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NetDevOps: Applying DevOps Practices in Networking

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Network Automation
(Source: Pixabay)

Most systems rely on networking for communications and proper operation. However, the network infrastructure can sometimes be fragile. Therefore, you should avoid network changes if possible. Changes to network infrastructure are subjected to strict, costly, and long background checks. Despite these checks, network changes are full of problems and unexpected impacts. The majority of these problems occur due to cases of human error and lack of thorough validation. NetDevOps can provide the necessary automation to avoid human errors.

What is NetDevOps?

NetDevOps is defined as an intersection of DevOps and Networking. NetDevOps automates manual and traditional network processes by using Infrastructure as Code (IaC).

IaC enables you to provision and manage data center resources like computers and connectivity. Infrastructure as Code is based on machine-readable configuration files, rather than physical hardware of interactive configuration tools.

Similar to DevOps, NetDevOps is a combination of roles and processes. NetDevOps leverages the strengths of each team, assessing each team’s goals, and takes into account the weaknesses of each team.

NetDevOps Benefits

Since NetDevOps absorbs DevOps into networking administration, this new merger of fields relies heavily on DevOps practices. The goal of applying these practices? To improve networking administration by breaking down silos, increasing automation, and reducing manual work.

Break down silos

The main objective of NetDevOps is to increase efficiency by encouraging collaboration and communication between teams. Collaboration enables teams to be more pragmatic and efficient when facing problems. This includes sharing tools across the entire IT infrastructure. Once you set up a collaborative infrastructure, all team members can properly communicate, and you can then say goodbye to silos.

Reduce manual intervention with IaC

Making manual changes in network infrastructure wastes time and increases human errors. IaC applies DevOps practices to ensure that automation scripts are free of errors. You can redeploy these scripts on multiple servers, roll them back, and make them accessible to all teams. Make sure to consider IaC when you want to reduce manual intervention in NetDevOps.

Network automation

Network operations are usually executed manually, device by device using the Command-Line Interface (CLI). Network automation can align networking with IT operations and tools, enabling the network workflow to be more agile. Network automation includes automating the management, configuration, testing, and deployment of virtual and physical devices within a network. The benefits of network automation include faster service initiation, wireless management, complete application visibility, and reduction of human error.

How to Implement NetDevOps?

NetDevOps implementation enables organizations to deploy network Infrastructure as Code practices. You can do it using the following two approaches:

  • Software-defined network (SDN): Enables you to control network behavior by using software. This enables network operators to support new services and individual users by modifying the behavior of their networks.

  • Using a cloud provider: NetDevOps teams are responsible for installing the necessary infrastructure for code deployment. Most cloud vendors already provide this infrastructure as part of their offerings. For instance, AWS CloudFormation offers the required infrastructure for IaC. As a result, the DevOps teams can utilize the same automation tools in networking as they do in cloud environments.

NetDevOps enables you to avoid repetitions, prevent errors, and successfully deliver code.  However, shifting to NetDevOps requires a big cultural change.

NetDevOps as a Cultural Change

A DevOps culture sets the pace for all team members, including operation and developers. This culture typically emphasizes the importance of communication, collaboration, and transparency between operations, development, and business teams.

Building a DevOps culture can sometimes be complicated since people don't like changes. You need to clearly communicate expectations to ensure your team is well prepared for the big change and prevent mistakes.

NetDevOps implementations also involve a huge cultural change. You can adopt the following practices in order to fear of change:

  • Accept failure and learn from your mistakes.

  • Understand that change is crucial for further development and improvement.

  • Establish active collaboration and communication between operations and development teams.

  • Encourage teams to take responsibility for ownership of their tasks.

  • Provide continuous feedback to developers and operations teams to escalate iterations and improve processes.

  • Use automation, which is necessary for improving the development and operations cycle.

This shift can ensure effective team collaboration that focuses on automation and improves the reliability and flexibility of the network. 

Network DevOps Requires Automation

NetDevOps teams need DevOps tools to keep their networks running smoothly in the face of constant application change. Automation can help address this requirement:

  • Speed of deployment: Automation enables quick policy or network configuration changes during the development and testing stages.

  • Stability of infrastructure: Automation enables developers to achieve stable infrastructure and create tests for every application update. This includes updates of supporting networking infrastructure like containers. Automation also enables NetDevOps to maintain the integrity of the fundamental network architecture by using configuration management tools.

  • Consistent processes: Automation enables you to reuse policies that are already tested and established across applications. You do not need to re-architect the entire network infrastructure to improve the efficiency, availability, and security of resources.

Conclusion

NetDevOps is yet another merger, set in place to break networking administration silos. Like DevOps, NetDevOps implementations lead to major cultural changes, forcing people from different fields to change their daily work practices. To help all relevant roles adjust to this change, team leaders must first alleviate fears. However, this change is well worth the effort. Once teams adopt NetDevOps practices, they can collaborate more efficiently.

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