Where Should Automation Live In Your Network?

by | September 11, 2017
Where Should Automation Live In Your Network?

First, let me clarify what I mean by the question. There are different levels of control within the network.

There is the OSS layer, where people have traditionally tried to place automation, but it doesn’t have a very good connection to the network and this leads to tons of specialty adapters and other components to be able to push information out to devices. Tons of components that cost tons of money.

There is the EMS/NMS layer, which is much closer to the network and communicates very well with it, but it is a hodge podge of vendor-specific tools that sometimes try to pretend they are multi-vendor but fail miserably in that attempt. Add to that that the EMS/NMS layer communicates very well with Assurance tools in the OSS domain, but horribly with any other kind of tool you may want to integrate with.

Then there is the network itself. You can place a tool within the network and it will have the ultimate communication path…it will literally be part of what it is controlling. How much closer could you get? But, how much further away can you get from your OSS environment? How can you realize the full potential of automation if you can’t speak to your ordering, billing, inventory, assurance, etc systems? You can’t…

The obvious question back to me, at this point, is: Well, where the heck should automation live then? You have just proceeded to tell me that all of the places it could are bad…and that kind of is what I just did…I admit it.

The answer is pretty simple, actually. There is a different approach that we champion where you leverage the strengths of what other vendors are doing, but add an automation layer to the picture. See, the answer is you create a new place for it to live…simple, as I said. BUT, where exactly is that?

We live above the network, overlapping slightly into the EMS/NMS space…maybe…but well below where OSS lives. There are controllers and orchestrators in the market now, and more to come as this space matures, that will make those old EMS/NMS systems obsolete. Do the big hardware vendors want to hear that? No, of course not. Do they know it is coming? Of course they do, but they won’t admit it, and certainly won’t admit it to their cash cows…err, customers…that they intend to milk on these old technologies and approaches for a while to come.

We are convinced, however, that this is the correct place to be. We leverage the capabilities of these new controllers and orchestrators to enable a new, programmatic way of working with the network. These new orchestrator and controllers use APIs and API-like interfaces that things like NETCONF brings. We also leverage a model based approach that is too high level to literally live in the network, but is much too detailed for old school OSS to handle. It is the bridge to real automation, and if you are serious about realizing what automation can bring you it is a bridge you need to cross…sooner than later.

Our approach not only allows for a deep integration with the network, but it also puts us in an ideal place to communicate with old school OSS. I keep using that “old school” reference like it is a bad thing, and in some ways it is, but it is also something that most of you have invested in, in a BIG way. The smallest of you have millions in this ecosystem, so it matters. You need to be able to leverage that investment to gain ground in the automation game.

Which brings me to my last major point.

The big, old school OSS vendors are desperate to find a way to keep leveraging their investments to make more money off of you. That isn’t a secret…it’s business. The big, old school network vendors are doing the same, and, once again, no surprise because it’s business. The catch here? YOU are in business too. YOU have huge investments to leverage too. It is time for you to look to tools that are going to allow you to do the same thing the old school vendors are doing TO you. It is time to put something in place that uses those existing capabilities and expands your automation potential in a big way to improve YOUR bottom line…not your vendor’s bottom line. Eventually, as the technology matures, the dinosaurs are going extinct and the new automation platforms will take over.

So, the OSS approach is not going to be it. The automation robot living in the network is not it, either. The it you are looking for lives in between and leverages everything you already have for the better, extending the life of investments you have already made. That’s where it’s at in the future…


Patrick Moore

Patrick Moore currently serves as the Director of Network Automation Strategy at Itential where he has responsibility for managing the delivery of services to implement network automation for clients leveraging both Itential products and custom developed solutions.

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