How Big a Deal is the Internet2 Insight Console?
By Amber Rasche - Senior Communications Specialist, Internet2
Part 1 of a Q&A with Mike Simpson, Internet2 Director of Network Systems and Software
As the Internet2 community embarked on the Next Generation Infrastructure (NGI) initiative years ago, they recognized that software-enabled automation and orchestration would be key components of our collective success. That’s the reality when you’re doing more, more quickly, and at higher levels of complexity than ever before.
Enter the Internet2 Network Services Infrastructure Systems and Software (ISS) team.
ISS was established in March 2020. The goal was to create software development and service operation capacity within Internet2 Network Services, focused specifically on network-related automation and orchestration as well as network telemetry collection, analysis, and reporting.
Mike Simpson has worked in higher ed IT for about 20 years with experience across multiple disciplines – from database administration, systems administration, and data center operations to web programming and software development. He took the helm as the director of the ISS team just as widespread stay-at-home orders went into effect during the COVID-19 pandemic. But that hasn’t stopped his mighty team of five from collaborating with each other, colleagues across Internet2, and community members throughout the U.S. to build something that will enable Internet2 to deliver on the promise of NGI: the I2 Insight Console.
In this Q&A, Mike shares his expertise across multiple IT disciplines and his passion for DevOps to introduce the I2 Insight Console. He sheds light on what the console will enable for the research and education community, the technical components interoperating to make it possible, and the community’s integral role in ensuring his team is getting it right.
What is the I2 Insight Console?
Mike Simpson: Internet2 has a lot of different network tools that our membership uses – all the tools look different, they feel different, they were written at different times in different languages and different interface styles. The I2 Insight Console is an attempt to unify all of that – to give the membership a single pane of glass that has a consistent look and feel that lets them do everything they need to do to interact with, provision, and manage their services.
The console is the most visible part of what we’re delivering with the Next Generation Infrastructure (NGI) initiative – evolving a production architecture, systems, and services to provide a unified, integrated, extensible, and ubiquitous interface for Internet2 members to have visibility and control over all Internet2 network services. It’s intended to extend across the service lifetime of the NGI network, and it will continue to grow, evolve, and change for whatever comes next.
What capabilities will the I2 Insight Console enable and who in the community will be able to use it?
Mike Simpson: One of our goals is for the I2 Insight Console to provide access to information and functionality that is most relevant and useful to the individual community user logging into it. We do that based on some basic facts that we learn when a user signs in via their home institution’s single sign-on (SSO) – including what institution you’re from, what roles you play, and what you’ve been authorized to do in the system.
“The I2 Insight Console is an attempt to unify all of that – to give the membership a single pane of glass that has a consistent look and feel that lets them do everything they need to do to interact with, provision, and manage their services.”
–Mike Simpson, Internet2 Director of Network Systems and Software
That means the console doesn’t have to be a static page that always looks the same to everybody. Whether you’re a network engineer at a specific regional network or a researcher at a university, once you log in using your home institution credentials, the I2 Insight Console reacts to who you are and what you’re authorized to do, and it displays what’s most relevant to you. For example, if you are authorized to view the BGP (Border Gateway Protocol) peering sessions that your network has with Internet2, then that will appear in the console interface and you can click to view all your BGP peering sessions – not anyone else’s, just yours. BGP peering is just one example, but this reality extends to all the network services Internet2 provides.
A key architectural piece of this is integrating our authentication and authorization process with the InCommon Federation and the Internet2 Identity and Access Management (IAM) services provided by our colleagues in Trust and Identity. The combination of federated identity management, authentication, and authorization is an extremely complex space. They’ve done an incredible job building out a multilateral federation-friendly IAM platform that we want to fully leverage for the console environment.
So, how big of a deal is the I2 Insight Console?
Mike Simpson: I think it’s a big deal! Although, this is just part of a natural evolution in the way we deploy and manage network services across IT as a whole. The system administration field has seen a similar shift towards higher levels of abstraction and automation. As an example, when I started as a sysadmin years ago, the ratio was about one full-time sysadmin per three to five servers; now it’s not at all unusual for that ratio to be 1:100, 1:1,000, or even higher.
”Whether you’re a network engineer at a specific regional network or a researcher at a university, once you log in using your home institution credentials, the I2 Insight Console reacts to who you are and what you’re authorized to do, and it displays what’s most relevant to you.”
–Mike Simpson, Internet2 Director of Network Systems and Software
We’re doing more things, more quickly, at a higher level of complexity – that naturally incentivizes tools and technologies that standardize, accelerate, and enhance the management of IT resources. Software-driven networking is already incredibly important and it’s only going to get more important in the future.
Stay tuned later this month for part two of this Q&A with Mike Simpson. Mike will share more about the next steps in deploying the I2 Insight Console and the community’s ongoing role in ensuring his team is getting it right.
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