After Cisco’s acquisition of Tail-F, how does NetConf based management move forward?

| By Nivedha Sridhar
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Sometimes, a major event focuses our attention on a broader issue and forces us to reevaluate the situation. The Cisco acquisition of Tail-F has done just that for the critical topic of network orchestration, where NetConf has shown promise in being one of the enabler technologies, especially in the north-bound API layer of SDN service orchestration. Tail-F has been a torchbearer in the NetConf arena paving the path for the blogosphere to be abuzz with commentary on the importance of network orchestration for service automation and of how the acquisition of a market leader might delay the realization of a cross vendor orchestration platform.

Of two things, there is little doubt. First, that network orchestration is a critical component of automation and the realization of an SDN networking model in carrier networks. Second, that Tail-F has made laudable contributions in the standardization and realization of the NetConf protocol and the YANG modeling language which have a role to play in network orchestration.

On the other hand, it remains to be seen whether the Cisco absorption of Tail-F will significantly postpone NetConf based orchestration in its solutions or should it evolve in ways that can be considered as vendor-neutral. It does seem unlikely that existing Tail-F customers will rely on the world’s largest system vendor to deliver a vendor neutral platform. Thankfully, NetConf has already earned significant traction in service orchestration and multi-vendor management space and Tail-F is ostensibly not the only vendor that has developed and deployed NetConf based service orchestration solutions. Open architectures enable choices and a reevaluated choice might keep progress on track.

For example, the WebNMS Framework fully support NetConf interfaces and YANG modeling.  In fact, some of our most forward-looking carrier and OEM customers are already using WebNMS as a network orchestration platform. WebNMS is centered on an extensible framework, architected to streamline customized service and workflow definitions and highly suitable to automation.

Especially for carriers, automation requires a unified orchestration platform. Like Rome, SDN won’t be built in a day. Eliminating network management silos in heterogeneous carrier networks requires not only multi-vendor equipment support, but also integrated transport element management and interfaces to existing OSS and BSS systems. This unification will require both future-looking open APIs such as NetConf and backward-compatible support for legacy equipment. To this end, WebNMS supports not only NetConf, but an extensive library of legacy protocols (e.g. SNMP, TL1) and multi-vendor CLI adapters.

Moreover, network orchestration need not be seen as an island any longer, myopically focusing on network infrastructure. It should be able to seamlessly integrate with emerging IT technologies, including NFV and Big Data analytics, in addition to automation of intra-network operations. WebNMS does cohesively facilitate this integration with support for REST APIs and Hadoop data repositories.

As use case trends emerge, the versatile WebNMS Framework has been the core of several application specific platforms, from multi-vendor EMS to scalable M2M applications.  In all cases, WebNMS has packaged a framework platform that enables developers to efficiently customize their application to their business and workflow.  The goals of SDN are now sufficiently defined that the time to directly address the need for a network orchestration platform has arrived.  Please follow our news and blog to learn more in the very near future.

Finally, let’s not ignore the value of continuity.  Even with open architectures, strategic acquisitions and re-vectored business models can disrupt progress towards long term goals.  For 15 years, WebNMS has demonstrated its commitment as an independent, system-neutral software vendor to the networking industry.  As a profitable division of Zoho Corporation, it is part of a large, private software business with an expanding portfolio.  Serving what we see as a vital role, WebNMS will continue to deliver independent solutions beyond the foreseeable future.