3 Examples of How Automation Can Transform NetOps

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Automating can help IT and NetOps be more agile, accurate, secure, compliant and cost-efficient. It requires some coordination, but the payoff of automation can be enormous.

Enterprises NetOps faces an increasingly complex, fast-moving landscape — and, all too often, a budget that’s spread too thin. These and other aggressive forces continue applying pressure to the NetOps world.

The question many have is, Can automation platforms truly transform the NetOps world for the better—or will they only add to the complexity and noise? In this article, we’ll examine some of the specific pressures pushing against NetOps. Then, we’ll look at three use cases of NetOps automation and how it can streamline processes and results.

NetOps Under Pressure

What types of forces are sculpting the NetOps world?

There are many.

You face a whirlwind of moving parts, complex infrastructures and coordination between numerous departments and stakeholders. You deal with the migration to the cloud and the churn of certificate lifecycles. Beyond that, you’ve got to manage service request catalogs, load balancing, upgrading, backing up, restoring, and more. All these currents merge and force NetOps to move ever faster, deploying with increasingly higher frequency. All while staying under budget.

Adding to the challenge is the fact that, in most businesses, manual handoffs are still the way things are done. For example, suppose a client reports that an application is performing poorly. A variety of engineers — from network, security, application, storage, and more — investigate. How does that investigation typically proceed? Sequentially, with manual handoffs from one team to another at every stage. And once the bug is discovered, the same engineers may need to engage in the cumbersome process again. The inefficiency can be staggering.

Use Case #1: Automating ADC Management

Managing your application delivery controller (ADC) is a critical component of keeping your app owners happy. They want access to applications on any device, from anywhere at any time. So, when you need to make changes to the ADC, and those changes take weeks or months, that poses a big problem for the clients and you.

[ Related: Using Automation in Warehouse Logistics ]

By automating ADC management organizations can provide role-based management, automation, and orchestration of multi-vendor ADC environments that serve mode 1 and mode 2 applications across data centers. Managers can map to the needs of application owners, network engineers, and network operations. They can also simplify version upgrades and enable self-service capabilities. All of this makes things easier for IT and NetOps on three fronts.

  • First, you can make changes to the ADC faster. One NetOps group that we spoke with said that prior to implementing an ADC automation platform, it was taking them up to 45 days to make needed changes. Post automation, that same group can now make those changes in seconds.
  • On the second front, automation of ADC reduces the risk and occurrence of human error. Just like an assembly line of programmed robots speeds up a production process with consistency of process and removing the human element, so too does this type of automation speed up your ADC processes. And that’s a good thing.
  • Finally, through ADC automation, you reduce your costs being able to do more with the same resources.

Use Case #2: SSL Certificate Lifecycles

Are you or your team using spreadsheets to manually track security certificate lifecycles? If you are, then you are not alone. Many businesses and enterprises today track thousands of SSL certificates on spreadsheets. Unfortunately, this type of tracking means that you don’t have the visibility to track certificates or flag those that are about to expire.

[ Related: Why Automation Is Key for the Internet of Things ]

Mistakes in certificate management lead to the expiration of certificates. And even a single certificate expiring can bring down critical apps, potentially costing millions. If multiple certificates expire, the potential for loss grows exponentially.

This is another area where automation can not only save you time and money, it can also strengthen the level of security as you tighten process control. Anything that bolsters your security and compliance is bound to build trust between you and your clients.

Solutions in this realm automate the certificate lifecycle: discovery, expiry alerting, renewal, provisioning, and revoking of SSL/TLS certificates. They can do this across networks including servers, clients, and ADC devices. They can also provide critical insights to Security Operations and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) teams, avoiding outages and other issues associated with non-compliant certificates.

Use Case #3: Service Requests Automation

The sheer volume of service requests flooding the inboxes of NetOps teams on a weekly basis is not going away any time soon. Quite the opposite, the request queue is multiplying rapidly.

All of this happens against a backdrop of hybrid networks that typically span the physical, the virtual and the cloud. As a result, multiple teams must scramble to address these service requests, making it all too easy for things to slip through the cracks. As it turns out, most of these requests violate the SLA before NetOps even know they exist.

One way automation can help you tackle the service request avalanche is by providing simple, easy-to-use self-servicing tools. It makes it easy for NetOps and application teams to deploy new applications or modify existing ones. It also allows users to delegate access to various teams, providing a powerful collaboration workspace.

Another big plus for automation here is that it puts in place proper change control across multi-vendor and hybrid infrastructures. In other words, it lets you perform zero-touch provisioning of service requests.

NetOps Automation Conclusions

Automating can help IT and NetOps be more agile, accurate, secure, compliant and cost efficient. True, there is some upfront work to coordinate with multiple teams, get buy-off, and implement solutions in the most effective way. But the payoff of automation can be enormous. You will ultimately live in a NetOps world where you can scale efficiently to meet demand and stay ahead of the curve.

Mark Vondemkamp

About Mark Vondemkamp

Mark Vondemkamp is executive vice president at AppViewX, where he responsible for the company’s products and go-to-market strategy. He has 28 years of experience in the tech industry, with a focus in the security sector. Previously he was vice president at F5 Networks. Prior to that, he held product leadership roles at Avaya, Hifn, and Nokia.

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