If you thought the integration and collaboration required new networking capabilities, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

f5friday Anyone who has ever configured a network anything or worked with any of a number of cloud provider’s API to configure “auto-scaling” via a load balancing service recognizes that it isn’t simply point, click, and configure. Certain steps need to be configured in a certain order (based entirely on the solution and completely non-standardized across the industry) and it’s always a pain to handle errors and exceptions because if you want to “do over” you have to backtrack through the completed steps or leave the system cluttered or worse – unstable.

Developers and system operators have long understood the importance of a “transaction” in databases and in systems where a series of commands (processed in a “batch”) are “all or nothing”. Concepts like two-phase commit and transaction integrity are nothing new to developers and sysops and probably not to network folks, either. It’s just that the latter has never had that kind of support and have thus had to engineer some, shall we say, innovative solutions to recreating this concept.

Infrastructure 2.0 and cloud computing are pushing to the fore the need for transactional integrity and idempotent configuration management. Automation, which is similar to the early concepts of “batch” processing, requires that a series of commands be executed that individually configure the many moving pieces and parts of an overarching architecture that are required in order to “make the cloud go” and provide the basic support necessary to enable auto-scaling.

Because it is possible that one command in a sequence of ten, twenty, or more commands that make up an “automation” could fail, you need to handle it. You can catch it and try again, of course, but if it’s a problem that isn’t easily handled you’d wind up wanting to “roll back” the entire transaction until the situation could be dealt with, perhaps even manually. One way to accomplish this is to enable the ability to package up a set commands as a transaction and, if any command fails the transaction management system automagically hits the “undo” button and rolls back each command to the very beginning, making it like it never happened.