The OpenConfig work group, led by Google, has taken a step toward a vendor-neutral model for network configuration and policy. It could be a step toward letting applications program the network themselves, without human intervention.
Over the weekend, the group submitted an IETF draft describing a Yang data model for configuring and managing BGP routing implementations. Google, AT&T, Microsoft, and BT Group are listed as contributors.
Bikash Koley, Google’s principal architect, discussed the project in June at Light Reading‘s Big Telecom Event. Google wants to open its models for network configuration and topology, using them as a basis for, ultimately, an abstracted view of the whole network. If Google and friends pull it off, network programming and configuration could be automated, triggered by applications talking to any vendor’s equipment.
Such a model would help fulfill the promises of software-defined networking (SDN) and of declarative, policy-based networking. Models for the latter are underway in OpenStack and the OpenDaylight Project, with Cisco acting as a lead contributor.
So far, OpenConfig is an invitation-only group, Koley notes in an email to SDNCentral. The IETF draft appears to be the first piece of its work to be available publicly.
BGP is a crucial protocol in service-provider networks, being the basis for routers all over the Internet. But BGP implementations aren’t precisely the same from vendor to vendor, and there’s no model for easily configuring BGP across multiple vendors’ gear.
The IETF draft, named “BGP Configuration Model for Service Provider Networks,” sticks to describing a vendor-neutral BGP profile. That is, the contributors omitted any BGP configuration items that are available in only one vendor’s BGP implementation. They focused instead on pieces they “deemed to be widely available in existing major BGP implementations,” as the document puts it.
The model is not a complete representation of BGP; you can’t use it to design a whole router. But it describes an abstract model for configuration and policy that can be understood by the Netconf protocol — meaning it could serve as a common translation point for arbitrary software programs to communicate with. That’s a step toward automation, as well as a step toward enabling multivendor BGP environments.
The IETF draft also includes a model for operational state, which would allow for the monitoring and management of BGP operations.