Controlling the InteropNet

I remember literally hanging out outside the InteropNet NOC when I last visited the venerable event. It must have been in the late 90’s when I was still young and angry about most things network (one example; ATM cell size). And, yes, I had coloured hair, worked in a NOC and had many screens of “tail -f” (!) on log files running on my FreeBSD laptop. You get the picture. 

For me, that made our invitation to participate in the InteropNet network all the more exciting. We had been asked to bring our NCS product and make it work with the whole wide range of networking gear that provides the show floor network. It’s a pretty extreme network comprising 75 boxes (physical and virtual) from 7 vendors all working together after a very focused effort from a group of very committed network engineers and vendor representatives. They spend on the order of two weeks standing the network up in a warehouse close to San Francisco Airport and then ship the whole thing in containers to the show.

Getting the ability to work with such an outlier of a network and get access to network engineers was a hugely productive situation for us. We managed to model network element drivers for all of the participating equipment during the preparation phase so we could show complete support during the event. A nice validation for us that we have managed to shorten the time to add support for new equipment down to roughly the equivalent the time to set a network up. This is a huge difference from the multi-month efforts that have been the norm for adding support for new vendors and products in previous generations of provisioning and automation systems.

The Interopnet CLI

And of course; being able to type show configuration devices in a CLI (or use REST or click through the Web UI if you’re into those things) and get the configuration of all network elements in the whole network tended to get the attention from booth visitors and produced some real interesting conversations around how to bring programmability to the current generation networks while still ensuring that you don’t miss the boat on e.g. OpenFlow-based future networks.

The whole network is now back in a container in the warehouse, eagerly awaiting the next Interop in NYC. See you there! 


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