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Network
automation
benefits and
challenges

Author: Mike Elgan

Network automation is a term that is quite frequently used but may not have a universal understanding of what it means.

What is network automation?

Network automation is the use of special software to automate network management functions. It sounds simple enough, but it encompasses a wide range of actions—planning, resource provisioning, network mapping, network testing and the optimization of networks and their services.

But alongside the network automation benefits come several challenges. Organizations looking to leverage network automation must be aware of both.

Network automation benefits

While network automation challenges are very real, network automation benefits usually outweigh them.

Automation can save a lot of time. It can speed up time-consuming processes like application deployment, freeing up human work hours and help reduce errors. Human error is responsible for significant network downtime and has caused between 70% and 75% of data center failures. An automated network can boost reliability, performance and security.

Network automation also lets businesses conduct sophisticated network analysis using data from myriad sources, such as routers, logs, configuration files and user devices.

Another key selling point of automation is discovery. Network automation tools can find access points, appliances, controllers, switches, routers and other devices that humans might have overlooked.

Another reason why network automation is such a powerful tool is that it can improve agility and business operations. An automated network can open doors to software-defined networking, and it can boost security and standardize processes across the organization.

Network automation challenges for organizations

Some network automation challenges are inevitable, but they are not solved by delaying the process.

What challenges can you expect when you start an automation project?

  • Perceived loss of control. One reason why network automation could cause concern is the assumption that automated processes will miss something. Another is that automation will supplant human workers. But oversights are more likely to occur without automation. And automation does not have to eliminate the need for human workers. They are still needed—and automation makes them more effective.
  • Complexity. Modern networks are complex. So are the tools used to manage and maintain them. And all this complexity cordons data into discrete silos. Breaking down these silos can make setting up network automation feel like a big investment.
  • Need for customization. There's no such thing as end-to-end, turnkey network automation. Automation has to be established step by step in accordance with an organization's goals and operations.
  • Legacy devices and systems. Many organizations remain reliant on legacy systems—and these systems might be assumed to be beyond the scope of network automation.

Navigating the path to network automation benefits

You know the network automation benefits, but where does the process begin?

Start with a strategy that includes a big-picture vision of the business problems that network automation could solve. Lay out a plan for a flexible and responsive automated system that offloads drudgery and tedium from human staff and lets them focus on more important issues.

As you put your plan into action, address one thing at a time. Network automation does not and should not require an all-or-nothing approach. It's far better—necessary, even—to start small, approach a specific known problem that causes frustration and log a small win.

It is also critical to perform due diligence and pick the right automation tool or platform. For some organizations, the best approach might be to partner with a managed services provider who can assess their network needs and help them determine a sustainable approach to automation.

Learn more about how Verizon managed services can help your organization realize network automation benefits.