Evolution comes in fits and starts; some metamorphoses stick and others are washed away over time. The "software-defined" era we’re experiencing today is no different. It’s anyone’s guess as to which species of technology, strategy and culture will survive to define application delivery for the next decade or more. There are, however, a few safe bets that form the nexus of whichever variation wins out over time.
One such bet is the emergence of a more fluid and continuous application-development process. The market not only demands this agility of production, but our application-centric world requires speed and stability of these services. That means network configuration and policy creation need to match the pace at which DevOps cranks out applications, without sacrificing stability, scalability and security.
Yet, managing the need to develop and deploy applications faster while making sure they remain available, secure, stable, and scalable has long been seen as a set of competing priorities, if not outright mutually exclusive choices. Until recently, network and security teams have been forced to play catch-up with their developer counterparts. They’ve lacked a toolset designed to test policies and configurations before an application moves into production, essential to matching the pace of agile application development teams.
This is changing. Network virtualization and services automation – specifically, programmability of network and application service infrastructure – are leveling the playing field, allowing network operations (NetOps) and security operations (SecOps) teams to address the complex needs of planning and testing during application development. This represents an evolutionary step that all forward-looking organizations need to watch.
Today, NetOps and SecOps teams are utilizing APIs and templates to configure and test network and application service infrastructure concurrent with the application development. By undertaking this crucial work before new code is deployed in a production environment, network and security teams can now operate faster and safer.
Working in concert, these new technologies allow NetOps and SecOps professionals to automate, reuse and scale services as well as policies in concert with one another. The results: predictable, consistent services and policies that live across environments. Not only does this greatly improve the success rate of new application deployments, it brings agility and efficiency to network as well as security operations.
As DevOps pumps out hundreds or even thousands of releases daily, NetOps and SecOps will quickly become chokepoints if they don’t have the ability to move in-step with the development teams. Any enterprise trying to maintain that sort of agility can only do so through the systemic introduction of automation principles, not the least of which apply in the provisioning, configuration, testing, and deployment of application and network services. Automation can help in the following three key areas.
- Speed of deployment: Automation allows for quick network configuration or policy changes during the application development and test phases. Once the application is ready for production, all the "heavy" lifting on the network end has been done. Fine-tuning the network and security architecture at this point is much faster than if you’d waited and forced wholesale changes. Tickets that may have taken weeks to resolve can now often be closed in a matter of minutes.
- Stability of infrastructure: Automation allows developers to test and achieve stability of infrastructure with every application update. Given the skyrocketing rate of new code releases required of application-centric enterprises today, automation is the only way for NetOps and SecOps to assure that they can maintain the integrity of the underlying network architecture through myriad adjustments.
- Consistency of policy: Automation allows policies that are already established and tested to be reused across applications, without the need to re-architect the entire network infrastructure. By creating validated templates for provisioning and configuration policies, any application changes or updates can quickly be assessed against the network infrastructure without having to reconfigure from scratch. This significantly improves the efficiency, security and availability of resources throughout the lifecycle of critical applications.
Evolution is irrepressible. Innovation as a measure of the speed of evolution is the universal aspiration. For NetOps and SecOps, manual network configuration and policy creation have gone the way of the dinosaur; it can't keep up with today’s rapidly changing application-centric environment. But now that DevOps methodology has come to the network in the forms of virtualization, automation, templates and APIs, a newer, more agile breed of application development and delivery has arrived on the scene. For network and security teams, this innovation looks to have the staying power to stick around for a while.