For most of my career I have been drawn to the testing and management side of networking. I used most of the enterprise NMS systems a few of the dedicated test platforms and a slew of open source products. All in all either from complexity, lack of features or just crap design I have found most of them lacking. Having been a consulting engineer for over five years I found myself in numerous situations where having a reliable, flexible and scalable test/management platform could have really change the game for some of my gigs. Now that I am back in a dedicated network I see daily how such a system could change how we do our jobs. But if such as system existed it would have to be available at a reasonable cost.
So today as I was buzzing through twitter I came across “Well this was the box at #NFD4 – I told them to shut up and take my money. So while I wait for a Purchase Order… axon.spirent.com” from @pandom_. This was in reference to the new Spirent product the Axon. I’ll be honest I was super excited to look this thing up. I know the guys who were at Network Field Day 4 and saw the early version of this product and if they are excited I should be as well. In reality though as I write this there is very little information, but I hear that there will shortly be a sponsored PacketPushers Episode that will break the product down.
Knowing what I know about Spirent I am expecting a lot of the things they are already really good at like packet crafting and generation and the ability to actively load test applications and networks on a scale that is more enterprise and less Service Provider. Add to this the ability to scale the testers and place them where you need them around the network and I think they have a winner!
But I think we need more. It is time that everyone from field engineers all the way to MSPs have a set of tools that will enable the to do their jobs more efficiently while also integrating with existing systems for management and testing. To do this you have to have a platform that is easy to use, low cost, standards based, extremely flexible and deployable in diverse networking environments.
Imagine if you will having your own droids running around your network testing for and remediating issues as they happen. This would change the way we work.
Now some of you may be thinking but thats what SDN does or vendor X already has that in their equipment. In both cases you would be partially correct. For the past seven years or so I have been working this problem through in my head and while bits and pieces of this solution exist nothing takes it all the way. I think we are on the crux of changing that. For one I think companies like Spirent are getting closer and closer. I also think gear vendors like Arista are adding some intelligence and functions to their gear. But in the end, I think it is important that we can define known quantity endpoints on our networks and then use them not simply to configure and test but to expand what network management and monitoring means.
Stay tuned because we have some cool news coming. To stay in touch add us to your RSS reader. I would also really love to hear what your looking for in network testing and management. I had a great conversation with one of the users over at THWACK. I would love to extend that discussion here and see what everyone is doing.