Network Automation – The key to Future Perfect

By: Dwarakanath Yadavalli, Software Engineering Manager, Managability, Juniper Networks IEC

Automation is here, today.  Network Automation will only see increased adoption going forward – be it in Service Providers or Data Centers, or Edge or Core.  Automation, a business imperative, is recognized as the future of the network.

So, what is Network Automation?

Traditionally, network provisioning and configuration management have been manual and error-prone processes. Network automation is a methodology in which software automatically provisions, configures, manages and tests network devices. It is used by Enterprises and Service Providers to improve efficiency, reduce human error, and decrease operating expenses.

Network automation tools provide several features starting from viewing network topology, device discovery, configuration management, and operational audit to more complex workflows like the provisioning of virtual network resources and load balancing.

Network automation plays a significant role in software-defined networks (SDN), network virtualization, and network orchestration.

Automation Enablers:

  • Programmable interfaces: devices offer a capability to interact programmatically
  • Standards-driven data models: Allow provisioning of input and consumption of output by machines
  • Scalable Platform: a data-store of input and output allowing interaction across devices and time
  • Custom built algorithms: that process data to glean insights network health parameters
  • Integrated systems: to unite the business operations to network provisioning, auditing, monitoring, and recovery.
  • Multi-vendor capability: to cater to the requirements of complex networks

 

Types of Network Automation:

Network Automation is indispensable in all varieties of networks be it LANs, WANs, Data Centers or Cloud Networks, and Wireless Networks. Any network resource that has a CLI or API is automatable.

  1. Automatic configuration and provisioning: The network systems’ architecture embeds automation capabilities such as provisioning.
  2. Script-driven network automation: Script-driven network automation employs scripting and programming languages to execute tasks.
  3. Software-based network automation: Also known as intelligent network automation, is coordinated through an administrative portal that eliminates the need to script commands by hand.
  4. Automated auditing and operations management: Automation assists with day-to-day operations, such as reacting to events and reconfiguring device settings. It can be deployed to do regular configurational and operational audit of the device. Everything that takes manual tasks out of the “examine and react” loop is part of this.
  5. High-level orchestration: Integrating an SDN controller with other parts of the infrastructure enables orchestration of virtual machines, networks, and storage in a coordinated manner. SDN has many definitions, but at the core level, separation of the data plane from the control plane enables the provisioning and configuration of these elements. Depending on the system capabilities, this may lead to app-driven networks across multiple cloud environments.
  6. Policy-based networking: (also known as ‘declarative-intent’ SDN) Here one defines the end state of the system, and the system has the intelligence to realize it. This advanced form of automation enables those who are not in the networking team, to define how they want the network to behave.
  7. Intelligence-driven network automation: All-pervading telemetry infrastructure, collects data about the health of the network elements, powers the machine-learning algorithms that detect the impending network issues and schedule auto-corrective tasks.

Benefits of Network Automation:

Network automation provides multiple benefits including:

  • Reduced human errors: Manual tasks are susceptible to human errors. Setting up a job for automation means it only needs to be done correctly once.
  • Improved efficiency: automating functions on network devices saves people from having to do time-consuming tasks. When systems detect problems automatically, it enables the IT teams to be proactive instead of being reactive.
  • Lower costs: By eliminating manual tasks related to network device provisioning and management, businesses can operate with agility. If automation is a fundamental part of the network design, it can also help reduce operational expenditures.
  • Improved availability: As problems are detected early on in the cycle, the network availability improves, contributing to increased top-line. It enables an enterprise to set higher performance standards vis-à-vis competition.

Automation, through the closed loop network architecture, empowers the organization to a future of orchestrating the network from a single pane of glass, at scale.

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