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Tag Archives: Tech Field Day

Forward Networks – go ahead, break it.

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.

Published: 11/28/2016

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.

 

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Voice Girl Goes to Storage Day

Who has two thumbs and got to attend the last Tech Field Day?  This girl!

In case you don’t know what Tech Field Day is, go here and check it out:  http://techfieldday.com/   In case you don’t care what Tech Field Day is, I suggest you stop reading or make sure you have copious amounts of alcohol handy.  Actually, that last suggestion could improve the reading of any of my posts, so feel free to get started, you have my blessing.

Now, I’m sure we’ve all had that friend who goes on a vacation and brings back 10,000 pictures and insists on narrating them all in great, painstaking detail.  Fear not – I want to smack that guy as much as you do – so I will just be hitting the highlights of this expedition in this post.

So, without further ado, awesome thing number 1: hanging out with server admins.  I know, I know, for network and/or voice guys this hardly sounds like something that would make the list of awesome- unless that list were titled Ways In Which My Day Could Awesomely Suck – but it’s true and let me tell you why.

With roles in IT becoming less and less siloed, it’s clear us folks guarding the layer 2 and 3 keys to the castle are going to have to make nice with those folks rocking the upper layer data center knowledge.  As distasteful as that may initially sound to both parties involved, we all earn huge rewards.

Think about it- do you really want that server guy vMotioning all those production boxes across your precious WAN without any clue as to the implications?  I’m certain that server guy with the ponytail doesn’t want us well-intentioned network junkies screwing with SAN infrastructure when he/she thinks we don’t even know what random IO is. Of course do we do know what it is, but not the point…

Contrary to popular sysadmin belief, we network folks are capable of reading and do in fact know what a manual looks like.  Contrary to network admin belief, server guys do know what they are doing and don’t just break crap on purpose.  Given shrinking IT budgets, device consolidation, and technology overlap, our tiny sandbox has only gotten tinier and now it looks like we’re going to have to share the dump truck and not just the buckets.  (the dump truck was always my favorite)

So awesome thing number two:  presentations! Companies solving problems I was vaguely aware existed in ways I only wish I had imaged because retirement would be nice about now.  The quality of presentations was generally high and the technical level generally deep.  Perfect combination.

Let me offer a few brief take-aways from what I saw, you can catch the presentations here http://vimeo.com/groups/techfieldday:

  • Nutanix: Putting your VMs and storage on the same devices, have them utilize the same resources.  It has a kind of eggs in one basket feel – but the basket is really nice.  Interesting implications on the necessity for SAN administrator. http://www.nutanix.com/
  • Nasuni: If you ever want tips on how to deliver a presentation, watch this one. The send-your-files-in-the-cloud-and-see-them-at-your-other-sites product was wicked cool. Matt Simmons had the product up and running during the time of the demo. Sweet. http://www.nasuni.com/
  • Symantec Storage Foundation 6.0: Least favorite presentation style. So. many. power. point. slides. Clearly this product has some significant improvements over the previous version but the demo certainly wasn’t showing off this products nice curves, so to speak. http://www.symantec.com/business/storage-foundation
  • Data Direct Web Object Scaler: large-scale cloud storage wow-ness.  Keeping track of your massive amounts of cloud data using custom filing system to store and replicate data. Demo was super neat, product super fast.   http://www.ddn.com/products/web-object-scaler-wos
  • Pure Storage- all SSD storage, forget tiering.  They wrote their own software to talk/write to SSD drives in a way that makes SSD drives very happy. In fact, drives never fail for Pure Storage, or so was said- a concept our little group of skeptics had some trouble with. Pure Storage held to their guns though and a promise was made to tweet the first drive failure. http://www.purestorage.com/
  • Arista EOS:  Command line goodness. In the demo, the guy added the XMPP package to the Linux-based software running the switch, then chatted with the switch. Totally cool. Who doesn’t want to ask a switch how it’s day is going? http://www.aristanetworks.com/
  • SolidFire- All SSD storage, optimized for providers who want to limit compute and/or storage on a per customer basis. If you are a cloud provider of storage, being able to establish very specific SLAs for customers I’m sure is extremely appealing.  http://solidfire.com/
  • Arekia- backup goodness.  Presentation went into detail on their particular brand of deduplication which provides quite a lot of benefit when backing up large amounts of data. http://www.arkeia.com/

Last but not least, awesome thing number three: Stephen Foskett and Matt Simmons are freaking fantastic!  As the organizers, they coordinated every intricate detail and then made it look easy to the rest of us.  A very special thanks to those guys for making all of this happen, wishing them happy times in therapy as they attempt to recover.

For links to all things Tech Field Day 8: http://techfieldday.com/2011/tfd8/

 
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Posted by on 2011/09/19 in Tech Field Day, Uncategorized

 

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