One of the latest industry buzz words is automation and while network automation is considered to be essential for digital transformation, the dominant trend in IT and Industry 4.0, it is neither new, nor as simple as the marketers would have us believe. Network automation – along with intent-based networking (IBN) and Intent-based analytics (IBA) – is just part of the evolving and expanding software-defined networking (SDN) market, said Scott Raynovich, Founder and Chief Analyst, Futuriom.
‘The [SDN 2.0] goal (of operators, including service providers and cloud network managers) is to remove manual networking configuration from their operations, reducing the cost of operating the network,’ he wrote recently. ‘Service providers, in particular, see SDN 2.0 as a key driver of automation.’
Forrester reported that 80% of IT operations time is spent performing maintenance on the existing network. And with close to half of all network outages are due to manual misconfiguration (Gartner), it’s no wonder the automation market is hot:
-the datacenter automation market is projected to grow at plus-18% CAGR through 2022
-68% of automation projects are commissioned to ensure network availability;
-the network automation market is expected to grow from $2.32 billion in 2017 to $16.89 billion by 2022, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 48.7%;
–intelligent automation services – Gartner’s umbrella term for a variety of strategies, skills, tools and techniques that service providers are using to remove the need for labor, and increase the predictability and reliability of services while reducing the cost of delivery by 15-25% annually – so that when 70% of the workload is dealt with by IAS, only 30% of the staff will remain.
This month marks the one-year anniversary of the ONAP project (Open Network Automation Platform) and community, which has become the de facto mobile network automation platform for 60% of the world’s mobile subscribers. ‘What ONAP brings to the table — a unified platform for closed-loop automation — is built on years’ of collaborative efforts across open source projects and communities’, stated the Linux Foundation on Tuesday. ‘ONAP is the first open source project to unite the majority of operators (end users) with the majority of vendors (integrators) in building a real service automation and orchestration platform.’
Networking’s 800-pound gorilla is actively pushing automation and SDN, and last month rolled out its Crosswork Network Automation software portfolio. Targeted at service providers with really big networks, the portfolio is designed to ‘offer greater network visibility at scale (mass awareness), data-driven insights (augmented intelligence)and outcome-based automation (proactive control)’, and will typically deliver a 70% improvement in operational efficiency, 30% revenue uplift and a 40% improvement in customer satisfaction, according to the company.
“We have a long history of automation”, Cisco’s Jonathan Davidson, SVP & GM, Service Provider Networking, recently told IT Trends & Analysis. The latest additions will address two key elements, he said: the time to value and reduction in the time to remediation. The new solutions offer service providers a single point of integration with zero-touch telemetry, machine learning intuition, open APIs and automated actions that offer a simpler experience all backed by Cisco Services for planning, customization and implementation.
Davidson called it a comprehensive and holistic automation approach to address mass-scale infrastructure challenges. The portfolio will help customers “turn growing pains into growing profit, and streamline operations so they can spend less time on tactical ‘firefighting’ and more time on identifying and trialing new revenue streams.”
With the latest additions to its automation portfolio, there are now seven soutions that address seven specific challenges, he recently blogged. ‘With seven different starting points the journey can be customized’:
-human driven network changes are error prone, time consuming, and lack comprehensive validation;
-data silos make network data impossible to analyze and correlate;
-customer experience suffers when variations in network quality go unnoticed;
-the time needed to manually identify network problems results in significant business impacts when outages occur;
-remediating network problems is a slow and manual process;
-Global Routing Scale errors can cause dramatic outages; and,
-networks are not continually optimized for business and service need.
Cybersecurity is one of the big pain points intended to be addressed by Crosswork. According to Cisco, security leaders rely on and invest in automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence to defend against threats. Its annual cybersecurity survey – 3,600 chief security officers (CSOs) and security operations (SecOps) managers – found 39% of organizations are reliant on automation, 34% are reliant on machine learning, and 32% are highly reliant on AI.
Never one to shy away from doom & gloom prognostications, Gartner cautions that lack of adequate skills will lead to only 30% of network operations teams able to fully realize the benefits of investments made in network analytics and automation solutions as of 2020. ‘While the need for deep-domain networking skills won’t disappear, network operations requires a significant rethink if it is to adapt to future technology and process demands, such as agile, DevOps, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud and software-defined infrastructure.’
IBM is a little more optimistic about the people implications of automation. ‘AI and automation are creating new partnerships between man and machine,’ wrote Bridget Karlin, CTO and VP of IBM GTS Technology, Innovation, and Automation.
‘This is man with machine working to deliver higher value, not man versus machine. So, the question isn’t just, “Will automation create jobs?” It’s, “How will automation re-create jobs?” As automation combined with AI moves to the forefront of our industrialized world, it is poised to accelerate business transformation in today’s digital economy, allowing us to work smarter while enabling growth.’
“Automation is a journey, it’s not just a product,” said Davidson. “We have a complete portfolio… however this is on a continuum… a journey our customers are on to have a self-healing, self-automating network”. It’s all about really understanding “where the biggest pain point is today and can we automate it”. It’s a journey for the entire industry, and Cisco wants to be sure it can help the industry through this transition, he added.
The Fiddly Bits
Available today, the Cisco Crosswork Network Automation solution extends capabilities of the Cisco Network Services Orchestrator (NSO), offering the industry’s ‘most comprehensive closed-loop multi-vendor, multi-domain automation solution, with service orchestration and automation applications that support third-party solutions with open APIs.’ The new offerings include:
-Cisco Crosswork Change Automation: automated operations application that enables large-scale change and closed-loop control;
-Cisco Crosswork Health Insights: smart sensors, smart alerts and smart remediation to monitor and optimize networks;
-Cisco Crosswork Data Platform: featuring both an OpenSource and commercial-class data analytics platform;
-Cisco Crosswork Network Insights: cloud-based analytics solution for solving large-scale routing issues; and,
-Cisco Crosswork Situation Manager: machine learning-based event correlation with social operations featuring social tools such as chat functions to solve repair issues quickly
DISCLAIMER: Guilty as charged: companies referenced in this article are represented in my investment portfolio.