Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Network Field Day 21 - Forward Networks - Useful Intent Based Networking

One of the challenges in larger organizations and service providers is the inherent complexity in the design, deployment and operation of their networks. The reasons are varied and often a function of their business needs, their legacy technology and business drivers and many decades of merger and divestitures. Basically, things out of the control of the technology implementors and operators. The operational impact of deploying or removing a service from the network can be profound. It is often not documented completely, has changed over time and is intertwined with other services in some way that may not be obvious with just a simple assessment.

These challenges are the source of real operational risks that can translate to financial losses for a company. It is no wonder that many larger organizations are slow to implement changes, have challenges understanding impacts of changes they need or want to do and have increasingly complex security and policy issues. Compliance and validation are now becoming standard audit requests from third parties and financial penalties are not insignificant to those that fail to pass many of these new standards.

So, what is an organization like this to do regarding getting their arms around the impacts of changes within their environment? How will they manage a multi-vendor, heterogeneous networking environment? ForwardNetworks is addressing this need by allowing companies to build a digital twin of their network, which is not easy! This approach allows organizations to validate configuration changes, their impacts and understand what actions could potentially be damaging and negatively impact their compliance, SLAs or business services. This digital twin allows for several unique aspects of what Forward Networks can provide to customers. They are an intent driven solution that provides network automation and verification with a useful and practical user interface that enables network operators to really understand the impact of planned changes.

I recommend watching the Network Field Day presentation from Brandon Heller, CTO and co-founder which explains what Forward Networks does and goes over the UI of the product. I do believe that the product, as it is built today, is likely more appropriate for larger organizations. However, I can easily see them expanding their customer base and providing the product as a SaaS platform for small to medium sized companies with less complex networks to leverage the automation and validation capabilities. Given the natural fit to integrate to cloud networking via API’s and their support of existing network and security product technologies that are used on-premises this would be a very desirable solution for many in the complex role of operating highly available or complex networks.

I was impressed with what Forward Networks has built and for operators I believe there are many that would spend most of their time within their UI versus spending their time in the CLI of most networking and security platforms. The good news is that they do not preclude you from using the CLI still and can work in conjunction with many solutions that are based on that as the primary interface to deploy and operate their products. It is a win/win in terms of helping teams adopt a new method and tool.

If you are struggling with large scale networking changes within your organization or you want better validation and verification, along with automation to push out changes then seriously evaluate Forward Networks. I have my fingers crossed that their product will go down market and be something even more of us get to use.
- 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.

No comments: