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What is Network Automation?
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What is Network Automation?

Network automation is the process of automating the provisioning, orchestration, and management of networks and their services. There are lots of benefits network automation can offer. It allows network operations to be automated, which reduces human-to-machine interaction and, therefore, greatly reduces the chance of human error such as typos.

Another important benefit of Network automation is that it can also save time and manual labor because it provides Zero Touch Provisioning (ZTP) that configures network devices automatically without someone needing to configure it locally, hence reducing the operational expenditures, especially for service providers and enterprises.

Finally, one of the more important benefits of network automation is guarantee consistency in your configurations. With automation, you can create a script and then instruct the controller to deploy that to the devices wherein each device receives the same configuration. This ensures that you are familiar with the configuration of each device, and it also means minimal configuration errors because the administrator is not typing the same configuration commands over and over on each device. It also greatly helps in troubleshooting and in generating reports. These are some of the main reasons why we need Network Automation.

What Are The Benefits of Network Automation?

While network automation challenges are very real, network automation benefits usually outweigh them.

As mentioned earlier, any automation can save a lot of time. It can speed up time-consuming processes like application deployment, freeing up human work hours and help reduce errors. Human error is responsible for significant network downtime and has caused between 70% and 75% of data center failures. An automated network can boost reliability, performance and security.

Network automation also lets businesses conduct sophisticated network analysis using data from myriad sources, such as routers, logs, configuration files and user devices.

Another key selling point of automation is discovery. Network automation tools can find access points, appliances, controllers, switches, routers and other devices that humans might have overlooked.

Another reason why network automation is such a powerful tool is that it can improve agility and business operations. An automated network can open doors to software-defined networking, and it can boost security and standardize processes across the organization.

Network automation challenges for organizations

Some network automation challenges are inevitable, but they are not solved by delaying the process.

What challenges can you expect when you start an automation project?

  1. Perceived loss of control – One reason why network automation could cause concern is the assumption that automated processes will miss something. Another is that automation will supplant human workers. But oversights are more likely to occur without automation. And automation does not have to eliminate the need for human workers. They are still needed—and automation makes them more effective.
  1. Complexity – Modern networks are complex. So are the tools used to manage and maintain them. And all this complexity cordons data into discrete silos. Breaking down these silos can make setting up network automation feel like a big investment.
  1. Need for customization – There’s no such thing as end-to-end, turnkey network automation. Automation has to be established step by step in accordance with an organization’s goals and operations.
  1. Legacy devices and systems – Many organizations remain reliant on legacy systems—and these systems might be assumed to be beyond the scope of network automation.

Navigating the path to network automation benefits

You know the network automation benefits, but where does the process begin?

Start with a strategy that includes a big-picture vision of the business problems that network automation could solve. Lay out a plan for a flexible and responsive automated system that offloads drudgery and tedium from human staff and lets them focus on more important issues.

As you put your plan into action, address one thing at a time. Network automation does not and should not require an all-or-nothing approach. It’s far better—necessary, even—to start small, approach a specific known problem that causes frustration and log a small win.

It is also critical to perform due diligence and pick the right automation tool or platform. For some organizations, the best approach might be to partner with a managed services provider who can assess their network needs and help them determine a sustainable approach to automation.

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