New years 2024 🎉🥳 and my general state of network automation/observability
Yes, this is one of those posts. I will start off reflecting upon 2023 and where I want to be within 2024. My day to day, where I feel like the industry is within network automation && observability and will finish with some personal stuff.
2023 work life
For the past 2ish years I took a job within a group where my primary focus was related to automation, observability and generally what I would call “anything else” the anything else portion would be things like Kubernetes, go, cloud etc. Things that were not entirely day to day for network engineers but they where generally really challenging. That being said, I did a ton of cool things. I proved to myself and my colleagues that I had the ability to create integrations, products etc. With a lot of collaboration from my team at the time we were able to build telegraf integration, terraform providers etc and put these things out into the public. This was a ton of fun. While at the same time trying to maintain the knowledge by myself and a handful of people became incredibly cumbersome. I spent a plethora of my extra time learning. Learning could have been anything from topics on O’reilly safari, reading books to better grasp something, playing in a sandbox for a technology or generally using something from hugging face or kaggle. But at the end of the day I was spending too much time here. This did not help me in my personal life due to the plethora of time spent by myself on new technologies. So I decided to take a step back from this and focus mainly on network automation and some observability where most customers would be best suited. The good part about my small audience here is that I have a lot of tech queued up for others to read about for future blog posts!
Here is my general take on where I will spend my “work” time and what I think is valuable as far as tech wise in work.
- General network technologies : 25%
- General networking things MPLS, BGP , EVPN etc.
- Tooling : 25%
- Tooling related to networking. Ansible, telegraf, vendor tools.
- This will be mostly python related.
- Configuration management / coding : 25%
- This could be related to tooling as well but similar.
- Sadly also python related :(.
- Obersvability, analytics and metrics : 25%
- This will be mostly all the work I do within openconfig, gNMI etc.
- Yay Golang!
2023 Network automation and Observability.
I went to autocon a few weeks back and it was great. Probably, one of the best network automation events I have been to. There were all sorts of people there from webscalers, financials to enterprises just getting started with network automation. This to me really resemble most of the people I generally talk to in my day to day work life customer wise.
I feel like the industry is where I was maybe 4-5 years ago. This industry is heavily focused on configuration management tools that render text to CLI. I hate this :X. Fortunately, this is better than copy pasta notepad life. I feel like at some point this will evolve into a more typed system where configuration will belong to a schema similar to openconfig. It will be a very very very long time to make this change. I will not hold my breath. It is unfortunate that Openconfig is complicated. Life would have been a bit better if we have a multivendor json schema for network configuration but I will take what we get.
Judging by this I feel like the network automation community will largely rally behind python, ansible and jinja2. I do not like this but it is better than nothing and unfortunately at this time I cannot exactly strongly suggest any other technologies that works for everyone. So this will be the norm.
Git is finally taking center stage. Network engineers are learning git, vscode and all the CICD technologies. This is a great thing as in my personal opinion for network configuration git is like a free distributed database.
I changed a lot of my views on automation where I used to think it was generally device focused. ie structured information about a device something where a person / code could put data into something similar to a database or netbox. This might work but the issue is that most network objects related to others. For example, a point to point link on a Ethernet interface from leaf to spine would been to update two different models(The leaf and the spine) some changes are going to really large like EVPN route-targets. So that being said I am now a believer in taking a fabric approach to network automation.
Observability in 2023 and moving into 2024 has been largely moving to Openconfig via gNMI, the gRPC service. I think enough people see the need to move to a streaming API for all of their analytics. In my opinion the biggest impact openconfig has felt so far is related to this. Tools like gNMIC and telegraf have really made an amazing impact for observability in the network space. Prior to this network engineers had to rely on the polling based technologies of SNMP.
Overall, I think in the network automation space python, ansible and Jinja are good enough for most people with the proper linting and hygiene. I would like to see an approach that is more code based like Pulumi and strongly typed but I doubt this will happen for some time.
Fun tech stuff.
This is the part in which I will spend my time blogging!
- Kubernetes : 25%
- Coding funzies : 25%
- This is mainly Go related but I might shift some focus to Mojo.
- Something something AI : 25%
- This is fun stuff and mainly what I used a lot of python for in 2023.
- Kaggle/Huggingface have been really fun to find projects to do interesting things.
- Openconfig related projects : 25%
- Sometimes this will cross into work life.
- I plan to create a ton of posts this year related to all the projects within Openconfig.
I have a few speaking sessions I am generally excited about this coming year.
- For the first time I am speaking at Nanog. During Nanog 90 I am presenting on Go for network engineers.
- Also, at Nanog I will be at the Go vs Python showdown!
- More than likely another Redhat Summit / Ansiblefest.
- Multiple USNUA speaking sessions.
- I am sure I will do a few NYNOG sessions here and there as it is in my backyard.
I have 2 children and most of my spare time is spent with them as it should be of course. The biggest impact on my spare time over the past year has been my daughters love for hockey. This is her second year of in house mites for a 7 year old is awesome! She loved skating/hockey the very first time I laced her up in skates. Fast forward to today she entered her first hockey tournament here in Pittsburgh with her in house team against all travel teams and an all girls team from one of the local organizations. The girls team had the most hilarious beatings I have ever seen. These girls were beating up on travel teams 20-3 in some situations hahah. It was awesome. In the end the girls took second place overall in their division and her in house team took 4th overall in their division.
It has been awesome! I hope she sticks with it. My son is also skating at 4 years old.
My goal for both children during 2024 is to have fun and enjoy the hockey journey.
Most people for the new year talk about their exercise regimens. I do not exactly need to change anything in my opinion. I always play around with things here and the ie more proteins, less proteins, when to eat, more carbs change in training etc. I am a firm believer in calories in / calories out. I generally found out this year with exercise I can watch the scale and see that I can eat 3500ish calories and maintain my weight. By excercise I am referring to 30+ miles on the rogue echo bike. This year I tested if I could bike around 30 miles a day or not. For most, this is pain haha. For me I love it.
This is my general every day ride. This does NOT change during cutting, maintaining or bulking.
Since having 2 children exercise and also watching shows, movies etc I generally enjoy is rather difficult. So I am the wakeup at 530 person and get on the echo bike type. This is multi dimensional for me. I get to exercise and also watch the programs I want to.
Learning Greek this year has been really amazing. My wife is from Greece. We have been together for a very long time. For this time I always had her translate for me. I never realized how much I was missing out on conversations with her family and friends in Greece and also joining conversations with her parents. I also think it is appropriate for my kids to eventually learn both the language and the culture. So last year I went full steam ahead into learning mode. I pay for a sometimes twice a week tutor(Who we have become really close with!) and also leverage my wifes help and general other youtube videos to catch me up to speed. This is way harder than learning any programming language or new technology in my opinion but worth more in intrinsic value to me.
In 2024 I plan to change a lot of my work habits and focus on day to day things. I tried to mix too much of my personal fun projects with work in 2022/2023 and it did not workout for me. I am planning on blogging a lot more on these sort of fun projects. I am optimistic for 2024!