Your Network Needs Four Essential Characteristics. What’s the first one? Automation.
May 17, 2017
The history of IT is closely aligned with automation, from the early computers such as the Enigma Machine to the latest machine learning tools enabling use cases such as automated cancer diagnosis. All of these take tasks that a human can do, but by automating them, it allows people to focus upon higher value work.
If we look at networking, automation is at the heart of many recent trends such as SDN (i.e. automating network control) and NFV (i.e. automating the delivery of specific functions which used to be run on dedicated appliances).
But, automation is not the only essential within a network.
Our CEO at Juniper Networks, Rami Rahim, regularly talks about his vision for the future, which he describes as Digital Cohesion. The key theme around Digital Cohesion is that technology will become central to everything we do – and that many devices and services will come together (i.e. Cohesion) to enable a new class of mega services. Mr. Rahim outlines four potential barriers - economics, trust, interoperability, and performance. Watch him present the vision here. To overcome these, I believe that networks should be built using four ‘network essentials for the future’. Networks must be: automated, open, secure, and high performance.
In this first blog, I will focus on the theme of automation and what world-class looks like. In future blogs, I’ll move on to look at the essentials of open, secure, and high performance networks.
Every business will have some level of automation within its network, but where should you be aiming to make sure that your business is not significantly behind the competition?
The Juniper vision for automation is best articulated by the concept of a fully autonomous Self-Driving NetworkTM. Here are the key areas which I believe need to become autonomous to enable this vision:
Discovery of its own constituent parts
Automatic detection and enablement of new customers
This vision is not yet deliverable in some large and complex networks. But, it is starting to become a reality in some. I’ve recently heard about a cloud provider who has fully automated the scale-out of its data centre. As the data centre approaches capacity limits, it automatically decides that expansion is required. The data centre then places purchase orders for additional hardware, generates wiring diagrams, and orders installation services from a contractor. Once the equipment is installed, it is configured automatically via zero-touch provisioning, then tested and commissioned. Without any intervention from the IT team, the data centre has automatically expanded itself. The network in this example is relatively simple when compared with a multinational service provider network servicing hundreds of enterprise customers. It is limited to a single site and a consistent design. But it does show what is achievable today.
As I’ve been thinking about automation, I’ve started to consider how we can grade a network based on its level of automation on a scale of 1 to 10. An approximate scoring guide is shown below:
As I finish this blog; I have a few questions for you:
How would you score your own network on a scale of 1 to 10 for automation?
Where would you like your network to be in 2-3 years’ time?
What are the immediate next steps you would like to take to close your automation gap?
If you want to learn more about what Juniper is delivering for network automation, check out the links below:
Kireeti Komlella presenting his Self-Driving Network vision at MPLS Congress in Paris - here