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Top 10 Challenges Addressed with Network Automation

March 1, 2022

So what does NetBrain PDAS automation actually do? How does its network automation help with the hundreds of NetOps tasks you face every day? Here are 10 common operational challenges that NetBrain tackles with its PDAS automation platform.

1. Replace manual network diagrams with Dynamic Maps

02 More Informed Decision Making

Your network is getting increasingly complex (physical, virtual, SDN, hundreds of model types from dozens of vendors) and constantly changing, but traditional network diagrams (usually drawn with VISIO or some other CAD tool) stay static, rarely incorporating changes that are made. It’s simply impossible for humans to maintain up-to-date enterprise network diagrams. But NetBrain’s Dynamic Maps are different, as they are automatically generated from live hybrid network data. With only a click or two, you can visualize virtually any network information —  topology, configuration, design, even data from your other NMS — in real-time. Just like Google Maps changed forever the way we think about street maps, NetBrain’s Dynamic Maps have redefined the meaning of network diagrams- the most essential basis for implementing an effective network operations strategy for today’s hybrid networks.

2. Calculate the end-to-end path across a heterogeneous multi-vendor infrastructure

01 Map Hybrid Traffic Flows

Automatically map out any network path from the edge to the cloud — through firewalls and load balancers, across physical and virtual devices — in seconds, not hours. Our intelligent deep discovery engine allows NetBrain PDAS to dynamically calculate any application’s paths in both directions, hop by hop, across the network with just a source and destination address, taking into account access lists, NAT, policy-based routing, VRF design, and more. You can even compare any map to historical detail to easily identify changes over time. NetBrain even maps A-B paths traversing the hybrid infrastructure. It’s like a visual traceroute on steroids and the results can be displayed by any user or even used programmatically to populate ITSM service tickets for NetOps teams to refer to during problem resolutions.

3. Accelerate troubleshooting by leveraging your SMEs and capturing their knowledge

03 Reusable Experience 1

If you’re like most network engineers, only about 20% of your troubleshooting time is spent actually fixing the problem. The other 80% is collecting data and running a battery of preliminary triage and diagnostic test (and maybe tracking down someone who’s got specialized subject matter expertise). NetBrain flips that equation around and allows all of the preliminary and repetitive diagnostics to be conducted automatically, and then once operators or engineers get involved, they can simply do ‘the hard part’. And even better, the hard part of problem resolution is made much easier by leveraging the collective knowledge of peers and others who have solved the same kinds of problems in the past, which was captured without any code, into easily accessible and sharable “Runbooks”. The PDAS Runbooks let you manage by intent, focusing on the outcomes needed, rather than device-by-device configurations. The runbooks contain the expertise of your best SMEs even when the SMEs themselves are not available. The PDA System comes with NetBrain’s Automation Library, which includes SME-inspired resolutions to dozens of every organization’s most common problems, all packaged up into executable Runbooks.


4. Proactively enforce “good” rules


Everybody involved with the network — from entry-level NOC guys to the C-suite — is under scrutiny to reduce MTTR and answer the question, “What can we do to step up our NetOps plan?” or  “How can we stop solving the same network problem over and over again?”. NetBrain PDAS focuses on top-down, results-oriented management. NetBrain empowers you to go from reactive to proactive by continuously looking for the existence of “good” operating conditions needed by your business apps.  With NetBrain PDAS, every time a new application is deployed, the requirements of the application are identified and the application’s network needs are recorded. The idea is that good businesses run on good applications, and good applications run on good networks. So NetBrain PDAS lets you focus on maintaining “good”, proactively!


5. Establishing golden baselines of capability

04 Reduce network downtime 1

NetBrain PDAS auto-baselining understands “good” and then detects the anomalies that matter. Sophisticated algorithms discover, record, and analyze thousands of attributes per device and associated relationships — CPU utilization, memory usage, routing tables, duplex settings, collisions, BGP peers, throughput, etc. — to automatically learn what’s “normal” for your particular network. In fact, there may be thousands of baselines that matter based on the number of applications deployed. And while it is impractical for an operational team to benchmark thousands of good intentions throughout every business day, it is trivial for the NetBrain PDA System to do so. So as your network changes, those changes are continuously tested against the very definition of good, and if problems have been introduced, actions can be taken. With golden baselines to compare to, you get alerted on any deviations BEFORE those changes begin to affect production. The “normal” or “good” baseline serves as a tangible definition of the business “intents”, changing the paradigm of network management from device-level to business application level.


6. Enrich Helpdesk and ITSM tickets with diagnostics and recommended automation01 Faster Problem Diagnosis

Every day enterprise network engineers get flooded with dozens of trouble tickets. On average large enterprises deal with thousands of these service tickets every month. And they range from the simplest of problems to the most complex, but in the end, each one of them has to be investigated, resolved, and closed by an operator or engineer.

With NetBrain PDAS, automated troubleshooting starts the moment an event occurs, typically the creation of a service ticket by systems like ServiceNow, Remedy, or SolarWinds Service Desk. When an event is triggered — NetBrain PDAS springs into action, and:

  1. Captures data as the problem is happening — in real-time, so that captured data reflects the exact moment in time when the event occurs, not hours or days later when an operator is assigned to work on the ticket
  2. Runs the most common triage diagnostics, common with the reported issue including connectivity, performance health checks, protocol, access control list testing, and baseline comparisons to known good.
  3. Allows you to generate a visual A to B path map of the incident area.

And best of all, everything is presented in one place. All results are documented and a link to the dynamic map is now available. All of those preliminary problem-solving steps that your operators would need to take valuable time doing have now been done by automation. NetBrain PDAS becomes a game-changer when it comes to reducing MTTR.

7. Integrate multiple toolsets using Dynamic Map as a single pane of glass01 Faster Problem Diagnosis

You have no shortage of enterprise network tools — systems like Splunk, Extrahop, CA, Gigamon, and SolarWinds are entrenched in most modern NOCs. They are visualizations of the data they are built to report on. But all too often, you’re forced to switch between screens or jump from one tool to another to get the full picture, and correlating details across systems is hard, really hard. NetBrain’s Dynamic Maps integrate all these tools and all this information in one place — a “visual control plane” for your network — so you can view multiple layers of data from multiple sources in a single pane of glass. And once the NetBrain PDA System allows you to see everything in one place, it also allows you to intelligently control the network by incorporating our SmartCLI and intelligent runbook best practice automation technologies.


8. Reduce human error–induced outages, through change automation

03 Make Informed Changes

Over 50% of all unplanned downtime can be traced back to some network unintentional change. It’s because most NetOps plans are still confined to device-by-device actions, without any ability to check how one action impacts everything else. That is where NetBrain PDAS shines! It changes management to a top-down, outcome, or intent-based approach- all but eliminating the need for operators to interact free-style with individual devices. And since they are not managing devices individually, the chance of making human errors is greatly reduced. And while changes are made to accommodate new applications or changes to underlying technologies, the PDA Systems enforcement engine assures that the design intentions of all existing applications are maintained as well. The NetBrain PDA System continuously checks the hybrid network to assure the application will perform as designed. In a nutshell, NetBrain PDAS empowers you to define changes interactively, deploy them automatically, and proactively verify the impact on your business applications. And your teams can roll back with a single click if necessary, and even proactively troubleshoot the change before it becomes a disaster.


9. Leverage your SMEs’ knowledge, even without your SMEs!

04 Collaborate Across Remote Teams

Are you dependent on a limited number of subject matter experts who have most of the specialized know-how locked inside their heads (think: SDN, QoS, MPLS, 5G, and Cloud)? Does solving those kinds of specialized problems manually snowball into time-consuming support tier escalations sitting in backlog queues? Imagine what that same scenario would look like if all of your hybrid network topology detail (including the cloud) was available in real-time at the touch of a button and if the problem-solving knowledge of your most capable SMEs had been captured when THEY previously solved a similar problem. Think how quickly and easily that service ticket could be resolved if you had all of that at your fingertips. That’s NetBrain PDAS.


10. True End-To-End, including Cloud, SDN, NSX, and SD-WAN

01 Mapping your Network in Real Time 1

NetBrain PDAS automation demystifies your hybrid network, including all the public Clouds, Cisco ACI, SD-WAN, and VMware NSX environments, and gives you the tools to simplify the management of your hybrid infrastructure as one single entity. Visualize exactly how everything is configured at any given moment — with one click, decipher each layer of connectivity, abstraction, and virtualization overlaid on top of the underlying physical infrastructure — and map traffic flows in both directions in seconds. NetBrain PDAS is the end-to-end intelligent visualization, control plane, and automation solution.