Bringing Network Automation into the Cloud Era

Network performance, security, and scalability are factors that can redefine IT investments as a competitive advantage. The network remains the unifying feature of modern environments despite the increasingly distributed and remote nature of enterprises. The impact of the cloud is such that the dynamics of modern networks are ever-changing while enterprise environments grow more complex and chaotic. The management of these environments – the discovery, analysis, updating, and maintenance – and the ever-growing number of devices, domains, and clouds can constitute major risks to business performance. 

Human error makes matters worse. It is the number one cause of network outages, responsible for 70% of policy violations and forcing enterprises to spend 75% of network operations op-ex on troubleshooting. Accommodating the speed and scale of the cloud era must be a priority, but human hands (and minds) cannot do this alone. Network automation is an essential part of achieving enterprise IT success in the cloud era.

Driving Long Term Growth

Network automation reduces operational overhead, minimizes network outages, enhances the end user experience, and enables more agile IT operations. It alleviates the burdensome time and labor associated with legacy, manual approaches to network configuration and change management (NCCM), and provides more secure, stable networks. At the same time, it enables the integration of seamless, digital-first experiences expected in the cloud era. But enterprises face several challenges with automation before their IT team even writes their first script.

 It is essential to take the time to consider a number of questions:

  • Do you build your own automation solution or buy off the shelf? If I build my own, how do I ensure the reliability of my business needs if any number of variables sideline the project? 
  • Is my automation intelligent enough to understand my business intent?
  • Who do I go to when I have a problem, or worse, an outage?
  • What do I do about compliance, or, even worse, an audit?
  • Does building your own automation really align with business objectives?

The careful consideration of these questions will help business and IT leaders determine an appropriate course of action for sustained business value. Network automation is not one size fits all; however, there are universal truths that an enterprise must grapple with: cloud adoption and IT modernization are practically inevitable, security risks are increasing faster than ever, IT complexity is bordering on chaos, the majority of IT teams are strapped for resources, and business competition is fierce. 

Taming Chaos

The number one risk to business performance, arguably, is network downtime. It can cost businesses as much as $300,000 per hour. This sort of risk cannot be taken lightly, and mitigating it should be a priority. Human error, network maintenance, bad scripting, software misconfigurations, vulnerabilities, cloud disruption, remote employees, extreme weather events, pandemics, and cyberattacks – the list of potential risks to network operations goes on and on – create increasingly hostile network environments. But automation can make networks more sustainable, resilient, and reliable as enterprise needs grow, even at cloud scale. 

Although every network and every enterprise is different, there is a shared sense of urgency around automation. De-risking the complexity and inherent chaos of enterprise networks and simplifying how networks are discovered, analyzed, updated, and maintained provides universal benefits for any enterprise dealing with cloud-scale growth. However, there are different levels of automation that provide different levels of success.

Self Built or Off the Shelf?

Building network automation requires extensive scripting and development expertise. Moreover, suppose organizations are bogged down with the training, developing, testing, and maintaining necessary to operate a self-built system. In that case, the time to full-scale automation is much slower, which significantly limits its value proposition. On the other hand, buying off-the-shelf software could have a similar impact if IT teams are bound by a lack of customization and extensibility. While some enterprises choose to code and script their capabilities and succeed with task automation, this is a far cry from the fully automated, transformative network automation that can supercharge competitive advantage in high-performance industries. This is why enterprises should track investments in automation to ensure it is possible to calculate the true ROI over time.

While there is a perception that automating the network in a highly intelligent manner that can eliminate downtime and enhance security and functionality is out of reach for most enterprises, that is simply not true. Off-the-shelf intelligent network solutions today deliver built-in integrated customization capabilities that make systems more extensible, manageable, flexible, and scalable despite the multitude of domains, vendor devices, and clouds common in enterprises today. Prebuilt automation processes and automatic asset discovery enable IT teams to quickly achieve time to value without the planning and operational overhead needed for self-build automation. With the support that self-built or open-source automation can’t offer, security becomes part of the network fabric, compliance and auditing are no longer headaches, and network disruptions become a thing of the past. Intelligent network automation provides essential guardrails that let the network flow unobstructed by risk, complexity, and chaos.

 

Author's Bio

Jeff Gray

CEO and Co-founder, Gluware
Jeff Gray is the CEO and co-founder of Gluware, the leading provider of Intelligent Network Automation for the Cloud Era. As CEO, he oversees business operations and strategy, as well as the development of enterprise-leading intent-based network automation technologies adopted by the largest and most complex Fortune 500 and Global 2000 enterprises from Pharma to Finance. Gray is credited with bringing the industry’s first SDN orchestration platform to market and achieving significant blue-chip enterprise adoption. He has been a networking industry leader for two decades, starting with the commercial development of innovative high-bandwidth networking solutions as a student at California Polytechnic State University.