Cisco Systems is making a concerted effort to create an era of détente between networking professionals and the rest of the IT operations teams that have embraced DevOps practices.
Susie Wee, senior vice president for the DevNet community at Cisco, said the goal is to provide network operations (NetOps) teams the skills required to programmatically expose a range of self-service capabilities to developers.
At the same time, Cisco is encouraging developers to deploy applications directly on routers and switches that now incorporate general-purpose processors. Those processors would run applications in a way that significantly reduces network latency, while the custom ASICs that Cisco develops would continue to handle all the networking functions.
Wee said that dichotomy is now driving Cisco to classify two classes of developers within its DevNet community. The first is aimed at traditional application developers and the second community is more focused on managing infrastructure as code.
Cisco is now extending that latter initiative into the realm of software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs). The company has added integrated firewall, intrusion prevention and URL-filtering technologies to its SD-WAN platform. In addition, there are code samples, videos, learning labs and sandboxes available on Cisco DevNet that are intended to make easier to learn how to programmatically manage Cisco SD-WANs using open application programming interfaces (APIs).
Cisco claims to now have 530,000 developers participating in DevNet. One the one hand, the company is trying to entice NetOps teams that have been reluctant to give up legacy command line interfaces to modernize their networking environments. On the other hand, Cisco is trying to attract more application developers who increasingly find themselves encountering latency issues as they move to deploy applications in highly distributed computing environments, such as an Internet of Things (IoT) application.
Over time, Cisco and other providers of network operating systems also will be moving away from monolithic architecture to embrace microservices, which would make it possible to programmatically invoke networking services on a more granular level.
Of course, there may be some developers who would prefer to programmatically take control over networking along with the rest of the IT infrastructure. But Cisco is clearly betting most organizations will want to make it easier for their NetOps and DevOps teams to work more closely together. Today, most enterprise IT organizations can spin up a virtual machine in a matter of minutes; provisioning the network connections to that virtual machine, however, is still measured in days and weeks.
Other networking infrastructure companies besides Cisco have realized the need to make networking more programmable. But in terms of the resources the company is making available to solve that problem, it would appear to ready to make a significantly larger commitment.