Where is the center of IT Automation today? The network is the nerve center, the workloads are the brains, and the normal storage, compute, and memory are the other internal organs. The heart of our IT machine is often a management tool such as VMware vCenter, System Center, or something else entirely, but should our IT automation live within the heart when the heart only controls virtual and some physical components, or should IT automation be tied to the nervous system that crosses boundaries?

Arista Networks provides top of rack and core switches that integrate not only with the physical environment but the virtual environment and which can become the central IT automation tool of a hybrid cloud (assuming the cloud layers have available APIs). Arista switches not only understand Cisco Discover Protocol, but like all switches can learn what is attached to them. They also communicate with VMware vCenter to determine what is connected to virtual switches.

The VMware vSphere host is authoritative about what is running within it and which networks are in use for standard virtual switches, and vCenter as the control plane for the vNetwork Distributed switch is authoratative about which VMs are attached to them as well spanning an entire data center or data centers. Arista uses these authoritative sources to gain a better understanding about what is connected to it, and due to that understanding, to create and eventually tear down VXLAN or VLAN segments on the fly. There is no need to inform this switch what is happening; it knows from its authoratative sources.

So let us build on this. Using the current Arista API, we could easily create an automation VM that could be told when new systems are added to the network and perform further automation, perhaps at the application, security, or OS configuration layers. Arista switches can also run virtual machines within the switch (granted KVM VMs, so for centralized management, perhaps HotLink should be used). These lightweight VMs could either perform further IT Automation or be used to feed up to an IT Automation layer.

This would make the nerve center the perfect place to put automation, as it now knows not only virtual workloads have been stood up, but that there are changes necessary on the physical layer; perhaps a new physical  host was added at the same time? The network binds it all together; the network could be the center of IT Automation. The network that is independent, yet uses other authoritative sources about what is connected where, so that security and other controls can be implemented across a hybrid datacenter.

The nerve center makes decisions on its own and only uses the brain when necessary; it is a perfect place to offload IT automation. The nerve center is independent and autonomous.

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Edward Haletky (384 Posts)

Edward L. Haletky, aka Texiwill, is the author of VMware vSphere(TM) and Virtual Infrastructure Security: Securing the Virtual Environment as well as VMware ESX and ESXi in the Enterprise: Planning Deployment of Virtualization Servers, 2nd Edition. Edward owns AstroArch Consulting, Inc., providing virtualization, security, network consulting and development and The Virtualization Practice where he is also an Analyst. Edward is the Moderator and Host of the Virtualization Security Podcast as well as a guru and moderator for the VMware Communities Forums, providing answers to security and configuration questions. Edward is working on new books on Virtualization.

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