Automation is the future of networking.
Generic hardware, monitoring tools, and software defined networking are making this possible.
Now, we need a culture shift and a desire to automate networking processes. Organizations will function more efficiently when networking and DevOps work on the same set of objectives. Network automation is a fundamental piece of this process.
To begin the process, let’s look at network automation principles for DevOps.
The first step to automate a task is visibility. Understanding current network functionality provides insights into processes that can be automated. Network monitoring provides network visibility, which is already a DevOps principle.
Network monitoring allows Network Engineers and System Administrators to collect data about their network performance. Whether monitoring network latency or network security, visibility and understanding are the key components.
Network insights provide the first level to understand where processes can be automated in networking.
Create a Process Inventory and Equipment Inventory
For tasks to be automated, a list of tasks should be created. This is creating a process and equipment inventory. What a process inventory does is provides an inventory list of all network processes you are currently doing.
Also, creating an inventory of all your network equipment will help to identify what processes relate to what equipment. For automation, it is sometimes the equipment that is preventing process automation. In this case, you will want to address configuration and how it interacts with equipment on an individual basis.
Once documented, you can look at tasks, processes, and equipment to determine how you can implement automation.
Simplify Network Architecture
Can you simplify your network?
This means using a combination of network function virtualization (NFV) and software defined networking (SDN). A combination of these two systems allows the separation of software and hardware, with the result being the ability to automate.
The primary way to simplify your network, using NFV and SDN, is to converge your network. Determine one architecture to use, and use it effectively. Once you have one architecture, use visibility and your inventory worksheet to create areas for automation.
The complexity of today’s networking environments demand this, and it will make your life much easier.
Use SDN Infrastructure
Software defined networking (SDN) is a core principle that makes automation possible. For DevOps, this will be part of your core infrastructure as code strategy. Made possible through generic switches and routers, the application of non-proprietary code to hardware is the fundamental piece of automation.
What SDN is going to allow you to do is control your network through code. By enabling this, you can now create replicable situations across hardware. This is a core element to network automation.
Automate Manual Tasks
Manual tasks make automation difficult. One of the main causes has been proprietary hardware requires running proprietary software. Therefore, configuration needed to be done on an individual basis. This is no longer the case.
Through the commodification of switches and routers, open source software can be used. A common software applied across the entire network. With a common operating system, such as Linux, you can now automate manual configuration tasks across multiple switches and routers.
Replicate One-Off Scripts
Python scripts are traditionally written as “one-off scripts”. Through the use of SDN, you can now replicate your code across multiple devices. This means the best software scripts can be used to run multiple pieces of hardware.
Enable SLA Automation
Service level agreements (SLA) can be automated. In practice, automating SLAs looks like a monitoring and notification setup. That means, the SLAs in place will have the requirements automated.
Taking network requirements and monitoring through notifications can limit manual oversight. The SLAs will keep the networking team on track to meet agreements, allowing them to focus on more critical areas of the network.
Understanding your network is fundamental to automation. As we discussed with network visibility, we can also achieve with notifications. Through network visibility, you can gather the information necessary to implement automation. Notifications will help with managing the implementation.
To enable notifications, requirements will need to be set. Also known as network rules. Once you have your requirements, you will want notifications anytime something violates the rule. One of two things will happen. This will either be “nice to know”, or you can make changes based upon the alerts.
Although you have automated network processes, management is still a necessary task. Notifications will enable this.
Evolve Automation Requirements
As you automate more processes, the more adjustments you can make. Constant evolution is essential to the DevOps process. This is no different in networking. As networking integrates itself with the DevOps team, getting feedback from the team will let you know where to improve.
Setting up an environment that is conducive to evolution is just as important as the evolution process itself. DevOps integration should make responding to feedback possible.
This is why NetDevOps is necessary.
Create a NetDevOps Culture
As with DevOps, NetDevOps is a cultural shift in networking with a focus on communication, feedback, and most of all, automation. To implement automation in networking, the team needs to adopt NetDevOps. With SDN, there are more tools to accomplish automation in networking on a technical level. Now it is a culture shift.
The desire to automate is just as necessary as the tools to be able to do so. This is why we advocate for adopting NetDevOps.
Understanding network automation principles provides the foundation for networking to align itself with DevOps. Through NetDevOps and infrastructure as code, network automation is possible.
To learn more about DevOps and networking, download the DevOps Networking eBook.