I’ve been traveling to northern Europe these past few months to meet with various customers, deliver onsite trainings and speak at meetups. I’ve noticed some common themes that crop up no matter with whom I speak. IT professionals are exhausted by the complexity required to manage and maintain their infrastructure. Somehow, networking and server interconnectivity has become this unmanageable complex mess over the past 20 years. And I don’t blame them. As networking has layered on more and more solutions, it becomes hard to separate out the complexity from the deployment.

Normally when I have these conversations, I start at the most basic levels. I focus on two topics that create the most grief for the vast majority of networks:

  1. Layer 1 cabling issues
  2. Typos and misconfigurations

The reason I start there is because resolving these two issues in the data center would eradicate over 90% of all issues that cause late maintenance windows and urgent midnight troubleshooting calls.

At Cumulus Networks, we resolve these issues by rethinking what it means to configure a network device. The most effective solution to both of these issues is simplification of configuration. Because we focus on integration and solution first, we are able to think through how to properly simplify the configuration to reduce these issues.

This road brought us to many new solutions. One example is BGP unnumbered. We realized that in order to build a BGP routing session and advertise routes, the configuration required to do so from traditional vendors has grown too complex and is focused too squarely on one market. We removed much of the error prone configuration.

But there was a hidden value to configuration simplification. In order to leverage high level concepts such as automation, the IT infrastructure requires an environment that has reduced complexity and device consistency. BGP unnumbered has so few moving parts that it is much easier to automate. Instead of having to account for 4 different variables, you only have to account for 2 binary inputs.

Taking this concept of configuration simplification and the right tooling for the right job, I tend to extrapolate into more comprehensive solutions. Since Cumulus Linux is one of the base Linux distributions, we are able to drive consistency across many different IT components. Instead of all our improved configuration and tooling being isolated to proprietary network nodes, we can extend our open source solution into other components to drive consistency. Under this guise, Linux becomes the right tool for the right job in the data center.

This underscores the reason why Cumulus Networks created our network operating system as a base Linux distribution. Being natively Linux is a nuanced technological detail, but its impact is wide-reaching. Having full access to the Linux kernel, being able to communicate with any repository and install any package, and having that package fully supported allows for a technological superiority not matched by any closed solution.

The Linux language in the data center expands in the ability to unify all IT functions and nodes under a unified set of tooling. It allows for the same monitoring applications and agents to be installed on all nodes. It allows for management of all devices to unify under a common pane. It makes troubleshooting the entire IT infrastructure use the same steps, processes and outputs.

In a noisy dinner party, Cumulus Networks has decided not to have their own side conversation in their own language, creating an exclusive group that doesn’t integrate well with the atmosphere of the event. Instead we’ve opted to embrace the common language that everyone is speaking, so that we can better communicate with all components.

Want to learn more about the differences between working with traditional networking and working with Linux? Head over to our web-scale networking how-to videos and see for yourself why Linux is the language of the data center!

This blog post is part of a series called “NetDevOpEd” where various Cumulus employees and partners write an “op-ed” style piece on an industry topic.