One of the things that impresses me with Cisco is what they’re doing in the SP-WAN area with IOS-XR and programmability. I’ve been around the Cisco world for over 17 years now and for the most part they have their own way of doing things. For the first time this may be a deviation from that with their programmability of IOS-XR. Here’s where I think they might be on the right track.
For years if you wanted to program a Cisco router they would point you to Cisco Works. Well yes, we would all snicker but it worked, kinda. But at a service provider level it wouldn’t fly. So instead you would get someone to write scripts for different things you wanted to configure and then you’d push them out with SSH or Telnet using expect. Yeah, that was a long time ago.
Well enter network programmability and playbooks started to show up and vendors like Juniper embraced the capability. Well Cisco may be making strides here now. In a recent presentation to a select group of delegates at Tech Field Day 15 Cisco spoke of programming IOS-XR using OpenConfig and having that use Yang Models to ultimately get the config onto the box. I don’t think this is a “new” concept, but its a new angle for Cisco to promote so for me its fresh.
Take for example the use case of a router that runs BGP. To handle BGP prefixes and filter those routes you need a lot of TCAM space. This can increase the cost of a router. What if you could use this programability to tell the router to ignore all BGP prefixes coming in and not put them into the BGP table, but instead to forward those prefixes to a controller using OpenBMP. OpenBMP takes in BGP messages giving us an opportunity to parse them. From there we filter what we want to filter and then push them back down to the router. Now the TCAM doesn’t have to hold as much.
Overall I’ve simplified the process here but the point is that you can actually do a lot with the kind of control Cisco is introducing. To dig into the details I encourage you to watch the videos of Cisco’s Tech Field Day presentation at TechFieldDay.com. Some may still have their complaints about how Cisco does things but for me they really seem to be trying to deliver something that a customer wants and can actually use. Kudos to Cisco on this approach. In time I hope to see more of this reaching into other product lines.
Cisco presented at Tech Field Day 15 of which I was a delegate. Being a delegate means that Gestalt IT paid for my travel, rooming, and meals, and that I listened first hand to the presentations of these vendors. I was not paid by Cisco to write this article nor was I told what to write. These thoughts and opinions are my own. In some cases presenting vendors provide marketing gifts in various forms to delegates. These come in the form of stickers and other menial items. Cisco did not provide anything.