Expanding the Scope of Data Center Network Automation

In the data center world, downward pressure on operations costs, coupled with the demands of managing large numbers of devices, has produced an approach to configuration management that prioritizes efficiency, simplicity, and automation. Essentially, data center operators must make it easy not just to configure large numbers of new devices, but also to monitor and manage clean device configuration data over time, particularly with reference to change control.

Data center operations staff are increasingly using open-source network automation tools to manage configuration data stored in a network-wide master data center database that models the entire network and is separate from the data specific to individual devices. Configuration data is periodically refreshed, by re-applying the data in the master database to the devices, ensuring their configuration matches the records in the master database.

Many data center operators are working towards automating all operations, not just configuration management. While some develop their own platforms, most utilize Ansible as their automation framework. Developed in Python, the Ansible automation platform allows a data center operator to automate the configuration, upgrade and orchestration of their servers, databases, and networking devices.

Network vendors providing solutions to data centers need to provide comprehensive support for the open source platforms and technologies used by data center operators to automate routine procedures such as configuration monitoring or data refresh. As discussed in our technology brief about automating data center operations, Ansible, RANCID and Oxidize are enabling development of increasingly sophisticated automation tools.

Tools for applications such as automated analytics and telemetry are expected to become commonplace in the near future as data centers expand the range and sophistication of their automation capabilities. The Fujitsu FSS2 system software platform, which is built into the 1FINITY family of optical network products, incorporates modules and plug-ins that support Ansible. Ansible is an automation tool that the data center market uses to monitor their devices and what changes may occur on them. These plug-ins are a set of python scripts, which data center customers can install into the Ansible tool that the customer has on their server.   We expect to continue building on this set of plug-ins, as well as to collaborate with customers using our GitHub website to develop more advanced tools that go beyond configuration management. A set of Ansible tools is in the late stages of development and these will be available on this GitHub server in the coming weeks.

About David Terwilliger

David is chief software architect of the Fujitsu System Software 2 (FSS2), which powers the Fujitsu 1FINITY™ product line. His experience covers over 25 years in the telecommunications industry, including all aspects of optical networking. He has worked in many areas of development from his early days in platform software up to his current position. Besides architecture, David’s particular areas of interest include data center operations; network management, abstraction, and security; and automation and analytics. When not working David spends his time with his family and enjoying his favorite pastime of sailing.