Recently, I was reading an article in the trade press that was discussing automation and network management and where things are going. The author said something that really caught my eye and fits what I have been talking about a lot here. To paraphrase, a new future can’t be built on old technology. This isn’t anything radical or new, but it rang true to me and not just in networking. I think we are at an inflection point for network management where we are starting to realize more fully the benefits of automation especially when it is driven by programmability.
Future innovations and products can’t be built on what we have always used or on older technologies. Image if we had just continued to use what we had in the past like vacuum tubes, our solutions/products would have been passed by cutting edge solutions that saw past what was and instead looked to what would be. This evolution has brought about the key innovations that we enjoy today like mobile technologies, wearables, and programmable network elements that talk with each other to ensure automation in the network. New ideas and approaches rise to the top creating what’s possible in network management for instance. At end of the day, organizations need to change or die; there is a lot of wisdom in these few words.
I look back sometimes to the days when I began as a development engineer and where I would be if I only continued to use the technologies I knew back then. I know for sure I wouldn’t have a job today. I would still be working with assembly language on megahertz 8 or 16-bit CPUs with kilobytes of memory because that was my generation of technology and it was comfortable. In this gigabit world of connectivity, new technologies seem to come out of nowhere and I had to evolve to survive and get to where I am today. Staying in our comfort zones is a dead end where we stop growing and innovating. If we keep doing the things we have always done, nothing will improve or get better.
To be successful, we must learn and embrace what is new; learn the cutting-edge technologies because most likely they will be mainstream tomorrow. We have to adapt and innovate to make possible what was once impossible including network management. Automating via scripting strings off a CLI was a useful approach that worked, but it isn’t the best way to automate. With programmability, we have learned new ways to interact with devices through NETCONF and YANG. The new networking models and approaches were disruptive at first, but, as time has gone on and people have learned these techniques, it has resulted in innovating next-generation network operations.
The key here is to find new ways to make the impossible, possible. On the network management side, the best way that I have found to stay ahead of the curve is to read the IETF drafts and RFCs in the areas of NETCONF, RESTCONF, and YANG as these are important to what’s next for network programmability and automation. Additionally, I am always looking for good books in this area including a great book I have recommended in the past – Network Programmability with YANG. I also like to follow thought leaders that are helping drive the conversations in programmability and network management.
Here at Tail-f/Cisco, we then strive to make sure that this knowledge is then passed on. We have tried to be a resource of moving the needle with programmability and have taken the approach to help our customers learn more through resources such as our community forum and our video learning series. Additionally, to help our customers gain new knowledge and leverage the latest technology, we regularly add new content to our resources page that benefits both new and experienced ConfD developers.
To put a fine point on this discussion, if you don’t evolve and change, you will end up on the scrap heap of technology. No matter what you do or don’t do, programmability and automation will evolve. Staying connected to resources and thought leadership content will make sure you don’t miss what’s next.