Now more than ever, organizations are proactively working toward building more agile infrastructures. However, in their search for the latest and greatest solutions, they’re mistakenly choosing tools that don’t align with their actual goals. It is important to realize that the network automation journey is different for every organization. It is crucial that they choose their solutions based on a careful examination of their own unique needs.
There is no doubt that “network automation” is isn’t just an industry buzz word anymore. Organizations are seeing real results. But, the key question remains: What’s next? How do you fully capitalize on the benefits? How do you design the perfect network automation path to success?
Implementing a truly successful network automation program may seem elusive given the lack of policy, the individualistic methods, and the tendency to emphasize acceleration over adoption. So, to make the journey a little less intimidating, we’ve designed this e-Guide to five must dos – the ultimate checklist for network automation success.
Network Automation: What Next?
The slew of network automation solutions that claim to completely transform your network management processes can be misleading at times. While network automation methods may be valuable in many cases, a broader focus on aligning with your organization’s business goals is a more valuable effort in the long run.
That’s why far too often, teams take a linear approach, starting with the automation of a few tasks, without any idea of what to do next. Most incumbent solutions on the market have major limitations and are very difficult to deploy, maintain and understand. Some require development skills, and many are task-based configuration management tools rather policy-based ones.
Organizations should instead embrace a holistic approach to automation in order to build a better network infrastructure. The five actions in this e-Guide help to build a strong network automation foundation. In most cases, they don’t require significant capital investment, and can be implemented within the typical allocated budget.
Analysis: 5 Must Dos for Network Automation Success
Network, application and business goals are not always aligned, which can lead to increased costs, service delays, reduced performance and increased operational expenses. While a few tasks are often automated, most network management activities are still performed manually, which gives way to a higher risk of error. Without a comprehensive plan, most teams lack the skills needed to support the digital storm.
Automating small, mundane tasks is a good start. However, the more pressing need is to create a path for continuous automation to ensure the delivery of network and application services no matter what. Here we’ve the five most important actions any organization should take when looking to succeed in this digital era:
- Measure network automation results by targeting business outcomes.
- Reskill your team by prioritizing automation.
- Achieve quick wins by implementing culture initiatives and network hackathons.
- Implement network automation in a systematic, step-by-step fashion.
- Choose the right network automation tool to maximize success.
Measure Automation Based on Business Outcomes
Especially in the beginning, most network automation is applied to mundane, simple tasks. As enterprises progress and automate more network components, they start to focus on similar tasks that are important for availability. However, what they fail to consider is the need to support broader digital requirements that actually improve agility and support business objectives.
On the network automation roadmap, you must institute rewards and measure results based on business outcomes. Focusing more on business objectives rather than automating singular tasks enables faster delivery of services to the digital business. Below are few sample metrics we recommend. Figure out what best suits your business and change the way automation results are measured.
- Time to deliver new network services
- Time to detect a failure
- Percentage of outages resolved through automation
- Percentage of tasks that are automated
Focus on Team Development and Collaboration
A major roadblock to many network automation initiatives is that existing skill sets are centered around specific vendors, and are often based on CLI-based management and operations. Building agile infrastructure by accelerating the automation of network components requires more than just tooling and support from vendors. It requires a highly skilled team to manage the infrastructure and the automation of complex tasks.
Learning brand-new skills to implement the automation of hundreds of service requests may sound overwhelming. However, organizations need to get passed this roadblock and understand the benefits will be well worth the effort. Once you start planning the training process, make sure to consider the following:
- Awareness of automation
- Network scripting
- Network device API overview
- Public cloud networking understanding
- Cross team training (DevOps)
Network Automation and Culture Hackathons
An effective way to achieve quick wins on the automation front is by bringing different groups together to work toward a common goal using automation. In other words, host a hackathon. Hackathons are new to the networking space, and should include a mix of networking, DevOps, application, systems personnel, and even vendor representatives who are all versed in automation and other areas like servers or cloud management.
The purpose is to identify complex, repeatable manual tasks that involve multiple teams and determine ways to automate them.
Network automation presents a new start, so prioritize transparency amongst these teams, and encourage them to contribute to the roadmap. A plan crafted by an entire team is much more effective than a plan that’s just assigned to be executed one. As you set out to automate more and more of the infrastructure, make sure to keep business objectives in focus.
Adopt Systematic Network Automation Approach
Network automation is an ongoing process that if executed correctly will yield a stronger network foundation in the long run. The network automation roadmap and timeline should be dependent on the current status of the organization. To see the real benefits of automation and pave the way for the future, you must adopt a holistic automation approach that allows you to integrate new solutions into existing infrastructure. Teams should aim for a 24 to 36-month roadmap where 70 percent of network changes and troubleshooting activities are automated. But first, you must formulate an incremental plan to build an agile and fully automated network infrastructure.
- Identify the infrastructure components that should be automated
- Identify the most common service requests
- Explore automation tools that meet your needs
- Define the process for each of the service requests
- Build your automation workflows
- Enable self-service to relevant parts of your user base
- Iterate and enhance your automation strategy
Choose the Right Tool
Given the broad automation solutions market, infrastructure and operations leaders must focus their organizations’ specific needs. Afterall, advanced network automation tools can be extremely advantageous, but only if implemented successfully.
While many automation tools currently on the market are designed to do the same thing, they can vary substantially in their approaches. This means that choosing the right one for your environment requires careful evaluation of available systems and resources. Opting for a solution that meets these criteria will help you receive the best possible return on your investment.
- Auto discovery of network configurations
- Automated provisioning of network services
- Auditing and compliance enforcement
- Role-based authentication and authorization
- Alerting and reporting
Network automation enables organizations to take the leap required to maintain total control of their increasingly digital enterprises. As a result, a brand-new approach is required to build a strong automation foundation. The solution should be visual, intuitive, self-serviceable, enterprise-ready and support full lifecycle management.
When an organization implements best practices and puts the right network automation tool in place, they can make the best use of their network infrastructure, improving efficiency, enhancing productivity, saving time, money and resources and minimizing the human errors that end in network downtime. Make sure you’re using the right tool to help your team achieve optimal agility and provide the best value to your business. Try AppViewX today.
The AppViewX Platform
The AppViewX Platform is a modular, low-code software application that enables the automation and orchestration of network infrastructure using an intuitive, context-aware, visual workflow. Leveraging a vast library of pre-built tasks and workflows, the platform enables Ops teams to quickly and easily translate business requirements into automation workflows that improve agility, enforce compliance, eliminate errors, and reduce cost.