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Cost in Downtime/year
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Encoding the hybrid network to establish the network intents of each component
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The set of diagnostic processes needed for each network intent to establish compliance
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- What is Network Automation?
Network automation is a process that involves using software to help reduce human intervention by managing network and security processes, especially repetitive ones. The goal is to improve network speed, consistency, uptime, and service delivery with minimal human effort and cost. Network automation software systems that can operate any hybrid network. You can apply network automation to tasks including network provisioning, configuration, mapping, monitoring, security, and troubleshooting.
Provisioning or changing device configurations is one of the best-known network automation software use cases. The most significant benefit of automated provisioning is not modifying a single configuration (which is easy enough to do) but applying these changes to multiple devices simultaneously. Such a repetitive process can be error-prone when done manually, which can be avoided with an intelligent network automation tool.
Another use case for network automation is collaboration via an automation platform portal that reduces bottlenecks from escalations to subject matter experts and reduces the manpower needed to perform manual scripting to execute tasks. These platforms typically provide templates with knowledge from subject matter experts to allow anyone to perform operational tasks in a UI to rapidly address any existing problems that repeatedly arise.
Intent-based network automation includes the use of human or artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to abstract device configurations into business and network intents and understands what network intents to apply to enforce network policies. By capturing intents, network automation tools can automatically verify network performance to prevent configuration and compliance drift and maintain application service levels. When configurations drift away from the original network architecture designs, network automation becomes aware and offers the appropriate intents to the users so they can bring network conditions back to their baselines.
A network management automation tool is also responsible for automating Day-2 operational work such as managing and expediting the resolution of service incidents, maintaining regulatory compliance, and validating network performance, especially in cases of adding new applications and services. This gives IT the ability to manage more complex networks more effectively with the same number of resources. Plus, it helps with performing routine maintenance tasks that take up essential resources’ valuable time. The ability to “set and forget” them with automation means network admins can perform more meaningful tasks while still preventing network downtime.
- What are Network Automation Software?
According to Gartner: Network automation tools help to automate provisioning/configuration, troubleshooting, operations/maintenance, validation, and reporting of network components. Network automation tools typically interact with routers, switches, firewalls, application delivery controllers, service provider components (WAN circuits), and cloud provider services (VPCs and load balancers, for example). Network automation tools are delivered as software and may support one or multiple vendors. The tools allow for increased agility and efficiency while lowering costs, reducing the amount of manual human errors, and improving compliance with required rules, regulations, and laws. Network automation tools allow organizations to make network changes across hundreds, thousands, or more devices in short periods of time.
- How does Network Automation Software work?
There’s no single way to achieve network automation. The simplest way is perhaps using scripts or commands to execute tasks automatically or en masse. Tools that leverage open, RESTful
The best way is to use automation software to manage various parts of your network. These systems go beyond automating tasks and into monitoring and automated provisioning of resources. More advanced network automation tools might employ an intelligent approach using AI and big data. These systems rely on a more comprehensive view of your network to make decisions that affect the infrastructure as a whole and not just individual devices. This is a much more effective strategy as it can better scale a network to adapt to various usage goals and traffic demands.
Of course, there are also challenges involved in network automation. For one, it’s straightforward in principle but complicated in practice. No two networks are the same, so no “one size fits all” solution exists. As a result, every automation project will require deep customization and technical knowledge to implement. Thus, there’s a learning curve involved to configure network automation properly. This is especially true for complex and hybrid networks that involve both on-premise and cloud infrastructures. Then, there’s also the loss of control. For many enterprises, this notion can be hard to accept as most believe it can lead to more mistakes. But in reality, the proper way of doing automation is to combine it with human intervention. So, in a way, automation is meant to supplement humans for better efficiency.
- What are the benefits of Network Automation Software?
As a whole, automation helps make network management and administration much easier with less effort and manpower. Problems need only be solved once, and can be done by anyone, instead of repeating the same steps for resolution every time it occurs as with traditional network management. Eliminating manual tasks can help reduce human errors considerably. Just imagine having to enter settings on dozens of machines individually; mistakes are inevitable in such cases. Automation enables administrators to make frequent network changes much more rapidly.
Automation also improves the network’s overall performance. It can help proactively perform tasks and verify configurations are in place without human intervention. In these cases, most of the mundane legwork can be done with automation.
Added visibility is also another benefit of automation. Using network monitors allows you a bird’s eye view of your entire network and its crucial metrics. This can help you detect and resolve network issues much faster, plus it can provide you with insights for optimization. This ultimately leads to better service delivery, almost zero downtimes, and improved security, even in multi- and hybrid-cloud and multivendor environments.
These benefits combined also mean lower operational overhead. Less manual management means your team can spend more time working on growth areas of your business to scale faster. Lower defects and faster delivery mean fewer disruptions, outages, and improved customer experiences, which can directly improve revenue. Intelligently maximizing resources can help you achieve more for less cost.
Overall, network automation takes care of the critical yet mundane aspects of network management, freeing you to focus on tasks that move the needle in your organization.
- What are the various types of Network Automation?
There are two types of network automation – script and software-based.
Script-based automation is the more straightforward approach of the two. Here, network administrators use programming languages like Python and Perl to write scripts that automatically execute repetitive tasks. According to Gartner1, Ansible, homegrown “DIY” scripts (often Python-based), and single-vendor, network- infrastructure-centric tools are the most widely used network automation tools.
However, the problem with script-based automation is its limitation. As networks become larger and more complex, it can become tedious to use scripts to manage them. More advanced automation and automation for cloud resources require the use of APIs and libraries.
This is where software-based platforms come in. Using the best network automation tool allows you to design and execute automation processes using an easy-to-use interface and ready templates. In addition, software tools provide enhanced capabilities such as network analysis and AI/ML to help with more efficient provisioning and configurations. Software-based automation is the preferred approach. While it has a higher upfront cost than scripting, it actually pays for itself by helping you lower your overall network overhead. It also enables cost-saving benefits like better monitoring, troubleshooting, management, and security.
Additionally, most network automation vendors have only focused on Day-0-1 automation tasks. However, the larger opportunity for Network Operations is Day-2 operations. Gartner1 defines Day-2 Network Automation as:
- Used by network teams in some midsize and larger enterprises, across multiple network domains.
- Primarily to address troubleshooting and incidents/tickets.
- Provides guided troubleshooting and ties in with ticketing systems.
- These are more event-driven (site down, performance issue, ticket generated).
- Often helps to automate collection of device operational state.
- Can be called by SOAR tools as part of a security playbook.
- More mature enterprises evolve to anomaly detection after evolving from primarily reactive alert type triggers (for example, ticket initiated, yet after user affecting incidents have occurred).
1Market Guide for Network Automation Tools – Published 22 February 2022
These category of Network Automation tools are revolutionizing the market with low-code and no-code UI combined with multivendor flexibility to support existing complex network infrastructure via intent-based network automation.
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