The Cloud Is Now A Thing

In the networking world, we’re starting to see the term “cloud” more and more. When I teach classes, if I so much as mention the word cloud, I start to see some eyes roll. That’s completely understandable, as the term cloud was such an overused buzzword, only having been recently supplanted only by “software defined”.

Here’s real-life supervillain (dude owns an MiG 29 and an island with a volcano on it… seriously) Larry Ellison freaking out about the term cloud.

“It’s not water vapor! All it is, is a computer attached to a network!”

But here’s the thing, it’s actually a thing now. Rather than a catch-all buzzword, it’s being used more and more to define a particular type of operational model. And it’s defined by NIST, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, part of the US Department of Commerce. With the term cloud, we now get a higher degree of specificity.

The NIST definition of cloud is as follows:

  • On-demand self service
  • Broad network access
  • Resource pooling (multi-tenant)
  • Rapid Elasticity
  • Measured service

That first item on the list, the on-demand self service, is a huge change in how we will be doing networking. Right now network configurations are mostly done by network administrators. If you have a network need and aren’t a network admin, you open up a ticket and wait.

In (private) cloud computing, which will include a large networking component, the network elements, end points, and devices will be configured by end-users/developers, not the IT staff. The IT staff will maintain the overall cloud infrastructure, but will not do the day-to-day changes. The changes will happen far too frequently, and they will happen in the middle of the day. Change control will probably be handled for the underlying infrastructure, but the tenants will likely make many changes during the day. The fault domains will be a lot smaller, making mistakes impactful to a small segment for these changes, and the automation will make chance that a change (such as adding a new load balancing VIP) will be done correctly much higher.

This is how things have been done in public clouds (Amazon, Rackspace, etc.) for a while now.

When people talk about the death of the CLI, this is what they’re referring to. The configuration changes we make won’t be on a Cisco or Juniper CLI, but through some sort of portal (which can be either GUI, CLI, or API calls) and will be largely automated. We’ve hit the twilight of the age of Conf T.

With OpenStack, Docker, CoreOS, containers, DevOps, ACI, NSX, and all of the new operational models, technologies, and platforms, the next generation data center will be a self-service data center.

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