For many companies, automation of business processes is business as usual. Impacted by cloud, enterprise networks have grown increasingly complex and chaotic. There’s an ever-growing number of devices, tasks, processes, and more vulnerabilities to defend against. Without automation, innovation would be stuck in low gear.
Companies are working at a frantic pace trying to push out automation to the fingertips of users. One such company is Itential. At the recent Networking Field Day event, Chris Wade, CTO and Co-Founder of Itential gave a presentation of the Itential Automation Platform.
Mr. Wade explained how the software can help companies get out of heavy-lifting, and reap the benefits of automation already available to them so that they are able to serve up self-service automation to their users.
Water, Water Everywhere, Nor Any Drop to Drink
Experts predict that the rapid infusion of automation in off-the-shelf technologies will usher a barnburner era of self-service network automation. Repeatable tasks will be offloaded to automated systems, and users will have the control to consume automation independently at their end.
But despite widespread availability, many companies are still unable to take advantage of automation to tune up efficiencies of their tasks and processes. Those before automation may call this something of a happy problem, but it can potentially accrue huge technical debt in the long run.
To address that, there is a growing ecosystem of tools and technologies that broadly, or narrowly takes on the automation challenges of networking and development tasks.
“The ecosystem is consolidating. There’s been so much innovation in the last few years within the networking space, probably more so than in the ten previous years. We’re seeing both a variety of networking things, but also consolidation in the ways to automate it which we think today spells it out. It’s a great opportunity for us to take advantage of,” noted Mr. Wade.
The Automation Maturity Path
A company’s natural progression to automation typically happens in three stages. Every company on the automation journey starts at ground zero where they rely on time-intensive, manual processes that are open to errors.
Once they start down the road, they typically begin automating repeatable tasks to save time and effort. This takes a concerted effort that entails extensive scripting and development. At this point, automation is strictly siloed, and scattershot.
“When you look at the network layer, a lot of times we talk about datacenter by itself or firewalls by itself, and a lot of the organizations managing network and network automation are really siloed off like this,” said Mr. Wade.
As they progress to process orchestration, these disintegrated pieces of automation are woven together to enable organization-wide automation of processes to save time.
“End users are deploying applications and connectivity, moving things across hybrid multi-cloud. So, a lot of the services cross these silos, and it’s really breaking how we think of task-centric automation,” he said.
This is where most companies are at in their automation journey, finishing with task-based automation and going more into process automation.
Next stop is self-serve networking where customers can do everything autonomously. The self-serve networking borrows from the cloud computing model and optimizes ease of consumption.
To make self-serve networking a reality, users need to have a full and complete understanding of the system. So Itential put in place all the granularity, visibility and controls required to take advantage of the automation already existing in solutions.
The Itential Automation Platform
Itential’s is a SaaS platform that combines the capabilities of multiple point solutions on Itential’s portfolio. It integrates, automates and orchestrates hybrid multi-cloud infrastructure for NetOps and DevOps teams enabling automation for individual personas, teams and end users.
The platform boasts of robust integration capabilities which allow users to integrate any service or capability, no coding required. On Itential, integration happens in two ways. The platform can automatically make connection by ingesting Swagger specifications from interfaces with APIs, and generating adapters. There is no need for a system integrator to do this manually. Teams can load services in the system, and automate them right away.
“Historically, you’d have to wait on your favorite vendor six months to build something. You might have to code something up yourself, but the ecosystem is such today that we can take advantage of it immediately,” reminded Wade.
For systems that don’t have an API, Itential has the Automation Gateway module for direct plug-in and integration.
Itential offers low-code orchestration end to end. The platform leverages two homegrown products for this – Automation Studio, a drag-and-drop builder which makes it easy for NetDevOps to collaborate around automation, and Configuration Manager that builds golden configs for CLI and API devices. Teams can test and validate automation and configs in lower environment making sure that everything is working as intended.
Itential enables self-service consumption with capabilities like automated report and analysis, single view of management, real-time notifications, and easy integration with self-service portals. These make sure that useful information is at the fingertips, and automations are executed at minimum effort.
The Itential platform ties up the loose ends providing companies a demonstrably easier way to incorporate and leverage automation. It takes the small things off of the hands of network engineers and developers, and helps them pay attention to the bigger dynamics, making a more nimble NetDevOps team. By enabling self-service networking, it provides end users the opportunity to save time and improve the overall quality of service.
For more information, check out Itential’s detailed demonstrations from the recent Networking Field Day event.
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