NetOps Meets DevOps: The State of Network Automation

  • Digital transformation anchors the majority of today’s enterprise IT investments.
  • Network operations teams need to rapidly configure, scale, secure and integrate network infrastructure and Layer 4-7 application services.
  • An organization adhering to DevOps principles embraces a collaborative, business-centric approach to development.

Modern agile development practices, microservices, containers and cloud infrastructure have combined to empower application developers to innovate faster and update applications more frequently than ever before. This adoption of agile development and operational strategies requires more scalable and flexible infrastructure teams and processes, ensuring that production network, Layer 4-7 application services and applications can scale as needed. Therefore, development and test resources are ready whenever requested.

DevOps represents the integration of application development and IT operations at many levels including culture, process workflows, and infrastructure management, as well as application creation, test, deployment, and delivery.

A new discipline, DevOps, has emerged to address these needs. DevOps represents the integration of application development and IT operations at many levels including culture, process workflows, and infrastructure management, as well as application creation, test, deployment, and delivery. Among enterprise IT teams, 72% expect they will have adopted DevOps methodologies for at least some of their development activities within the next 12 months.

Early DevOps initiatives have focused on the integration of development, testing and computing infrastructure provisioning to increase developer productivity and speed applications to market. As more and more organizations move towards using DevOps driven workflows to support production applications, the impact on network operations is significant.

Specifically, network operations teams need to rapidly configure, scale, secure and integrate network infrastructure and Layer 4-7 application services. They must anticipate and respond to dynamic, ever changing workload requirements for flexible capacity, application security, load balancing and multi-cloud inegrations. In short, the network team needs to be as agile and flexible as the applications team and be fully empowered to drive network agility.

Network operations teams need the same level of reusable, scalable and software-defined automation to control network resources as systems and cloud administrators have over computing and storage assets. Modern, open-source-driven automation-ascode solutions provide proven technology to accelerate the transformation of network operations using automation to support digital initiatives and DevOps priorities.

At F5 and Red Hat, we were curious about the state of network automation and co-sponsored a survey of more than 400 IT DevOps and NetOps professionals to explore the topic. Our findings identify opportunities where NetOps teams can learn from DevOps best practices, integrate with continuous deployment tool chains and take advantage of modern, open-source driven automation technologies to create a more agile, business-centric value for tomorrow’s networks.

Network operations teams need the same level of reusable, scalable and software-defined automation to control network resources as systems and cloud administrators have over computing and storage assets.

Methodology & Survey Demographics

The survey analysis is based on 400+ respondents who answered a web-based survey in English. Questions focused on the Business and IT Benefits of embracing automation, current challenges and bottlenecks, adoption of automation tools and required skills to take advantage of automation. The survey was administered and analyzed by an independent research company on behalf of F5 and Red Hat®. Answers are kept strictly confidential and individual feedback was combined with the feedback from all other respondents worldwide.

The Benefits of Automation In DevOps Environments

An organization adhering to DevOps principles embraces a collaborative, business-centric approach to development that values tight links between business decision makers, application development staff, IT operations and infrastructure managers.

It also relies heavily on automation to provide a number of important benefits (see Figure 1) including:

  • Minimizing human errors
  • Increasing IT productivity
  • Shortening application deployment and update timelines
  • Improving application performance success
  • Reducing the cost of infrastructure

When paired with adequate training and use of collaborative cross-team operational processes, modern, open-source-driven automation technologies such as Ansible® have proven critical to the success of many organizations’ digital transformation initiatives. IDC reports that 85% of enterprises believe automation is very important to the success of their DevOps programs.

Automation technologies offer enterprise teams the opportunity to move away from device, vendor specific scripts and tooling by taking advantage of infrastructure as code.

This may included the following:

  • Documentation shifts from static runbook PDFs to human readable code.
  • Automation becomes accessible, and managed under source control, such as GitHub.
  • Adhoc interventions become scheduled, documented and auditable.

The result is greater operational reliability, better infrastructure uptime and on demand availability, improved staff productivity and fewer unplanned outages and maintenance windows.

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