While network automation tools can help infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams improve their agility, lower their costs, and reduce the risk of manual errors, network management stubbornly remains a largely manual process. According to a recent Gartner report, less than 35% of enterprise network activities are automated today, forcing enterprises to run largely using a ClickOps model. This requires IT to click through a series of screens and buttons in each individual vendor’s proprietary management platform to provision resources or perform ongoing maintenance on their network infrastructure.
For I&O teams that want to accelerate innovation–or even keep pace with competitors–network automation is a must. As with any automation initiative, the more you can automate network management, the more you can avoid manual bottlenecks and human errors. Gartner’s research did show that 5% of companies have automated more than 75% of their network activities, demonstrating that widespread network automation is an achievable goal.
What Is Network Automation?
Network automation tools work by connecting your physical and virtual infrastructure, including routers, switches, firewalls, application delivery controllers, service provider components, and cloud provider services.
They are designed to help I&O teams maximize network efficiency and staff time by handling your most common networking functions, such as provisioning and configuration, operations, maintenance, troubleshooting, validation, and reporting.
By allowing software to take over these tasks, I&O teams can focus on more valuable, innovation-driven initiatives. In addition, automation can react to network tickets instantly, helping ensure business users can access the network without waiting for I&O to provision access or fix an issue.
With network automation, you can:
- Overcome growing network complexity: 64% of enterprises say that they still use four to ten tools to monitor and troubleshoot their networks. With modern networks spread across data centers, clouds, and virtual infrastructure, I&O teams spend too much time just trying to track which system is doing what. With the right network automation solution, you can overcome operational silos to more effectively manage their network holistically.
- Respond quickly to unexpected outages: According to ITIC’s 2021 Hourly Cost of Downtime Survey, 44% of firms say hourly downtime costs exceed $1 million. Network automation helps I&O teams reduce the time it takes to manage the network, in addition to reducing the risk of manual errors. This allows your network managers to take a proactive approach to improving the network instead of reacting to fire drills.
- Maintain agility: I&O teams not only have to manage the network of today, but be prepared to adapt as the needs of their network change. The right network automation solution helps enterprises bring siloed systems together more effectively in the present while giving you the flexibility to add, subtract, and adapt systems in the future as your business requires.
- Break traditional silos: It’s impossible to effectively manage the network if you don’t know what’s on it. Network automation can help I&O teams create a single source of truth for their network by gathering data from all your systems in a single pane of glass, providing the complete visibility required to make more informed decisions.
- Improve collaboration across IT to effectively resolve IT incidents: By increasing agility and responsiveness, I&O teams can break down operational silos, improve collaboration, and support modern IT requirements like automation and CI/CD (continuous integration/continuous delivery).
What Should You Automate First?
The more network management processes you can automate, the more you can increase performance, improve efficiency, and enforce standardization. Here are the top five use cases that can provide the most value for your network automation dollar:
- Network configuration: Automated network configuration ensures standardization across the entire configuration rollout process, significantly reducing the time it takes to make the new configuration operational.
- Virtual network provisioning: By automating end-to-end virtual network provisioning, you can eliminate hours of manual effort while enforcing best practices and policies.
- Proactive network testing: Proactive testing can help you identify issues before they can affect services or create downtime, keeping your customers and end users happy.
- Alarm validation, diagnostics, and remediation: Automation can help you resolve a ticket from start to finish by detecting the initiating event, creating the ticket, and then executing the complete resolution process. An automatic report captures every action taken so that staff can follow up as needed.
- Preventative maintenance and ongoing performance maintenance: Automated maintenance helps you reduce risk and prevent outages without tying up staff resources, improving reliability, and reducing costs.
As the world moves to the cloud, I&O teams must focus on managing their infrastructure as code, not hardware. Network automation enables you to quickly deploy network infrastructure just as you would software, ensuring maximum speed, adaptability, and accuracy.
The time for I&O teams to make a change and adapt network automation is now. To learn more, download our latest eBook, Trapped In Time: 3 NetOps Practices to Modernize ASAP.