Discussions about networking in a work-from-home world often focus on employees and endpoints, but how can network administrators do more than just keep the lights on if they can’t go to the data center? Maintaining what exists isn’t enough, especially as the entire world is redefining the future of work. Organizations need to be able to adapt to change, so how is that possible when administrators can’t go hands on?

There are any number of remote administration options available today, and any number of ways to compare them. Deciding between them is all about finding the right balance between cost, capability, and the labor intensity of implementation. In other words, they’re subject to all of the same considerations as any other technology implementation.

To dispense with the network administration 101 portion of the discussion*, yes, networking is mostly a matter of remote administration anyway. If you can remote into something that has access to the management network, you can use SSH, HTTPS, or what-have-you to administer networks just as you would if you were in the office. That’s maintenance, not change.

Accomplishing change remotely and at scale requires automation and orchestration. In practice, this is heavily dependent upon virtualization and/or containerization, which in turn demands a flexible and adaptable network. IT teams need to be able to move workloads between physical servers and even public clouds on an as-needed basis, and without waiting on warm bodies in data centers to move cables, or swap disks.

In essence, clouds make remote administration of complex networks at scale simpler, whether on-premises, or off. But what does that mean for those who have to administer the networks that hold those clouds together?

Infrastructure as Code

Clouds work because they orchestrate the automation of innumerable infrastructure components, both physical and virtual. Administrators describe their intent either directly as code in the form of scripts, or using metadata which is then read by an interpreter. These approaches, however, are not equal.

Using an interpreter-supported Infrastructure as Code (IaC) approach, IT teams describe in code both the desired architecture of their infrastructure, and (ideally) what that infrastructure is supposed to do. This allows intent to be separated from implementation, and allows product updates to be accomplished with the minimum of fuss, often requiring little more than installing a new module to address the relevant infrastructure component.

In contrast, the direct coding of scripts approach to IaC has traditionally had problems with scale. Or, more accurately, this can work just fine at scale right up until the point that changes need to be made. Scripts have a tendency to proliferate over time, often without being inventoried or audited.

Extensive rewriting of multiple scripts is common when there are API and/or product mix changes, making the traditional script-based approach more difficult to manage long term.

NVIDIA® NetQ

NVIDIA Cumulus makes both approaches to IaC even easier. NVIDIA Cumulus Linux allows network infrastructure to be centrally managed by NVIDIA Cumulus NetQ. NVIDIA Cumulus Linux can be installed on multiple different networking devices, allowing NVIDIA NetQ to provide a single API that can address significant portions of an organization’s network.

Organizations invested in automation dependant on directly coded scripts will be able to preserve their existing workflows while increasing both their agility and the scale at which they’re able to operate. Organizations taking an interpreter-based IaC journey will be able to rely on a single module to address all NVIDIA Cumulus Linux-based networking devices, reducing management overhead, deployment times, and the testing required to ensure everything is as it should be.

With the NVIDIA NetQ API and an automation playbook IT teams can automate the complete operational lifecycle of network devices from configuration and provisioning, to policy-based change management.

NVIDIA Cumulus has invested heavily in network automation, and the result is a robust, production-ready automation solution that’s validated and ready to go out of the box. This suite of automation and testing includes:

  • Ready-to-go automation using Ansible—it’s essentially a cut and paste
  • A fully populated variables file object model
  • Complete Jinja2 templates
  • Ansible playbooks and a full battery of network validation tests enabling continuous integration (CI)

The validated framework for a tangible IaC deployment utilizes Ansible core modules without the need for any add-ons or plugins. It’s open source and available on GitLab. See it in action today using NVIDIA Cumulus in the Cloud.
*If you’re looking for tips on how to accomplish that kind of remote management, we’re happy to help, and here are some links that can help: