Kevin Dorrell, CCIE #20765

02 Feb 2009

Networkers 2009

Filed under: General, IOS features, LAN Switching, Security — dorreke @ 20:10

Networkers 2009 is all over now, and things are getting back to normal.  So what did I take away from the conference?

Networking

I mean the other sort of networking: the human network.  It was good to finally meet some of my fellow bloggers: stretch and Ethereal Mind, for example. It was also good to meet marikakis again, a colleague in the NetPro discussion group.

Talking of this sort of networking: “Network Management” can mean different things to different people.  A colleague once booked into a “Network Management” seminar, then found out that the seminar was about how to manage a company by leveraging person-to-person “networks”.

802.1X Techtorial

I spent a whole day looking at 802.1X.  Actually a significant part of that time was spent looking at Cisco’s ACS (Access Control System).  The two or three days follow gave me a chance to reflect on the tool, and chat to the people on the security booth.  The more I reflected, the more I was convinced I need to do an 802.1X project.  I also bought a book about security, and I might even consider going down the security track when my CCIE comes up for renewal.

IOS Instrumentation

Two of my sessions dealt with the interesting and fun recesses of IOS.  The BoF session was really an opportunity for Cisco to brainstorm about these features.  There is a ton of stuff in IOS that is very rarely used: stuff like the EEM (Embedded Event Manager) TCL scripting.  There is a community dedicated to these features at ciscobeyond. One of the conclusions we came to was that Cisco has not made a very good job of publicizing these features.

The other session relating to this was “13 Smart Ways to Configure Your Cisco IOS Network Elements”.  This was a really fun session that, “like all bad ideas, was formulated over a beer”.  It was a bet, based around “there must be at least a dozen ways to configure a router.”   EEM is only one of them, and there are well more than the 13 the speaker listed.  I can’t wait to get back to the lab to try some of them out.

VSS and layer-2 architectures

I went to several sessions about VSS, both in campus architectures and the data centre.  I detected an interesting change of emphasis over last year’s offering.  Last year they were still pushing pure layer-3 architectures.  At the same time I was struggling with how to split a server cluster over two sites.  Over course, this is not easy to do with a layer-3 architecture; you need at least one layer-2 interconnect to carry the heartbeat.

This year, they seem to have woken up to the need for a layer-2 interconnect between the data centres.  They offer VSS as a way to provide redundancy for that interconnect.  I still stubbornly use Rapid Spanning Tree for various reasons connected with my architecture, which makes me feel a distinct minority.  I suppose you can get away with it provided there are not too many hops between the data centres.

Advanced BGP

I always try an attend a session by Russ White if he is there.  His style is eclectic, to say the least, with about 50% of the time spent on anecdote and sidelines.  That’s what makes the presentation memorable and entertaining.  Must be confusing for anyone whose native language is not English tho`!  Good guy, and what a huge knowledge base!

Other stuff

Just a few more observations:

  1. The “World of Solutions” was tiny compared with previous years, so full marks to those who did attend.  Companies must really be feeling the pinch. I was impressed with SolarWinds for taking the time to show me their Orion network management centre.  No marks for Computer Associates, who I wanted to grill about my problems with their Spectrum product, but who did not attend this year.
  2. I was impressed with the Nexus 1000v virtual switch.  This is an add-on to VMware and replaces the ESX virtual switch.  What it does is to make one huge virtual switch across your VMware domain, which means you can apply policies to invidual virtual machines: policies that move with the machine whenever it goes vmotion.
  3. I’m getting too old for the Cisco party.  It was a bit entertaining, but a lot brash and noisy.  The best Networkers party was the one in Monte Carlo in 1995, or the one in Vienna in 1999 (?), with a group that covered a range of musical tastes, not just hip hop, punk, and rap.
  4. The keynote address by Prof. Brian Cox was cool, but not very much to do with networking.  He could have tied in the theme of collaboration a bit more explicitly.
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