What exactly is network automation, what is it used for, and what are the pros and cons of this technology?
According to Techopedia, “Network Automation is the process of automating the configuration, management, and operations of a computer network. It’s a broad term that includes a number of tools, technologies, and methodologies used to automate network processes.”
According to SearchNetworking.com, “Network Automation is a methodology in which software automatically configures, provisions, manages, and tests network devices. It is used by enterprises and service providers to improve efficiency and reduce human error and operating expenses.”
Techopedia also explains that “Network Automation is implemented through the combination of hardware and software-based solutions that automatically execute and manage repetitive network environment processes.”
Firewall application automatically allows or blocks incoming or outgoing traffic for abnormalities. This is but one example of network automation. Network automation is used for various more reasons like for performance and SLAs. Network automation offers performance monitoring, alerting thresholds on performance data when utilization is high, or errors suddenly appear on a link. Without automation, this task would be impossible in any network consisting of more than 50 routers and switches. As far as SLAs go, network automation makes monitoring the delay, jitter, and packet loss across a network possible.
Network automation is also used for scaling of processes. While there are many processes in managing networks that should be performed regularly, in order to have a smooth running network with minimum downtime, these processes are seldom performed due to the time it takes to implement them manually. Network automation makes it possible to perform these processes regularly and reduces the risk of an unexpected network failure. These processes include: compliance, saving configurations, switch port utilization, improved network resilience, and consistent deployment.
A few more areas network automation offers benefits includes financial, topology, network analysis, correlation, and human error. When it comes to helping a company financially, network automation can reduce operating costs by tracking the inventory of network devices in a network. An accurate network topology drawing and topology information are essential when it comes to troubleshooting, network planning, and preventing outages. Network automation helps companies keep their network drawings up to date and helps to eliminate errors. Network automation can also help perform better network analysis, which identifies current and potential problems with the network.
Perhaps the best use for network automation is to reduce human error. It is estimated that human error accounts for 40-80% of network failures and it has been proven that automation helps reduce these errors. As networks become bigger and increasingly complex, automation is the best way to reduce errors, manage the size and complexity of networks, and provide high availability.
Network automation offers many benefits for users like how it simplifies security processes, which result in a reduction of duplicated deployment efforts. Network automation also significantly reduces human error and offers faster threat detection on a network. This is because automation can correlate information across different data sources swiftly.
Network automation does have some drawbacks, though. Some believe it offers a perceived loss of control as the desire to retain a human element when it comes to maintaining network security is still prevalent. Also, many people have a distrust of technology and fear that automated systems may overlook threats or make lives harder for employees by putting too many restrictions on the network. Another concern many people have about network automation is a fear that automation of security will bring massive changes to an organization and how security professionals will work.
Even though many people find some concerns with network automation, these concerns are unrealistic and automating networks offers far more benefits than it does disadvantages.