Using Low-code to Deliver Network Automation

With growing pressures from consumerization and budget tightening, network managers are constantly looking for ways to do more with less. In many cases, low-code automation offers a cost-effective alternative by decreasing time-to-value while also improving overall quality. 

In software development, a low-code platform is a type of rapid application development (RAD) technology that enables non-developers to create applications without coding. It typically includes predefined screens and data entry points that can be edited or replaced in order to build an application from a set of components. Because they enable non-developers—or developers with limited coding skills—to create applications, low-code platforms are considered a form of agile application development. 

What is Low-code?

Low-code is an application platform that uses drag-and-drop tools and predefined blocks rather than traditional programming languages. So, instead of manually writing every line of code for your application, you can simply drag and drop pre-existing components to create new ones. For some tasks (especially those involving networking or data analytics), low-code can be faster and easier than full programming.

How does it work?

A low-code application development platform provides an easy way for anyone in an organization—from operational workers to executives—to create business applications that can be easily modified and extended. This makes it possible for users throughout your company to design, build, test, deploy, and manage custom software without writing a single line of code. 

With a few clicks of your mouse or taps on your touchscreen, you can build apps like customer portals, product configurators, and reporting tools for better organizational communication and efficiency. From planning, design and development, and production, automation is about helping an organization be as efficient as possible. 

There are different levels of low-code available depending on your needs, from tools that will help you design a basic app template to full visual application builders that let users build complex applications by dragging and dropping components onto a canvas. In essence, these tools replace coding with point-and-click user interface building blocks. They reduce barriers to software creation by automating most parts of an application’s lifecycle. 

What is Network Automation?

Network automation is a type of system control in which a process or procedure is carried out with little or no human intervention. In short, network automation involves automating a previously manual task in order to allow for faster, more reliable results.

Also read: NetOps vs DevOps: Bringing Automation to the Network

Delivering Network Automation with Low-code

Businesses are using network automation to reduce human error, improve efficiency, and achieve competitive advantage. But network automation is only as good as your ability to deliver it. By using low-code tools, you can increase innovation, adapt faster, and scale better. Low-code development makes network automation easy by providing a platform that lets you define, develop, test, and deploy automation in real-time using an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. Low-code tools put network automation in your hands, which can help you deliver automation faster and reduce costs associated with manual processes.  

Low-code brings remarkable automation to network automation activities and accelerates business benefits by providing flexible development tools to create customized applications in hours—not months—with little or no coding required. Additionally, because low-code environments store all application logic in visual representations, there’s no need to convert code into these representations as traditional code-based systems require. 

There are three main reasons why you might consider implementing network automation: 

  • Business continuity/disaster recovery: One of the most important reasons for implementing any kind of network automation is business continuity and disaster recovery. Network failures and downtime can lead to revenue loss and damage an organization’s reputation among customers and clients. This alone makes network automation worth considering. 
  • Compliance: Most companies have to meet certain compliance standards when it comes to both internal management and external relationships with other organizations. This often necessitates clearly documented procedures for performing routine tasks quickly and efficiently, something that network automation allows you to achieve. 
  • Cost savings: Implementing network automation reduces costs associated with operating networks while providing better quality control over configurations. Because of how complex networking has become, saving time while improving quality has huge ROI potential.

How is it used in service to this goal?

Network automation allows service providers to operate with greater speed and efficiency—reducing costs and increasing profits—without sacrificing quality. In turn, those results help improve customer satisfaction as well as business efficiency across everything from fulfillment to delivery. Once your network is set up to run automatically, you can use another low-code approach—containerization—to make sure your hardware runs securely and efficiently. 

Containers are an innovative technology that essentially wraps up all of your applications into one secure package. You don’t have to worry about individual apps being able to run amok on your device, clogging its memory, or accessing other apps behind firewalls. 

Instead, each app has exactly what it needs to do its job properly within one container. Then, you can easily package together multiple containers to optimize how your entire solution works together so there aren’t too many unnecessary apps weighing down any single piece of equipment. 

Regardless of whether you’re dealing with existing networks or building new ones, these two technologies—low-code development and containerization—can help boost operational productivity by shortening development time frames while also improving security and scalability.

Also read: Virtualization vs. Containerization: What is the Difference?

Benefits of Low-code

  • Reduce development time: Low-code platforms streamline your app development process, helping you reduce your average programming times dramatically. 
  • Improve productivity: Using low-code makes it easy for non-technical team members (like marketing teams) to make changes on their own. This means more efficient collaboration across departments and less need for high-level technical talent on your team—which ultimately leads to higher productivity across all levels of your business. 
  • Decrease costs: If you’re currently trying to build an in-house software development team but don’t have enough budget available to bring on dedicated personnel, implementing a low-code solution could help keep your project costs down while still giving you access to world-class tools. 
  • Increase flexibility: Increased flexibility gives you ultimate control over your product so that it functions exactly as you want from beginning to end. Because of its nature, low-code enables users to create complex applications without requiring advanced coding skills. By building out your application directly in front of you instead of keeping you in the dark until after its completion, users can easily test new features, incorporate bug fixes, and modify existing features at any point during development. 

Challenges of Implementing Low-code

Promotes shadow IT: One major risk with low-code application development is that practically anyone in the company can start the application development process. This person/team may be working outside the established IT app-development process, which means they may be overlooking crucial technical, procedural, and industry-specific regulations.

Limited customization: Limited customizability is the major disadvantage of low-code platforms as compared to traditional software development. It’s possible that businesses won’t be able to achieve the exact capabilities they want. 

Vendor lock-in: Vendors can tie you to their platform by writing complex code that is practically hard to maintain outside it. Others will not allow you to make changes to your apps once you have stopped using the tool.

The Future of Low-code in Network Automation

Today’s networks are more complex than ever before. Most organizations recognize that they need automation of their data centers, network services, and applications but are unaware of how they can use low-code technology to deliver it. 

Automation is crucial for sustaining 24/7 uptime. That’s why so many enterprises are so invested in low-code network automation solutions. Enterprises want fast results, and today’s low-code platforms deliver on that desire. The low-code market is expected to explode in the coming years. According to Gartner, by 2024, low-code application development will account for more than 65% of all app development operations, with 66% of large firms utilizing at least four low-code platforms.

With minimal coding skills, network operators can accelerate the development of IT resources while simultaneously reducing time spent on manual processes and increasing operational efficiency and speed of delivery. 

Read next: Democratizing IT for Rapid Digital Transformation

Aminu Abdullahi
Aminu Abdullahi is an award-winning public speaker and a passionate writer. He writes to edutain (educate + entertain) his reader about business, technology, growth, and everything in-between. He is the co-author of the e-book, The Ultimate Creativity Playbook. Aminu loves to inspire greatness in the people around him through his actions and inactions.

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