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What is NetOps?

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NetOps is an approach to network operations that focuses on rapid deployments and agility. It is also referred to as NetOps 2.0 or NetDevOps, and has become the standard operating procedure for digital enterprises working to keep pace with customer expectations.

NetOps includes elements of automation, orchestration, and continuous validation to enable agile development and application delivery in modern IT organizations with complex network infrastructure.

Originally, NetOps was simply a shortened form of “network operations.” However, the term NetOps 2.0 was coined to describe relatively new methodologies designed to optimize network operations for agile development. NetOps 2.0 got shortened to just “NetOps,” and now when the term is used, it generally refers to the agile methodology.

The pillars of NetOps methodology

Orchestration and automation: Network engineers can use a variety of automation techniques to perform management, operational, and maintenance tasks, as well as respond automatically when conditions change within various network types—such as on-premise data centers, campus networks, hybrid clouds, and Wide Area Networks (WAN) at edge locations.

Single Source of Truth (SOT): This is the practice of aggregating data for configurations, inventories, and other management assets in a single location. Having a centralized SOT can increase transparency, productivity, governance, and overall ease of data management. It also enables the documentation of network infrastructure as code, as part of ongoing network operations.  

Analytics and data: Data is acquired and analyzed in a structured way to anticipate problems, detect anomalies, improve network performance, and manage the overall footprint and health of the network. 

Security: Multiple layers of security controls and protocols are combined across the network to protect against attacks and unauthorized access. These security layers are integrated with analytics, orchestration, intrusion detection and prevention systems, firewalls, and automation to remediate issues more rapidly.

Network agility: Networks using a NetOps methodology are no longer static structures—they are dynamic systems that can bridge various physical locations and clouds, all the way to the edge of the network. This increased agility also adds network complexity, which in turn intensifies the need for automation.

A NetOps approach allows modern IT organizations to compete in dynamic marketplaces through effective network management. This is due to 5 key outcomes that result from a well-implemented NetOps methodology.

  • Resilience: Organizations that have IT environments with more agile tools can more reliably achieve business objectives and more quickly respond to unanticipated variables and adverse conditions— increasing network uptime and reducing Mean Time to Resolution (MTTR).
  • Efficiency: With a NetOps-as-code approach, teams or automation jobs have a single location to look for the information needed to perform an action, while keeping governance controls in place. This helps to reduce complexity and the time-consuming coordination needed without such a “source of truth” repository.  
  • Agility: Since NetOps prioritizes faster deployments, updates, and fixes, it enables businesses to more rapidly respond to changing conditions and objectives, reducing the time to market of new services for internal and external customers.
  • Transparency: As a NetOps approach monitors network data, there is more information to make strategic decisions and to spot potential problems before they impact normal operations.
  • Optimization: Gaining a broader view of network resources allows teams to use them more efficiently. This also helps IT teams spend less time on routine, high-volume tasks, and instead focus on engineering challenges that can directly enhance business outcomes and customer satisfaction.

Organizations often adopt a NetOps methodology to better accommodate remote workers, new technology, hybrid cloud applications, multivendor solutions, and edge devices. On their own, any of these elements increases network complexity—combined, they make it necessary to use an integrated automated solution to manage network operations.

Automated NetOps

Automation streamlines the coordination, governance, and execution of operations across complex networks, reducing manual tasks so IT teams can focus in other strategic areas.

With automated NetOps, network engineers can use a variety of techniques to efficiently execute tasks and respond automatically to network conditions as they evolve. Here are some examples of how automation supports NetOps:

  • Automated administration: From a network administrator perspective, the complexity of modern networks means that time-consuming tasks need to be automated to improve network efficiency, agility, and resilience.
  • Agile innovation: NetOps is sometimes referred to as NetDevOps because of how closely integrated network operations are with development. For example, if a new cloud application needs a series of provisioning steps to operate, the faster those steps can be completed, the less friction there is between the development team and the network team. Automation allows those provisioning steps to happen more rapidly.
  • Standardized skills: Technical workers often develop specialized skills when working on network projects that might not spread across the entire workforce or be taught to newer employees. An automation solution that codifies these skills into workflows allows this operational knowledge to be used by the entire team.
  • Hybrid cloud access: Complex modern networks often include systems that are on-premise, connected to multiple hyperscaler platforms, and even across remote edge locations. An enterprise automation solution that works the same way across each of these environments helps organizations adopt a unified NetOps approach.
  • Security management: Automation can enhance network security by continuously monitoring for unusual activity, identifying potential threats, and quickly responding to issues—either automatically or by instigating human remediation. Security automation can also ensure that policies are consistently applied across the network, and can help with tasks such as patch management, incident response, and vulnerability scanning.

Organizations don’t need to implement automated NetOps all at once. An incremental approach—starting with simple high volume tasks, then growing the level of sophistication of these tasks over time— can be just as effective. Automated NetOps can also be implemented by different teams over time, as well as across complex processes that touch multiple groups.

Infrastructure as Code

The concept of Infrastructure as Code (IaC) is central to an automated NetOps approach. IaC is the process of managing and provisioning through definition files rather than physically configuring hardware and software.

The goal of IaC is to unify teams and optimize their collective efforts. It fosters a collaborative environment where developers take a more active role in defining configurations, and IT operations teams engage earlier in the development process. Tools using IaC enhance visibility into network device states and configurations, providing insights to users across the enterprise. 

Using an automation tool to implement IaC—through GitOps or other solutions—can help to build more efficient, productive workflows and streamline the adoption of a NetOps methodology.

Take a deep dive into how you can take a GitOps approach to NetOps automation.

Red Hat® Ansible® Automation Platform includes the tools you need to implement enterprise-wide automation with a NetOps methodology, including playbooks, a visual dashboard, an event-driven automation solution, and analytics. It also uses webhooks to automate IaC workflows and enable GitOps practices. 

Ansible Automation Platform’s modular nature allows your organization to automate NetOps at your own pace, using a standardized toolset that works across various environments. It allows you to use the same automation language across multiple network types and manage network infrastructure—including switches, routers, load balancers, and firewalls—through a single, integrated platform. 

With a Red Hat subscription, you get certified content from our robust partner ecosystem, access to hosted management services, and life cycle technical support to scale automation across your organization. And you’ll get expert knowledge gained from our success with thousands of customers.

How much time could automation save you?

Answer a few short questions to find out how much time you could save by using Ansible Automation Platform across your organization.

Red Hat offers interactive labs in a preconfigured Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform environment. You can use these labs to experiment, practice, and learn how to create, manage, and scale network and IT practices efficiently—from rapid development and deployment, to simplified operations and analytics, to consistent end-to-end user experiences.

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