Super-NetOps: Frequently Asked Questions

What is Super-NetOps?

Super-NetOps is the practice of delivering network-based services as programmable infrastructure to support DevOps practices and methodologies. Traditional network operations (NetOps) is GUI/CLI oriented, and causes major delays for organizations aiming to implement automated, continuous deployment. Super-NetOps is NetOps embracing and empowering DevOps methodologies and culture. More.

In this article you'll find the growing list of frequently asked questions about the Super-NetOps program. Please provide feedback in this discussion thread in Q&A.

Super Net-Ops Training Questions

 Who is the Super-NetOps target audience?
The audience will grow as the program matures, but initially, our target audience is Network Operators / Engineers with all levels of expertise in the new DevOps economy. This by no means excludes anyone from the program, all are welcome to jump in and discover. More.
 How much time does each class take?
Plan on approximately four hours.
 I work in traditional IT, what are the prerequisites required for the training course?
The courses assume knowledge of the BIG-IP platform. If you've taken the LTM essentials training training then you're good to go.
 Do you plan to offer a more comprehensive northbound UI like Cisco APIC?
We do already have a management UI called BIG-IQ, however, Super-NetOps is about integrating with Agile, Continuous Deployment systems, which happens over APIs. And we have a LOT of programmability focus! Take a look at iControl LX, which allows you to create your own REST endpoints. Or at the Super-NetOps container, filled with workflows, on docker hub.
 How do I get started?
You have three options: 1) Attend a hosted training event, 2) Take the on-demand training, or 3) Build your own lab.
 What does the lab environment look like?
For both the on-site hosted training and the on-demand training, the lab environment is set up for you and will auto-configure when you take the training. Click here for build your own details.
 Where can I give general feedback on the Super-NetOps program?
We started a discussion on DevCentral for this.

DevOps Principles and Technologies

 What is Continuous Delivery?
Continuous delivery is a software development practice where code changes are automatically built, tested, and prepared for a release, often to the penultimate destination, or just short of production. Carrying it forward to production is where continuous deployment comes in. More.
 What is Continuous Deployment?
Continuous Deployment carries Continuous Delivery over the finish line, where revisions are deployed to a production environment automatically without explicit approval from a developer, making the entire software release process automated. More.
 What is Continuous Integration?
Continuous integration is software development practice where developers regularly merge their code changes into a central repository, after which automated builds and tests are run. The idea is to continuously merge individual branches to a shared branch. This practice is followed for the Super-NetOps training curriculum, as well as most of the other F5 repos on Github. More.
 What is Continuous Improvement?
Mark Twain famously said "Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection." Continuous improvement is really about embracing the endless pursuit of betterment. This means change, and change is hard. Being comfortable with change starts with a keen interest in experimentation, and a level of comfort with failure without finger pointing, dealing with unanticipated outcomes together as a means of learning and growing. More.
 What is Domain-Specific Knowledge?
Domain Specific Knowledge is the specific knowledge that an individual (or system) must have before they can complete a process. For example, constructing a new home from a pile of lumber would require a very high level of Domain Specific Knowledge in many trades (concrete, framing, electrical, HVAC, painting, tile, etc). Conversely, purchasing a fully built house (with the assumption that nothing needs to be renovated) requires very low Domain Specific Knowledge as it relates to home construction. You’ll find that the level of Domain Specific Knowledge has a direct impact on how various automated systems work together (or don’t) on the path to production deployments. Furthermore, systems are built by people. It is well known that people, while very capable, cannot keep up with the rate of change of all the underlying systems. Therefore the only solution is to limit the NUMBER of systems that have to be learned rather than limiting the DEPTH of knowledge in those systems. In other words narrow but deep instead of wide and shallow. More.
 What is an Imperative Process?
An Imperative Process is simple. You execute thousands of imperative processes every day. An imperative process is the step-by-step set of actions required to achieve an outcome. A simple example is making a jam sandwich, where the process can be separated into a sequence of ordered steps: gather the ingredients; butter the bread; spread some jam; put another slice of bread on top; enjoy! More.
 What is a Declarative Interface?
A declarative interface is an abstraction of imperative processes that requires very little domain specific knowledge to use. So lets take the sandwich analogy one step further. People have gotten wind of the superior quality of your jam sandwiches. You’ve decided to start a Reggae-themed Jam Sandwich restaurant called Jammin’. How can you deliver your jam sandwiches to the masses?  The answer is something almost everyone is familiar with… the ubiquitous Drive-Thru. The Drive-Thru concept is a perfect illustration of a Declarative Interface. Consumers simply declare the sandwich they want from a pre-defined menu. Some options for customization are present, however, these options are limited because the intent of the Drive-Thru is to deliver jam sandwiches as fast as possible for low, low prices. The process behind making the sandwich (and all the logistics of running a restaurant) are totally abstracted away from the consumer. More.
 What is Source (or Version) Control?
Source control (or version control) is the practice of tracking and managing changes to code. Source control management (SCM) systems provide a running history of code development and help to resolve conflicts when merging contributions from multiple sources. Git is the SCM tool used by the Super-NetOps training program. More.
 What is Git?
Git is an open-source distributed source code management system. Git allows you to create a copy of your repository known as a branch. Using this branch, you can then work on your code independently from the stable version of your codebase. Once you are ready with your changes, you can store them as a set of differences, known as a commit. You can pull in commits from other contributors to your repository, push your commits to others, and merge your commits back into the main version of the repository. More.
 What is GitHub?
GitHub is a website hosting git-controlled software repositories as well as a community where more than 27 million people learn, share, and work together to build software. F5 maintains two organizations, one restricted to F5-supported repos (f5networks) and one open to collaboration with third parties (f5devcentral.) More.
 What is a Toolchain?
A toolchain is a set of tools that enable continuous integration, delivery, and deployment. More.
 What is Automation?
Automation is concerned with a single task – launching a web server, configuring a web server, stopping a service. More.
 What is Orchestration?
Orchestration is concerned with automating, if you will, the execution of a workflow – of a process. A provisioning process may be comprised of multiple tasks and involve multiple systems. An “application” is not just a single server, after all, it’s likely several servers – web, app and database in a traditional three-tier architecture. The goal of orchestration is not just to automatically execute a service, which brings speed to the deployment process and gets applications into production faster. It also affords an opportunity to streamline – to optimize – those processes for even greater gains in deployment velocity. More.
 What is Infrastructure as Code?
Infrastructure as Code is not a tool, it’s a methodology where where systems are built automatically and managed and provisioned through code instead of through manual processes. Think programmable infrastructure. More.
 What is Source of Truth?
A Source of Truth (SOT) is defined as a system or object that contains the authoritative representation of a service and it’s components. For example, in traditional environments the SOT is the running configuration on a particular device. When automating systems it is critical to understand that the SOT may NOT reside on the device itself. While each device will have a version of the running configuration, we make a distinction that the authoritative source for that data may be somewhere else (off-device). The Super-NetOps program uses Git as the SOT. More.
 What are Pipelines?
Pipelines are actions or processes that mutate an environment based on changes to the Source of Truth. The Super-NetOps training program uses Jenkins as a reference pipeline tool. More.
 What is Postman?
Postman is an extremely powerful and flexible HTTP client for testing web services. It is used extensively in the Super-NetOps training program for interrogating the iControl REST API. More.
 What is Newman?
Newman (Newman was a postman in the hit US comedy Seinfeld…get it?) is a utility that enables users to run Postman collections directly from the command line. More.
 What is an API?
An API, or application programming interface, makes it possible for applications to communicate. BIG-IP has several APIs available: iControl, which is based on SOAP, iControl REST, which is REST based, and iControl LX, a customizable framework that allows you to create your own APIs.More.
 What is REST?
The REST framework, or representational state transfer, provides a nice clean way of creating, retrieving, modifying, and deleting resources using standard HTTP methods. More.

Super-NetOps in Practice

 We are pressured to transform but no one wants to fundamentally change how we work. How do we progress?
We're happy to engage, please reach out. There is no single template that works for everyone, however, we've done this ourselves and are happy to talk through the problem with you to find a path forward.
 How does the F5 API works well with Ansible and ansible tower? Where Can I learn more about it?
We have an introductory article and an extensive Ansible library on Github, as well as a video demo of Tower.
 I am NetOps. Our biggest problem is working with the DevOps team to work out configuration details that the DevOps team needs for the application to work. How can this help?
Have you looked at templating your configurations? We've helped a lot of customers make big gains by adopting the AppSvcs_Integration iApp and templating their configs, creating a set of common deployment templates that cover 80 - 90% of deployment types. They can then use desktop API tools like Postman to do each deployment/change. This frees a lot of time for them continuously improve the templates that serve a greater workload. Your F5 account team can help.
 What is your preferred SDN solution for Super-NetOps?
We can integrate with many SDN solutions, the goal of Super-NetOps is to equip the professional with a set of tools agnostic to any particular vendor.
 What are some of the challenges an organization should consider when making the effort to adapt to agile deployment vs the traditional approach?
In our experience, the biggest challenge is actually enabling the culture change. The technology piece is comparatively straight forward, however, without support from your leadership, enabling the culture change is very hard. We're happy to speak to a company, F5 has been navigating and executing on this change.
 What can leaders do for their employees mindset to embrace change?
I've focused on enabling delivery of innovation to market. Simply put, rather than focusing on the challenge, I approach business leaders with a growth mindset. That mindset means saying that you need leadership support to enable change so you can be more innovative and competitive.
 Would you recommend deploying a clean environment to do automation where everything is devops and keep the kludges in the old environments?
Great question. Personally, we've seen very limited success in trying to mix these environments. Organizations that we've seen be successful have overwhelmingly created new, parallel environments.
 What is a Super-NetOps Engineer?
We’re not convinced it should be a title or job per se, but a Super-NetOps capable engineer is proficient in both infrastructure programmability practices AND DevOps methodologies. Armed with these new skills, he/she holds a position at the DevOps table and drives business innovation. As a member of the Super-NetOps team – an extension of the DevOps practice – they develop, and continuously improve, systems, which support and integrate with developer automation tool-chains. More.

F5 Specific Technologies

 What is iControl REST?
Control REST is an evolution on the proven, stable iControl framework. Rather than a SOAP approach, iControl REST uses REpresentational State Transfer (REST). This allows for light weight, rapid interaction between user or script and F5 device. With iControl REST you are able to leverage existing commands and product knowledge to quickly get yourself up and running with scripts that can lighten your workload via automation, help prevent potential issues by monitoring and preventing disaster before it strikes, silently tuning your deployment to fit your application's needs without human intervention and more. Anything that you're able to accomplish from the command line you can leverage programmatically via iControl REST. More.
 What is iWorkflow?
Workflow is an F5 product that consolidates BIG-IP environments into a REST API accessible solution for your orchestration system. Managing access and services are made through role-based access controls (RBAC). Using iApps, orchestration providers will deploy applications through iApp-defined service catalogs.  iWorkflow maintains the connections to your cloud and on-premise BIG-IP infrastructure and manages the access that each business unit will need to successfully deploy one or more applications. More.
 What is an iApp?
iApps are a customizable framework for deploying and managing application as a service on an F5 BIG-IP device.  Using out-of-the-box templates, administrators can deploy commonly-used applications such as Oracle, SAP, or Exchange by completing a series of questions that relate to their management and infrastructure needs.  Rather than create a bunch of virtual servers, followed by a handful of monitors, then a plethora of whatever, the responses to iApps questions create all of the BIG-IP objects needed to properly run your application.  The iApps application service becomes the responsible manager of all virtual servers, monitors, policies, profiles, and iRules required to run.  Consolidating these into a single view makes management and troubleshooting much easier to handle. More.
Published Mar 01, 2018
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