Minimalism, as a current concept, is not just about owning fewer things, or eliminating distractions, or consuming only specific coffees sold in unlabeled packaging at chairless coffee shops. Minimalism is a philosophical force and practical approach to life, that when applied correctly, can bring peace, happiness, and enrichment to your way of living. How do these core virtues of minimalism apply to network design? Read on. (And don’t worry, you can keep all of your stuff, your color TV and cell phones, and your roomy house, too – we’re just talking about networks here.)
Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who founded theminimalists.com, sacrificed their former careers to share the concept of minimalism all over the globe, helping more than 20 million people live more meaningful lives. They’ve grounded the concepts of minimalism into a practical and elegant foundation that fits nicely in a modern society. They defined what many believe to be the core virtues of minimalism, ideas to internalize on your journey through life. When it comes to network design, here are five core virtues that prove to be incredibly valuable:
• Reclaim your time
• Create more, consume less
• Contribute beyond yourself
• Experience real freedom
• Eliminate discontent
Reclaim Your Time
Designing a network is a time-consuming process; there’s no getting around that. However, ways exist to help expedite the process of putting the designed architecture into a pilot; and, ultimately, into production.
Cumulus Linux is indeed just that — Linux. It’s not “Linux-like” or “Linux-ish” — it is a Linux Network Operating System (NOS). Cumulus Linux shares with the community to drive innovation, spawning exponential efficiencies.
With solutions like Open Network Install Environment (ONIE), written by Cumulus Linux and released as an open source initiative, deployments are radically accelerated by automating the installation of the NOS in a PXE-style manner.
Solutions like Prescriptive Topology Manager (PTM) automate cabling validation, a seemingly trivial — yet critical — component of any design. Entire full-featured, ready-to-ship deployments can be built with Cumulus VX, significantly reducing design and deployment times, while eliminating concerns about untested features. Did we mention that automation engines are born in Linux and operate at full capabilities when it comes to Linux? These small efficiencies add up, expediting processes, and reclaiming your time.
Create More, Consume Less
The extensibility of Linux is nothing short of extraordinary, which is why we’ve seen an explosion of creative technologies over the recent years. And not just in networking, but in everything: Linux-based phones, automated cars, rockets, gaming consoles, IoT devices, surgical systems, genome sequencers, and so on. The possibilities are endless. Cumulus Linux shares the same vision as Linux itself: to be a realm of creativity where highly customized implementations can exist to meet the demands of rapidly-changing industries.
Cumulus Linux can reduce capital and operational expenditures in multitudes of designs due to the cost model as compared with other closed-system designs. Cumulus runs on hardware from 9 different vendors and with more than 70 different switch models; and these numbers are continually growing. Want to upgrade to another model? No problem; swap the whitebox hardware and deploy Cumulus via ONIE and you’re back up and running. Â
Contribute Beyond Yourself
Network architecture best practices, recommendations, advisories, playbooks, configurations, templates, Q&As, successes stories (and pitfalls), how-tos and how-not-tos — this type of information and more like it is constantly being shared across the globe.
It’s this kind of contribution to a greater whole that improves your life and the lives of those around you. Linux is community-driven, and Cumulus Linux is no exception. Cumulus has contributed massive amounts of code to the open source community and numerous projects, including fixes and enhancements to Linux packages that improve the performance and quality Â of systems everywhere using these packages.
Sharing information that may help a network architect in a bind, for example, saving them hours of troubleshooting, is truly paying it forward and can be rewarding in ways that will constantly surprise you.
Experience Real Freedom
It can seem like a no-brainer to simply copy/paste out of a validated design guide; but, without knowing it, the clever vendor could accidentally (or surreptitiously) design your network with nasty proprietary protocols, additional equipment, or a misunderstanding of the business requirements you’re trying to solve. If you’re locked into a single vendor, these are the some of the potential pitfalls you face.
Instead, take a step back when thinking about network architecture, give open networking and the open source community a solid look, and challenge your preconceptions of freedom. Imagine freedom from the bounds of single-vendor hardware manufacturers, freedom from the chains of closed operating systems, freedom to disaggregate, freedom to choose your automation engine, freedom to make deliberate design choices from the get-go.
A challenging yet rewarding virtue of minimalism is that of eliminating discontent. Too often we’re lost in a sea of hyperlinks, chasing the new and shiny, futilely attempting to find the ultimate single solution that checks every box and answers every question that no one’s even thought to ask.
As networking professionals, we choose solutions that meet (and often exceed) the business and technical requirements set forth by organizational leaders. Hardware, software, compatibility, extensibility, scalability, modularity, high availability and fault tolerance, protocols, caveats, and corner cases — these are all topics that can cause discontent when designing a network.
One way to reduce this discontent is to adopt well-known, standards-based protocols backed by industry practitioners. Another way is to eliminate unnecessary network bloat and complexity where possible. Considering disaggregated models that provide flexibility for future augmentation can alleviate discontent with hardware selections. Frugality without sacrificing capabilities or innovation relieves the burdensome concerns with budgets.
As you decide the direction your networking future is taking, consider a NOS such as Cumulus Linux. Applying those minimalist principles to your decisions going forward will result in the best possible outcome.