Recently, a networking leader at a mainstream enterprise asked me a very simple question: if you could only do one new thing in 2019 what would it be? For me, this is a very simple answer: invest in network automation. Why? I’ll sum it up in two words: Availability + Agility. Or, if you prefer, in one sentence, taken from published Gartner research:
“…organizations that automate more than 70% of their network change activities will reduce the number of outages by at least 50% and deliver services to their business constituents 50% faster…”
That said, this doesn’t mean you should just run out and buy a tool (although that may help). Investments in network automation must address people, process, and technology (hence the asterisk in the blog title). I would argue that the people and process investments are 5X more important than the technology at this point. Much of our deployed networking gear supports some degree of automation and programmability, if it was bought in the last 5 years. Similarly, we’ve had network automation tools on the market for over a decade, and vendors have supported automation “hooks” for quite a while as well. So, it isn’t purely a technology issue (although vendors could certainly do more). Don’t sleep on process either, because if you automate a flawed process, all you get is a really fast flawed process.
So with that context, I wanted to pass along some resources that can help with network automation. Some of these are Gartner documents while others are non-Gartner that I think are pretty good. First, the Gartner stuff:
- Jump-Start Network Automation to Scale Digital Initiatives – This research identifies a very pragmatic approach to start and/or improve network automation initiatives.
- Market Guide for Network Automation – We talk broadly about the network automation market including vendors and approaches. You can use this to help shortlist the solutions/approaches that will best fit your environment.
- NetOps 2.0: Embrace Network Automation and Analytics to Stay Relevant – Many in the industry recognize the need for a newer and more agile way of networking. Some call it NetDevOps, others call it DevNetOps, while others (ok, just f5) call it super-NetOps. We call it Netops2.0.
- Best Networking Practices in a DevOps World – If you’re “doing” DevOps, you’ll probably find the network can be a long-pole in the tent. This research identifies to better integrate enterprise networking into DevOps initiatives.
And the Non-Gartner Resources (Note: This is by no means an exhaustive list and if you have other solid pragmatic resources, please feel free to post a comment or email me directly).
- Networking Guru Ivan Pepelnjak provides specific and pragmatic guidance around network automation, in this session. I know Ivan and deeply respect his work and approach.
- The O’Reilly book called Network Programmability and Automation is particularly good. The authors have practical real-world experience that is passed on in the text.
- Most folks that I talk to really like Ansible, for a number of reasons including the community, vendor support and of course, that it is agentless. Here’s a getting started guide from Ansible and some simple examples.
Happy Network Automation-ing in 2019,