Red Hat Extends Ansible to Networking


By: Michael Vizard

Networking vendors may be about to learn the hard way that application programming interfaces (APIs) cut both ways. Cisco, Juniper Networks, and others -- to one degree or another -- finally started embracing open REST APIs as part of an effort to advance software-defined networking (SDN).

The challenge many of them will now face is that providers of IT management frameworks that are larger in scope have taken notice. Red Hat, for example, is extending the reach of the open source Ansible automation framework it acquired to networking equipment from Juniper and Cisco alongside support for various public cloud computing platforms. That framework presents IT administrators with a declarative model to automate IT infrastructure without requiring the IT administrator to have programming skills.

Red Hat is also investing in Ansible alongside a variety of complementary management frameworks that will collectively be delivered as a cloud service capable of managing IT infrastructure running in the cloud and on-premises. The overall goal is to increase the productivity of the IT staff as workloads become more distributed in the age of the cloud, says Justin Nemmers, general manager for Red Hat.

Relying more on the cloud to manage IT also sets the stage to rely more on machine learning algorithms to manage an increasingly extended enterprise, adds Nemmers. A cloud-based approach to managing IT infrastructure makes it possible to cost effectively acquire all the data required to train those machine learning models to drive the artificial intelligence that will automate most rote IT functions, explains Nemmers.

“The future state is the cloud,” says Nemmers.

As part of that effort, Red Hat has been creating alliances with vendors ranging from cloud service providers such as Microsoft to providers of networking equipment such as Juniper. Over time, the goal is to provide a common management plane through which the management of large swaths of IT infrastructure can be automated.

Red Hat is hardly the only provider of IT management frameworks with the same ambition. The challenge for networking vendors is how to remain relevant as IT management functions continue to converge. Networking vendors will find it more challenging to command a premium for their hardware in the age of more widely applicable management frameworks. IT administrators and developers are looking to collaboratively manage compute, storage, and networking, and networking vendors will have to stress this functionality over time if they want to remain relevant.