With enterprise networks becoming more complex day by day, managing and monitoring them has become highly challenging. As a result, enterprises are turning to network automation to manage their networks more easily. In addition, the increased demand for greater bandwidth, network virtualization, and demand for cloud services is further driving growth in this sector.
However, while the network automation market is estimated to grow to $30BN by 2028, many enterprises are still skeptical about which network automation use case to begin with. In this article, we will go through the top use cases for network automation and how they can help an enterprise kick-start its network automation journey.
Also see: 7 Enterprise Networking Challenges
Earlier, the network was confined to a single perimeter. In such cases, a signature-based web application firewall (WAF) protected the network. But with the increasing intensity and pace of cyberattacks, maintaining a signature-based WAF can be time-consuming. Further, they are clearly ineffective in the face of zero-day attacks, as no signatures have been created yet to define these attacks.
The modern network is no longer restricted to a single location, encompassing on-premises, cloud, edge, and other third-party networks. Thus, protecting organizations against zero-day attacks and similar such attacks requires the adoption of network automation.
An intent-based network automation platform automates the device discovery process, allowing you to frame good network security policies and implement them consistently across your complex and multiple network environments. The addition of zero-trust policies ensures that only the right people with the proper credentials get access to the network.
Further, by centralizing network policy control, automating access control lists and password management features, and micro-segmenting networks into zones, these network automation tools leave no loopholes for threat actors to exploit.
Also see: What is Software-Defined Networking
Minimize Downtime and Outage
According to the 2022 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, human error causes over 82% of all network outages. Again, ITIC’s 2021 Hourly Cost of Downtime Survey found that a single hour of server downtime costs $300,000 or more for 91% of businesses. Of those businesses, nearly 44% reported that hourly outage costs ranged from one million ($1M) to over five million ($5M).
Network outages result in lost revenue, decreased productivity, and, most important, damaged reputation. Thus, we cannot leave the burden of managing networks to humans alone; instead, we must augment network management with automated measures.
Streamlining network changes will make businesses more productive and protect them from downtime and outages. Since a network automation tool provides comprehensive and real-time visibility into the health of your networks, problematic issues are identified in real-time, leading to a speedier resolution.
In addition, live topology mapping and custom dashboards reduce the mean time to know (MTTK) and mean time to repair (MTTR) for known cases, increasing user satisfaction.
Device onboarding is the process where new devices are given access to the network. But onboarding hundreds and thousands of network devices takes up many work hours, with network operators having to manually go through every detail before a device is provisioned for use. This can take days, if not months.
No wonder, according to research, 61% of respondents selected reducing the time to deploy services, and 59% selected improving productivity as the primary drivers for implementing automation.
Add to it, and there is the added risk of human error. When IT teams don’t take the necessary precautions during device onboarding, they risk exposing the system and network to risk. With network automation, device onboarding becomes a very simple and secure process. Network automation tools let users quickly onboard their devices, but with the right guest access policies in place.
These tools come equipped with advanced security features that continuously monitor network security, checking every device before allowing them to connect to the network.
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Reduce Technical Debt
Technical debt usually results when developers take shortcuts or cut corners to release code quickly. While it helps in the short run, eventually, you would have to go back and reduce your technical debt. Poor code quality, zombie devices, partial or bloated configurations, abandoned projects, missing documentation, and legacy technology are a few examples of technical debt.
Technical debt is a key concern among organizations—it not only increases operational costs and limits network agility but reduces productivity and has a key impact on the bottom line.
In the 2022 LeanIX EA & IT Strategy Survey of over 140 global companies, it was found that 41% of enterprise architects (EAs) consider reducing technical debt to be a top priority. Of the organizations surveyed, 96% of respondents said they have planned at least one project aimed at reducing technical debt.
Thankfully, with network automation, businesses can easily identify and do away with network technical debt. Network automation tools leverage automation to build a network source of truth, helping organizations verify network components before and after a network change.
This helps companies ensure that networks are performing consistently and predictably, as expected. If there are inconsistencies, the tool highlights them. As a result, the network build time gets reduced, giving NetOps teams more time to focus on future-proofing networks.
Understanding the current state of the network is crucial for efficient network monitoring. But for that, you first need to have a complete list of all your network devices, and the inventory has to be accurate and up-to-date. While earlier network inventory was done manually, given the sheer size and complexity of modern networks, it is simply not feasible.
Without a standard source of truth, you might overlook recording some devices and also miss out on when changes are made to your network. Not having complete visibility into network assets can be dangerous for your organization, as rogue elements can infiltrate without your knowledge.
Powerful network automation tools continuously scan network devices and automatically detect whenever an asset is added or removed from the network inventory. They use several advanced discovery methods to perform network discovery and create a complete network inventory of devices, providing you with detailed information about each device.
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Configuration drift is a process that happens when configuration items like software, apps, VMs, servers, network devices, or security policies gradually change over time, deviating from their original state. Manually managing networks often leads to configuration drift, resulting in degraded performance, downtimes, and, more worryingly, falling out of compliance.
Network automation does away with the guesswork involved in diagnosing configuration drift and provides enterprises with a centrally defined system to monitor networks for this issue. With increased visibility, enterprises can thus identify and correct configuration drift quickly. By managing configuration drift, businesses can stay compliant with industry laws and always be audit-ready.
Although some amount of configuration drift is going to be present in networks, with continuous monitoring and timely audits, enterprises can keep an eye on drift management and take timely action.
Also see: Best IoT Platforms for Device Management