During Networking Field Day 20 that just wrapped on February 15, 2019, there was a most unexpected presentation from Juniper around automation and some things they are doing to hedge their bets on where the industry is moving over the next several years.
Mike Bushong (@mbushong) took the stage first for the team and laid out Juniper’s vision of where the industry is headed and gave warning to some of us old guys, either evolve your skills and be ready to leave CLI behind or you will be left behind. Automation is not a buzzword in our industry any longer, it is the here and the now. If you are looking into automation, looking to understand or learn automation, or even just try to understand what automation means you are already behind. As Mike points out in his Networking Field Day 20 talk, Juniper has lead the way in automation for quite some time but we are now at a tipping point where CLIs are are going to be a thing of the past very soon. Mike also made something very clear during his intro that had a few of us in the room scratching our heads, the tools Juniper is putting out are open to the public, not all are Juniper specific and they are getting no monetary vlaue back from them it is for a greater cuase to us all. A fundamental shift in the industry the needs to take place. And I truly must agree with Mike on this, we as engineers have to start getting better at this or we will be left behind.
Next Raunak Tibrewal (@raunaktib) took the mic over and introduced us to Juniper’s new EngNet site and portal. EngNet is built around 3 bases that help an engineer to prepare for and learn automation, Learn, Build, Explore. One of the things I was impressed with is this was built with community in mind. Juniper has a dedicated Slack channel for community support as well as J-Net to make this a very collaborative and open learning experience. I connected to the EngNet site and was really pleasantly surprised with the content, how it was laid out and was really shocked at the amount of content available. Right up front you can signup for the Slack channel, but then as you continue down there is a nice roadmap to get you going on things no matter what you level might be. Obviously a lot of this content is around Junos OS, but there is some vendor agnostic lessons as well. I think two fo the coolest features are the Automation Exchange which have readily available Ansible playbooks, NAPALM scripts and other goodies which are all sotable and searchable by either Type, Market Segement, Network Role and Operational Process. The final piece that brings this all together is the Learn area in which you can followed Assisted Learning via different options or follow the Self-Learning track. Most everything within EngNet is free, but there are some items that you get a free trial for 60-Days or so and then will need to pay for. All-in-all this is a great place to start if you are looking to get into Junos OS or just to learn through some open labs and even just see what others have done for automation.
The final presentation came from Matt Oswalt (@mierdin) who unveiled the Juniper NRE Labs platform. Matt started by building off what we had already heard from Mike about sutomation today in our industry is not a production-side problem but a consumption-side problem. The tools are there, the technology is there, but the people are not consuming them. To try and help solve this consumption problem, Juniper has released their NRE Labs which is a “Community Platform for learning and teaching automation and Network Reliability Engineering”. Basically they have put out a totally free (you do not even need to supply an email address), broswer-based platform to learn vendor-neutral automation using tools such as YAML, Python, REST APIs, Git, Linux and so on. It starts with fundamentals if you are just getting your feet wet in autmation or coding. Then there are tools availabel to try our like Salt or NAPALM or Ansible. All of this runs natively in the borwser with no need to download anything. The lessons are customizable based on your current strengths or weaknesses which then bases the tasks on your current knowledge level and provides a roadmap for learning with links. One of the collest things Matt and the team have done is to enable the use of Jupyter notebooks in the learning. Basically this enables you to have a Python interpreter running real-time so you can see the output in your browser window as you run the code. There is so much that has been done by the team on this. I would suggest to go check it out and see for yourself the greatness that is there.
What Juniper has been working on to enable the users to actually consume the tools and automation that is out in the industry is really amazing, especially the fact in the case of NRE Labs, they are not looking to monetize from it. This huge in my opinion and in the long-run could actually help Juniper based on their product set and strong autmation reliance on their products.
Check out the presentations from Networking Field Day 20 here.