While the rapid adoption of hybrid work IT solutions including cloud, PaaS, and SaaS has helped businesses solve some of the key challenges of our time, it has also made enterprise networks more complex than ever. This has made it more difficult – not to mention expensive – for corporate IT departments to manage and maintain their network environments.
Clearly, operating enterprise networks manually is not the way ahead – and that’s why network teams are beginning to consider the benefits of network service automation.
The growing imperative for network automation
Enterprises are driven toward network automation for varying reasons. Here are the top three:
- Minimizing fatigue: Reducing rote, repetitive tasks is the top reason why enterprises look toward network automation. Handling network service requests manually requires significant data gathering, configuration checks, and scripting with primitive tools and CLIs.
- Scaling efficiently: As the number of devices and endpoints grows across distributed networks, scaling networks with efficiency and without growing headcount is crucial to maintaining profitability of business portfolios.
- Speeding service delivery: While the speed of provisioning, deploying, and maintaining other digital services has increased, manually operating network services brings down the responsiveness of key business processes.
- Reducing complexity: Finally, standardizing network configurations with templates has become the key to taming the growing complexity of enterprise networks in a hybrid and multi-cloud world.
How network automation benefits businesses
From a network administrator’s perspective, the benefits of automation are obvious: it liberates them from juggling between CLIs and multiple tools that are native to stacks to process simple service requests. However, automation also brings significant benefits to the business:
- Automation maturity is positively correlated with market share, organizational performance, and time to market.
- Automation empowers better network security, continuous compliance with network policies, and zero possibility of manual errors.
- Automation also increases the productivity of network teams, improves network availability, and enables greater scalability.
Key network services to prioritize
As you begin on your network automation journey, it’s important to have a sensible roadmap to follow. Let’s go over some of the highest-ROI network services you’ll probably want to focus on first:
- Connectivity and performance verification: Typically performed via pings made through the command line or other tools, ensuring application connectivity and a baseline latency is a low-value process, and it consumes precious hours of network engineers’ time. Automating it should be a priority.
- Configuration validation: Automating detection of configuration drift can mitigate security risks – and moreover, automated scripts can ease the process of pushing a change to remote devices.
- Network inventory: Manually tracking every device on an enterprise network is a time-consuming process. With network discovery automation, network admins can streamline lifecycle management of network devices.
- Firewall rule maintenance: Without sufficient auditability, firewalls and access control lists become unmaintainable. But if IT can automatically translate firewall rules into multiple formats, they can improve auditability by building automated guardrails around rule creation and updating processes.
What’s the endgame?
Ultimately, the automation initiative you undertake must aspire to deliver self-service network services to the users. Typically, this entails advancing toward intent-based automation, where an intelligent system is able to identify how network configurations impact the network.
Such a system then functions under the hood of the self-serve interface to verify the feasibility of service requests and ultimately recommend a script, which can be deployed with a single touch by a human in the loop.
At Zones, we can help make this happen. We have a wealth of experience helping clients of all shapes and sizes to streamline their network infrastructure, and we’d love to work our magic for you next. Connect with us today, and we can get you started.