Abstraction can be tricky. When handled poorly, it can serve to obfuscate and unnecessarily blur fine detail into generalizations. These can be at best simple confusions, but often lead to profound misunderstandings. At this point, an abstraction ceases to be a useful tool, and simply adds to creeping complexity. Like any tool, it comes down to proper use cases and implementation.
In my experiences at Networking Field Day, I’ve also seen the opposite. Often, companies competently create abstractions that can meaningfully reduce complexity, and allow engineers and administrators to get a single view (dare I say a “pane of glass”) of a complex situation that might otherwise be impossible.
Now, abstraction as a tool is nothing new. But a new trend I’m seeing from recent events is combining it with intentionality. This moves the abstraction from a tool to overview complexity, and into the ability to manage and direct it. At Networking Field Day this week, I saw such an implementation from Anuta Networks.
Anuta showed off their NCX network orchestration tool at Networking Field Day. This is a software abstraction solution to allow you to work easier in multi-tenant networks across multiple vendors. Their pitch wasn’t so much about avoiding vendor locking (although this would be a nice side benefit), but rather, to make it easier to orchestrate your network using your existing setup. The key point was that Anuta seemed confident that they could deliver on doing the hard work to allow you to use network appliance services regardless of where they were coming from. They admitted this isn’t comprehensive, they’re not interested in bringing every bespoke feature from a piece of hardware and making is accessible everywhere. Rather, they want to take the most popular features and services and focus on making those work.
NCX works with standard YANG-based orchestration. This makes it pretty versatile and customizable to a customers needs. If they just stopped at that, I could see this being really appealing to bigger enterprises and service providers. But Anuta offers something really smart to help them reach across a much wider spectrum of potential customers. Essentially
One feature stood out with Anuta’s NCX solution. They helpfully include starter kits for common NCX deployments. These include CPE, SD-WAN, and L3 VPNs. The benefit of these are twofold. One, these can substantially decrease deployment time. Anuta said they’ve seen instances of getting a complete Cisco IWAN deployment productized in as little as two weeks with these starter kits. The other benefit, and one that has the greatest impact for their customer base, is it allows organizations that haven’t implemented DevOps in the IT to do as little or as much customization as needed. Anuta pitched this as a benefit to those enterprises with DevOps, allowing for quick customization. But I see the benefit flowing the opposite way. Organizations who aren’t using DevOps can quickly get off the ground with Anuta without having to invest in a whole new IT strategy. If anything, I could see a NCX being a springboard to greater DevOps adoption.
If you’re living in a complex multi-vendor setup, Anuta Networks has an interesting solution with NCX. It uses YANG to allow you to state how you intend the orchestration to work, then Anuta does the hard work of translating this into a vendor-specific implementation. This is the strength of productive abstration. It allows you to avoid working around needless complexity, and allows you to focus on the bigger overall picture. With over 35 vendors supported, Anuta’s NCX seems well provisioned for your orchestration needs.