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Automated network
management systems:
Network automation

Author: Mark Stone

Automated network management may sound simple in theory, but it's a comprehensive process.

Network automation uses special software to automate network management functions such as planning, resource provisioning, network mapping, network testing and optimizing networks and their services.

Whether it's physical or virtual, any type of network can use network automation to help reduce operating expenses, boost efficiency and mitigate human error.

With network automation, repetitive network tasks, functions and processes can be managed automatically to assist in improving network service efficiency and availability.

Benefits of automated network management systems

One of the most prominent advantages of automated network management systems is reducing time and resources spent on network functions. Because time is money, automation can help you to improve your bottom line.

When functions are automated, time-consuming processes like application deployment get sped up significantly. Work hours—along with human error—can potentially be significantly reduced. According to Network World, in the typical data center, between 70% and 75% of failures are caused by human error. An automated network can help you to reduce downtime and improve performance, reliability and security.

Cost and resource savings aside, network automation allows organizations to gain critical insight from sophisticated network analysis. Data from multiple sources can be leveraged, such as user devices, routers, logs and configuration files.

Finally, automation provides the crucial elements of visibility and discovery. You can't manage what you can't see, and with network automation, you'll be able to find those access points, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, controllers, routers, switches and appliances that your IT staff might have overlooked. Remember, shadow IT still exists.

How to decide when you're ready

Before beginning your journey toward automated network management systems, you should consider several things.

First, you need to analyze your network for readiness with a comprehensive inventory of network devices and endpoints. Then, you should identify critical pain points that you wish to automate.

The key to automated network management is a well-defined automation tool strategy, which should lead you to the solution best aligned with your organizational processes and current IT technologies.

Equally critical is alignment among everyone impacted, ensuring that all teams are consulted before the process begins. Your workforce must also be properly trained for the transition.

Challenges of automated network management systems

Network automation challenges shouldn't be overlooked because they can impact your organization. When automating, don't ignore the potential pitfalls that may delay the process.

On your automation journey, expect the following hurdles:

  • Perception of losing control. Much like the ongoing discourse surrounding self-serve checkouts in retail, organizations are concerned that network automation will replace human workers and fail to catch anomalies. While these concerns are understandable, oversights are more likely when automation isn't deployed. In fact, a World Bank 2019 World Development Report found that automation can create new industries and jobs in the technology sector.
  • Complexity. As modern networks evolve, so does the complexity required to manage and maintain them. If your network contains numerous data segments, identifying and managing those silos may lead you to believe that network automation can be overwhelming.
  • Specialization. Network automation isn't a solution that can be simply turned off and on like a switch. Network automation should be a process in which planning and strategy are prioritized to synchronize with an organization's specific operations and goals.
  • Legacy hardware and software. Legacy systems are critical for many organizations and, in some cases, may fall outside the scope of network automation.

Learn more about how Verizon managed network service options can help you upgrade and automate your environment.