How Do You Improve Network Agility?

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How Do You Improve Network Agility?

The advantages of and techniques for improving network agility.

· Performance Zone ·
Free Resource

Organizations are in search of improving network agility, but what exactly does this mean? Network agility is represented by the volume of change in the network over a period of time and is defined as the capability for software and hardware component’s to automatically configure and control itself in a complex networking ecosystem. The rise of innovative efforts made by several vendors to expand and modernize network device interfaces is improving network agility and is seen with emerging technologies such as SD-WAN, SDN, NFV, and intent-based networking. This network interface innovation stems from the use of programmable constructs like Yang, Tosca, and DevOps in an effort to move away from the CLI. However, organizations are still looking for ways to further improve network agility, but how do they get there?

Modern Technologies Are Complex

While these modern technologies provide tremendous business value, their complexity is difficult to consume without automation as a complementary approach. The combination of innovative networking concepts (including controllers, orchestrators, network APIs) with automation will drive further improvement in network agility similar to what has been observed in the computing and storage domains. In brief, automation is the key to adopting the complexity of these modern technologies and enabling organizations to actually exercise and implement innovations that can increase network agility.

An all too common war story is that many technology leaders are excited about network virtualization technologies (like SD-WAN, VNF, etc.) without understanding the operational impacts. They put the cart before the horse per se. As a result, they are not able to realize the real benefits of network virtualization and are forced to halt projects until they bring in automation to offset the operational impacts on par with existing network technologies. Complexity involved in trying to implement these technologies without incorporating an automation strategy has stalled several organizations in their path toward a modern and robust network.

The Goal of Automation Is Agility

The ultimate goal of automation is to provide greater agility making all parts of IT (compute, storage and networking) work in unison to support dynamic digital business; however, network automation is a journey and not something that can be achieved by just installing the latest and greatest switches and controllers. The biggest barrier to network automation is an ecosystem with legacy and modern technologies that were not built for an API first world and maintained by manual processes. In order for organizations to achieve success, they need to think in an automation first mentality.

IT and Networking Are on Path to Intersection

As stated, NFV, SDN, and other emerging technologies are making the network increasingly dynamic while also adding new components and layers of complexity that operators have not had to deal with before. The worlds of IT and Networking are on a path to an intersection and the way to address this additional complexity is through automation. It is becoming critical that operators take an automation first approach to rolling out these new technologies. Designing the manual process for human hands and then trying to automate that exact process is not sustainable. Instead, designing the process for automation first and focusing on what is required of the automation toolset is the better course of action. If automation is viewed as mission-critical instead of a nice to have, the need for the manual process will decrease and network agility will increase.

Improving network agility is predominantly driven by programmability. The right network automation platform can serve as the Network API and deliver self-service concepts to application developers, treating the network-like code. The successful adoption of modern networking principles should be gated based on the ability of an organization to consume and benefit from new technologies with automation being the key to network agility.

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