While your approach to network operations (NetOps) is critical to business performance, the challenges of managing the needs of a modern network can keep Infrastructure & Operations (I&O) teams from helping their organization reach its full potential. Here’s what you need to know about NetOps to meet those challenges head on.
What is NetOps?
NetOps is the catch-all term for any activity that impacts network management, performance, or security. The most important NetOps tasks include:
- Managing and enhancing security: I&O teams must ensure that patches and updates are applied in a timely manner to maintain the security and reliability of all hardware and software connected to the network. In addition, network configurations and permissions across devices must be monitored and managed to ensure that hackers can’t find a backdoor to exploit.
- Responding to outages: Every minute the network is down equals lost productivity and revenue, making downtime resolution a key focus. I&O teams must continuously monitor the network for outages to get the network online as quickly as possible.
- Minimizing unexpected downtime: In addition to responding to security incidents and outages, I&O teams must proactively manage the network to look for out-of-policy configurations or other issues that can lead to incidents down the road.
- Optimizing the network: As network infrastructure becomes more complex, I&O teams must optimize network performance to help manage ever-growing data volumes and the constant connectivity required of cloud applications.
The Challenges of NetOps
The rise of dynamic, complex networks, cloud infrastructure, and remote employees has created a number of challenges for I&O teams, including:
- A slowdown in operations as provisioning and incident resolution create bottlenecks
- A lack of resilience due to a patchwork of homegrown scripts that are overreliant on specific vendors or technologies
- Poor collaboration with other IT teams, creating overly-long resolution times for business-critical IT incidents
- Inability to scale due to a legacy, monolithic, and proprietary network infrastructure that lacks an automation surface area
- A struggle to adapt as multi-vendor networks often require specialized subject matter experis (SMEs) or skill sets
For organizations that still rely on manual NetOps practices, this increases operational complexity while making it difficult to effectively respond in the event of an outage or security incident.
And that’s if you have the right staff on hand in the first place: many organizations struggle to attract and retain qualified networking professionals due to both the limited amount of talent on the market and high competition for those people as NetOps becomes a core function for every business. In addition, it can be difficult to find people who are equally skilled in the wide variety of tasks and technologies NetOps requires. At the same time, the economic downturn means that enterprises are tightening their belts, making them hesitant to add any more NetOps staff than absolutely necessary.
NetOps Best Practices
To overcome the challenges of modern NetOps, I&O teams can leverage network automation to automate many of the routine tasks of network management, optimization, and security. While you can automate specific NetOps tasks, it often makes more sense to take a holistic automation platform approach to ensure all your automation tools work as one.
The right NetOps automation platform will allow you to function across all environments–including on-premises data centers, private clouds, and hybrid clouds–while being vendor-agnostic so that it can work with all your existing investments, systems, services, and solutions. It will also help you gain greater visibility across the network infrastructure so that you can detect incidents faster and maintain availability for users at the edge. It will also help you ensure compliance across the network infrastructure while helping you scale network security.
Once you have a platform in place, begin by automating the use cases that make the most sense for the unique needs of your enterprise. This can be anything from areas where staff lack expertise, to repetitive tasks that take up valuable time, to services that can provide the most business value. Three use cases to consider first are:
- Network provisioning [Day 0 – Day N management]: Automate software upgrades, password resets, and configuration rollouts to ensure everything is provisioned according to policy.
- Incident resolution: Automatically detect and resolve incidents from start to finish by allowing automation to detect an event, create a ticket, and execute the resolution process.
- Proactive network testing: Automate and orchestrate network testing to discover and mitigate performance and connectivity issues to minimize unexpected downtime and outages.
To learn more about what a modern approach to network management looks like, download our eBook, Trapped In Time: 3 NetOps Practices to Modernize ASAP.