A Solution for Agile Network Operations

Priyank Savla
By Priyank Savla September 1, 2017 4 minute read
Priyank Savla manages NetBrain's community of over 80,000 network pros. He is passionate about technology, social media, mobile, AR and VR.

As demands on the networks increase and they continue to grow and become more complex, it is increasingly challenging for engineers to manually execute critical workflows – documentation, troubleshooting, change management and cybersecurity – with agility. Many organizations need to leverage technology and partnerships to move toward self-healing, fully automated operations, which will reduce the resource requirements to manage a complex network while increasing availability. They need Network Automation.

However, moving toward network automation does not come without challenges and the list can be intimidating. Additionally there needs to be a paradigm shift in the perception and understanding of continuous network automation, because traditional thinking about the creation and execution of python scripts can neither be implemented nor will scale to serve the demands and complexity of the new networks.

With NetBrain, there are three key areas where organizations will see the immediate benefits of network automation, helping to quickly overcome or avoid these hurdles altogether. These include:

Network documentation and assessments

Network documentation, if it exists, is great and only as good as how accurate it is. Network teams rely on documentation for troubleshooting, design, compliance audits, and much more. Creating and maintaining accurate and up-to-date network documentation is cumbersome. NetBrain alleviates the burdens of manual documentation by automatically creating up-to-date network maps, inventory reports, and design documents leveraging live network data.

A network assessment allows for the establishment of a baseline set of metrics to determine the network’s overall performance and capacity to:

  • Validate current network design and accommodate future growth
  • Meet security and availability objectives
  • Support the rollout of new applications

Network assessments are traditionally done manually. Using Dynamic Data Views, NetBrain can help network operators and designers assess the readiness of the components to be automated and maintain up-to-date network diagrams and asset reports through the life cycle of the network.

Guide engineers with best practices

In the current landscape where most complicated workflows are performed manually, there is naturally an increased chance of human error. Automation can reduce human error by ensuring policy consistency and accuracy within the organization. Arming network teams with best practices in the form of Executable Runbooks also ensures consistency across the organization, leading to high-performing teams. NetBrain allows network teams to access existing scripts, design notes, text books and tribal knowledge, and digitize the best practices within these Runbooks.

Guide Engineers with Best Practices

Figure 1: Digitize tribal knowledge with Executable Runbooks

Network troubleshooting often relies on engineers conducting multiple, manual diagnoses, which can lead to a longer MTTR. In addition, many organizations rely only on “tribal” knowledge as a key way of managing network problems. As a matter of fact, the more dynamic the network is, the more complex it is to troubleshoot and operate. In a recent 2017 State of the Network Engineer survey conducted by NetBrain, 45 percent of network engineers surveyed cited a lack of collaboration as the number one challenge for more effective troubleshooting. With NetBrain, teams can automate every phase of troubleshooting, reducing the amount of time spent on the workflow and reducing the amount of duplication involved in tracking incidents and network activities.

Security fortification and collaboration

A secure network is critical for supporting existing applications and enabling new applications & services. Network configuration must meet pre-defined design and security standards. It can be challenging to proactively safeguard against misconfigurations, even if changes are controlled. Leveraging Executable Runbooks, your team can validate that every config meets a ‘golden’ standard and ensure compliance.

Moreover, data pertaining to employees, customers, and partners traversing the network requires significant measures to ensure a secure environment.  When the network is under attack, network and security teams scramble to understand which part of the network is impacted, and what the extent of the damage is. It is imperative for the teams to work together effectively, especially in the event of cyber-security attacks.

NetBrain provides real-time visibility of the attack and helps to visualize the effects of the attack on network performance. This enables teams to mitigate the threat much faster. Also, teams can leverage automation during triage, forensics, and for hardening security to proactively prevent threats. The Dynamic map provides “in-context” documentation which can be linked to other tools and shared with other teams to streamline cross-functional collaboration.

Enhance Security Collaboration

Figure 2: API-triggered diagnosis and collaborative workflows enable teams to isolate and mitigate the attacks

Network automation is becoming a must for most enterprise organizations, particularly with the rise of hybrid networks and software-defined networking. Make sure your organization is ready to deal with the complexity of today’s network.