Network Assurance Platform
Jan 10, 2023

Network Assurance Platform - Integrating automation, analytics, and AIOps with Managed Network Services

What is Network Automation & Orchestration?

Network Automation & Orchestration is the practice of applying automation to manual processes and tasks throughout the network management lifecycle. Automation is employed in network processes like information gathering, analysis of network estate, traffic flow, bandwidth utilization, application performance and user experience during network assessments; network estate discovery, device provisioning, setup configurations & UAT testing during deployments; alert monitoring & event management, change management, configuration management, devices commissioning & decommissioning at EoL, etc. in day-to-day network operations and management.

These network automation & orchestration use cases eliminate manual execution of time-consuming, repetitive, and error-prone tasks, thus allowing for improved network performance, faster issue resolution and reduced operations costs.

Why is Network Automation & Orchestration necessary?

Enterprise network operations centers’ teams around the globe have realized the need for agility & responsiveness in network operations and management to cater to the growing business requirements & expectations of both the enterprise as well as its end customers. This has necessitated a shift in network monitoring and operations towards automation and orchestration. Most enterprises around the world are already underway in implementing automation and orchestration in their operations and management.

Let us look at the challenges and needs of enterprises that is causing this global shift towards autonomous networks.

Some of the real-world challenges and requirements that we’ve seen our customers face are elicited below. These challenges have influenced our customers to shift towards the adoption of network automation and orchestration.

1. Responsiveness, efficiency, and consistency

In traditional enterprises, with tasks being carried out manually during transformation/transition and operations, IT solutions lack the agility, efficiency, and consistency to address business challenges that give organizations the edge to remain competitive. Enterprises need to become agile, flexible, and scalable to remain competitive in the marketspace. IT teams are expected to provide solutions that support businesses to achieve agility and scalability. We are now seeing businesses make a tectonic shift towards Cloud, Mobility & IoT to enable them to stay competitive. Software defined networks that create a robust digital backbone and Network Automation & Orchestration—these are key underlying solutions to enable digital transformation.

2. Faster & error-free transformation

According to PMI, 27% of projects run over budget, 63% of projects’ completions are delayed when compared to their project plans, and 80% of organizations report that project delays are caused due to time spent on rework.

Leveraging automation in digital transformation projects especially in phases that include repetitive tasks allows for faster deployment and eliminates the human element of error. If left unchecked, this could result in rework, unexpected downtime, delayed resolution, and cost overruns.

3. Long resolution timeline leading to reduced uptime

Through automation and orchestration, network operations teams can resolve frequently faced network issues, configuration and policy updates, and other repetitive operational tasks.

These automation use-cases lead to improved network performance and availability resulting in reduced network incidents and issues. This enhances application performance and user experience for employees and end customers.

4. Predictive monitoring and maintenance

Today network operations teams are either leveraging or exploring the combined capabilities of Automation and AI to improve network and application performance through predictive maintenance. AIOps leverages machine learning and big data analytics to continuously monitor and detect issues through failure indicators and resolve issues in real-time before the users experience a network/application failure.

5. Security and compliance

Enterprise security must be constantly on its toes to ensure that the business is protected from any disruptions. Through automation and machine learning, the platforms can ensure security rules and policies for network and security devices are auto updated based on the alerts to detect and remediate any threats.

6. End-to-end visibility and transparency

Engineers and managers have information fed from multiple sources. The plethora of tools doesn’t help enterprises reduce downtime or mean time between failures (MTBF), but network is central to application performance and user experience. This means enterprises bear significant downtime costs. The absence of a single tool or single pane of view has not allowed the customers to benefit from availability of new age tools as they still lack end-to-end and real-time visibility with insights into project performance.

Both customers and teams aren’t equipped to make insights-driven decisions that enhance network performance through the undertaking of transformation or service improvement projects.

Network automation & orchestration solutions available today

There are diverse solutions available today for network monitoring and analytics, network automation, and AIOps. These solutions can be adopted to take an application-centric approach to network operations and management that focuses on enhancing application performance and user experience.

Apart from the challenges highlighted earlier, the gap that we at Microland have discovered is the unavailability of a single solution that cuts across network analytics, automation & AIOps that supports a customer during transformation and management.

Through decades of experience in delivering infrastructure managed services and large-scale digital transformation to our customers and the learnings we have gleaned from these engagements, we came up with Microland's Network Assurance Platform (NAP).

Network Assurance Platform - a panacea for all connectivity challenges

Network Assurance Platform, also called NAP is a modular platform designed and built to accelerate network transformation and optimize the managed services.

The objective behind Network Assurance Platform was to bring analytics, automation, and AIOps under a single platform which can support a customer throughout the network lifecycle from consulting, assessment, and transformation to managed services.

The Network Assurance Platform has two major modules for the transformation/transition and managed services phase of the network life cycle called Transformation Excellence and Operations Excellence.

Let’s take a closer look at the two modules of Network Assurance Platform: Transformation Excellence and Operations Excellence.
 
Network Assurance Platform - Transformation Excellence

NAP Transformation Excellence Module is a unique accelerator for executing new technology network transformation and transition projects. It brings together under a single pane of glass all critical transformation functions including,

  • Real-time project workflow management and reporting.
  • Project dashboards with real-time status updates.
  • Collaboration & workflow integration capability to multiple customer tools and systems.
  • Tracking project cost estimates vs actual expenditure.
  • Key KPIs dashboard to enable decision making.
  • Design & deployment guides cutting across OEMs & technology like SD WAN, SD LAN and wireless LAN.
  • Process and technical intelligence through in-built tasks and templates at various stages of transformation like discovery, planning, designing, deployment, and handover.
  • Technology know-how and best practices for design and deployment templates.
  • Automated deployment testing and auto-resolution templates.

We leverage NAP Transformation Module for network design and deployment acceleration to deliver transformation in a well-structured and organized manner. The module also includes key project management accelerators like plan validation, site rollout priority sequencing, WBS, and effort baseline creation.

Network Assurance Platform - Operations Excellence

The Operational Excellence module focuses on enhancing day-to-day network operations through automation and analytics using MicroBots and Intelligeni platforms. Below are some of the key features of the Operations Excellence.

  • Infrastructure analytics—Analysis of network infrastructure and its correlation to service management tickets.
  • Process Automation—Run activities collaboration through automation by integrating various data sources, applications, and management tools. This is achieved by NAP using task and process specific automation.
  • Intelligent data collection and dissemination for resolver groups based on similar ticket pattern, type of issue, and criticality of the ticket.
  • Automation of repetitive activities including self-healing use cases.
  • Automated risk and compliance reporting.
  • Self-help portal with integrated process and technical tasks for faster and accurate execution of changes and services.
  • Data driven and algorithmic management of infrastructure through Intelligeni for fault prediction and management.

Self-healing networks through MicroBots

Network Assurance Platform delivers a high-powered automation platform for structure and building of automation use cases, thus enabling partial or complete reuse of the automation routines.

MicroBot is an automation platform which acts as a backend engine in NAP that delivers,

  • End-to-end integrated network automation across multiple-streams—wireless, LAN, SDWAN, SD-LAN, SDN for DC, ITSM tools, etc.
  • Reusable automation process flows.
  • Pre-built connectors for multiple tools and systems.
  • Role-based access controls.
  • Device checks pre and post-automation.
  • Device compliance checks and configuration remediation.
  • Any network device automation—appliances, controllers, configuration tools, and orchestrator.

Microland works with each customer to develop the automation and analytics requirements specific to the customer’s network infrastructure and subsequently customizes modules to maximize the network efficiency for customer using NAP.

Customer benefits from NAP

Through automation, analytics and AI, NAP bring,

  • Accelerated transformation: Accelerate our customer’s network transformation by making it error and hassle free thus avoiding any overruns in projects costs or timelines.
  • Experience-driven project planning & governance: NAP provides a complete project life-cycle management and network transformation construct guiding you with all the required process steps and information needed across all program phases and deliverables. The project management construct is based on years of experience and industry best practices to ensure minimal impact
  • to customer’s business.
  • Visibility and transparency: Analytics driven dashboards provide granular and insightful information to our customers. Our team assists the customer in
  • data-driven decision making during transformation and operations on project status and network and application performances across the enterprise network.
  • Self-healing networks: In the run operations, multiple sub-modules for automated event monitoring, ticketing and auto-resolution bots lead to rapid resolution of issues that improve network availability and application performance.
  • Service integration and management: NAP can provide support in managing multiple OEM and carrier vendors for the customer on a single platform and monitor their performance against those agreed in the SLAs.

All of these can be achieved with our single modular platform, NAP. It is a platform that has been built on the experience and learnings that we have garnered over the last two decades. Our understanding and acumen continue to grow and improve based on new learnings and insights from newer engagements and technologies. We go the extra mile with NAP so that the customer doesn’t have to.

Future of enterprise networks

IT solutions are evolving from a technology-centric model to a business-centric model, with focus on user experience and employee productivity over SLAs & KPIs.

Network being the core backbone of an enterprise can no longer just remain automated but must evolve to become autonomous as well. AI in combination with big data analytics and automation will not only self-heal and auto-resolve issues but constantly monitor and identify any performance degradation and run diagnostics to ensure uninterrupted and enhanced user experience.

To support its customers in evolving their network into an autonomous one, we have developed an AIOps platform, Intelligeni, under the NAP umbrella. Intelligeni is an Artificial Intelligence and machine learning-powered automation platform that manages complex IT systems. It focuses on making environments being managed significantly more reliable and resilient. It uses anomaly detection to surface hard-to-detect problems, graph-based algorithms to separate useful alert signals from monitoring noise and can then either trigger a remedial action or enable a set of engineers to collaboratively resolve issues.

Intelligeni is what we call a MinimalOps platform. This is our next step in the shift from manual network operations to autonomous networks.

Where is your enterprise in the journey towards autonomous networks?

Why enterprises choose Microland for Managed Network Services

Validating Microland’s capability in providing adaptive and dynamic network services with end-to-end performance visibility to enterprises, Gartner has recognized Microland as a leader for the third consecutive year in the 2022 Gartner® Magic Quadrant™ for Managed Network Services. Click here to read the press release. As the current network landscape evolves into a more dynamic environment, it is imperative that the management of network services include more automation and orchestration than in the past.

Microland’s Network Assurance Platform (NAP) harnesses the power of analytics, automation, and AIOps to unlock the true potential of the enterprise network. With intelligent tech support capabilities, optimized workflows, automated rules, and frameworks for transformation excellence and operations management, NAP is a one-stop network lifecycle platform destination for network assessment, transformation, performance tuning, self-heal, capacity planning, and network observability.

Authors

Robert Wysocki, Senior Vice President & Global Client Solutions Leader - Networks & Cybersecurity

Harish M N, Director - Networks & Cybersecurity

Sujay M Singh, Business Manager - Networks 

References

  1. https://blogs.gartner.com/andrew-lerner/2014/07/16/the-cost-of-downtime/
  2. https://kapost-files-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/published/54ef73ef2592468e25000438/idc-devops-and-the-cost-of-downtime-fortune-1000-best-practice-metrics-quantified.pdf
  3. https://engage2demand.cisco.com/LP=9238