I often get asked these questions in different discussions… What does DevOps mean to a Network Engineer? What are the top challenges for a network engineer to implement a DevOps model? Sounds familiar? Have you thought of these questions?
DevOps has become a movement in the industry today. So it’s best to first understand what DevOps is and means to a network engineer before understanding the challenges it imposes. I think we all well understand that the success of any organization depends on its ability to deliver and support the products or services that its customers need in a reasonable timeframe. Additionally, organizations need to triage issues and deploy changes at an accelerated pace to meet their goals and to stay ahead of their competition.
DevOps is a conglomeration of development & operations and has its roots from the agile & lean operations in the industry today. It provides significant value in reducing overheads (in terms of process, tools, etc.), improving governance, and simplifying collaboration.
Orchestration of Dev and IT Operations processes
The networking industry is at a pivotal point with respect to the DevOps evolution today especially with organizations having overwhelming dependencies on their networks. From a network operator’s point-of-view, it is critical to have new services rolled out timely and deployed efficiently. In addition, it is very critical to provide suitable operational support to troubleshoot the network in order to meet established Service Level Agreements (SLA). Both items are extremely important to a network operator and therefore it is imperative to empower them with the right tools to pre-qualify changes being deployed and also to triage issues faster in case of an incident.
From my point of view, the top challenge faced by a network engineer when implementing a DevOps model is not having the right toolkit or platform that is fundamentally designed to support this transformation. Traditionally, a combination of proprietary hardware and software has been positioned as the primary source of value to manage network stacks. Networks are vendor-agnostic, have evolved over the years (legacy, virtualization, SDN, etc.) and have virtually become the back-bone of business today. Typically, network operators create scripts for automation that are not portable across multiple operating systems, CLIs, or distributed applications.
Most DevOps tools (like Puppet, Chef) have had their paramount focus on configuration management. With the incumbent changes happening in businesses today and surge of the applications, network operators need a vendor-agnostic automation solution that provisions the complete workflow, i.e., dynamic network discovery, automated troubleshooting for the entire network to reduce MTTR providing five 9s service, and configuration & change management in a secured and collaborative manner. To summarize, I believe both the transformation and challenge is real even though there are some organizations that see DevOps as a hack in their current processes without making a fundamental paradigm shift. Indeed, as with anything, the extent of its adoption will differ from industry to industry.
NetBrain DevOps Edition (DE) is a free network automation tool for analyzing and diagnosing your network with Network Apps. NetBrain DE includes dozens of apps, but more importantly it is a DevOps platform, so you can write your own apps without scripting or programming. It can be used to run apps which accomplish a variety of network tasks including monitoring, troubleshooting, change verification, compliance and inventory management. Users can save apps and share them internally within their organization, fostering collaboration.