Service providers are increasingly embracing the DevOps  concept. DevOps brings IT and network teams together, enables better  collaboration with vendor ecosystem partners, and improves business agility.

As NFV enables an increasing number of network elements to  move from physical devices to virtual appliances, and SDN becomes more  established, network operators are adopting new practices and tools to maximize  the benefits of these technologies.

DevOps is one such practice to take advantage of these new  industry realities. Born in the data center, the DevOps approach combines software development  best practices with those of network operations to create an interconnected ecosystem. The main benefits are:

  • Significantly reduced  time required to develop new services  compared to the legacy model
  • Improved  openness, enabling greater interoperability  between vendors

This combination dramatically increases agility for  service providers; this agility  is critical as competition increases from over-the-top providers offering  innovative services.

What follows are 10 technical concepts service providers  should know about to better understand how adopting DevOps can help them  quickly adapt their networks to changes in market needs, improve service  quality, and reduce the costs of developing new services.

1. Linux

Linux penguin iconWhat it is: Linux is a cross-platform operating system modelled on UNIX.  It was initially developed and released as an open-source operating system for personal computers under a GNU General Public  License (GPL), which meant  it was free to use, modify,  and redistribute to others.  It is now managed by the Linux  Foundation, a non-profit organization that works to optimize the operating  system’s development of Linux.

Why it’s important: Linux is the de facto operating  system at the heart of almost all of today’s applications, servers, and devices.  This means it is also the operating system for the cloud,  and is at the heart  of cloud services. The Linux Foundation is the driving  force behind important NFV and  SDN initiatives, such as the Open Platform  for NFV Project and Open Network Operating System (ONOS), which  are crucial open-source networking initiatives designed to  help service providers quickly respond to market demands.

2.  Docker

Docker logoWhat it is: Docker is an open-source program that enables applications to be built using  isolated, service-specific software containers known as micro- services,  instead of using a large monolith of code. Docker and micro-services are now largely viewed as the best way to  deploy large-scale distributed application software.

Why it’s important: In monolithic architectures, changes made to a small part of the application  require the entire monolith to be rebuilt  and re-deployed. Scaling  equates to scaling of the entire application rather than  just the components that require more resources. Conversely, a micro-service architecture allows changes to be made to isolated  software containers instead of the whole  software stack. As a result, applications are easier to  enhance, maintain, and scale, making the technology prevalent in cloud  environments. It also greatly speeds development and regression testing,  allowing new services or enhancements to get to market faster, at lower costs.


JSON iconWhat it is: JavaScript Object Notation (JSON)  is a formatting method that  avoids the complexity of traditional programming languages by representing data in a way  that both humans  and machines can easily comprehend. It can be used in conjunction  with most common programming languages such as Python, XML, PHP, and others, which have code libraries to convert JSON templates  back and forth into those languages.

Why it’s important: Developers can use JSON-based templates to define all the  virtual network, storage, and computing resources they need to support a  service, and anyone on the IT or DevOps team can look at the template  and generally understand what it does. It is commonly used in software  development and programming because anyone with a general knowledge of coding  can use the templates to describe the resources their application needs to  function, with the cloud platform able to spin up those resources as required.


Tosca logoWhat it is: Topology and Orchestration Specification for Cloud Applications (TOSCA) was developed  by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS). This open  standard provides a common definition of virtualized services  and applications, including  their components, relationships, dependencies, requirements, and  capabilities. This makes  it much easier  to design and manage  services from end to end, regardless of the  underlying platform or infrastructure.

Why it’s important: Service providers can use TOSCA templates to define and  automate the deployment of new services composed of physical and/or virtual  resources that extend across cloud, access, transport, and optical domains.  TOSCA models the service topology, the resources it needs to function, and the  relationships between those resources.

5. Python

Python logoWhat it is: Python is a simple, powerful, open-source programming language. It has efficient high-level  data structures, which means programs in Python do not require low-level  details, such as managing memory used by the program. It has a simple yet  powerful approach to object-oriented programming. Because it is open-source,  programs in Python can work on almost any operating system without requiring  changes. And because it does not need to be compiled into binary, it makes any program much more  portable. Finally,  the Python Standard  Library contains an enormous  resource of scripts programmers can use to quickly create programs.

Why it’s  important: Python has been widely adopted  for SDN and NFV use cases for three main reasons:

  • It is easy to learn.
  • It is widely applicable. Python enables a wide variety  of programs, from data gathering to scripting configuration changes, to playing games.
  • It is  well supported. Almost all SDN vendors have a Python Application Program Interface (API) or Software Development Kit (SDK).

6. Object-oriented data modeling

What it is: Object-oriented data modeling creates a model of the network  architecture, typically based on use  cases, and uses language that is similar to the functions users perform, making it easier for users to  understand how the network operates  and provide feedback. Furthermore, network architectures developed using this  process construct the network as an intelligent transport system  for  applications. Network functions added to this architecture share this system  view, and models can represent the complete configuration and runtime  state   of every piece of hardware and  software in the network. The object  model can be controlled through standard REST APIs (see below), making it  easier to access and manipulate the  object model.

Why it’s important: Object-oriented data modeling enables the network  to be used as a programmable resource. REST APIs can be used to fully access and fluidly program the  underlying network components, providing a framework  for network control and programmability with  an unprecedented degree of openness.


RESTful API logoWhat it is: Representational State Transfer (REST) is an architectural style for APIs that defines the  components, connectors, and data elements within a distributed system. REST  APIs focus on component roles and specific interactions between data elements,  as opposed to implementation details. They provide the capability to collect information from or make a change to  an underlying set of resources. Originally developed for use with the World  Wide Web, it has since become adopted as a standard method of interfacing  between a wide variety of applications, devices, and services, and is supported  by a broad set of tools.

Why it’s important: In open SDN and NFV architectures, REST APIs are the  common interface between software applications  such as Operational Support Systems (OSSs) and a centralized SDN controller. REST APIs and interfaces  allow programmers to write applications to manage or manipulate network  elements. This level of user-friendly DevOps  functionality increases productivity by reducing the time  between design and deployment.

8. Swagger

Swagger logoWhat it is: Swagger is an interactive API documentation framework for describing,  producing, consuming, and visualizing REST APIs. It includes a set of  tools for editing the markup and generating attributes such as stubs, endpoint  tests, and HTML documentation in a structured manner. Swagger allows anyone  with technical skills to define an API, generate documentation, and even go so  far as to create the code to support it.

Why it’s important: REST APIs are a standard, commonly  used method of interfacing between a wide variety applications and services. Swagger helps developers more easily locate, understand, and consume APIs to facilitate the development of applications and services.

9. Git and GitHub

GitHub logoWhat they are: Git  is a popular open-source version  control system software developers can use to save their work. Git is also distributed, which means developers can work  with a full copy of the code repository from any location, compared to  centralized products that require a connection to the central source to  function. GitHub is a cloud-based Git repository hosting service.

Why they are important: Git and GitHub  are standard tools  used within a number of  leading software applications to simplify the  process of managing multiple  submissions of software.

10. Network  management protocols

What they are: A wide variety  of protocols and interfaces are used  to communicate with,  manage, and control  multi-vendor network elements and their related resources. Common  management protocols include  CLI, TL1, SNMP, NETCONF/  YANG, and OpenFlow.

Why they are  important: Understanding how to configure and control network elements allows network architects and  developers to collaborate by using orchestration software, in combination with  DevOps tools, to automate operational tasks  such as configuration and service provisioning.

Ciena is a strong proponent of the potential for DevOps to  help network operators facilitate better collaboration among product  development, IT, and network operations teams to improve operational  efficiency, accelerate innovation, and reduce the ‘concept-to-revenue’ time for  new services.

To that end, Ciena makes extensive use of the DevOps  technologies mentioned above, along  with many others, in the Blue Planet platform and the related DevOps Toolkit. Together,  they provide an orchestration engine and software  development toolset that can be used by network operators’ in-house  personnel—in collaboration with ecosystem partners—to modify new services and  add new virtual and physical network resources  more quickly and easily.