Glue Networks Changes the Automation Game

Read­ing Time: 3 min­utes

Sim­plic­i­ty is the ulti­mate sophis­ti­ca­tion.”

Clare Boothe Luce

Accord­ing to a recent­ly pub­lished sur­vey by Cis­co Sys­tems, Inc., IT orga­ni­za­tions spend 67% of their bud­gets on oper­a­tional expense, and con­sume 80% of their time in the process. That is a stag­ger­ing amount of time and mon­ey spent on sim­ply man­ag­ing the tech­nol­o­gy infra­struc­ture of an enter­prise. It comes as no sur­prise, then, that so many peo­ple are focused on reduc­ing those num­bers, and on increas­ing time-to val­ue of new tech­nol­o­gy in the process.

Glue Net­works is one of the com­pa­nies try­ing to solve this prob­lem by bring­ing automa­tion to the net­work. Jeff Gray, CEO of Glue Net­works, claims that they have built the “first mod­el dri­ven, mul­ti-ven­dor, soft­ware defined net­work, orches­tra­tion plat­form that allows orga­ni­za­tions to con­trol their net­works in a new way.” That’s a lot of words, and a bold claim, to be cer­tain, but there’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip, and claims are easy to make. Prov­ing them out is more dif­fi­cult.

One of the chal­lenges in today’s net­works, par­tic­u­lar­ly when speak­ing about automa­tion, is the wide vari­ety of prod­ucts, plat­forms, hard­ware, cir­cuits, etc., that exist and need to be con­trolled. If I want to make a change in my QoS pol­i­cy across a spe­cif­ic path in my net­work, for instance, I may have to touch sev­er­al brands of gear, as well as sev­er­al dif­fer­ent mod­els with­in one vendor’s prod­uct line. Automat­ing any kind of task, let alone a com­plex change, has his­tor­i­cal­ly been extreme­ly dif­fi­cult. Even with great script­ing, it’s dif­fi­cult to make changes every­where at once.

Glue has tak­en a unique approach to this prob­lem by cre­at­ing data-dri­ven mod­els based on intent. In oth­er words, their Glue­ware Con­trol plat­form looks at what the intent of the oper­a­tor is in request­ing a change. You’re oper­at­ing at a high­er lev­el of abstrac­tion from the raw gear to be changed, and let­ting the con­trol plat­form fig­ure out how to exe­cute the changes need­ed in order to ful­fil your intent. You tell the sys­tem what hard­ware you have, and it uses its knowl­edge of that hard­ware to exe­cute changes.

When­ev­er you abstract anoth­er lay­er above a hard­ware change, you rely more and more on the accu­ra­cy of your mod­els and for­mu­las to tell the hard­ware what needs to hap­pen. If your automa­tion engine can only talk to three mod­els of switch­es, it is not going to be spec­tac­u­lar­ly use­ful. Cur­rent­ly the Glue­ware Con­trol plat­form comes with mod­els for 13 dif­fer­ent mul­ti-ven­dor pack­ages and oper­at­ing sys­tems, with many more on the way. These are the recipes for how the sys­tem talks to your gear, so more is always bet­ter. The cur­rent goal, accord­ing to Gray, is to release a new ven­dor pack­age every three weeks.

Glue also announced the release of the Glue­ware Com­mu­ni­ty, which is what they’re call­ing their user-dri­ven, online, ecosys­tem for col­lab­o­rat­ing with fel­low users. Here is where a robust com­mu­ni­ty of users exchanges recipes and for­mu­las that they have writ­ten, which may not be some­thing that Glue has released them­selves. In oth­er words, maybe you have a some­what rare device that few peo­ple have, and no one has writ­ten a mod­el for it yet. You wrote a mod­el (there are plen­ty of exam­ples and instruc­tions on the com­mu­ni­ty site) to sup­port your unique device, put it into the com­mu­ni­ty repos­i­to­ry, and now oth­er users can ben­e­fit from your solu­tion. This is quite a good way to both encour­age com­mu­ni­ty par­tic­i­pa­tion, and to rapid­ly increase adop­tion by grow­ing the mod­els and for­mu­las repos­i­to­ry in leaps and bounds.

Respond­ing to cus­tomers, Glue has also tak­en their tra­di­tion­al­ly cloud-based plat­form and extend­ed it into an on-premis­es solu­tion, say­ing that many cus­tomers need­ed a “behind the fire­wall” solu­tion. They have also expand­ed from a pure­ly WAN-based solu­tion, into both LAN and dat­a­cen­ter envi­ron­ments, extend­ing their use­ful­ness across the whole of the enter­prise, rather than sim­ply run­ning as a point solu­tion.

Anoth­er fea­ture that is extreme­ly promis­ing is the abil­i­ty for the plat­form to dynam­i­cal­ly cre­ate mod­els, based on your gear, in a brown­field envi­ron­ment. You can install this prod­uct, and based on what it knows, it will mod­el your net­work devices and pull them into the sys­tem. This short­ens the time to val­ue equa­tion by allow­ing users to imme­di­ate­ly derive val­ue from the prod­uct, some­thing which helps to pre­vent an expen­sive pur­chase from becom­ing shelf-ware.

All in all, I’d say that Glue has made great strides in this release, and def­i­nite­ly is at the fore­front of ven­dors pro­vid­ing solu­tions to one of the most press­ing issues of the day. While many oth­er prod­ucts and solu­tions pur­port to solve the automa­tion prob­lem, reduc­ing oper­a­tional expens­es and staff uti­liza­tion, far too many require large invest­ments in what are ulti­mate­ly non-ven­dor agnos­tic ecosys­tems. These lat­ter sys­tems tend to move the prob­lem from OPEX to CAPEX, while intro­duc­ing tremen­dous amounts of com­plex­i­ty. Glue offers a solu­tion that is both sim­ple and pow­er­ful, and should def­i­nite­ly be some­thing you take a look at imple­ment­ing.

For more infor­ma­tion on the plat­form, how it works, and what prob­lems it solves, take a look at this pre­sen­ta­tion by Olivi­er Huynh Van, CTO and Co-founder of Glue Net­works: