Evaluating Three Popular Automation Network Methods
Today, business agility and operational agility are critical to success. Enterprise IT and service provider operations teams are turning to network automation as a way to meet their agility goals.
But before they can even start, they face a major decision: Do I build my automation from scratch, or
do I buy an integrated automation solution?
When it comes to automation readiness, time-to-value and customization are very important to every organization. Turnkey and embedded automation solutions typically do not require extensive skills and deliver value quickly, but they limit long-term value due to restricted control and customization.
On the other hand, Do-It-Yourself (DIY) solutions give developers total control, but they also require extensive skills and time commitments before any value can be derived.
These solutions are intended to be used to automate network operations and, to some extent, data center operations. Through this paper, readers will gain a clear understanding of the different automation options, including their benefits and challenges, and ways to identify the best solution for their automation needs.
Automation Methods Meet Demand
In today’s world, organizations need to be agile to survive. Their success depends on both business agility and operational agility. As the rate of innovation accelerates, competition is becoming fiercer—and faster.
Businesses must, therefore, find ways to respond more quickly and operate more efficiently. As a result, many organizations are turning to network automation to boost their agility.
But organizations are only as agile as their least agile component, and for most organizations that is the data center network. In fact, according to Gartner, organizations that automate at least 70 percent of network changes reduce outages and increase release velocity by 50 percent.1
At the same time, a Gartner 2017 poll of CIOs revealed that a lack of appropriate skills and a lack of resources are the biggest barriers to resilient IT in this digital era.2
Clearly, there is a strong need and desire to implement automation. But which automation solution will best help network operations teams get up to speed and deliver business value quickly?
Methods of Network Automation
Organizations can automate their network operations using three methods:
• Integrated/embedded automation: Automation “built into” and, sometimes, embedded into the device’s operating system and/or firmware.
This type of solution performs a narrow scope of automation based on the vendor’s preferences. Any pre-built integrations, or openness for integration with third-party tools and applications, were developed based on the vendor’s specific business goals and priorities.
• DIY automation: Automation developed completely from scratch using common programming languages, such as Java, Ansible, Python, or Puppet, and modern data models, such as YAML, to automate data center operations.
• Customizable, pre-built automation: Sometimes referred to as automation kits, packs, or suites. This form of automation typically consists of scripts, workflows, code snippets, and documentation developed and tested to accomplish a commonly encountered business or technical objective.
Usually, this automation code focuses on a specific task, such as collecting configuration information from multiple
devices or integrating with a monitoring application.
And these code snippets are typically developed, maintained, and shared within a community using common tools, languages, interfaces, and models.
Five criteria have been selected to help compare the three network automation methods. These criteria represent common considerations when making a purchase decision that has strategic and tactical implications:
• Ease of implementation (getting started): The level of difficulty in deploying and configuring the method of automation.
• Time-to-value: The span of time between receipt of a solution and when the solution is delivering business or technical value.
• The scope of automation (network, lifecycle, cross-domain): Whether the automation method applies only to the network, provides lifecycle (provision, validation, troubleshooting, remediation) automation, and/ or supports other domains (computer, applications, storage, cloud, and other technologies).
• Purchase and long-term costs: The acquisition and long-term costs for acquiring all that is needed to implement the method of automation.
• SThe scope of openness, community, and ecosystem: How “open” the method is for integration and customization, the size and activity of the community, and the scope of an ecosystem.