Network automation uses programmable logic to manage network resources and services. Network automation allows network operations (NetOps) teams to configure, scale, protect, and integrate network infrastructure and application services more quickly than when performed manually by users.
What is networking?
Networking is the use of hardware—like network interface cards, ethernet cables, and switches—as well as software—such as those that create software-defined networking (SDN), software-defined wide area networks (SD-WANs), and network functions virtualization (NFV)—to transport data between endpoints known as nodes.
What is automation?
Automation is the use of technology to perform tasks with reduced human assistance. IT automation is the use of software to create repeatable instructions and processes to replace or reduce human interaction with IT systems. Automation software works within the confines of those instructions, tools, and frameworks to carry out the tasks with little to no human intervention.
Network automation removes the manual steps necessary to manage networks—such as logging into routers, switches, load balancers, and firewalls to change configurations by hand before logging out. Network automation relies on chained scripts programmed at the command-line interface (CLI) level of an operating system (OS) or prepackaged automation software.
Even as underlying technologies have evolved, network management has remained largely the same for decades. Networks are typically built, operated, and maintained by hand. However, traditional, manual approaches to network configuration and updates are too slow and error-prone to effectively support the needs of rapidly shifting workload requirements. Automating network resource and service management allows network operations teams to become more agile and flexible and effectively support modern business demands.
There are a lot of ways to automate a network, and there are a lot of network components that can be automated. Most network automation solutions exist between 2 extremes: command line automation and automation software.
At the most basic level, you can automate network components using standard CLI commands and arguments. For example, Linux® operating system administrators can use Bash operators to chain events based on previous commands’ successes (&&) or failures (||). Or, users could compile command lists into text files—known as shell scripts—that can be repeatedly carried out all at once with a single execution command.
Automation software products can consolidate network tasks into prepackaged programs that can be selected, scheduled, and executed from the app’s front end. For example, Red Hat Ansible® Automation Platform can be used to automate network permissions and networks by packaging application programming interfaces (APIs), plug-ins, inventories, and modules into playbooks that users can browse, select, and run to automate network configuration, security, orchestration, provisioning, and more across service providers like AWS, Microsoft, and Cisco.
Manual network configuration can result in inconsistencies, misconfigurations, and network instabilities, making it difficult to deliver the high level of service needed for digital business operations. Automation helps you standardize network management processes to enforce best practices. Network operations teams can rapidly and easily deliver services at scale and reduce mean time to resolution (MTTR) for service interruptions.
Load balancing and failover
Application loads must be balanced across infrastructure to optimize performance and costs. Manually balancing loads can lead to poor application performance and delay failover when system problems arise. Automating your load balancers eliminates the need for manual intervention, permitting faster ongoing adjustments and failover for improved application performance and reliability.
While telecommunications service providers were among the first to adopt network automation to improve digital networks, companies in every industry can benefit from network automation. Switzerland’s leading telecommunications company Swisscomm automated more than 15,000 network components—including servers, firewalls, network devices, and storage devices—while Microsoft automated network events that trigger telemetry, ticketing, logging, and analytics workflows.
Swisscom automated management of around 15,000 network and IT components to shift focus to more valuable development projects and accelerate response times for resource requests—which Swisscom anticipates will save more than 3,000 hours usually spent on manual tasks.
Surescripts automated IT processes and failover operations to speed network appliance and server deployment, issue resolution, and launch of new applications to customers—which led to 2 hours per service saved during failover incidents.
But even after they’re tested, packaged, and released, the source code behind each Red Hat product remains open. So you can modify any aspect of our tools. And the playbooks behind our automation platform are always evolving as we help users improve (and add) playbooks in real time.
Red Hat® Ansible® Automation Platform includes all the tools needed to implement enterprise-wide automation, including playbooks, a visual dashboard, and analytics.
Additionally, Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform was named a Leader by Forrester Research in the Forrester Wave™: Infrastructure Automation Platforms, Q3 2020.