Network automation is the process of using software to automate network and security provisioning and management in order to continuously maximize network efficiency and functionality. Network automation is often used in conjunction with network virtualization.
IT departments today seek speed, agility, and consistency in provisioning and managing both traditional and cloud-native applications. A modern network automation platform can achieve these goals by automating networking functions like resource provisioning, network mapping, and network testing.
Network Automation enables you to speed application deployment by automating network and security provisioning and management through the complete application lifecycles and across data center and cloud environments.
Network automation software finds the most efficient way to map, configure, provision, and manage a network. API-based automation replaces manual, command-line instructions to configure each networking device. The APIs can be invoked directly or go through a programming language, for example Python, Java or Go. Scripts are only one aspect of network automation—a modern automation platform monitors network resources when provisioning and verifies that a network will be able to handle a configuration request before implementing it.
A more sophisticated form of intelligent network automation uses machine learning and big data to determine how best to configure and manage a network to meet specific business goals. Intelligent networking uses a high-level, centralized view of the entire network to determine how a network should function to meet these goals, instead of configuring each port or device individually.
An intent-based network takes a holistic view of how a business request will affect a network and offers different solutions to fulfill that request. Intent-based networking is sought after because network engineers can easily scale the network to meet different goals and reduce the number of misconfigurations due to human error.
When using network automation with virtualization, software-defined networking (SDN) is combined with network functions virtualization (NFV) technology to configure and change the network according to business or services goals. The SDN controls how the hardware devices operate. Administrators can create virtual software networks between virtual machines or manage multiple physical networks with networking software. Network virtualization and network automation are especially useful for environments that experience unplanned usage surges because the automated network can accommodate these surges by automatically redirecting network traffic to servers in less impacted areas of the network.
There are several open source projects dedicated to establishing standards for network automation through virtualization. For instance, the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) Industry Specification Group (ISG) for NFV Management and Orchestration (MANO) is focused on the management and orchestration of network resources in cloud-based data centers. These standards will enable better and more efficient communication between SDN and NFV platforms.
Network automation tools come in many types, and there are a wide variety of network automation companies that offer different types of network automation software. Network automation ideas are still emerging—smart organizations will start with their most pressing network automation use cases and choose a tool that is well-suited to help with those processes.