Making the Business Case for Datacenter Network Automation
Oct 11, 2016
“Your network should not get in the way of what your business wants to do.”
Excellent bit of wisdom. But what can you do about it? One thing to do is to turn to a trusted source for help. Maybe that source is your Data Center buddy, maybe it’s a trade show, maybe a LinkedIn group. Many chose to consult with their vendors and over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting blogs that will offer tips to get you started on making this important change to your IT infrastructure. First, we’ll help you make the business case.
Network automation is critical to modernizing every organization’s IT infrastructure. The companies that are setting the pace for innovation — the hyper-scale cloud suppliers such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft — are all leveraging network automation to reduce costs and increase agility. While your company may not have the same scale as these, it turns out many of the tools and processes that they use are available now to companies of any size.
Nevertheless, making changes to your network remains one of IT’s greatest challenges. It’s always been a lengthy exercise, usually done manually by a specialized team of network engineers. Nowadays, expectations that drive networking are much different, so changes need to be implemented quickly, preferably automatically in line with the demands of applications traversing the network. Similarly, the process of introducing new services to the network should also be automated and accelerated.
So let’s begin by looking at how automation can save you bucks.
Hitting the Bottom Line
As with any important technology initiative, the IT team should be prepared to make a strong business case for network automation. That should be followed by identifying the business processes that will benefit from the initiative. Let’s start, though, with the key benefits automating the datacenter network can bring to the business. These four help make a strong case.
Lower costs: Automation can lower operational costs by eliminating many of the time-consuming manual processes involved in provisioning, managing, deploying and scaling a network infrastructure. A recent study by IDC and Juniper Networks showed that companies lowered their networking costs by 33 percent using network automation solutions from Juniper. Organizations with limited IT staffs can use their resources much more strategically. Another important point to consider: With the right tools, automation can pay for itself very quickly through cost savings, improved productivity and faster time to market.
Accelerate time to value: This is an important consideration in today’s era of cloud computing and IT consumerization. When the business is launching a new service or onboarding new employees, it must be able to move quickly and agilely in order to keep pace with competitive market pressures. Any delays in leveraging a new business opportunity or in making employees more productive could have a negative impact on business operations and company morale.
Reduce risk and improve availability: One of the biggest challenges with relying on manual processes for network provisioning and management is the possibility of downtime caused by human error. With automation, processes are repeated and consistent. With manual processes, human error can cause key applications to crash and create delays in getting new services to users.
Increase productivity: Network automation will help to increase productivity across the board. The same IDC-Juniper study showed that productivity increased by as much as 86 percent with automation solutions from Juniper due to reduced network downtime. IT teams will be able to reduce the time required to provision and scale infrastructure, and end users will have the advantage of accessing new applications and services more quickly, with reduced risk of downtime for their business-critical applications.
Finally, the study showed that the greater uptime afforded by Juniper networking solutions also provided those enterprises more network availability for the important job of innovation.
Process Benefit Analysis
Once you’ve made the business case for network automation, the next step is to identify the business processes that can benefit most quickly and readily. You are probably not going to deploy network automation across the board, so you want to build a series of successes that will provide tangible proof of the value of automation.
Begin with a specific function of the business. Let’s use human resources. Within HR, identify the standard, repeatable tasks that could benefit from an automated approach. For example, when new employees are on-boarded, they have to be set up on the network. Look at the processes that are consistent across the board such as giving new employees an identity and permissions for the resources they will need to access. When employees leave the company, the processes are also consistent: Deleting them from the system and restricting their access. Contractors are another area within HR. They need to be given certain levels of temporary access to do their jobs, but you don’t want them accessing the entire network. Then, when their work is completed, you want to take them off the network.
If your IT and network teams have to make manual changes for each employee and contractor for every one of these processes they will have little time to do anything else. With automation, these tasks can be handled simply, quickly and reliably.
Juniper Networks can help you make the business case for network automation. Next time, we’ll show you how to develop a plan to get you started in the right direction so your network doesn’t get in the way of what your business wants to do. In the meantime, contact us here if you’d like to know more.