Guest author Shishir Garg is the alliance solutions manager at Cumulus Networks, which has developed a full-featured Linux operating system for networking hardware. This post is adapted from Garg’s November 18 post on the Cumulus blog.
One of the most visible trends on the Web today is the “SaaS-ification” of the enterprise—as more and more enterprise functions are distributed using a Software-as-a-Service model. Major productivity functions like email and calendaring, customer relationship management (CRM), and IT systems management are gaining greater value by being deployed as cloud-based services. IT and systems monitoring companies like New Relic are thriving in the cloud as well.
Another major trend, one that Cumulus Networks is at the forefront of, is the transformation of the “switch as a server.” If you aren’t familiar with the concept, check out Cumulus Networks engineer Leslie Carr’s excellent PuppetConf 2014 presentation. Since Cumulus Linux supports Debian-based packages out of the box, we decided to take New Relic’s Servers product for a spin. New Relic offers server monitoring for free, and we wanted to see how Cumulus Linux extends New Relic’s server monitoring functionality to monitoring switches.
Once logged into Cumulus Linux, installing the New Relic Servers agent takes just a few minutes, as expected. Leveraging the documentation and installation guide allowed us to get up and running in minutes.
Since it’s SaaS, there is obviously no server deployment required, so all you have to do is to log in to your New Relic account and start looking at the performance data that is automagically pushed to your dashboard. Here’s a snapshot of a New Relic Servers console that was configured to receive data from a 2-leaf configuration, provisioned on the Cumulus Workbench:
Snapshot of the New Relic Servers console
Digging into the network tab, we see all the ports that have been configured. These include eth0 on the management network and the four links between the two switches: swp1, swp2, swp3, and swp4. We generated some traffic between the two switches, which is visible on the highlighted port: swp2.
A common concern with SaaS-based cloud services is security. New Relic has implemented HTTPS-based communications as a default setting for all its agents since 2013, which helps ensure that communications are secure.
You can configure the New Relic agent to accommodate your networking and firewall setup, and if you are curious about the data being collected by the server agent and how to optimize your use of the Server UI, New Relic’s documentation offers a wealth of useful information.
Another important security aspect worth highlighting is the separation between the control and data plane that Cumulus Linux offers. The New Relic Servers agent is installed to run on the switch CPU and is able to access only control plane data. Since it isn’t able to view the data plane, application and user data running through the switch is untouched. Read this Cumulus Networks knowledge base article to learn more.
In the future, the Cumulus Networks team plans to explore how to enhance the data being collected and available plug-ins to get even greater value from New Relic Servers.