Add Agility to Network Service Request Automation


Introduction

In this digital age, organizations of all sizes and in all industries must be ready to respond to brand-new business demands. They are forced to focus on things like reducing IT costs, adopting the right automation methodologies and eradicating human error. It is becoming more and more crucial for enterprises to implement automation solutions in order to keep pace with these growing demands.

However, before these companies can take full advantage of all automation has to offer, IT must provide a detailed inventory of their services and create a streamlined catalog that will be used to automate service requests. Unfortunately, this isn’t quite as simple as it sounds. Multiple siloed teams are involved and to yield real benefits, cross-team collaboration across the entire service request lifecycle is a must. The right automation solution can serve as a one-stop-shop to address any and all network and application service requests across hybrid infrastructures.

This white paper is for network engineering teams, application owners and especially network operations (NetOps) teams who are striving to perfect an effective and speedy service delivery process. It explains how NetOps can tackle the digital demands of today, all by creating self-service automation portals, more efficiently managing service requests, automating application deployment, and integrating across multi-vendor and hybrid environments. NetOps can align IT services with business outcomes, achieve the agility that businesses today demand, and prepare for new network technologies like cloud and SDN.

Digital Transformation

There is a radical shift happening in the form of digital business technology trends. The advent of online business transactions and other digital business initiatives has made networking an increasingly critical business component. Digital businesses put pressure on networking to rapidly bring innovation to market. In addition to driving innovation, they must build an infrastructure that enables agility. Traditional service management approaches are too slow and not flexible enough to deliver this demanding end-user experience.

The number of challenges posed by infrastructure management is only increasing. New advances in tech have resulted in new levels of heterogeneity, making the whole service delivery process incredibly difficult. The result is an increased number of service delivery delays, which can ultimately result in negative impact on the customer experience, top-line revenue and the success of the business overall.

The first step to effectively keep pace with the digital transformation is to develop a service catalog that describes the various network and application services and workflows supporting the business process. Once your catalog is complete, implementing an automated service request management system helps to improve service delivery, limit service cost and enhance service quality by streamlining and standardizing processes. A centralized service request management and automation solution can solve help address a variety of challenges by encouraging and enabling better cross-team collaboration, which can be a major roadblock.

Application Owners

Application Owners are solely responsible for aligning IT with the key priorities of their organization. Given the massive number of business applications used in today’s digital world, Application Owners are seeing a significant influx of change requests flooding their queues weekly. The networks of today are a complex and hybrid, so these requests continue to multiply and spread across different teams.

Network Engineers

Supporting more complex customer-facing applications poses more difficult challenges to Network Engineering teams. They are confronted with more frequent and complex security threats spread across different environments, are tasked with ensuring quality delivery with high availability, are asked to handle more traffic with limited resources, and are forced to adapt using new initiatives to achieve agility.

Network Operations

The shift toward increasingly digital enterprises has had a huge impact on NetOps. They are now expected to do more than just monitor infrastructures. In fact, they must and adapt to brand-new agile initiatives. With hundreds of repetitive requests coming through their queues each week, the traditional management methods simply do not suffice. Instead, they must shift their skills and take advantage of advances in network automation and analytics and to meet the demands of the digital business of today.

The Way Forward for NetOps in Digital Business

“To achieve true IT agility, NetOps teams must embrace Automation”

Many organizations are saving millions of dollars by adopting automation and are continuously revisiting their automation strategy to accelerate service delivery. Network automation tools are maturing and so their capabilities. Organizations know that adopting some form of automation is vital to achieving true IT agility. However, without teams with the skills to manage these tools, enterprises will still be stuck in the past. Gartner predicts that, “by 2020, lack of adequate skills will lead to only 30% of network operations teams able to fully realize the benefits of investments made in network analytics and automation solutions.” 1

The need for technical knowledge in networking won’t disappear, but NetOps need to take the next leap in this shift to digital transformation. They must develop new skills to adapt to agile initiatives. With right skills and training, NetOps can take full advantage of automation tools and have a real impact on the digital business. To see the real benefits of automation, NetOps must use a comprehensive automation approach.

Getting started with NetOps automation

  • First, identify diverse workloads and perform discovery on all application deployment change requests.
  • Identify and group the most time-consuming and mundane service requests.
  • Based on various network services, segment the infrastructure into different blocks and analyze
    how they interact and interwork.
  • Define standard offerings for various services, work processes and inputs/outputs.
  • Define roles and requirements for users and devices accessing the network to enable self- servicing capabilities and enhance collaboration.
  • Explore automation tools in the market that meet your needs.
  • Start small by automating existing tasks.
  • Iterate your automation initiatives, adding agility incrementally while maintaining the required
    availability.
  • Prepare for end-to-end orchestration that provides for control over automation and the order
    of deployments.
1 Gartner Report, NetOps 2.0: Embrace Network Automation and Analytics to Stay Relevant in the Digital Business Era, Sanjit Ganguli, Vivek Bhalla, Andrew Lerner, published 6 February 2017

Choosing the Right Network Automation Solution

Like most organizations, NetOps teams are managing a flood of service requests from business units. Network automation solutions available can help NetOps address the growing service request problem more efficiently. These tools allow NetOps operate with agility while still ensuring compliance.

While many of these automation tools are designed to do the same thing, they can vary substantially in their approach. This means that choosing the right one for your environment requires careful evaluation of available systems and resources. The next section offers a few checklists to consider when comparing solutions. Opting for a solution that meets these criteria will help you receive the best possible return on your investment.

One-stop solution

With so many different network and application functions to address, NetOps and other teams need a single console they can visit to request services, regardless of the type of service or who provides it – essentially, a one-stop-shop. The most effective solutions can maintain and support an entire ecosystem of technology alliances. They can automate the management of end-to-end services provided by application delivery controllers, security devices, certificate authorities, DNS servers, routers/switches and more, all from a single window.

Self-servicing

An effective network automation solution enables self-servicing to different teams and obtain the services they need quickly and easily — all on their own. They interact with the service catalog in the same way for all request. What’s more, the services they request are delivered completely and on time. Finally, by enabling self-servicing to request and track status on their own, the solution significantly reduces the workload on network teams. This frees the network engineering teams to focus on more business-critical activities.

Related Articles:   Here's How Automation can help you Accelerate Network Service Requests

Integration with existing systems

A solution that is responsible for streamlining service requests does not need to establish service fulfillment processes all on its own. Instead, the solution should leverage and integrate with the different existing systems that drive business processes. This includes integrating with IT service management applications that address change, release, configuration, incident, problem and asset management. It also means providing out-of-the-box integration with DDI systems to address IP management.

Once the right automation solution is chosen and implemented, application owners can simply submit a single request to address a complex service issues, rather than both tracking and submitting multiple requests for different groups. The solution automatically creates all the necessary requests, routes them for required approvals, initiates action in the appropriate systems, and tracks all requests to the point of successful completion. The application owner still has the ability to check the status of the service request during any stage of the process.

Workflow

To fulfill and automate service requests, the right solution should have the capability to define workflows and properly ensure network-level compliance. The workflow can then generate work orders to fulfill service requests, automatically forward the orders to the appropriate groups for execution, and require the receiving groups to report the status of work orders to the service request management system.

Centralized inventory

The inventory of infrastructure and services across multi-vendor and hybrid environments provides a single console for service lifecycle management. NetOps and other teams get a clear visibility of the existing infrastructures and systems. Thus, it would need a near-real time discovery mechanism to manage and get complete visibility of various network and application services.

Scalability

The scope and scale of application delivery infrastructure is likely to expand just as your enterprise does, requiring the addition of new devices and the implementation of new services. Therefore, the right service request management and automation solution should scale with you. It should have the capacity to grow to support hundreds to thousands of network devices that span across different data centers.

Network Service Request Automation in Action

A multinational financial services corporation organization deployed AppViewX and followed this process to rationalize and consolidate the services requests. First they identified ADC (Application Delivery Controllers) change requests that their NetOps teams were managing, all tied to disparate fulfillment workflows and without any centralized and consistent approach for approval and access certification.

By consolidating request types, they are able to provide one-touch provisioning of DNS, load balancer, and SSL services, which are merged and orchestrated as a single request for tenants and engineers. AppViewxX also acts as a servicing portal for SSL offload requests from network engineers working on manual ITSCs and tenants that have no orchestration tool. Any application can now be provisioned in 10 minutes instead of the 8 to 15 days it took in the past. The single requesting portal also provides a new consistent enforcement of catalog offering access policies backed by a centralized approval workflow. With AppViewX, they provided consistent delivery of server rotation requests, including 50,000+ requests in 6 months, as a result of 100 percent adoption of automation.

Achieving NetOps Agility through Network Automation

The demands of increasingly application-centric businesses require NetOps to deliver faster than ever before. Today, they are asked to turn around new service requests in minutes, rather than days or weeks. AppViewX AUTOMATION+ automates network and application service requests. It is designed for NetOps striving to adapt to new technologies, processes and application delivery expectations. By allowing users to automate service requests across multi-vendor and hybrid infrastructure using a comprehensive Visual Workflow tool, AUTOMATION+ is helping enterprises achieve true NetOps agility.

Key benefits

  • Automates network infrastructure services to rapidly respond to service requests
  • Removes manual steps in the development and production stages allowing for efficient and standardized application delivery
  • Simplifies the management of complex application infrastructure and does more with less

Enable self-servicing and automation of service requests

AUTOMATION+ provides simple, easy-to-use self-servicing tools for NetOps, network engineers and application owners. The visual canvas provided defines the infrastructure and allows users to perform operational tasks (or any other actions) on the discovered service components. It allows users to delegate access to various teams, providing a powerful and collaborative workspace.

Achieve NetOps agility with zero touch provisioning

AUTOMATION+ simplifies business processes through event-driven, intelligent and automated workflows. Integration with ITSM and other third-party systems provides complete change management automation of both new and routine service requests. It provides change control across multi-vendor and hybrid infrastructure thereby drastically reducing both delivery time and application downtime.

Eliminate misconfigurations and human errors through automation

AUTOMATION+ helps users to avoid costly errors using custom configuration templates in place of more tedious, manual approaches. It enables efficient service delivery, reduces risk and ensures compliance with regulatory standards. As a result, companies can enable more agile application deliveries while also implementing efficient change implementation across multi-vendor and hybrid environments.

Troubleshoot faster with improved application visibility

AUTOMATION+ provides intuitive and dynamic mapping of infrastructure and services by offering a complete view of the application, a summary of change requests and work order logs. With multiple teams working on a single live infrastructure map, it is easy to track what went wrong and fix the issues in real-time.

Reduce NetOps costs through automation

AUTOMATION+ allows application teams to modify and reuse existing configurations to address redundant requests, sparing them the cost and time involved in designing application infrastructure from scratch. Adoption of self-servicing and automation tools reduces ticket volumes and in turn helps to control IT costs. Improved service quality and faster delivery results in overall resource and cost optimization.

Conclusion

Driven by new automation trends and business demands, NetOps are realizing that traditional approaches to application infrastructure management and deployment are time-consuming, inefficient and error-prone.. Enterprises that fail to take the next step in service request management and automation are beginning to feel the detrimental effects that will inevitably impact the continuity of their business.

The right network automation solutions enable NetOps to take the leap required to maintain total control of their increasingly digital enterprises. With a solid service request management and automation solutions in place, enterprises can make best use of their network infrastructure, improving efficiency, enhancing productivity, saving time, costs and resources and minimizing the human errors that end in network downtime.

It is becoming increasingly clear that a strong NetOps team is crucial to an enterprise’s success, and their ability to choose the right automation tool will ultimately determine their future in the organization. Ensure you are using the right service request management and automation tool that will help you to achieve agility and provide value to your business. Try AppViewX today.

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