Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Network Field Day 21 - October 1-4, 2019 - Biggest Tech Field Day Event Ever?!?

I have had the privilege of participating in a few Network Field Day events in the past, dating all the way back to NFD6. They are always interesting, lots of good technology to learn about, but the best part is the engagement and meeting some amazing people. The delegates, the representatives of all the companies and the field day teams supporting the event. I'm grateful I was invited way back in 2013 and I am delighted to be back for NFD21.

What is really surprising is the line up for NFD21, the list is impressive of both companies and delegates - you can check it out at the website! In fact, they have so many companies they expanded the format and it is going on for 4 days and they are having delegates rotating in and out of the line up because there are so many presentations. A few of us will be attending the entire 4 days, I think we get a special marathon badge when we are done on the fourth day.

If you are at all into networking then I encourage you to follow along live for the events on the Tech Field Day website or keep up with the activity via twitter by following the hashtag #NFD21. I'll be posting thoughts via twitter and after the event I will post a few blog posts too. If you want a fast way to learn what these companies are up to technically, this is the way to do it, well, outside of getting invited as a delegate. If you are interested in becoming a delegate you can do that too, you get to rub elbows with some pretty amazing people.
- Ed

In a spirit of fairness (and also because it is legally required by the FTC), I am posting this Disclosure Statement. It is intended to alert readers to funding or gifts that might influence my writing. My participation in Tech Field Day events was voluntary and I was invited to participate in NFD21. Tech Field Day is hosted by Gestalt IT and my hotel, transportation, food and beverage was/is paid for by Gestalt IT for the duration of the event. In addition, small swag gifts were/are provided by some of the sponsors of the event to delegates. It should be noted that there was/is no requirement to produce content about the sponsors and any content produced does not require review or editing by Gestalt IT or the sponsors of the event.

Monday, March 04, 2019

SnapRoute - Is there something new happening in networking?

The launch (or relaunch depending on your opinion of when they started and on what they were building verse what they are doing now) of SnapRoute was an interesting event to be able to participate in. SnapRoute presented at Network Field Day 20 as part of the launch of their Cloud Native Network Operating System.

I think what SnapRoute is doing is the start of a fundamental shift in thinking about how network equipment, specifically data center switching and routing, should be deployed, managed and, more importantly, how they are classified. I believe they are the start of the transition where a managed resource in a data center is not something special but simply a compute object with different characteristics that can be assembled in a way that serves the purpose of the workloads that need to run in that data center.

For awhile now the push has been (for the networking industry anyway) scripting and automation working up to some sort of orchestration to make networking advance into the realm of cloud first or at least something a developer could code against. While this is important and will likely continue for the next decade or more it is far from the final goal of what a cloud first approach really entails.

Some in the industry are thinking the next evolution is intent based networking. Defining what you want to have happen and having the system orchestrate the outcome to match the intent. I actually consider that a big jump from where we are at today and companies like Apstra are trying to be an early market leader in that space. But I still consider that solution fundamentally orchestration and there are other methods and approaches out there that are just as valid but still only go up the stack as high as Level 3 (see the chart below).

I think a tweet from my friend Gian Paolo helps explain what is happening really well.



It is worth noting that this applies much wider than the networking industry overall. It seems what SnapRoute is attempting to do is the tooling for Level 4 and they are doing an end run around traditional networking tooling and methods. Instead, they have chosen to leverage cloud native constructs and tools to make networking adapt to those ethos instead. So, SnapRoute uses Kubernetes to run and deploy the resources on the Edge Core switches they support (more suppliers to be added, I imagine, depending on customer demand). Today, their solution runs on a single switch running Kubernetes but it is clear where their vision is going. A grouping of leaf/spine switches in the data center will be a Kubernetes Pod and likely Istio and Envoy will be used to expand the capabilities of what SnapRoute can do in that Pod. More importantly, a traditional network operator really has no choice but to learn cloud first methods and working with Kubernetes, Istio and Envoy are exactly the tools they must learn to make that transition.

I suppose the interesting question is, how is where SnapRoute going significantly different then where the networking market is currently going today? I think the simple answer is they are using the Cloud Native approach which really combines Level 2, 3 and 4 together. They get to avoid the incremental moves of the industry and have a first mover advantage, they are effectively leapfrogging several steps. This assumes they are able to pull off a Kubernetes Pod for the data center fabric but from what I can tell, it sure looks possible. What they are working on could really change the game for developers deploying in on premises data centers. They are worth keeping an eye on and seeing if they are able to make significant deals to help push their vision forward.
- Ed

In a spirit of fairness (and also because it is legally required by the FTC), I am posting this Disclosure Statement. It is intended to alert readers to funding or gifts that might influence my writing. My participation in Tech Field Day was voluntary and I was invited to participate in NFD20. Tech Field Day is hosted by Gestalt IT and my hotel, transportation, food and beverage was paid for by Gestalt IT for the duration of the event. In addition, small swag gifts were provided by some of the sponsors of the event to delegates. It should be noted that there was no requirement to produce content about the sponsors and any content produced does not require review or editing by Gestalt IT or the sponsors of the event.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Tech Field Day 18 - Day 2 with SolarWinds

Picking up from the data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence discussion from my last blog post about Tech Field Day 18 - Day 1, I wanted to dive into the briefing we got from SolarWinds on Day 2. SolarWinds is using that analytics and data sets to make informed decisions and they are leveraging machine learning as part of that process. The presentations are up to watch, you can find them at the link below.

SolarWinds:
https://techfieldday.com/appearance/solarwinds-presents-at-tech-field-day-18/

Of particular note is the presentation by Thomas LaRock, Head Geek and Karlo Zatylny, Distinguished Engineer at SolarWinds discuss machine learning, anomaly detection, and Database Performance Analyzer. This presentation goes over the difficulties of using algorithms to try and determine the right way to do predictive analysis and how to display that information to users. It was a very good presentation on the challenges the industry faces in getting things right and how hard it can be to make good assumptions. It also highlights how important it is to have good data and the context of that data. I think even harder is the UI work and how to give the right context around the data being displayed. Honestly, that will likely be the second hardest part of all of this data science work. Providing an intuitive way to understand what the data is telling you without putting in unnatural bias or artificial conclusions in the presentation of that data will be tough. I think SolarWinds is on the right track with what they are doing and their customers will ultimately get a lot of value from the product because of that. At the end of the day, value is what is most important. If they can provide better insight to drive better outcomes or actions then they win a vote of confidence from their customers. I think, for most customers, this will be the determination of if they demand data analytics, machine learning and eventually artificial intelligence or not and if they are willing to pay for it. SolarWinds is helping folks find the needles quickly, now what to do with them is the next challenge.
- Ed

In a spirit of fairness (and also because it is legally required by the FTC), I am posting this Disclosure Statement. It is intended to alert readers to funding or gifts that might influence my writing. My participation in Tech Field Day was voluntary and I was invited to participate in TFD18. Tech Field Day is hosted by Gestalt IT and my flights, hotel, transportation, food and beverage was paid for by Gestalt IT for the duration of the event. In addition, small swag gifts were provided by some of the sponsors of the event to delegates. It should be noted that there was no requirement to produce content about the sponsors and any content produced does not require review or editing by Gestalt IT or the sponsors of the event.

Monday, February 11, 2019

TechField Day 18 - Day 1 with Datera, NetApp and VMware

I was fortunate to be invited to participate in Tech Field Day 18 in Austin, TX. Day one had Datera, NetApp and VMware presenting to the delegates. The mix of delegates made for some interesting questions and discussions so I recommend you watch the presentation for each so you can hear the conversations. You can find each of the videos at the links below:

Datera:

VMware:


While all the marketing in the industry is talking about data analytics, machine learning and artificial intelligence it was interesting to see how companies are actually trying to apply these ideas in practice in their products. I think the transition happening today is that data analytics is providing information that allow lay people the ability to discover details and insight into their business or technical processes that they didn't know before. This is an opportunity for companies that are providing this level of insight to stand out. Using that analytics and data sets to make informed decisions and leverage machine learning is the natural progression. Not everyone is there, not everyone has the same data sets gathered and the journey from data, to information, to knowledge, will not be equally distributed across the industry either.

As an example, it is clear that the data insights that Datera leverage allow them to make a much more efficient and cost effective storage solution, there isn't anything unique about the hardware, in fact they make that a selling point. The value is in looking at the data, the intention of what that data needs to do and the letting their system figure out what the right thing to do with the data.

A different lens is what NetApp Active IQ is doing with the huge telemetry data they get in supporting their customer. They are providing proactive guidance and recommendations on what to do in supporting their solutions. Their challenge is given the massive amount of data they gather, how do you gain the best insights and turn those into recommendations and finally, how do you extend that to something predictable. I think their next challenge will be how to integrated third party data into the platform in a meaningful way. While I am happy to see them doing this work, it feels too narrow in it's current form. Once their data and insights are extended out into other third party products or they can integrate with major partners then their combined data insights become that much more compelling. I will be keeping an eye on what they do to see if that happens.

Finally, VMware has an equally interesting data support insight model around vSAN and their vCenter products. They are doing some fantastic work around anonymizing customer data and still providing great support and telemetry around what they customers need. I would like to also see them extend beyond their own product lines to do integration with third party so that customers can see across their diverse products and solutions and get a much more holistic view of their environment and the potential impacts might happen from an operational change or upgrades/downgrades.

As with any transition, the devil is in the details and this data revolution is no different. Moving from unstructured data to structured in order to gain data insights is hard. Logging and monitoring data is hard to manage and without the right tools, almost impossible to get anything useful out of it. Finding all the needles is the goal with what is happening now. They next phase is what do you do with all these needles once you find them.
- Ed

In a spirit of fairness (and also because it is legally required by the FTC), I am posting this Disclosure Statement. It is intended to alert readers to funding or gifts that might influence my writing. My participation in Tech Field Day was voluntary and I was invited to participate in TFD18. Tech Field Day is hosted by Gestalt IT and my flights, hotel, transportation, food and beverage was paid for by Gestalt IT for the duration of the event. In addition, small swag gifts were provided by some of the sponsors of the event to delegates. It should be noted that there was no requirement to produce content about the sponsors and any content produced does not require review or editing by Gestalt IT or the sponsors of the event.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Tech Field Day 18 is Feb 6-8, 2019 - Look out Austin!

With my current role at my new company, one of the fortunate benefits is that I can participate in more independent industry events. Some of my favorite in the industry are the Tech Field Day events. I'm luck enough to get to head out to Austin, TX to participate and engage with the folks from Datera, NetApp, SolarWinds and VMware for two days while hanging out with some amazing people.

One of the aspects I have always enjoyed about the Tech Field Day events is how they are set up. Direct community engagement with vendors to learn about their products, provide feedback and occasional insight. Plus the raw and direct nature of the presentations and interaction makes it so much more real for those of us in the room but also for those watching remotely. I have meet so many wonderful people through my participation and I feel very fortunate to be invited back on a regular basis.

My first event was the Software Defined Data Center Symposium back on Sept 10, 2013. A day after was Network Field Day 6, my first real full blown Tech Field Day event. At that single event I meet for the first time Anthony Burke, Bob McCouch, Brent Salisbury, Carole Warner Reese, Chris Marget, Ethan Banks, Greg Ferro, Ivan Pepelnjak, Jason Edelman and Matt Oswalt. I was lucky enough to already know Brandon Carroll, Stephen Foskett and Tom Hollingsworth prior to the event. If you are in the networking community that the names in that list are likely familiar to you.

I am fortunate to be the co-host of the IPv6 Buzz Podcast on the Packet Pushers (which Greg and Ethan run). I have participated with Ivan in his excellent training platform IPSpace.net, and kept in touch with Anthony, Jason, Matt and Brandon through the years. Without the Tech Field Day events some of these wonderful opportunities and relationships would have never have happened and for that alone I am grateful.

So, with any luck I will get to meet some other fantastic folks and hear about some really interesting technology too.

- Ed