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‘Integration Tax’ Limits Network Automation

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toy construction workers and construction equipment trying to put together giant, colorful ethernet cables
Kirill Makarov / Alamy Stock Photo

According to Gartner research, turnkey integration of key tools and vendors is a critical capability for network automation. However, most network software vendors create a challenging integration environment with custom code requirements, high costs of integration, long project timelines, and limited versatility of the systems they’re integrating. In addition, an organization’s internal structure or workflows can also create challenges and additional costs.

Essentially, for every dollar a company spends on a new technology such as network automation, they have to spend multiple dollars to integrate that technology system into their existing environment. The result is what some refer to as an “Integration Tax.” This can lead to hard choices for companies, with full integration of the technology becoming either too costly or too time-consuming, forcing customers to only integrate a few essential systems or solving for only portions of larger processes.

Removing silos to advance automation

When it comes to mitigating the Integration Tax, the first place an organization should look is inward. Most organizations have created siloed teams oriented around specific areas of subject matter expertise. While that may make sense from an organizational perspective, a siloed approach also creates an environment where enterprises are only able to automate individual tasks within those siloes, not full processes across the siloes, limiting the effectiveness of their system integration and automation efforts, and adding to the cost of integration.

To overcome that, every team should identify which of their existing tools and systems can be leveraged within their current environment, understanding the immediate value they offer, and selecting the “right tool for the right job.” Next, they should look for opportunities to eliminate hand-offs between siloes through effective sharing of data and tool capabilities. Taking the time to review their internal structures and identify opportunities to break down silos and share data will speed integration of automation solutions and reduce the cost of that integration.

How to choose the right network automation tools

After looking inward to remove internal barriers, organizations then need to look outward and select the right automation solutions that can be implemented in the most cost-effective way.

The network automation landscape continues to change rapidly and the number of automation and orchestration tools and technologies now available for organizations has skyrocketed. Network engineering and operations teams have many options to choose from, including scripting languages, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools, automation platforms, and open source tools. Given these options, it’s more important than ever for networking professionals to select their tools carefully in order to see the most impact at the best cost.

Once in place, an effective automation solution allows an organization to leverage all of its existing tools and systems, as well as the flexibility to switch out and replace tools. Even better, having one solution to oversee them all – connecting everything, regardless of vendor or domain, especially if that tool is designed for low-cost, rapid integration – can maximize an organization’s automation benefits while minimizing the cost of integration.

Other ways to eliminate the Integration Tax

In addition to streamlining workflows and selecting the right tools, organizations have multiple other options to address the key challenges that impede the ability of engineering and network ops teams to interact across networks and new technologies, including:       

  • Rather than manual integrations, teams should create real-time integration capabilities, as well as software-generated adapters and workflow objects, to reduce integration time.
  • Go codeless. Most systems speak different languages. For example, while many systems use REST APIs, the payloads that the systems use to describe the network are frequently very different, creating impediments for integration. Codeless integration capabilities can overcome those obstacles and empower users to integrate quickly with any API-managed IT system, network controller, or cloud platform that the organization wishes to use.
  • Data transformation can allow organizations to transform the data payloads that come from different integration points and enable an automation system to incorporate that data into automation flows, replacing complicated scripts.

By addressing those challenges and others, organizations can avoid the Integration Tax and facilitate faster, easier change and innovation.

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