Command Line Inferno

Command Line Inferno

Command Line Interface Screen

This is one of such unfortunate days that I cannot dig myself out from a network problem and I am drowned in the configurations of the various devices, having multiple CLI windows accessing information from each of the device. Watching my screen with the many terminals, each a CLI session of a device in the network. The network nowadays is no trivial matter, each device has a routing-table of millions of entries, and the different protocols and network features interacting with each other to form the data paths connecting all the end-user devices. My eyes burn just watching the terminals of information, the vision becoming more and more blurry – the Command Line Inferno!!

I cannot well repeat how there I entered,
   So full was I of slumber at the moment
   In which I had abandoned the true way.

Ah me! How hard a thing it is to say
     What was this forest savage, rough, and stern
     Which in the very thought renews the fear.*

Fear indeed!! I know I am at the data center, but in a blink of an eye, I find myself within a forest dark. How have I gotten here?

“Are you lost?” Someone behind me asks. It startles me a little as I definitely don’t expect anyone else here. “I am Virgil of Lombardy. Maybe I can help you. I am an experienced guide with a millennium of practice, give or take a handful of years. To return to the normal realm, you must take the same route as Dante of Florence. Lucky for you, since the publishing of his autobiographical poem, I have become the designated guide for all to the first two realms, Inferno and Purgatory, and for the last realm that is Paradiso, Voltanetio, the goddess of modern networking, shalt be your guide, as I am not qualified.”

“I am lost in more ways than one”, I sigh, “I am deep in thoughts about the network problem I am experiencing when I find myself here.”

“Ah! Nothing to worry! Some souls along the path will be able to impart some of their wisdoms! Ready to go?”

“I am familiar with Dante’s masterpiece, but this looks different,” I said.

“Very perceptive!! Although every soul comes here, each soul perceives his Inferno/Purgatory/Paradiso to his own! We are in your manifestation of the Inferno – the Command Line Inferno!!” Virgil chuckled, “Let’s not dawdle, lest your network crawls to a halt before you can return!!”

Upon entering Limbo, although now that we are within the Inferno proper, the environment is busy and rich, albeit a bit primitive. There are a lot of people, none suffering, but they just appear to have a lot of things to do and a lot of places to go. Virgil explains to me that Limbo is the area for the skillful people who live during the time when only the CLI is available for managing and troubleshooting the network before any other mechanisms are developed.

At this moment, I hear someone calling my name. That is interesting. Virgil mentions that we can look up some old friends. Who knows it is Mr. D. Ops calling on me first? It can’t be a pure coincidence. Mr. Ops had been my mentor and an esteemed network operator in his time. I shouldn’t be surprised to see him here because he lived in the time before programmability. I am so glad to meet Mr. Ops here. I tell him about the problem I am having at work, and we discuss the various steps to take using the CLI. Interestingly, his life in the Limbo is not different from when he was alive. In the Inferno, there are still a lot of network problems. He is surprised that the living realm hasn’t progressed much beyond the CLI.  I tell him about the developments in automation and programmability. He deliberates on it a bit and then he says, “the idea seems promising, but until I have some time to look into it, the CLI is still the dependable tool for the task. Sorry, I have to excuse myself. Souls are pouring into the realm in an exponential rate, we continue to add new devices to the network every day and for eternity. The legacy devices also act up at times and we never find the time to replace them with the newer devices.”

Huh, the inferno imitates life! Or is it the other way around? What Mr. Ops tells me is what I have heard so many times before. All the “now” tasks take precedence over investing efforts in new management means. But the longer the wait, the less chance to make the effort because the “now” tasks grow with time, and the discrepancies between the CLI and the new means to manage the network become bigger.

Deeper we descend into the core of this Inferno, I wonder what happens to those who know about the perils of sticking with the legacy network management means, and never seek for new ways to manage their network and devices more effectively and efficiently. Not making a move also appears to be the wrong move. In Limbo, people are just busy all the time. They didn’t know better in life; they just continue their never-ending amount of work in afterlife.

Within the Inferno proper, the environment is becoming escalatory gloomier. All the souls are not just busy running around, trying to fix the network problems present, they appear to be constantly losing the battle. One of these souls runs into me so forcefully that knocks me on the ground.

“I am so sorry, Sir,” the soul is very apologetic, “My name is T. Shooter and I have been deep in my thoughts of the network problem. I know that there is a command that allows me to pinpoint today’s problem, but I just can’t remember the command.”

“Every day, the network experiences some problems and I am tasked to troubleshoot. But there are more and more features being added to the network each moment, and with each feature, there are loads of new commands being added. My punishment in afterlife is that each day, either I forget one of the commands needed or I mix up the steps which pinpoint the problem. Since arriving here, I have not succeeded in fixing any of the problems. And when the network fails, the whole place shuts down.”

“I regret that I did not learn and practice the new ways of network management when I was alive. Network automation and Programmability had come into being and I just never spent the effort. And now I am stuck with the CLI with no escapes.”

I feel sorry for this poor soul and I would like to look at his problem with him. At this moment, Virgil nudges at me vigorously. “The network is failing, and the place is becoming unstable. If we don’t get to the next realm before it fails today, we may be stuck here forever!!” Without waiting for me, he starts running.

My guide and I came on that hidden road
to make our way back into the bright world;
and with no care for any rest, we climbed—

he first, I following—until I saw,
through a round opening, some of those things
of beauty Heaven bears. It was from there

that we emerged, to see—once more—the stars*.

*Dante Alighieri, The Inferno (T. Barolini, Trans). New York, New York: Digital Dante