Are you starting out on your network automation journey or looking to improve your current one? In either case, choosing the right tool for your automation endeavour goes a long way in guaranteeing its success. While some tools are great to help you get started, some other tools help take your automation journey to completion.
Here, we take a look at some of the most popular network automation tools and the pros and cons of using them.
One of the most beloved automation tools for DevOps, Ansible has also established itself as a network automation tool for enterprises in the initial stages of their automation journey. Ansible uses code templates called playbooks, written in YAML, to perform automation tasks. Ansible is chiefly used for Day 0/Day 1 provisioning, configuration management, and task automation.
Ansible comes in two versions. The free, open-source version is script-based and uses the device CLI for configuring automation workflows, while the paid version, known as Ansible Tower, provides a GUI-based console for deploying automation playbooks and for network administration.
Pros: Most engineers and operators would be familiar with Ansible if it’s already in use by the enterprise’s DevOps team, so adoption wouldn’t be an issue. The architecture is agentless and connects to nodes through SSH or APIs.
Cons: Both Ansible and Ansible Tower are not config-aware – they do not check the state, status, or configuration of a node before they deploy a workflow. They also do not run pre- and post-validation checks that ensure the successful, compliant completion of the automation task. For the free Ansible version, users need to log in to the control node’s CLI and manually deploy the playbooks, and also requires scripting skills.
Know how AppViewX works with Ansible to achieve full-cycle orchestration.
ManageEngine’s Network Configuration Manager (NCM) is a heterogeneous NCCM solution for switches, routers, firewalls, and other network devices. NCM helps automate the life cycle of device configuration management. The tool backs up device configurations, maintains their history, enables comparison of versions, and the uploading of changes from a centralized user interface.
Pros: ManageEngine offers multi-vendor network configuration management, and can, therefore, act as a Network Source of Truth (NSoT) for change management, auditing, and compliance in networks spanning multiple vendors and environments.
Cons: ManageEngine provides only NCCM and not policy-based automation or orchestration. It also does NCCM only for L2 and L3 devices, not application services such as load balancers and WAFs.
NetBrain’s product suite is based on a discovery engine that builds a “digital image” of the live network. This is based on its collection of network data through device configurations, CLI output, and third-party solutions via API. It enables the creation of real-time, dynamic maps (as opposed to traditional static network diagrams), which make all information about a network’s design, performance, and traffic flows easily accessible.
Pros: NetBrain supports heterogeneous and multi-vendor network infrastructures. It provides a visual programming interface that allows administrators to define workflows for runbook automation, facilitating rapid troubleshooting and remediation.
Cons: NetBrain is primarily a network topology mapping, monitoring, and NCCM software, and its orchestration capabilities aren’t highly developed. It also doesn’t do much in the way of network security.
SolarWinds is an IT infrastructure management platform that has a number of products in its repertoire, including Network Configuration Manager, Network Performance Monitor, Network Traffic Analyzer, and Server and Application Monitor.
Pros: The platform is heterogeneous and multi-vendor. It provides several strong network security capabilities, along with automated configuration backup, configuration change monitoring, change automation, change approval, and configuration auditing.
Cons: SolarWinds is more of a “management” rather than an automation and orchestration platform. Though compatible with several vendors, SolarWinds tends to lean toward Cisco and Palo Alto. It also doesn’t come with its own database; end-users need to supply it.
Itential is a multi-domain network automation platform whose primary focus is cloud and SD-WAN. It enables users to easily build, execute, and visualize end-to-end network automation for operations, configuration, and service lifecycle management.
Pros: Itential is multi-domain and vendor-agnostic, and is one of the few platforms that provide closed-loop automation. The platform is low code and offers end-to-end orchestration by integrating with a variety of ITSM and log management solutions.
Cons: Itential suffers from a lack of configuration and state awareness, like Ansible. It doesn’t provide much scope for self-servicing of automation tasks by other teams, and also lacks advanced application monitoring and traffic management capabilities. It doesn’t come with CMDB support.
AppViewX AUTOMATION+ is a leading network management, automation and orchestration for Enterprise IT. It provides application-centric visibility, monitoring, and automation for Layer 2 to Layer 7 devices.
Salient platform features
Not many platforms can boast of an almost codeless work table. AUTOMATION+ has a Visual Workflow studio with over 500 out-of-the-box (preconfigured) templates that enable network engineers to build workflows – simple or complex – with drag-and-drop ease.
It integrates with multiple vendors and environments
AUTOMATION+ supports an array of network device vendors and IT services providers and facilitates seamless orchestration. It also works in any environment – on-premise, private, hybrid, multi-clouds, and microservices deployments.
It drives context-aware automation
For a platform to be truly powerful, it has to be intuitive. AUTOMATION+ provides closed-loop, analytics-driven, event-based automation that’s designed to keep manual interference to the minimum. AUTOMATION+ continuously scans the network for problems, and when it detects one, it automatically applies the appropriate pre-engineered solution, thereby remediating it in minutes.
It provides application-centric visibility into the network infrastructure
AUTOMATION+ gives engineers a topological view of the application infrastructure and makes it easy for them to find out the root cause of any glitch. Apart from this, it also provides real-time insights into the health, performance, and state of network devices that helps enormously in troubleshooting.
It supports self-servicing of workflows with RBAC
The platform enables application owners and security engineers to self-service those network operations that are relevant to them, giving them greater autonomy and also reducing the burden on network engineers. Application owners can control view and control operations like traffic flows and patch-fixes for their respective applications.
It ensures security and enforces policy compliance along every layer
From firewall policies to certificates, AppViewX provides comprehensive endpoint security and compliance management for network and application infrastructures. Integrations with data analysis and ITSM tools further simplify ticketing, governance, and approval processes, resulting in agile, secure networks.
Want to know how AppViewX AUTOMATION+ can help you transform your network automation journey? Get a detailed product walkthrough from our experts by signing-up for a live demo.