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Understanding NETCONF and YANG

Carl Moberg, VP of Technology, Tail-f Systems | Jan. 29, 2014
The IETF's Network Cofiguration Protocol and Yang data modeling language promise to help simplify and speed network device configuration

Interoperability testing of devices
Looking back at what we learned with SNMP, one of the challenges around standards is get beyond simply ticking off compliance in an RFP and actually supporting the standard according to the RFCs. In many cases users of technology suffer from non-conformant implementations. If vendors just put their CLI config within NETCONF tags nothing is gained.

For NETCONF and YANG, this has happened in a slightly different order. Some of the equipment providers (e.g. Cisco, Juniper, Ericsson) showed the way by providing strategic early implementations of NETCONF (in contrast to customer-driven).

The next second step in the process is happening right now. Network operations teams are at the point where manual configuration is a non-starter, so there is an urgent need for automation solutions. This is currently driving increased mentions of NETCONF and YANG in RFIs and RFQs. This in turn is drawing quite significant attention from the network management software companies that wants to stay relevant in these areas.

A Word about NFVAdditionally, there has been a lot of interest recently in Network Function Virtualization (NFV). NFV is an emerging operational model where service providers want to leverage the impact that virtualization has had in the server market and replicate that for network applications.

NFV is built around a very strong assumption of deep automation. This ties it directly to NETCONF with its standardized protocols and models, making it possible to deploy multi-vendor virtual network functions. NFV and NETCONF work together to help provide a broader solution to meet the current and growing need to configure and manage multi-vendor devices that are prevalent in the data center.

The future of NETCONF looks bright as more and more organizations take advantage of the cost and time savings to the data center and network management structure. By leveraging NETCONF and YANG in the context of NFV, networking team can focus on the network design and configuration that ultimately makes the most efficient use of the network equipment. Additionally, it provides the ability to make form factor and vendor choices that are not directly tied to the services, but focused on the cost and how well the products perform the specific networking task.


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