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Programmability in the Network | @DevOpsSummit [#DevOps]

A significant tenet of DevOps relies on automation, which in turn requires programmability of the infrastructure

Programmability in the Network, of the Network and by the Network

Programmability is an integral component of just about every emergent technology and trend today. Cloud? It's based on the ability of providers (public or private) to abstract, automate and orchestrate the network using programmability. DevOps? A significant tenet of DevOps relies on automation, which in turn requires programmability of the infrastructure (network and application) upon which apps are deployed.  SDN? Again, a core principle of SDN is the ability to programmatically modify the behavior of the network to better serve applications as well as operationalization to improve time to market, lower operating expenses and reduce risk.

In fact, saying programmability is an integral component may be understating the issue. Programmability is a key foundational principle upon which most of these technologies, architectures, approaches and trends are based.

That's something F5 has been behind since 2001, when it first introduced the concept of API-enabled infrastructure with its iControl API. Then along came iRules and offered a programmable data path, years before SDN became a hash-tagged TLA that everyone wanted to attach to. And then, finally, came app templates and iApp. Executable, application-focused scripts that simplified the provisioning of applications by encapsulating the configuration of all the application services required to ensure an application was secure, fast and available.

To say F5 has been "behind" programmability in the network, of the network and by the network is to actually say we've been leading the way since, well, since before anyone else thought it was really cool.

And think it cool the market now does.

f5 programmability

The importance, in general, of programmability was clearly indicated by a plurality of respondents in our State of Application Delivery in 2014 report. What's more telling, however, is how each was rated by those who view DevOps and SDN as having strategic importance to their organizations in the next two to five years.

Data path programmability, for example, was rated by 100% of those stating SDN as strategic as important to very important. 71% of those rating DevOps as strategically impactful rated API-enabled infrastructure as somewhat to very important along with 52% of those citing SDN as strategically important.

App templates, too, rate high on the importance scale; moreso with those focused on DevOps (52%) than SDN (33%).

Overall, programmability is definitely a critical characteristic of infrastructure - whether application or network - moving forward. And not just APIs, but all facets of programmability.

But any time programmability comes into the picture, community should come along with it. It isn't enough to just have an API or app templates. It isn't enough just to toss these things over the wall at infrastructure ops, developers or network ops. You've got to support them, too, and provide the means to learn, explore and share ideas and implementations.

That's what DevCentral was started to do, and what it continues to do today. Supporting over 160, 000 members, DevCentral provides the platform for the community that supports and shares hundreds of questions and answers and ideas a day.

Programmability is important in ensuring flexibility and agility of the services supporting each and every application. Whether it's customization to support BYOD and mobile initiatives or responding to the latest security vulnerability with a real-time mitigation or enabling the cross-silo sharing critical to DevOps by enabling interfaces for developers and business stakeholders to provision and manage the services they need, programmability is the foundation for the next generation of data center architectures - including those that extend into the cloud, and beyond.

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More Stories By Lori MacVittie

Lori MacVittie is responsible for education and evangelism of application services available across F5’s entire product suite. Her role includes authorship of technical materials and participation in a number of community-based forums and industry standards organizations, among other efforts. MacVittie has extensive programming experience as an application architect, as well as network and systems development and administration expertise. Prior to joining F5, MacVittie was an award-winning Senior Technology Editor at Network Computing Magazine, where she conducted product research and evaluation focused on integration with application and network architectures, and authored articles on a variety of topics aimed at IT professionals. Her most recent area of focus included SOA-related products and architectures. She holds a B.S. in Information and Computing Science from the University of Wisconsin at Green Bay, and an M.S. in Computer Science from Nova Southeastern University.