Six IT Workflows to Automate with Runbooks

Jason Baudreau
By Jason Baudreau September 6, 2018 4 minute read
Jason Baudreau has a passion for enterprise networking, writing and geeking out with Smart Home technology. With 8 years' experience in Systems and Network engineering, Jason now specializes in network automation technologies at NetBrain.

As our lives get busier, we look to automation to simplify wherever possible. When I get home, my garage door opens, which tells my lights to turn on and my music playlist to start. When I shop for my next car, I’ll look for as much autonomy as I can afford, because I sit in stop-and-go traffic twice a day. Network teams are no exception – they’re looking for ways to simplify their lives – whether for troubleshooting, securing, or provisioning their networks.  Runbook automation has the flexibility to adapt to almost any operational workflows and in this post, I will share some common ways NetBrain customers are making their lives easier.

Troubleshoot Common Tier-1 Issues

How many application performance issues do you troubleshoot in a week? If the answer is more than one, then this is a candidate for automation. Take your common checklist – ping or trace to the web server, collect some CLI data, and look at common health indicators (CPU/Memory utilization) and put it into a runbook flow. Next time a similar problem occurs, just whip it out and click through the list. NetBrain will collect, organize, and analyze the data, but you’re still in the driver’s seat.

 

Perform a Daily Health Check

We talk with several customers who start each day or week with a common health checklist. They don’t want to wait for tickets to come in before they know there’s a problem. Something you do again and again is ripe for automation. The runbook example below is a set of Qapps which were customized via NetBrain’s visual programming environment. Not only is the workflow automated, but the results are automatically cataloged for easy review.

 

Diagnose Quality of Service (QoS)

Choppy voice or video quality? Might be a QoS issue. This handy runbook walks through common steps to troubleshoot, starting with a path function to help you map to the server or VoIP phone. Next, you may want to look for bandwidth bottlenecks or check if the queueing policies were configured properly. The Qapp in the screenshot below highlights the queue strategy so you can quickly identify if there’s a mistake.

 

Validate Compliance for an upcoming Audit

The dreaded compliance audit. If you work in finance, it may be PCI… for healthcare it’s HIPAA, if you’re following the NIST framework, you’ll have yet another set of requirements. One thing each of these audits looks for is secure device configurations. You should have proper authentication, password encryption, exec timeouts, and telnet disabled. That’s a lot of things to keep in check, especially if you have hundreds or thousands of configurations to manage. This sounds like a great opportunity for automation.

 

Plan, Implement, and Validate a Network Change

As much as half of network outages can be traced back to a poorly planned or implemented change. To help you move from a “plug and pray” to “plug and play” mindset, runbook automation can help to avoid “fat-fingering” and validate the impact of the change. The runbook below guides you to benchmark (take a snapshot of) the network both before and after the change is executed. When you’re done, compare these two snapshots to ensure the change was implemented as expected.

 

Respond to a Security Threat

When there’s a security breach, every minute counts. Hopefully you have a tuned IDS or Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) console like Splunk to help identify threats. Once a threat is detected, the response needs to be immediate. The example below shows how you can trigger a “just-in-time” diagnosis at the moment Splunk detects an event. This is possible by integrating NetBrain with Splunk via REST API. At the instant of the event, the impacted part of the network is mapped, and a runbook is executed to identify the extent of the threat.

 

If you’re looking for ways to apply automation to your workflows, runbook automation is a great place to start – whether for eliminating mundane tasks, or reducing response times. Runbooks are easy to customize, easy to share, and easy to execute. If you’d like to learn more about customizing your own runbooks, check out our free online training!