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Industry Solutions and Trends
Automation with SDN/NFV: go all in, or do something else
Nov 11, 2015

Any non-US citizen who’s visited the US will have experienced the “pleasure” of US immigration and the long wait to get your passport stamped. When I arrived at JFK airport this week I was happy to get access to the new Automated Passport Control machines that check your passport, fingerprints and take your picture. However, this delight was soon dealt a crushing blow. After leaving the machine, I realised that there was then a manual process to check that I looked like my passport picture and to get my passport stamped. Unfortunately, there was 35 minute wait for this final manual check.


Looking at the process as an outsider I was left wondering why a computer didn’t do the facial recognition from my passport (as happens in the UK and other EU countries), and why I needed a physical stamp in my passport when it could be logged digitally?


Despite introducing some level of automation, the overall process of getting passengers from the plane to the arrivals concourse was essentially not really any faster than with a fully manual process. This partial automation of the border process has undoubtedly cut costs due to fewer officials, but in my experience had little impact upon my personal waiting time. As I walked out to get my train in to the city I was left unhappy with the whole process.


My experience had illustrated how automation can be useless, and even a negative impact, unless 100% of the process is automated.




Automation is at the heart of the ongoing IT transformations that are being enabled by a move to software due to SDN/NFV. However, automation is not easy. Organisations embarking upon automation need to look at the whole process t ensure that 100% of the manual interventions are eradicated via automation. Without 100% automation is it going to be impossible to successfully transform your business and unlock that nirvana of agility.


About 2 years ago I was working with a customer that is a leading adopter of SDN/NFV. They were examining how they could use SDN/NFV to reduce service delivery costs and offer services to the more price sensitive SME segment. Despite automating much of the process they did not (at that time) have a solution to automate the network configuration of the virtualised application in the data centre. This partial automation left a great big hole in the middle of the business case and the project was abandoned. Cloud CPE is a perfect example of how automation can be combined with SDN/NFV to reduce costs, increase business agility and help service providers to grow their business. The video below talks about how to automate the service lifecycle using Juniper’s Cloud CPE solution.


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Both the airport example, and the one from our customer reinforces to me that when automating you need to be ruthless to ensure that all manual processes are eradicated. If you don’t eradicate all manual processes – you will fail to get the benefits of automation.