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How Does Network Automation Support Business Continuity?

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Network Automation
(Source: Pixabay)

With the growing impact of coronavirus on society worldwide, organizations face significant disruptions not only to their supply chains but also to their ability to ensure staff and business continuity and to manage their resources-- in the physical world and in the cloud. Thankfully, recent IT megatrends, including digitization and cloud migration, have made tools such as telecommuting and teleconferencing commonplace, and they are among the first lines of defense in organizational pandemic planning. But IT leaders realize that in order to truly shore up their business and network continuity, they must also manage their networks more automatically, to help handle the workload for specific staff members and teams efficiently and effectively.

Who on the IT team can help with network automation?

As enterprises consider automating their networks to support business continuity with a dispersed or variable workforce, there are three job roles that will be tasked with implementing network changes.

The management layer is first including directors of networking, chief information officers, or chief technology officers. These are the people who ultimately own the delivery of the network services and the budget.

The architecture team or network engineering is second, responsible for network design,

vendor selection, and other key strategic tasks. They are responsible for dictating the lifecycle of the network, including what information is going into it, the intelligence layer, the automation layer, and what configurations should be included.

The third is the "NetOps" or network operations team responsible for keeping the network running daily. They manage ticket queues and resolve issues that arise from any network state changes, which makes their role very dynamic and essential to network uptime and access to applications. They monitor network operations and must quickly address any issues that arise when, say, their network management or architecture team make changes, such as when a new facility is deployed or moving network devices from one facility to another.

With more and more vendors being onboarded to the enterprise network environment, it is business-critical to keep the network up and running like a top. There are several benefits to automation in these scenarios, since anything done repeatedly functions best when automated. By automating simple network fix requests that come in by ticket, the organization can reduce laborious, costly, and potentially error-prone human effort. This could be a significant liberator for the NetOps team, which is often running at 80% capacity at any given time.

Implementing automation

Deploying automation in the network requires a careful hand to ensure business continuity since any changes made will be like updating a jet engine while the plane is still in flight. There’s a historical perception that automation needs to be done in-house since all networks are unique and have unique needs. This makes their management very resources-intensive, both from a staffing and time perspective. As a result, the NetOps team needs to be supported and empowered by any switch to automation that frees them from repetitive manual labor to focus on more strategic, high-value work.

The goal of automation is to have a network that can support business continuity across the organization: reducing time to market, flexibly matching the changing needs of the business, and spanning vendors across complex enterprise environments.  Perhaps the organization has multiple cloud vendors and is in the process of migrating workloads to the cloud while continuing to manage their on-premises data centers and has deadlines driven by the expiration of a contract. Or maybe your business is in the tax field and heading into tax season. You anticipate having a massive spike in network load with a drop-off for the rest of the year.

Ideally, an organization can automate the adjustments they need their network to make, be able to see what those changes would do before deploying them, and then push the changes live to minimize the impact on live traffic.  

Make way for the future

The pandemic is forcing organizations to reevaluate their plans day-to-day and look to future-proofing their networks with as much agility as possible to protect the continuity of the business. Network automation enables better performance, new revenue sources, and decreased strain on the business itself. By taking an automated strategy to network orchestration, the IT team can manage complex, multi-vendor networks at scale, accelerating urgent network management initiatives that prevent network outages, enhance network security, and keep IT teams up-to-date with ever-changing business requirements.