Automate Your Network Management at Scale
Whether you are an enterprise managing your own network, or a managed network service (MNS) provider is delivering this capability remotely, automations are a critical element in your organization’s ability to provide superior levels of service delivery and quality.
The tools and techniques that provide network automation are particularly useful to improve operational agility, derive cost efficiencies, and reduce unintentional errors in executing tasks.
However, to realize these benefits, it is necessary to automate at significant scale. According to Gartner, most enterprises have less than 35% of network activities that are automated. Typical automation examples include:
- Service requests affecting change and configuration,
- Event processing,
- And incident management activities, including troubleshooting and non-manual remediation.
Automations also feature an underlying enabling technology in the conduct of Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps), which can provide more sophisticated service assurance capabilities. Automating at scale requires certain foundational elements to be in place that make it possible to realize actual business value.
Let’s look at a few:
A Trustworthy Knowledgebase
Any effort at automation needs to be driven by accurate data about the network and its composition. This includes up-to-date information on the state of the devices in the service delivery chain. Without this, it is practically impossible to conduct even the most basic of automation activities.
This collection of information is often referred to as the network source of truth (NSoT). It is not a single source that contributes to this knowledgebase, as the information itself exists in multiple places. One vital source is the configuration management database (CMDB).
It’s not uncommon for information on workflows and operational activities to be documented separately by network operations teams, or even residing in the form of human-intelligence in the minds of key personnel.
The Integration Landscape
Along with the challenge of distributed information sources, comes the need to work with multiple management systems and automation tools. The network management ecosystem can consist of a variety of IT Service Management (ITSM), IT Operations Management (ITOM), network performance management and diagnostics (NPMD), and digital experience platforms (DXP) systems. These, of course, are in addition to the aforementioned AIOps, CMDB and other utilities and tools that may be available.
Each of these systems provide APIs and integrations to access both the data and the automation capabilities they provide and a well-considered integration strategy needs to be put in place to leverage these.
A Capable Service Delivery Platform
Once the knowledgebase is in place and integrations are setup, there needs to be a command-and-control system that can execute automations. Which brings us to the service delivery platform (SDP). Whether an enterprise builds their own, or and MNS provider supplies it, the SDP is the primary system to provide automations at scale.
This is typically done by an overlay of an automation framework that provides the ability to perform cross-functional process automations, for example ticket enrichment in ITSM case management by the SDP or the ITOM systems. The next level up is the orchestration of these process workflows to achieve higher levels of automation.
Pulling It All Together
Before moving to activities directly affecting production systems, it pays to start small by automating simpler workflows around troubleshooting, testing, validation and reporting. The benefits of automating repetitive tasks are apparent, especially since they remove the human-error factors when properly executed. They also bring about cost efficiencies by being able to do more activities at a faster execution rate.
As confidence and the library of available automations improves, it becomes possible to orchestrate the more sophisticated activities around provisioning, event processing and incident management to truly realize the benefits of automation at scale.
Learn more about extensible automations.