ET Bureau: Why is intelligent network automation so important to enterprises in today’s economy?
Jeff Gray: Enterprises in today’s economy are often faced with two main challenges – delivering on core business needs in a cost and talent-efficient manner and migrating to the cloud as part of their digital transformation efforts.
As networks move to the cloud and extend across multiple domains, managing device configurations grows more critical and challenging. While moving to the cloud and virtualization initiatives have evolved and grown over time, corporate networks have been slower to adopt modern automation solutions, still utilizing error-prone manual processes.
As a result, over 90% of network changes are performed manually, 70% of network policy violations are due to human error, and 75% of operating expenses globally are spent on troubleshooting.
Given these challenges, the days of manual intervention and the need for highly trained staff to implement low-value tasks are over. Successfully automating network management is now key to enterprise organizational success.
Adding the unique challenges of remote work and equipment access brought on by the pandemic, IT organizations are now central to business success. Numerous network upgrades are taking place across various network domains, including SD-WAN deployments in the WAN, Software-defined data centers (including overlays like EVPN-VXLAN), Hybrid-Cloud accelerating the use of IaaS and SaaS.
As a result, one of the critical upgrades will be in the management plane with automation and orchestration to simplify management across various network domains.
At the core, today’s enterprises need to focus on delivering business value and digitizing while reducing costs and optimizing resources. Intelligent network automation allows enterprises to accomplish these goals by reducing manual tasks and manual errors while migrating away from manual technologies to achieve efficiency and agility with security.
ET Bureau: How does network automation transform businesses?
Jeff Gray: When network automation is accomplished efficiently and effectively, it opens the door to unexpected cost savings. Teams spend less time in reactive mode and more time meeting business imperatives.
Cost-saving factors include human error reduction, NetOps staff efficiency, savings in planning, design, implementation activities, reduction in costly network outages, and the elimination of expensive software maintenance contracts for legacy management systems. Since improper configuration changes cause most network outages, organizations often shift from error-prone manual approaches to intelligent automation, starting with discovery to identify basic device information such as model numbers, operating system versions, and configuration files.
From there, they can perform intelligent configuration management and use declarative provisioning to read and compare the current configured state of each feature, make only changes necessary, remove out of policy configurations, and correct incorrect statements.
Intelligent network automation can also transform the businesses without the time and cost associated with retraining employees to become programmers or the added expense of hiring consultants with advanced skills. Further cost savings are achieved when businesses are not required to develop and maintain in-house built scripts and programs.
ET Bureau: What can enterprises do today to ensure their network and security capabilities can accommodate the rapidly changing IT needs?
Jeff Gray: The pandemic has forced the hand of many organizations to accelerate their network automation journeys so they can ensure network agility and maintain network security even in the face of changing network traffic patterns, increased remote work, reduced ability to access critical network equipment and disruptions to networking supply chains.
This is even more critical as networks extend into the cloud at hyperscale, rely on software-defined data centers, add more domains–some outside the network like public cloud resources. Changes like these pose additional threats or issues to mission-critical enterprise networks.
Intuitive, intent-based automation solutions should offer the ability to integrate new physical network locations quickly, eliminate the need for manual tasks and identify, remedy network issues and slowdowns, and reduce human errors that open the door to network attacks.
Time to value is also critically important. When selecting their network management approach, enterprises should consider platforms that can start automating without the development and testing cycles required if organizations are self-building scripts and programs. It ultimately results in cost and time savings and allows teams to focus on strategic projects that directly deliver business value to their organizations.
ET Bureau: Has COVID-19 impacted how CIOs and CTOs view their network management products?
Jeff Gray: COVID-19 has accelerated the need for CIOs and CTOs to advance their journeys to self-operating. Overnight, business continuity planning has moved to front and center in most enterprise organizations.
Given the sudden need to service a distributed, remote workforce and provide for remote network access, IT leaders quickly strengthened remote VPN and security solutions so their workforce can safely connect and they can securely operate their business from afar and without crucial staff on site.
This change in how we work and do business has brought the need for flexible network automation solutions to the forefront of technology investment considerations. COVID-19 has evolved IT leaders’ thinking from looking for tools that provide the flexibility to implement automation incrementally over time to platforms that can rapidly transform their businesses to fully automated in weeks versus years.
Jeff Gray is the CEO and co-founder of Gluware, the leading provider of Intelligent Network Automation. As CEO, he oversees business operations and strategy, as well as the development of enterprise-leading intent-based network automation technologies adopted by some of the largest Global 2000 enterprises from Pharma to Finance. Gray has been a networking industry leader for decades, starting with the commercial development of innovative high-bandwidth networking solutions as a student at California Polytechnic State University.