APIs And The Road To Connectivity Utopia
20 May, 2019 by The Console Connect Team
In a perfect world, at least for a network administrator, hardware products from every network vendor would be able to talk to each other out of the box. Interfaces would be open and standardized and the administrator would be able to focus their time on supporting the business rather than supporting the network.
As a concept, SDN sets out to achieve this network utopia, allowing the administrator to set policies that are distributed across the entire WAN from a ‘single pane of glass’. The road to that end goal is a long one however and there are many sub-components of the network architecture that need to be addressed on that journey, and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are a critical component for bringing all of these elements together.
The MEF, an industry body driving the development of APIs for software defined networks and one that PCCW Global is heavily involved with, is offering APIs as Software Development Kits (SDKs), so that more community members can get hands on experience and contribute to the specifications throughout the formalization process.
Cloud and 5G - both enabled by API development
There are two major developments happening globally that will drive the work in APIs:
- public cloud connectivity
- the advent of 5G.
Speaking at the Big 5G event in 2019, Dan Pitt, SVP of MEF, said that 5G will begins to pop up in “islands” around the world and those islands will need mechanisms to connect to each other and to legacy networks.
In a similar vein, Paul Gampe, CTO of PCCW Global, has said that most of the SDN technology that's available to the enterprise today doesn't address connectivity to the public cloud. “We don't see the generalized tools like Open Daylight or ONOS providing solutions to this connectivity to public cloud, it’s really only inside the data center that is their focus. I think we're going to enter a world where we have hybrid networks, where you've got the ability to orchestrate your own network and then call an API (like what PCCW Global provides via Console Connect) and start orchestrating a global network as well.”
As workloads move outside of the private data center, the development of APIs has become essential to orchestrate that connectivity. “That's one of the reasons PCCW Global acquired Consoles Connect,” said Gampe. “But the fact that these APIs are not standardized is also a big challenge for the enterprise.”
APIs for connecting public and private clouds
Gampe backs the proposal that APIs related to SDN need to evolve beyond managing connectivity inside the data centre to also managing it outside.
“If you look at what it takes to get connected to the public cloud, it's not simple. Most of the traditional enterprise IT experience is predominantly working on configuring switches. But this requirement to deliver connectivity into the cloud really sits at the nexus of both network and software, because you can't get connected to a public cloud without software and that is an API call you need to make,” he said.
This is also true of network elasticity, where customers have traditional connectivity between sites but don’t have elasticity with the same. So, for example, a customer might want to increase a 10Mbps connection from Taiwan to Hong Kong to 100Mbps while they do their backups and then bring it back down to 10Mbps again.
But this ideally needs to happen from the customer’s own dashboard. “So, the MPLS network represents value, but to maximize that value elasticity is needed,” said Gampe. And this is where API development - and standardization - is so crucial.