The Power of Network Automation: How a Huge Low Turned into a Great High!

A few weeks back at Zettagrid we released our NSX Advanced Networking product that we have been working on for the best part of 12 months. I’m particularly  proud of this release as it represents a significant realisation of a vision myself and others have had in trying to integrate NSX into the Zettagrid IaaS platform. Furthermore the release held a deeper meaning as it showed off what can be achieved when faced with disappointment and failure.

Taking myself back to February of 2014 I was presenting to a government panel for a Cloud Computing tender which ended up going horribly wrong…Notwithstanding the fact that the tender had specified IaaS as the basis of the tender the presentation actually ended up being a practical test on deploying a three tier application into a Virtual Datacenter in an allotted time period which was more akin to an Managed Services Provider than an Infrastructure Provider. Cutting a long story short I was able to get vCloud Director configured in such a way to get the vShield to do basic load balancing but failed to produce a working IIS Default page externally which would have meant passing the test and us making it through to the next stage of the process.

I came out of that presentation as deflated as I have been in my career…I don’t usually fail and up until that point every presentation and demo I had given had resulted in success…as I sunk down a couple of whiskey’s in the pub next to the government agency building I was trying to think to myself what went wrong? Surly there had to be a more efficient way to deploy, configure and manage networks in a cloud environment…it was decided there and then that Zettagrid would look at NSX as a way to improve network efficiency via automation.

Looking back at the tender process the Government agency got it all wrong…they expected the tenderer to deploy and configure the full environment themselves…they expected a Managed Service instead of a pure IaaS. In fact it should have been that the roles were reversed and that instead of us being handed the practical example to work through the design configuration and setup it should have been them who did the configuring. They needed the tools to achieve the goal and at that stage we where not bale to provide them.

That said, even with this initial release of NSX Advanced Networking the outcome might have been much of the same, though there would have been much better Load Balancing options which ultimately cost us a shot at the next round but what resonated strongly out of that afternoon was that we needed to look at network automation more seriously.

In deploying NSX across our vCloud Hosting Zones we have not only been able to release enhanced networking services for our vCloud Director Virtual Datacenters but we have also laid the ground work for future released to be more software defined so that these sorts of tiered applications can be deployed in minutes through automated blueprints…this isn’t something new or particularity ground breaking…there are many automation platforms that allow for the orchestration and automation of pre-defined template solutions however these are for the most part private cloud or enterprise solutions

There are not too many cloud providers (that don’t start with an A) that offer this service to their clients within APAC.

The Hybrid Cloud is the future of IaaS and even though the landscape might change over the next 5-10 years with regards to containerised applications and services superseding more “traditional” Virtual Machine based applications the one thing that won’t change is the way in which the networking connects the client to the server and back. NSX is a great platform built from the ground up to be consumed by APIs and because of that failure 18 months ago I’m proud to have helped deliver (along with a super talented team of developers and engineers) and now work for a company that’s embraced change and is at the cutting edge of changing the way in which networks are both created and consumed using NSX as the overlay technology.