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Moving from Automating Ops to AutomatedOps
Enterprises worldwide recognize that technology can go much beyond augmenting business-as-usual processes and become a key driver in driving business transformation and growth. Enterprises need a resilient infrastructure backbone to support their global operations. Businesses invest more time, money, and resources to optimize infrastructure and networking technologies to address the industry's and customers' ever-changing and evolving business demands.
In my previous blog titled Platform Mindset for Network Services, I briefly touched upon the significant technological advancements driving the platform mindset for network services. In a nutshell, three critical paradigms are driving this mindset, which are:
Let us spend the next few minutes understanding these three paradigms better.
Enterprises rely on monitoring tools to assess the health of their technology estates. Pre-defined thresholds and metrics are defined as part of the service level agreements, and an ops team is set up to monitor them regularly. Any deviation in the expected behavior triggers an alert to the concerned IT service desk, which responds and resolves the issues. The IT teams spring into action only when they are intimated through an agent or a monitoring tool. Unsurprisingly, many enterprises deal with up to 25% of false positives that are detrimental to workforce productivity. There are more feasible approaches than this, as a reactive IT resolution approach can adversely impact business and reputation.
A more proactive monitoring approach would entail continuous observation of the IT estate for the reliability of services and performance through fine-grained telemetry captured from multiple sources. The data collected is classified as M.E.L.T (Metrics, Events, Logs, & Traces) and includes insights from configuration files. An observability platform can consume and translate this data into services and underlying infrastructure topology graphs. It would then use AI-based cognitive models to analyze vast amounts of data and extract insights in real time. Observability empowers system engineers to question and understand the underlying network and IT infrastructure beyond what is intuitively apparent.
Another problem with monitoring tools is that they operate in silos across the infrastructure stack; Endpoints – physical & virtual, network, data centers, cloud, and applications – require different solutions that work independently, creating a watermelon effect. This impacts user experience. Click here to learn why enterprises should focus on user experience, not just IT performance. Though enterprises are hard-pressed to find a single, effective observability solution today, we are moving towards Full Stack Observability (FSO), allowing teams to manage complex IT environments seamlessly.
If we were to stop at observability, the benefits delivered to enterprises would merely be incremental. How can full-stack observability translate to higher service uptime and enhanced enterprise user productivity? With AIOps, AI algorithms can expertly interpret complex datasets and detect anomalies in network and IT environments. They resolve any undesired change in the system without any human intervention. This is done in a ticketless yet well-documented manner. Self-healing comes from constant observation, learning, and comprehension of the stable state of the environment. The more an AI engine learns, the more it can optimize.
An example of this would be the understanding and treatment of sudden spikes in network bandwidth usage when employees come to the office in the morning as a regular pattern. Another example could be carefully considering differences in experience level for network types (e.g., VPN, office LAN) or applications. Any unresolved issues are escalated to the SRE teams for further scrutiny. Due to data enrichment through observability and issue remediation through AIOps, the engineer is presented with actionable insights and directed toward recommended actions. This saves a lot of time for service engineers, which can be utilized to address high-value business requirements.
Observability and AIOps are intertwined but primarily implemented autonomously by third-party platforms. Some vendors consider these independent capabilities, while others focus exclusively on either. This diminishes the benefits enterprises can derive from their investments. When well-integrated, observability and AIOps move the needle significantly to create a paradigm shift in adopting NetDevOps principles in managed services.
Many enterprises have embarked on a journey to automate their networks and adopt NetDevOps for service request orchestration. Adopting Network as Code (NaC) would become imperative as enterprises move towards automated policy-based changes. With NaC, any network configuration is configured and implemented as code and can be controlled via variables, scripts, and templates stored in code repository tools such as Git. Transitioning to code removes the complexity and skillset required to use multiple solutions from different OEMs. By adopting the right tools, enterprises can replicate, test, execute, and reverse changes at scale in complex, hybrid environments. Replicating, testing, and executing through the CI/CD pipeline saves several hours of engineering effort and enables enterprises to be agile, as changes can be implemented frequently per business demands.
Traditionally, we have leveraged machines to augment human performance, but that is changing rapidly. Today, technology is being deployed to resolve issues, and human expertise is required to orchestrate the system. As a result, core technologies such as networks have become enablers of business growth. Enterprises can focus on optimizing user experience rather than just delivering adequate service levels like availability and resolution times.
There are potential barriers before enterprises can move towards Network as Code and AutomatedOps. The network infrastructure is primarily made up of physical hardware and a monolithic OS. This is where it differs from the application landscape. It is imperative to ensure the underlying infrastructure is standardized with consistent configuration. This includes defining a detailed level of standards and best practices for all components such as wireless, core, distribution, access switches, security segments, branch edge, and data centers.
Enterprises need to adopt a Software-Defined Network (SDN) approach, which allows them to manage the landscape centrally via programmable APIs. A network accessible via CLI treats devices as independent entities, thus increasing the complexity of adopting a Network as Code.
Microland has successfully integrated the solution through our Network Assurance Platform (NAP), which enhances observability with automated remediation. The platform has superior detection and coverage capabilities that shorten the time required to correlate incidents and identify deviations from predetermined behavior. It is supplemented with critical features to restore the system to a stable state. Our AIOps engine - Intelligeni™ - is integrated with the NetDevOps tools and pipeline. This integration with a two-way input enables live validation to avoid unforeseen errors due to blind spots and invisible complexities.
Some of the key features of Intelligeni and NAP include:
Microland has been recognized by Gartner and ISG as a Leader in SDN Transformation and Managed Network Services. These recognitions establish Microland as the trusted partner to deliver best-in-class network services for our clients.
Our in-house Network Assurance Platform (NAP), which has driven many technological and operational transformations, is now enhanced to drive a platform-first approach. NAP provides the ability to innovate by seamlessly integrating with new technologies and performing dynamic capacity allocation with a single pane for orchestration and administration.
If you want us to be a part of your network transformation journey, reach out to us at email@example.com
About the author:
Harish M N, Senior Solution Director - Network & Cyber Security.
A technology leader with over 20 years of experience, Harish specializes in providing strategic direction to clients for leveraging IT infrastructure to deliver business outcomes. Over the years, he has built and led global teams to successfully deliver network design, transformation, and managed services. Harish currently overlooks the innovation and development of the Network Assurance Platform and Next-Gen Network Solutions for Microland. A mechanical engineering graduate, Harish enjoys reading everything from fiction to non-fiction, teaching during weekends and keenly follows sports.