Sometimes, when we get to know a tool, we don’t always find ourselves thinking beyond the boundaries of the tool and what it is intended to be used for. Some may say that these vendor-specific tools were never intended to provide the capabilities that NOM provides, and therefore, no one intends to use them to provide the value we would get from a broad enterprise-class network management tool like NOM. However, a well-managed network will benefit from a management tool that can deliver on all of these requirements.
If you need more information on NOM, I invite you to visit our product page at www.microfocus.com/networkmgt.
Network Operations Management