The Network Engineer Is Still Your Best Friend

I’ve been receiving a lot of questions from customers recently asking: How is Pluribus addressing the networking industry’s migration to next-generation networks while still protecting the intellectual investments of network engineers? How is Pluribus making it easy to transition to Netvisor® (the Pluribus network operating system) while protecting the investments in the existing network?

The short answer to both of these questions is that Pluribus takes all of these into account with our Virtualization-Centric Fabric (VCF™) architecture. In fact, the network engineer is a critical part of making our solutions work and we argue the network engineer will still be your best friend with next generation networks.

Pluribus Virtualization-Centric Fabric

The VCF architecture takes into account the best of the server and network worlds and merges them together into a single fabric-wide operating system, Netvisor. Pluribus uses Netvisor to let the network do what it does best (process and then forward packets) using merchant silicon hardware while letting our software add value and unlock new capabilities. Your favorite network engineer who helps you keep your applications running can put these capabilities to good use. Let’s see how.

The basics of networking that we’re using today like VLANs, OSPF, and BGP have been working really well for years. The problem that Pluribus Netvisor is trying to solve is not how to improve network forwarding decisions but rather how can we improve how networks are managed and scaled and what information can the network, server, storage and virtualization teams extract from this feature rich network? Things like Layer 2 extension, integrated application flow visibility and multi-tenancy are great additions but every network still needs to forward packets and every network still needs someone who knows how they work.

Unless you’re building a brand-new datacenter, the chances that you’re willing to completely rip out your existing network and install a new one are pretty slim. That’s why interoperability with existing networking protocols and devices in production today is absolutely critical. Pluribus sees tremendous value in all of the skills developed over the previous decades and actually embraces this as part of our strategy. We need the network engineer to continue designing resilient and intelligent networks that work with each customer’s strategy to run their infrastructure. This skillset is tremendously valuable and will not be easily replaced. When something doesn’t go as expected, there has to be someone available to help troubleshoot. Pluribus has committed to making the transition to a next generation network as smooth as possible for these teams.

 

The Dependable CLI

VCF provides the network engineer with numerous more capabilities to help solve complex business problems using the network as a platform but a question you might be asking is, “What’s the catch?” or “Do I have to learn programming or a new automation tool?” With Pluribus VCF, there is no catch and it’s up to you how you interface with Netvisor. The VCF architecture provides flexibility to manage the network however you’d like: by programming a workflow, SSH-ing to any switch for our CLI or using the native Linux shell for scripting. Totally up to you and all methods will yield the same results.

For those network engineers more inclined to work with Linux commands or scripting, don’t forget that Pluribus Netvisor was developed as a Linux OS! Netvisor is Linux. You have full access to the Linux shell as well as the ability install third party packages, scripts and tools. Anything you can do on a Linux server can now be interfaced directly with the network.. One recent customer used our Ansible workbooks to deploy a full BGP fabric in minutes. Automation is here and it doesn’t have to be complex!

For the network engineer that loves the CLI, Pluribus Netvisor has you covered here as well. When we built Netvisor, we realized that skills centered around the CLI were indispensable; knowing how to configure things like routing or VLAN extension are valuable skills. The Netvisor CLI was built alongside our features that enhance these skill sets – it wasn’t an after-thought. Our CLI isn’t a wrapper or a mask to more complex provisioning. There’s no toolkit, no extra software modules to install, no controller to provision, nor a new port to connect to. The same way that you SSH to your network devices today is the same way you can manage an entire Pluribus VCF fabric. Even more, the CLI is just another interface into our API layer. You pick the device you want to connect to and Netvisor will handle the rest and make it easy to manage your entire data center regardless of where the devices are located.

When connecting to the CLI, you’ll see a familiar prompt and rich capabilities.

There is tab complete:

As well as full help commands:

When executing a command that has the ability to collect data from the entire fabric (such as VLAN data), not only will you get command output from the local switch you’re connected to, Pluribus VCF will also collect the data from the other switches in the fabric and report the information in the same output. Imagine what this can do for your L3 route troubleshooting. 4+ SSH windows are now collapsed into one command. What took minutes of copy and paste and multiple windows or perhaps even a bolt on scripting tool, now takes seconds with one command.

With the Netvisor CLI, you can even skip grepping the CLI output and just retrieve the data that interests you using the format operator. If you only want to see the switch name, VLAN ID, scope, active designation, tagged and untagged ports in that order, you can format the output exactly that way from all switches:

From the CLI we can even access the Netvisor commands that enable us to see active connections as a service of the fabric:

as well as a global endpoint database: the vPort table that allows you to find any endpoint on your data center fabric with one command, in seconds. Gone are the days of consulting spreadsheets and memorizing subnets. One command gets you the location and information tied to a particular endpoint, regardless of location.

If all of this sounds intriguing, consider how quickly you can learn how to use these new features. The learning curve to go from your existing OS CLI to Netvisor is very short. The network constructs are the same and the CLI commands are nearly identical. There is no controller to manage, and network forwarding behaves the same way it does today.

Well-Equipped Troubleshooting

Troubleshooting steps with a Pluribus VCF fabric will follow the exact same process that you follow today: (confirm layer 1, then examine layer 2, then layer 3 and so on). Netvisor simply provides a few new ways to accelerate the process.

With a Pluribus VCF fabric to work with, that same network engineer who is tasked with troubleshooting application and network issues is now VERY well-equipped to do their job – this time with a lot more simplicity. If this data is of interest to team members outside of the network team, remember that we also have VCFcenter which takes this same data and makes it easily presentable to the business as well.

Pluribus Netvisor is the only solution that offers integrated application flow visibility, 100% interoperability into existing network investments and a feature-rich command line interface that’s easy to use and easy to learn. We aim to help you protect your existing investments in the network while also realizing that the expertise and knowledge of your IT team is priceless and must be leveraged. With the Pluribus Networks approach to next generation data centers, the network and the network engineer is the center of all this innovation. The network not only provides packet forwarding that you are used to today but now adds on additional features as a service of the network operation.

When you’re looking at next-generation data center solutions, consider not only what you’ll be getting in terms of features but also in terms of protecting your network and intellectual investments. Ask how much of your existing network and knowledge base you can leverage as part of your next data center project or if you must replace the network and re-learn how to manage it.

If you’d like to explore how Pluribus can enhance your existing datacenter while protecting your infrastructure and intellectual investments, or would like to see our CLI live, feel free to send me a note at: jonathan.cornell@pluribusnetworks.com


About the Author

Jonathan Cornell

As Principal Architect at Pluribus Networks, Jonathan is tasked with driving industry recognition and technical adoption of software-centric approaches to solving traditional networking problems using integrated application-flow visibility, single point of management and flow-based policy models.Jonathan's background includes previous roles in product management and systems engineering, specializing in server virtualization, data center networking and storage switching solutions. He has advanced sales and hands-on technical experience with the entire Cisco portfolio of Nexus switching, MDS switching, UCS and ACI product families in addition to VMware vCenter and ESXi environments. His prior engagements have focused extensively on designing application centric fabrics, ultra-low latency financial trading networks, and multi-site, mission critical data centers for well-known enterprises.