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The Foundation for Frictionless IT Automation
May 2, 2013

Frictionless IT Automation


IT organizations strive for frictionless automation solutions that deliver immediate business agility across multiple technology domains.  Their workflow automation chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and many think that link is the network.  The IT industry is excited about the idea of programming the network.   DevOps and Cloud Engineers need to build automation solutions, inclusive of networking, using open APIs, open software, in a collaborative and dynamic environment What does it take to Build the Best IT automation solution?  It takes Junos.


IT leaders are looking for frictionless IT automation solutions to achieve:


  • Lower Costs  By automating common, yet complex tasks, they can reduce or shift the engineer staff required to manage their network.
  • Reduce Risk – Complex systems appear fragile when manually operated because humans make mistakes.  IT organizations can overcome their fears of network automation by the managing risk in solution development.  Today, server and application automation is the standard.  Network automation is next.
  • Improve Service – In many cases the network infrastructure is a utility to the applications that run the business.  By automating the deployment and lifecycle of networking infrastructure change, the IT organization provides a better value to both internal and external customers.


Junos is Built for Workflow Automation


Junos was designed over a decade ago for large-complex system automation and "northbound" network-wide orchestration.  Built directly into the core of Junos is an XML based automation Application Programming Interface (API).


Note key features of Juniper's approach to the Junos API:


  • Structured Data Exchange – Automation systems require a strong data exchange model such as XML.  Legacy approaches of "automating the CLI" and SNMP are fragile and have impeded progress in networking automation for years. 
  • Secure – Management systems must authenticate over a dedicated channel separate from the CLI.  The XML data is exchanged over an encrypted SSHv2 connection.   Standard RADIUS and TACACS remote authentication methods are supported.
  • Role Based  Junos provides explicit and granular Role Based Access Control (RBAC) for "who can do what" both in terms of operations and in changing the configuration.  This is critical to controlling risk in workflow automation process.
  • Comprehensive and Consistent – The XML coverage is completely inclusive of all operational commands and configuration controls.   There is no gap between delivering a release of Junos, qualifying that release, and automating that release.  The XML API is consistent across Junos releases.  This helps eliminate risk of automation solution development.  New features and controls are additions to the XML definition.  In the rare cases of XML changes (bug fixes for example), the changes are clearly noted in the publicly available documentation.


Frictionless IT Requires Consumable Automation


Junos provides the critical foundation for building the best IT workflow automation solutions.  An Application Programming Interface, however, simply provides access to the underlying functions of the network. To create a frictionless IT solution that crosses multiple technology domains, the API must be consumable to the IT organization.


Consider a network engineering team that does not have coding skillsTo a non-programmer an API is not consumable. Telling that team you have a great API is like telling me to go to The Home Depot and build a house.  'Nuff said.    


We, as an industry, need to find ways to make network automation consumable to IT organizations.  Integrating with existing DevOps solutions like Puppet and Chef is one way as it makes the network consumable to DevOps.  We can learn from the evolution-history of DevOps and apply their lessons-learned and techniques to network automation.  We must challenge ourselves to make networking API technology consumable to both DevOps who have programming skills, and NetOps who are now starting that journey.


When your IT organization is considering networking infrastructure, ask yourself:  


"Will this equipment provide my organization the foundation and technologies to create frictionless IT automation?"