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Network
automation:
debunking common
misconceptions

Author: Shane Schick

Network automation can provide speed, agility and other business benefits. But some organizations still balk at deploying it, fearing new challenges and considerations. Starting the network automation process can be easier if business leaders and their IT counterparts are clear on what it is and how it works.

Usually, the potential to automate the network is just one part of a larger business transformation. It could be part of a move to embrace digital channels to help improve customer experiences. Or it could be predicated on a decision to use edge computing to bring IT resources closer to where they are needed.

Network automation's role in transformations effort means that misconceptions around it must be cleared up early. That way, advocates leading digital shifts can avoid objections or challenges to their plans. 

What is network automation?

Instead of manually handling everything from configuring and testing to deploying and troubleshooting devices, automation uses technology to bring efficiency and reliability to everyday processes.

When answering the question “What is network automation?” the focus first should be on understanding the benefits of automating a network that ultimately can help improve speed to market and quality assurance (fewer human errors) by requiring less manual human interaction and includes tasks such as:

  • Low touch & zero touch provisioning which simplifies service turn-up with a “phone home” capability to orchestrations servers that send proper configurations upon initial power-up
  • Programmable network and security policies to automate traffic flow, identify defects and vulnerabilities, and take proactive remediation steps based on real time events
  • Closed-loop service that can automate self-healing to maximize uptime and minimize disruptions
  • Centralized configuration updates, simplifying & speeding up changes and upgrades
  • Proactive monitoring, fault isolation, and fault correlation that can improve uptime
  • E-bonding with partners and other third parties to coordinate faster response to issues
  • API integration allowing for tighter integration with customer dashboards and systems

But automating networks is not as automatic as flipping a switch. The steps in network automation include:

  • Designating the network functions you want to automate
  • Setting up policies and profiles to govern use
  • Provisioning network access and services
  • Providing security through monitoring and maintenance

When done well, automation that can free up admins and IT staff to focus on higher-value and complex issues. It also can help improve uptime, network performance and reduce errors. 

Misconceptions in network automation

Workers are always worried about automation—the thought is that more automation means less need for human workers—and fewer jobs. But this can be a misconception: More often, automation takes on onerous, time-consuming tasks, freeing workers to pursue more critical tasks related to policy orchestration, service assurance and data architecture, as well as more strategic decision-making roles that can have a greater impact on organizational success.

IT leaders might also assume that they do not need to automate if they have not experienced regular or serious network performance issues. But the decision to undergo network automation is one of predictive maintenance, not troubleshooting. As businesses deploy more applications and increase computer workloads, their network demands increase. Eventually, networks reach breaking points where outages strike at unexpected and inopportune times and, even if a full outage doesn't occur, application performance can still suffer. An automated network can safeguard against such situations and can help provide a good end user experience.

Another misconception is that automating the network will introduce greater risk than maintaining the status quo. But technologies such as the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence are making network needs more complex—and doing nothing could enable competitors to outpace companies that are slow to adopt network automation which can enhance and support digital transformation efforts.

Successfully automating the network also requires managing expectations. Not every aspect of the network becomes consumable, for instance, no matter which provider you choose. 

The power of a platform

There might be a better way for businesses to answer "What is network automation?" than figuring it out alone. The right managed services partner can offer a flexible and agile platform designed for fast deployment and easy use.

Instead of constantly requesting manual changes, a best-in-class platform enables simple digital updates. The right platform also helps to future-proof your business by helping to reduce vendor lock-ins, letting you support multiple technologies based on your needs.

Not all network access is created equal, so a platform approach helps you with the interoperability to stay ahead of change—and enjoy every advantage of network automation.

What is network automation, and what can it do for you?

Learn how Verizon’s network solutions can simplify and accelerate your path to innovation.