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No-Code Network Automation: It’s Time to Embrace

by Mark Harris Apr 20, 2023

Mention the word ‘Automation’ to any group of IT professionals and you’ll likely solicit a wide range of comments, ranging from genuine interest to that of horror or laughter. You’ll hear stories about automation projects that have come and gone, relive their pain of executing what they originally conceived as simple automation ideas that went horribly wrong, and likely listen to the group’s consensus that automation simply “isn’t ready yet” and then move on to another more palatable topic for most.

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Well, that same sequence of curiosity, pain, and dismissal has resonated consistently for decades. You see with every great innovation comes the stages of transformation and adoption: transformation in core technology, the way people think and act, and the very way we re-think our goals. Think back to May of 2002 when a little-known Silicon Valley company called “VMware” was issued patent #6397242 which claimed to take a “real server” and dice it up into dozens of virtualized servers that behaved just like the original. At the time, most IT professionals laughed and discounted the very premise of this kind of wholesale transformation. Most IT professionals scoffed, dragged their feet, and only pretended to entertain this kind of core innovation, and for years after the VMware offerings were introduced, single-use hardware servers continued to thrive in volume. And quietly in the background, VMware got stronger and demonstrated more value in lots of use cases, Intel made some processor changes to make virtualization more “built-in” to the computing model, and a growing number of customers could no longer ignore what was happening. VMware’s CEO, Diane Greene, and their virtualization technology were changing the world- literally.

At some point for each CIO, the light bulb went off and the proof of value was irrefutable. Company after the company began discussing their successful virtualization pilots which were turning into production strategies, culminating with the frenzy by all CIOs to virtualize their computing platform just a half dozen years later. By 2010, everybody wanted to be “That Guy”, the one that championed virtualization everywhere they went and with everything they touched.

No-Code Network Automation is following that same path forward. A sizable number of pilots have occurred, which have resulted in many successes and wide-scale production deployments in a growing number of companies. As CIOs and their leadership teams become more aware of their peers’  successes and begin to realize just what modern no-code network automation looks like today, they find themselves searching for the means to leverage network automation themselves.

But we are right on the cusp where the network automation floodgates are opening. No longer does network automation need to be associated with huge engineering and developer-led projects which are costly and yield little results over long periods of time. The state of the art for automation allows no-code technology to democratize it. Essentially if any subject matter expert can think about how to solve any network problem, or verify the existence of a desired behavior, then no-code will allow them to capture those thoughts to be shared with their peers. And when their thoughts are normalized, abstracted, replicated and cataloged, those ideas can be applied to a wide range of similar situations and executed at scale. And since this is an agile process, without long functional specification and development cycles, any problem big or small can be addressed which is fundamentally transforming the way network operations work! Once transformed, network automation becomes the go-to starting point for everything, not the worst-case last hope for only the biggest challenges. And that is the true opportunity for network automation. Not just solving the biggest and most critical challenges but applying automation to everything, all the time. Every network operations task that needs to be repeated globally can be automated with the right platform.

NetBrain Next-Gen is that state-of-the-art in no-code network automation platform. With millions and millions of devices under management across thousands of the biggest infrastructures in the world, NetBrain Next-gen includes:

  • Democratization of automation powered by a new global intent database called Automation Data Tables (ADT): now anyone can intuitively create, replicate, customize, and utilize intent-based automation by leveraging this powerful global automation catalog.
  • Scale-out automation more efficiently with programmable intent replication: Push NetOps to the next level with recursive, template-powered auto-replication on demand during troubleshooting across multi-vendor networks and combining many diagnoses into a single intent for more powerful, accurate automation.
  • Event-driven on-demand dynamic maps and diagnostic automation: Create diagnostic catalogs to dynamically map problem areas, troubleshoot network problems, accelerate key operational workflows, avoid unintended network changes, and proactively prevent problems. Next-Gen simplifies follow-up automation to downstream or related devices when errors, service disruptions, non-compliance, or configuration drift are detected.
  • Enhanced automation workflows: Uses trouble ticket data, self-service, or monitoring probes to auto-trigger diagnostic automation. Pre-program notifications via email or API to ITSM systems like ServiceNow, to auto-create and close tickets and to send data to 3rd-party observability systems like Splunk.
  • Demystify cloud and SDN: Extends diagnostic intent-based automation to API-based SDN and public cloud networks while integrating data from 3rd-party external observability systems for a unified hybrid view. Monitor and troubleshoot routing configuration and status, VPN tunnel and private cloud connectivity, data metrics, resource compliance, and security configurations and events. Set up preventive automation, and correlate data with external monitoring systems.
  • Enhanced reporting dashboard: Customizable reports provide crucial automation and diagnostic summaries. Drill down for detail on network health across hybrid cloud and power compliance checks, capacity planning, and performance trend analysis. See results for a specific problem or a network change to analyze user activity, tasks, and incident status.
  • Chatbot for conversation-driven, self-service NetOps: Allows anyone to execute multi-step intent-based automation to solve real-world challenges fast without escalations using a simple web-based chat conversation. Pull and share hybrid-cloud maps, prompt users, and share findings with others to speed up troubleshooting, compliance tasks, and change management.

Now is the time to get past the crushing effects of the covid era changes across the IT industry. We all need to address the ongoing costs of network operations, the efficiency goals in place, the lack of enough skilled resources to address growing application demands, and the need to align network operations tightly with service delivery. In the end, we all need to change the very way we think about and execute network operations (which has stagnated for literally decades!).

Network Automation will happen in every hybrid cloud-connected enterprise, with or without you. It’s time to be “That Guy” and bring No-Code Network Automation to the strategic forward-looking table.