When you’re tasked with planning for data center failover testing, you spend an awful lot of time reviewing configurations and scenarios, scrutinizing every detail to ensure that when the plug is pulled – both figuratively, and in some cases, literally, that all will go according to plan. If you are someone lucky enough to have a lab environment at your job, it’s usually only a partial reconstruction of the network at best. In many cases, the luxury of a lab is simply non-existent in the workplace. I tend to exist in that latter world…
Watching Forward Networks present at Network Field Day 13, I couldn’t help but think how great this solution would be for exactly these types of scenarios. Sure, you can plow through configurations manually and predict with some certainty that your routing is resilient. However, what if you could run through failover scenarios and network changes in advance, actually see the impacts in a lab that faithfully reconstructed your entire network? The confidence in the DR testing plan skyrockets, and the reliance on anti-anxiety meds and lucky rabbit feet plummets.
The Forward Networks solution allows you to do just that by basically pulling all your configurations from your production gear, building your network, and then letting you break it. You could also just evaluate the network as well, if you’re not feeling particularly destructive. Forward Networks has several built in checks for elements that are commonly misconfigured, such as port channels, vlans, and port duplex settings, pretty much letting the lab network point out your previously overlooked mistakes.
You can also use Forward Networks to determine the complete path of certain traffic using their rather snazzy UI, which allows for some intuitive queries formed in human-speak, not SQL-I-don’t-know-the-right-table-name-please-just-show-me-my-data format.
Forward looking at the Forward Networks solution (see what I did there?) – I do wonder if price will be an obstacle for small to medium enterprise, as several products in this space are reassuringly expensive.*
I love that there is already a long list of vendors whose gear is supported in the product, but keeping pace with new vendors and OS versions will be a certainly be a challenge – one Forward Networks sounds excited to take on.
Definitely check out David Varnum’s post on Forward Networks as well, he goes into some detail on the company, the APIs of the product, and configuration checks Forward Networks is capable of in it’s current release. He’s also included some nice screen shots of the UI.
All of the videos from NFD13 from Forward Networks are a good watch, but if you only pick one, don’t miss the simulated outage demo. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll be totally impressed by how much fun watching a pretend network failure can be.
*reassuringly expensive: a term I credit to the one and only Greg Ferro and a term that I make frequent use of in networking.
Disclaimer: While Networking Field Day, which is sponsored by the companies that present, was very generous to invite me to this fantastic event and I am very grateful for it, my opinions are totally my own, as all redheads are far too stubborn to have it any other way.