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Serverless Can Smarten Up Your DevOps & Infrastructure Stack

by Moderator Moderator ‎05-25-2017 10:20 AM - edited ‎05-25-2017 10:48 AM




As IT organizations and cultures reshape themselves for speed, we’ve seen a trend away from IT as a service provider, to IT as:

  • a collection of smaller micro-service provider teams,
  • each operating and measuring like autonomous (micro-)product teams,
  • each building and running technology systems as micro-services.

Now you’ve heard me cover the intersection of microservices and containers quite a bit, along with CaaS/Kubernetes or PaaS/OpenShift orchestration. In this blog, I’m going to change it up a bit and talk about the other kind of microservices building block: code functions.


Here I’m talking about microservices run atop of a serverless computing a.k.a. function-as-a-service (FaaS) stack. Serverless is a 2-years-new yet already well-covered topic. If you need a primer this one is the best I’ve found.


In my last blog, I examined avoiding cloud lock-in by bringing your own devops and software-defined infrastructure stack: bringing your own open-source/standard toolchain across public/private IaaS, you maintain portability and harmonized, if not unified, hybrid cloud policy. This software-defined infrastructure stack, underpinning the user- or business-facing applications, is also still just a bunch of software applications. FaaS is just one example of an increasingly popular app-developer technology that can be employed by infrastructure developers too, though this one hasn’t gotten much attention yet in that regard.


If you read the primer above, you won’t have learned that the popularity of FaaS systems like Lambda to reduce developer friction has led to a number of open source projects like OpenWhisk, and others that to sit atop of a CaaS/PaaS (such as Fission or Kubeless). If a FaaS is likely to exist in your application stack, it may well make sense to standardize on incorporating one into your devops and infrastructure stack. Let’s see.




When it comes to I&O events, does your mind go to a pager waking somebody up in the middle of the night? Better to wake up a function and keep sleeping.


The main area of natural applicability for FaaS is in event processing. Such code functions after all are event handlers.


In the devops world, for development and application lifecycle events, FaaS presents a simple way to further automate. The scale is probably low for most CI/CD events, so the main benefit here of employing FaaS is the simplicity and agility in your pipelines as code. It also helps foster the change and process innovation to do pipelines as code in the first place. In the devops area of continuous response (CR), that Randy Bias coins here, there is almost certainly more scale and importance to respond to events, where the property of FaaS to handle on-demand bursty scale could also be a significant benefit.


In the software-defined infrastructure world, there are traditional events such as change logs, alarms, security alerts, and modern telemetry and analytics events. Of all the types, analytics, telemetry and security events strike me as the area where FaaS could present the biggest benefit and most interesting examination here. Similar to how for CR, analytics for an application (processing telemetry such as API calls, clicks, and other user events) needs scale, software-defined infrastructure is increasingly generating massive amounts of telemetry data that needs processing.


Systems like Juniper Networks AppFormix and Contrail Networking already do some telemetry collection and processing (see for yourself). AppFormix, a platform for smart operations management, in fact, processes much of the telemetry with light machine learning on the edge node on which it’s generated, so that sending the big data for centralized heavy-duty crunching and machine learning in the centralized control plane is more efficient. We at Juniper have written before about this distributed processing model and its benefits such as realer real-time visibility monitoring to show you what’s happening because… the devops call, “You build it, you run it,” sounds great until you’re running in a multi-tenant/team/app environment and chaos ensues. AppFormix also has also a smart policy engine, that is using static thresholds as well as anomaly detection to guessed it... events!

Just like devops event hooks can trigger a FaaS function, so can these software-defined infrastructure events.

Obviously a system like AppFormix implements much of the CR machine-learning glue for the analytics of your stack and its workloads; smart-driving ops as I call it. Other systems like Contrail Networking with its analytics Kafka or API interface are rawer. The same is true of other SD-infrastructure components like raw Kubernetes watcher events with which some FaaS systems like Fission already integrate.


The more raw the events, I bet, the more frequent they are too, so you have to decide at what point the frequency becomes so high that it’s more efficient to run a full-time process instead of functions on demand. That depends on the scale with which you want to run your own FaaS tool, or use a public cloud FaaS service (of course that only makes sense if you’re running the stack on that public cloud, and want to tradeoff some lock-in until they mature as usable in a standard way…worth seeing Serverless Framework here).




One of the ends that you could have in mind to run operational-based functions is greater operational intelligence. As we’ve discussed, AppFormix does this to a good extent, but it does it within a cluster. We can consider further smart automation use cases in-cluster, but using a FaaS external to your clusters, your infrastructure developers could scope your intelligence deeper or broader too.


For example, you could go deeper, processing telemetry in customized ways that AppFormix does not today. Imagine you’re running on GCP. Well you could do deep learning on telemetry data, even with TPUs I might add. To borrow a metaphor from a common ML example of image recognition, where AppFormix might be able to tell you, “I see a bird,” a powerful deep learning engine with TPU speed up, may, in real-enough time, be able to tell you, “I see a peregrine falcon.” In more practical terms, you may be able to go from detecting anomalies or security alerts to operations and security situational awareness where your systems can run themselves better than humans. After all, they already can at lower levels thanks to systems like Kubernetes, Marathon and AppFormix.


Rather than deeper, broader examples could be use cases that extend beyond your cluster. For example, auto-scaling or auto-healing of the cluster by integrating with physical DCIM systems or underlying IaaS. Yes, it’s serverless managing your servers folks!


In closing, there is plenty more to be written in the future of serverless. I expect we’ll see something soon in the CNCF, and then we’ll definitely start hearing of more application use cases. But hopefully, this blog sparked an idea or two about its usefulness beyond the frequent http-request and API-callback use cases for high-level apps. (Please share your ideas). For intent-driven, self-driving, smart-driving infrastructure, I think a FaaS track is emerging.


This blog was originally posted at

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About the Author
  • Prior to Juniper acquisition, Ankur was the Founder and CEO of Contrail Systems Inc - a pioneer in standards based network virtualization and scale-out networking software. Ankur has over 15 years of experience in building world-class networking products and leading high performance teams. Prior to Contrail, Ankur served as Chief Technology Officer and VP of Engineering at Aruba Networks, where he played critical roles in the rapid expansion of team, products, and global businesses. Before Aruba, Ankur helped drive Juniper’s initial entry into and expansion of the Ethernet Switching market. Ankur received his MSEE from Stanford University & BSEE from the University of Southern California.
  • David Noguer Bau is the head of Telco Vertical Marketing at the SP Strategic Marketing team in Juniper Networks. He has extensive experience in Service Provider network evolution and regularly runs executive sessions with technical and marketing teams of important telecom operators to accelerate the adoption of virtualisation. David is based in Barcelona and has over 15 years of experience in the telecommunications sector. Prior joining Juniper Networks, Mr. Noguer Bau spent seven years at Nortel where he was a Business Development Manager specializing in Carrier Ethernet and Broadband areas. Before Nortel he worked at Eicon-Dialogic as Technical Manager in Spain. David has been the Country Marketing Chair at Metro Ethernet Forum for Spain. Mr. Noguer has wide experience speaking at international Conferences. He was graduated as Computer Engineer by Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB) and has an executive MBA from EADA Barcelona and executive education at the Thunderbird School of Global Management (Arizona) and the Henley Business School (UK). The views expressed here are my personal opinions , have not been reviewed or authorized by Juniper Networks and do not necessarily represent the views of Juniper Networks.
  • Donyel Jones-Williams is the Director of Service Provider Product Marketing Management overseeing all of Juniper's Service Provider Products for Juniper Networks. In this role, he leads all of the internal and external marketing activities for Juniper with respect to routing, automation, SDN and NFV. Prior to joining Juniper Networks in January 2014, Donyel was a Senior Product Line Manager for Cisco Systems with in the High End Optical Routing Group managing product lifecycle for multiple products lines helping telecom providers operate efficiently and effectively including; ONS 155xx Product Family, ONS 15216, ONS 15454 MSTP, Carrier Packet Transport Product Family, ME 2600x, & ASR 9000v. He also negotiated favorable agreements with 3rd-party vendors furnishing components and parts and conducted both outbound and inbound marketing (webinars, case study-development, developed and delivered both business & technical at Cisco Live 2005-2012). Donyel graduated from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo with a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science. While attending Cal Poly SLO he was a collegiate student athlete playing football as a wide receiver and a key member of the National Society of Black Engineers. Donyel is now an active volunteer for V Foundation.
  • Remarkably organized stardust.
  • Jennifer Blatnik is vice president of cloud, security and enterprise portfolio marketing at Juniper Networks with focus on enterprise deployments of security, routing, switching, and SDN products, as well as cloud solutions. She has more than 20 years of experience helping enterprises solve network security challenges. Before joining Juniper, Jennifer served multiple roles at Cisco Systems, Inc., including directing product management for security technologies aimed at small to medium enterprises, as well as supporting managed services, cloud service architectures and go-to-market strategies. She holds a B.A. in Computer Science from University of California, Berkeley.
  • Jerry oversees all aspects of OpenLab which serves as a catalyst to spark the development of new innovative software applications or solutions that leverage the power of SDN/network programmability and intelligence. OpenLab is unique within Juniper and with its polished facility, globally accessible lab, and educational programs – such as the SDN “hackathons,” it serves as a tool for customer, partners, and academia. Prior to this position, Jerry led the development, management and marketing of the company’s strategic partnerships for video/unified communications, optical networking, and content/media delivery. In addition to handling the day-to-day oversight of the partnerships, he established new cross-partner go-to-market processes to drive and manage joint field opportunities. Before joining Juniper, Jerry led the Lucent Technologies application hosting/service provider marketing organization. He has over 25 years of experience in the data networking field with a focus on strategic alliance development, marketing, and technical field support. Jerry possesses a BS degree in Computer Science from St. John’s University in New York. He is active as a Juniper ambassador within the technology and academic community which includes advisory board positions with both NJIT and Rutgers in New Jersey.
  • I have been in the networking industry for over 35 years: PBXs, SNA, Muxes, ATM, routers, switches, optical - I've seen it all. Twelve years in the US, over 25 in Europe, at companies like AT&T, IBM, Bay Networks, Nortel Networks and Dimension Data. Since 2007 I have been at Juniper, focusing on solutions and services: solving business problems via products and projects. Our market is characterized by amazing technological innovations, but technology is no use if you cannot get it to work and keep it working. That is why services are so exciting: this is where the technology moves out of the glossy brochures and into the real world! Follow me on Twitter: @JoeAtJuniper For more about me, go to my LinkedIn profile:
  • Mark Belk is the National Government Chief Architect at Juniper Networks
  • Mike Marcellin is Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer, leading the global marketing team responsible for marketing Juniper’s product and services portfolio and stewarding the brand, driving preference for Juniper in the market, training our partners and account teams, and developing a differentiated information experience for our customers. Before joining the global marketing organization, Marcellin led business strategy and marketing for Juniper’s industry-leading portfolio of high-performance routing, switching and security products. Prior to joining Juniper in 2010, Marcellin served as Vice President of Global Managed Solutions for Verizon, where he oversaw product development and marketing of its managed IP networking, hosting, security and IT solutions for businesses around the world. He also served as Vice President of Global Product Marketing for Verizon Business, executive director of Verizon Business’ IP and Ethernet portfolio as well as leading the company’s eCRM marketing division. Marcellin began his career with MCI in 1994. Marcellin is a Board Member for the Telecommunications Industry Association and a Board Member of US Ignite, an NSF-sponsored initiative. Marcellin holds two patents and was a Rodman Scholar at the University of Virginia, where he received a bachelor of science degree with distinction in systems engineering. He is based in Sunnyvale, California.
  • I love the intracacy and intimacy of succesful communications. Why and how people engage with each other is fascinating. I am also consumed with the way IT changes behaviours, values and expectations in society. I bring this sense of wonder to my role in EMEA Service Provider Marketing Programs at Juniper Networks. Down time: My passions are music, reading, politics, Derby County and playing the guitar (and the harmonica). You can follow me elsewhere: twitter: @neilpound my personal blog: my LinkedIn account: Neil Pound
  • Paul Obsitnik is Vice President of Service Provider Marketing for Juniper Networks Platform Systems Division (PSD), responsible for the marketing of Juniper’s portfolio of high performance routing, switching, and data center fabric products to Service Providers globally. Paul's team is responsible for marketing strategy, product marketing, go-to-market planning, and competitive analysis worldwide for the Service Provider segment. Obsitnik has extensive experience in marketing, sales and business development positions with a proven track record in creating technology markets. He has served in senior marketing and sales management positions at several companies including BridgeWave Communications, ONI Systems, NorthPoint Communications and 3Com. Paul holds a Bachelor of Science with Honors in Electrical Engineering from the United States Naval Academy and a Master of Business Administration from the Harvard Graduate School of Business. Obsitnik is based in Sunnyvale, California.
  • Praful Lalchandani is a Product Manager at Juniper Networks focussing on the Data Center portfolio. Praful is a seasoned veteran in the networking industry, with experience spanning over 15 years building networking products and helping service providers, cloud providers and enterprises with their networking requirements.
  • Pratik Roychowdhury currently leads product management for Juniper's SDN and Cloud Software product namely Contrail. He has been with Juniper Networks for the last six years, leading product management activities for Juniper’s Network Virtualization and Network Programmability products and taking some of these products from concept to release. Overall, Pratik has spent 16+ years in the hi-tech industry assuming various roles including product development at Citrix, strategy & product management at early stage start-ups, and technology investment banking at UBS. Pratik has a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology and an MBA from Univ of Michigan, Ann Arbor (Ross School of Business).
  • VP of engineering, Juniper Networks & founder, AppFormix Entrepreneur and founder with successful exits from two networking startups. Sumeet holds more than 20 patents with technologies implemented in shipping products and has received numerous awards from organizations as diverse as MIT and Interop. His AppFormix team at Juniper Networks is shipping an automated, real-time monitoring environment that uses AI and machine learning to autonomously mitigate application and network function issues before they impact QoS or user experience.