Will there be a successful outcome for NETCONF and YANG standards?

Can NETCONF and YANG shift the management paradigm from configuring individual devices to the configuration of entire networks?

Which network and service equipment is most likely to incorporate a NETCONF server?

Early adopters of NETCONF include two large router companies. Juniper has led the charge by incorporating NETCONF across its entire product line, while cisco is actively working toward incorporating NETCONF into its product line.

Other early adopters include Tail-f Systems, SNMP Research International, InterWorking Labs and EmbeddedMIND.  These companies offer NETCONF software development tool kits.

Both the TeleManagement Forum and the Metro Ethernet Forum have expressed an interest in considering YANG as a schema definition language for data models used for managing carrier grade communications equipment.

Within the IETF, the IP Flow Information Export (ipfix) working group is using YANG to  create a configuration data model for IPFIX and PSAMP.

Characteristic Strengths

What are the characteristic strengths of NETCONF and YANG that are likely to be attractive to vendors and operators of networks and services?

From my perspective characteristic strengths include:

  • the ability to add NETCONF operations to suit operational requirements
  • the capacity for NETCONF to perform well at a frequency of configuration changes that exceeds human ability via CLI or Web form
  • the ability of YANG to provide excellent support for complex data models and namespaces
  • the design of YANG enables data models to grow over time via augmentation and extension
  • the use of the XPATH filtering mechanism supports efficient use of network bandwidth

And the key aspect to keep in mind is that YANG provides a concise language for data modelling that overcomes the limitations of XSD and that YANG modules are fully mappable to equivalent RELAX NG.

Characteristic Weaknesses

What are the characteristic weaknesses of NETCONF and YANG that are likely to be unattractive to vendors and operators of networks and services?

From my perspective characteristic weaknesses include:

  • YANG is ‘overkill’ for simpler, less sophisticated network equipment and services
  • YANG lacks a robust configuration object lifecycle model
  • An appropriate approach towards authorization remain a work-in-progress for NETCONF and YANG
  • Compared to XSD, YANG has little support for schema creation and editing and for validation of instance documents
  • NETCONF does not scale well for frequent configuration of 1000s of devices due to the overhead of establishing TCP connections and SSH sessions

Potential Application Realms

What are the potential application realms for NETCONF and YANG?

Given the above characteristic strengths and weakness, NETCONF and YANG are potentially attractive in realms that include:

  • Smart grid
  • Multi-tenant managed IT services
  • Cloud computing and data centers
  • Carrier grade telecommunications and internetworking equipment

NETCONF and YANG probably are not attractive solutions for simpler, low end network devices, single user computing systems and web applications designed for SOHO environments.

Summary

NETCONF and YANG are well suited for advanced configuration management of complex networks and services.  These technologies have an interesting market potential and stake holders are working towards raising the visibility of NETCONF and YANG within the communication and computing industries.

The degree to which these technologies are embraced by the market will depend upon the perception that YANG is a superior data modelling language.

Early adopters have already integrated NETCONF and YANG into products.  Ultimately, the degree of success enjoyed by NETCONF and YANG will be determined by the rate and level of adoption within potential markets.

This article is part of a series of articles. To view other articles in this series please follow the NETCONF and YANG tag.