Back in 2017, a report by Gartner stated that the trends in network evolution were being outstripped by developments in the rest of the infrastructure, with a view to delivering business services in an agile, scalable, and resilient manner.  4 years on and with developments in pockets of the network via SDN deployment, it seems the rest of the network is beginning to catch up, however only in concentrated pockets. 

IP Fabric recently held our inaugural #CommunityFabric webinar with delegates from the EMEA network automation community representing architectural leadership, automation gurus, and renowned certification instructors throwing their hat in the ring for a discussion on all things network automation. The discussion highlighted the disconnect between technical teams and leadership on the importance of network automation and some clear takeaways for Technical and Business Leadership.

Resources – Engineers need to invest their time in adding network programmability to their arsenal of skills, but more so, businesses need to invest in their teams by aiding this transition however possible.

Top-down Strategy – A business hoping to reap the benefit of automation without a top-down strategy will end up with islands of automation, siloed teams and added complexity or worse, disenfranchised team members.

It’s a Marathon, not a Sprint – Adopting network automation is not a silver bullet. Like any well actioned strategy it requires clear measurable goals, consistent and repeated communication and time to succeed, both financially and operationally.

Future trends and what is Network Assurance?

The introduction of automation into your strategy and technology stack represents an immense opportunity to deliver higher-value services to the business at greater speed and with improved security.  Want to get the most of your hallmark investments in AWS or get the promised security improvements from your new policy and firewalls investment? Automation is the glue to piece together areas of specialised technology in a scalable and repeatable manner.

Manual processes are rife in network operations and whilst they dominate the time schedule of many of your engineering resources, deliver very little value back to the business. Automation promises to draw down these painstaking process steps, along with their associated cost and risk, allowing highly skilled and certified engineers to focus on what they were trained to do, architectural design, cybersecurity, and execution against your organisation’s well-designed compliance framework.

Unfortunately, automation doesn’t represent a flick-of-a-switch investment and a clear path to value.  It is a mantra and an ongoing investment particularly targeted at your engineering team members, their certification, skills, and mindset.  Both mantra (read company mindset) and ongoing investment resonate with one thing, Top-down strategy.  If you wait for automation to naturally flourish from individual engineers’ interests you’ll find yourself stuck in the laggard position in the market, not a good place to be from either an innovation or recruitment standpoint.  If however, you build an organisation that not only praises engineers adding network programmability skills to their traditional network engineering knowledge and certification base, but creates an environment where automation-first is the prevailing mindset, you will be on the right path to reap the benefits.

Investing in an organisation’s technical Resources must be prioritised within the company’s strategy.  IP Fabric’s lead partners either side of ‘the pond’ Axians in Europe and Myriad360 in the US, understand the value of automation both to their internal service delivery functions and externally to their customer-facing services and as such invest heavily in network programmability skills to help their customers along the journey to automation.  This investment by your service provider partners will represent cost-saving on both sides of the fence, not necessarily in the overall invoice value but in how much of that invoice is being needlessly spent on low-value repetitive tasks as opposed to high-value transformational engagements.

As for Future Trends, well unfortunately the #CommunityFabric RoundTable discussion ran out of time before we got into the clouds of future possibility, however, do not fret, on May 27th the 2nd #CommunityFabric Roundtable will focus on exactly this, Next Generation Network Management (registration link below).  What was clear from our delegates, however, was that automation isn’t a straight path with predictable trends, but a fluid community-based investment in greater networking practices and increasing returns from advanced technology, which requires fortitude from senior management to fully realise its true value to an organisation.

Some elements of the perfect automated network will be scripted from the ground up by the in-house resources and network programmability skills you’ve invested in.  Some crucial functionalities will have already been built by commercial vendors of a different ilk.  New-world vendors who’ll fit your Automation strategy will be interchangeable, subscription-based services with simple integration and rapid time-to-value, meaning that as the world of automation evolves the technology can flex to your needs and you can choose your vendors, partners, and crucial building blocks for innovation based on service quality, trust, and value-add.

So, closing thoughts. Network Automation is a crucial building block to your network strategy.  Whether you buy it from IP Fabric, have your team build an equivalent in-house, Network Automation is the mechanism through which you can give speed and flexibility to your teams. With a centralised, compliant view on your production network made accessible to all those who need it, written in the language in which they can consume it, you deliver a unifying dataset for clarity, reporting, and future-proofing your technology investments.

To find out more, check out IP Fabric’s YouTube channel for demos of our PRTG integrations. Look at our other blog posts on the website to learn how our partners and customers are integrating IP Fabric with their wider operational ecosystem, and to join the #communityfabric webinar click here – https://ipfabric.io/webinars/webinar-ask-communityfabric-anything-2/#register