Being a network engineer is hard.
You could be the ones working the longest hours on tasks that could make or break an enterprise’s backbone (which is precisely what networks are), but compared to the more “glamorous” roles of, say an application developer, your jobs aren’t all that interesting.
You wake up to a flood of tickets every morning, consisting of tasks that could eat up your workday whole.
You’re the go-to guy for every issue, however minor, that could possibly be blamed on the network (like the poor Firewall Guy above)
You spend sleepless nights during events like a server upgrade or a DR drill.
But more often than not, it’s not the job itself that’s dull; the way you do it makes a world of difference.
As a platform that provides network automation and orchestration tools to make the lives of network engineers a little easier, we’ve come up with some relatable rants based on our customers’ experience. And yes, they all have a “happily ever after” ending, courtesy of AppViewX. Read on to find out if they strike a chord with you:
Part 1: The Pain of Application Provisioning and How to Alleviate it
Peeve: “I do all the busywork after the application is developed and don’t even get credit for it.”
An application developer’s job gets over once the app is created and tested, while a network engineer’s role starts from just then. Configuring ADCs, opening firewall ports, provisioning certificates…all the minutiae of ensuring the application actually reaches the end-user without a glitch falls on the network engineer. Since provisioning an application involves a myriad of devices from different vendors with their own set of policies and procedures, it’s the network engineer’s job to log in to each device and do the necessary configurations manually. They may have a hundred consoles open simultaneously during this process – one for each device. The entire process is laborious, painstaking, and since it’s all about the application, quite unrewarding.
Moreover, provisioning applications isn’t a one-person job. It requires the coordination and cooperation of several stakeholders from multiple teams; application developers, owners, IT administrators, security teams, and so on. Most of the time, the technical speak used by one team is completely different from that of other teams, and this divide can cause widespread ambiguity and misinterpretation of requests. Sorting it out takes endless back-and-forth exchange of tickets and emails, amounting to delays of several weeks before the application is finally brought to production.
Adding to their woes is the ever-mounting pressure to deliver faster. Digital transformation is all about moving to the cloud and being agile, and while DevOps has been quick to embrace it, NetOps and SecOps haven’t had much luck with it. This disparity may be due to the fact that application developers have a wide array of tools at their disposal to ensure quick application delivery, while network engineers are at the deep end when it comes to productivity tools.
With the aid of such tools, application developers are churning out applications faster than ever. Network engineers, on the other hand, have to contend with colossal networks that sometimes span multiple cloud environments, while ensuring constant availability to support the rapidly incoming applications. Without automation tools, making just one application available for production can easily take a week. And at the rate at with applications are currently being developed, network engineers are bound to have their hands full year-round. Software configuration management tools like Ansible, Chef, etc. can automate just bits and pieces of the rigmarole and succeed in lifting just a little of the network engineer’s burden.
Solution: Work Smarter, not Harder. Harness the Power of Network Orchestration.
What if we tell you that you could provision applications in the time it takes for you to finish a cup of coffee? Humbug, you say? Say hi to network orchestration instead. AppViewX’s AUTOMATION+ is a platform that goes above and beyond automation to provide full-cycle network orchestration. With a library of 300+ ready-to-use out-of-the-box templates and integrations with every major cloud provider (AWS, Azure), network devices vendor (F5, Citrix, etc.) network service provider (Infoblox, Cyberark), ITSM vendor (ServiceNow, JIRA), and certificate authority (Entrust, Sectigo), AUTOMATION+ reduces your efforts involved in application provisioning effort by 90%.
All you have to do is define the logical flow – the Visual Workflow capability of AUTOMATION+ lets you do that without having to write a single line of code. Just select the components (devices, systems, tools, etc.) that go into provisioning an application from the platform’s inventory and connect them logically. Your application provisioning orchestration engine is now ready to roar. Every time you need to provision an application, you just need to enter the details specific to the application (like its FQDN), choose the provisioning template that you’ve defined, and sit back and let the platform do the rest. From requesting free IPs to creating DNS records to configuring firewall ports, AUTOMATION+ orchestrates the entire process of application provisioning from start to finish. AUTOMATION+ provides a single-window of control through REST API and eliminates the need to log in to each vendor/device manually.
You can further save time (and tickets) by enabling DevOps and SecOps to self-service certain network operations. You can define workflows and selectively share them with other teams using granular Role-Based Access Controls (RBAC). All they have to do is enter some basic inputs to initiate the task. This way, they can execute the required network tasks themselves even without the technical knowhow instead of bombarding you with tickets for the same.
AppViewX is context-aware – it automatically stores the configuration, state, and status of all devices that are added to its inventory. Before you perform a task on a device, you can run a pre-validation check with the above parameters to make sure the task doesn’t negatively affect the normal functioning of the network. You can also run a post-validation check after the change is pushed to view the network’s response to the task.
Using AUTOMATION+, you can provision an application in minutes rather than days. What’s more, you can integrate with log aggregation tools (like Splunk), or create and maintain logs of every instance that goes into the provisioning. So in the event of something going wrong, you can go back, check the logs, and accurately find and fix the error. Integration with chat platforms (like Slack) ensures you get notifications along every step, and can in turn notify others, say the app owners or the security team, about the status of the process and the tasks to be done from their end.