Today’s Network Operational Paradigm
The network used to be a much simpler world full of nothing but routers, switches, and CLI commands but that’s no longer the case. Today’s network teams are being asked to do more in less time, across many different and diverse technologies. Network automation is not a simple process of recording CLI keystrokes and playing them back. Network engineers must now know how to interface with Wireless controllers, SD-WAN solutions, cloud services, IT systems, etc. which all bring their own challenges and operational paradigms.
Automation tooling such as Ansible, Terraform, or Python are driving the ability for network engineers to perform routine network operations tasks quickly and efficiently. However, if you are able to overcome the learning curve required to successfully use these tools, you will eventually uncover the limitations and weaknesses of these types of solutions – limitations that drive you back into a world of manual processes that require a “swivel-chair” and “copy-paste” approach between network applications, dashboards, consoles, and IT systems.
Why Current Network Automation Efforts Don’t Scale
For many network engineers, you may find yourself struggling to reconcile the disconnect between traditional network engineering with deep knowledge of the physical network, primarily managed from the CLI, and the emergence of an API-driven, cloud world that relies heavily on DevOps and agile software development skills.
Like most, you’ve probably started your journey into network automation using Python, Ansible, and other technologies, with a focus on automating what you do in your day-to-day work such as configuration management, software upgrades, device onboarding, or port turn-ups. The problem here is the automations you’re building are only focused on the specific execution of the network task, rather than the full change management process.
Example Network Change Process
While this may save some time, it doesn’t really provide the payoff you expect due to all the manual process such as pre- and post-checks, data gathering from sources of truth, updating change management tickets, etc.
It’s time to step up your automation game.
How Itential Operationalizes Network Automation for Scale
In today’s fast-paced and ever-demanding world of networking, network teams need to find the RIGHT automation solution that can support today’s current efforts but also scale to support future initiatives.
Itential’s capabilities help network engineers no matter where you are in your journey:
Bring Your Own Automations or Build Your Own
Onboard existing CLI and custom scripts and incorporate them into automation workflows or build your own automations.
Extend Your Automations
Maximize your automations from ticket creation to ticket closure by integrating automations with your entire IT ecosystem.
Build Guardrails for Your Automations
Create built-in guardrails to your automations with robust pre- and post-check processes.
Share Your Automations
Make your automations accessible for self-service access that anyone can execute, inside or outside of the platform.
Bring Your Own Automations
or Build Your Own
You’ve spent a lot of time and investment in building automations with Ansible or Python and you shouldn’t have to throw that away or rip and replace to take your network automation to the next level. But the reality is that existing automation efforts through these approaches can only take you so far, as they are only focused on the network change itself. Itential provides capabilities that enable network teams to consolidate, organize, and modernize your CLI automation assets as well as build new automations that incorporate these assets.
Centralize & Consolidate Management of Scripts
Stop script sprawl and bring all your automation assets into a central location, consolidating everything into an easy to view and easy to manage application.
Dynamic Discovery & Federation of Scripts
Dynamically discover and onboard your existing automations, which are immediately available to be used as drag-and-drop tasks in a visual workflow.
Decorate & Enhance Scripts
Decorate your existing scripts to build a layer of input validation, which defines how they can be used and ensures that these assets are run within the proper constraints based on best practices and business policies. Decorations can be updated quickly without modifying the original script to program additional complex validation logic.
Simply define the required input parameters for your scripts to make them available for execution through a secure API, where they can be shared and used inside or outside of the network team.
Drag-and-Drop Workflow Creation
Build new automation workflows that integrate with IT and network systems to gather data, transform it into an appropriate format, and pass it to your existing automations, saving time over basic task-focused automation tools.
Build Guardrails for Your Automations
Before you automate a network change, there’s always a procedure to ensure that it’s safe to make that change, and afterwards there’s a requirement to ensure that the change was made correctly without impacting any other network service. To guarantee confidence in your automations you must have a strong set of guardrails that are defined and created by the networking team. As critical as they are, these pre- and post-check processes are an often-overlooked part of the automation process and can increase efficiency beyond the small gains seen by automating just network changes.
Robust Pre- & Post-Check Process
These processes must be flexible enough to integrate with external network and IT systems, and at the same time manage individual device configuration. By connecting your network infrastructure with Itential, you can easily manage configurations across your entire network, whether physical, virtual, or cloud.
Easy Backup, Restore, & Management of Configs
All your configuration files located in one place for easy backup, restore, and management of configurations for all devices and services across physical and cloud.
Flexible Golden Configuration Templates
Simply creating and maintaining Golden Configuration templates that can be applied across all devices or services, using a framework that supports configuration hierarchies and dynamic variable definitions.
Validate Changes Before They are Made
Ensure a change never violates a Golden Configuration template before it’s even applied to the network by validating a proposed change first, eliminating security exposure or outages due to human error and configuration drift.
Automated Remediation & Reporting
Schedule auditing checks to determine which network devices and services have configurations that are out of compliance and run intelligent automations that can automatically remediate certain low impact changes, open change request tickets, and notify the network team for higher impact changes.
Extend Your Automations
The unfortunate reality is that most applications are incredibly difficult to integrate with your IT systems and require vendor involvement and increased costs using custom code or heavy professional services. However, integrating IT systems into your network automation processes is key to getting out of ticket backlog and back to managing your network. Itential’s API-first approach gives teams the flexibility to choose the right tool for the right job and integrate each into their network automations.
Over hundreds of out-of-the-box integrations to systems spanning authentication, cloud, controllers and orchestrators, DevOps and NetOps tools, inventory, ITSM, notifications and messaging, SD-WAN, security, and telemetry and analytics.
Integrate a Federated Source of Truth
Itential takes an API-first approach to integration with your IT ecosystem, which means that every system can be accessed in real-time, so your automations are always acting on the most up-to-date data.
Build Automation Pipelines
Itential integrates with any pipeline management tool so that you can incorporate CI/CD practices into your network automation and orchestration initiatives to gain greater velocity and improve delivery.
Create Closed-Loop, Event-Driven Automations
Build and publish automations that can respond notifications from event-driven solutions like Kafka, to create a closed-loop system that can react in real-time for immediate remediation or escalation.
By enabling self-service automations, the network team is no longer the bottleneck to innovation but instead a valued contributor. Itential allows you to publish and share your automations, safely and securely, and extend those automations beyond the network team to enable automation for all.
Provide users with a self-service catalog, within the Itential Automation Platform or through other applications like ServiceNow, for creating, viewing, and executing automations. In addition to that, published automations can be manually started or scheduled to run at a recurring interval.
Visually create dynamic, custom forms to simplify user input and validate the input is correct without the need to write any custom code.
Get complete awareness and understanding of every automation across your organization, how it is performing, and how much time it’s saving the organization.
The Itential Automation Platform
Itential is helping NetOps teams implement and scale network automation across their enterprise organizations. We believe scaling network automation starts with a solution that isn’t fragile and that everyone in your organization can rally around and use. A solution that integrates with the systems you already have, one that doesn’t make you get rid of your investment in scripts and playbooks but helps you bring them under control and even extend them.
Itential simplifies the network change process, providing low-code capabilities for easily building and running workflows that automate the entire network change process – from ticket creation to ticket closure.