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Make the most of automation with open networking

As new technologies are developed, IT managers continually face the challenge of deciding when best to evolve their systems to incorporate new, more efficient ways of doing things.

Open networking is one of these technologies that seems to be under regular review but has not yet been adopted by a lot of IT managers, yet the reasons for choosing it are growing.

For decades, we have had the choice of what operating systems to run on our commodity PC and server infrastructure, with vendor lock-in relegated to specialised or niche systems (midrange and mainframes). However, the same can not be said for ethernet networking, where hard vendor lock-in limits organisations choices to:

  • Use a single vendor, even though that may limit options around hardware and software features
  • Mix and match vendors, allowing for best-in-class features, but generating administrator headaches.

Open Networking breaks that lock-in, allowing organisations to run any open-networking capable device, with any open-source, commercial or home-brewed network operating system.

For CFMS this has meant selecting the right hardware for the requirement, from the likes of Nvidia Mellanox, Supermicro, Dell and EdgeCore, whilst providing a consistent network OS and interface in Cumulus Linux.

The use of open networking in smaller organisations has been quite low compared to large service providers due to the perception that open networking is only for the likes of Facebook and Google. As a result, many IT departments have continued with branded, traditional networking options.

Recruiting skilled network administrators has been highlighted as a challenge by many organisations, and this is compounded by a lack of overlap with other IT administration skills. Selecting Cumulus Linux can help in this scenario, as existing skills and tools can be brought to bear.

Originally intended to simplify networking hardware choices and improve resilience, it is now being selected as much for its benefits to automation and agile methods.

Network management is traditionally administrator intensive, with commands run by hand across a distribution of network devices. Even simple changes can yield hours of problem-determination when things do not go as planned.

Open networking lends itself well to network automation, which means that infrastructure-wide changes can be made in minutes or seconds, repeatedly with much less scope for human error.

For some customers starting from scratch is an easy way into open networking and automation, but migration from conventional networking technologies is possible with the right preparations.

As well as saving time and money, open networking also allows more freedom to respond to evolving organisational needs. Not only can a flexible network provide a more agile platform for changing teams, it can also help the organisation to change its approach to business challenges.

So as our responses to the pandemic need to support changing behaviour and ways of working, open networking can provide a more dynamic and efficient platform for organisations to build their way forward.

If you have questions on how to evolve your organisation to open networking, contact our team for more information.

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