Configuration Management

Does the Health of Your Network Keep You Up at Night? Research Shows You’re Not Alone

Rich Martin

Director of Technical Marketing ‐ Itential

Does the Health of Your Network Keep You Up at Night? Research Shows You’re Not Alone
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Posted on February 14, 2022

How well do you know your network? Does it have any blind spots or skeletons in the IDF closet? Are you automating any configuration management tasks and, if so, which ones? Can you confidently enforce network configuration standardization in your data center? What about your public cloud deployment; do you think it could pass a network configuration compliance audit?

These questions come up often when we speak with customers, so we decided to ask them, and dozens more, to over 1,000 network professionals in a survey we conducted with Enterprise Management Associates. What we uncovered was an almost oppressive sense of anxiety about network configuration management that was shared among respondents regardless of their role, the size of their organization, or the industry they are in. In short, network pros are worried about the stresses being put on their organizations to manage increasingly complex networks.

Before we jump into the findings, let’s level-set on what we mean when we say ‘compliance.’ It’s a word we’ll use often, so it helps to know what we mean by it. In context of the network, compliance means the adherence to the standards an organization sets for its network. These might, in part, be driven by the need to comply with external regulations like HIPAA or PCI-DSS. But they’re also driven by the need to enforce security best practices, to ensure the network meets performance requirements, and to keep the network running reliably. So, regulatory compliance is only part of the story here.

Examining Current Automation Efforts

Before we jump into why there’s so much anxiety around network changes, it’s important to understand where it stems from. Let’s start with the what and the how. Our findings show that there is already some significant automation happening on most networks today and a lot of it is either directly or indirectly related to configuration management.

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Most organizations rely on a mix of one-off scripts, open-source tools, internally developed automation, and commercial automation solutions for automating network tasks and configuration management.

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 Many respondents indicated that the ‘commercial’ solutions they currently use are native vendor-specific tools.

The Eye-Opening State of Network Configuration & Compliance

Next, we asked respondents about the state of configuration standardization and compliance on their networks and how it correlates to the tools (including automation) and processes they use. The results are rather bleak and in certain areas, such as the data center and public cloud, they are downright fear-inducing.

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In a similar vein, we next asked about respondents’ confidence in their networks’ ability to pass configuration compliance audits and to put it mildly, there is a lot of room for improvement.

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Now let’s look at something really frightening. Here is the same question broken down by role – IT Execs, NetDevOps, and NetOps. As you can see, practitioners tend to be far more concerned about configuration compliance audits than IT executives. This disconnect should be worrying for execs as it indicates that the networks under their purview are perhaps in worse shape than the believe.

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Current Tools & Processes: The Source of the Anxiety

What is causing all this stress and worry? Our research indicates that it is the current tools and processes used for managing network configuration. Moreover, there is a general worry among network pros that automating without first standardizing configuration management could introduce more problems. We asked respondents how satisfied they were with the tools and processes they have in place for configuration compliance and then we asked if they were concerned that the tools and processes would introduce errors. The answers were concerning. Only 34% indicated they are satisfied with their tools and processes and a full 75% said they were worried that those tools and processes would introduce errors.

Finding the Right Solution to Ease Concern

You can easily see the conundrum we’ve uncovered with this research. Network pros need to move faster, which means they need to automate tasks on their networks. Network teams should clean up the state of network configuration on their networks before they automate so it doesn’t get out of control, but how will they find the time to standardize network configuration on their networks if they aren’t automating tasks?

The answer is fairly simple. Network pros need a solution that allows them to automate the standardization and compliance of configuration on their networks AND even more complex network tasks they need to get to. The Itential Automation Platform includes a full suite of configuration management tools that allow network pros to quickly build compliance guardrails that serve as the foundational building blocks of full end-to-end automation workflows. These guardrails let them comfortably automate larger tasks on their networks.

At Itential, our philosophy is that automating network configuration standardization is the key to realizing the full benefits of end-to-end network automation quickly and compliantly, which is manifested in the way we’ve engineered our product.

To learn more about how to overcome anxiety you’re feeling in the network, watch my on-demand webinar, “Revealing the State of Network Configuration Management & Automation in the Enterprise,” where I uncover more key insights to help tackle your network automation strategy and tool selection.


Rich Martin

Director of Technical Marketing ‐ Itential

Rich Martin is the Director of Technical Marketing at Itential. Previously, Rich has worked at several networking vendors as a both a Pre-Sales Systems Engineer and Systems Engineering Manager but started his career with a background in software development and Linux. He has a passion for automation in the networking domain, and at Itential he helps networking teams to get started quickly and move forward successfully on their network automation journey.

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