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EMA whitepaper Take A Strategic Approach To Network Operations

Prepared for Taking a Strategic Approach to Network Operations January 2022 EMA White Paper By Shamus McGillicuddy

EMA White Paper | Taking a Strategic Approach to Network Operations Tactical Network Operations are Pervasive Executive ­or decades, most IT organizations followed a manual approach to network operations that is siloed by the Summary network technology involved, dependent on the specific operator or engineer’s own personal knowledge and experience, and reliant upon a mix of commercial and homegrown tools ‚ince these approaches are highly Many of today’s IT organizations labor-intensive, they don’t scale very well and they don’t provide a level of consistency to problem resolution are still taking a labor-inten- ƒven worse, operational inefficiency consumes an increasing amount of precious IT resources sive, manually executed, tactical …iven this ineffective approach to network operations, IT organizations may try to adopt a similarly limited approach to network operations, scope and siloed approach to network automation ­or instance, the wide-area team might attempt to even as their infrastructures automate † elements with software-defined † solutions, campus switching and i-­i elements have grown dramatically in with software-defined ‡† solutions, and data center fabric elements with specialized fabric automation scope, scale, and complexity Moreover, they may try to use ˆevps tools to automate networking in the public cloud This complex, over time They may be hindered multi-part automation will lack end-to-end controls and contextual workflows that prevent effective and by a lack of end-to-end visibility scalable automation of hybrid networks across their platform domains or the perception that newer and Šompounding the problem, most enterprises focus on ˆay ‹ and ˆay Œ network operations, such as more scalable approaches, such as zero-touch provisioning and change and configuration management They neglect the much larger and automation, may not be applicable longer-term opportunity to automate ˆay Ž network operations in a defendable fashion The tools they tra- to etps due to the uniueness of ditionally use to monitor performance, manage tickets, and troubleshoot the network often lack any type network problem-solving technolo- of repeatability gies In some cases, they simply lack Instead, many network engineers maintain a personal library of one-off scripts to automate network a broader vision about how to scale engineering tasks, but these scripts fall out of use if that engineer leaves the organization or if the infra- operations because they don’t have structure changes whatsoever This happens uite often given that it is estimated that enterprise-class the experience needed to think dif- network device firmware is upgraded ‘on average’ Ž-“ times per year ferently about the challenge ‚ome organizations have tried to write internal software to automate workflows, but they are increas- This paper explores why network ingly searching for off-the-shelf commercial software and integrated automation solutions ˆifferent managers should think more strate- types of automation tools coexist inside a network management toolset, creating inefficiency as various gically about network operations and problems are solved in a myriad of ways, depending on who is involved IT continues to be left with a the value of implementing network fractured network management toolset that cannot coordinate end-to-end operations across the data automation in their operations e’ll center, †, ‡†, and cloud †ccording to ƒM† research, ŽŒ” of network teams believe that their also highlight how Massachusetts- based etrain Technologies, Inc Œ fragmented management tools are a ma•or impediment to successful network operations offers a platform for a strategic approach to network operations through automation Œ ƒM†, “etwork Management Megatrends Ž‹Ž‹,” †pril Ž‹Ž‹ 1

EMA White Paper | Taking a Strategic Approach to Network Operations This has tremendous negative fallout for network operations, leaving engineers struggling with operational inefficiency, hard-to-use tools, a lack of documentation, and a litany of compliance issues ƒM† research determined that ŽŒ” of network operations teams are struggling significantly with a lack of change controls †nother Œ˜” are stymied by a lack of end-to-end network visibilityŽ hen network operations are centered on human-intensive approaches, IT organizations must continuously recruit, then rely on growing numbers of highly skilled network engineers to serve as human middleware, attempting to integrate operational workflows across the various tactical tools ™nfortunately, few IT organi- zations have access to the reuired number of skilled personnel to make this workable Thirty-one percent of IT organizations say that a lack of skilled personnel is their top network operations challenge“ Strategic Operations is all About Scale ƒvery network problem must be solved once, but why should the same problem be solved repeatedlyš In fact, it has been estimated that two-thirds of all network service tickets are rooted in less than a dozen common problems In a large organization, there may be thousands of service tickets per month ith that said, IT organizations should establish a more strategic approach to ˆay Ž operations that is structured and supportable with a focus on consistency, scale, and efficiency This approach should be able to capture the knowledge and experience of trained operators and engineers as they solve network problems so their efforts can become repeatable at scale etworking teams have an opportunity to reinvent their approach to network operations by becoming automation-centric› ˜Œ” of IT organizations say business conditions during the pandemic led to a permanent increase in network automation investment They are focusing this automation investment on monitoring and troubleshooting ‘œžŸ”’, network change and configuration management ‘“Ž¡”’, and œ infrastructure provisioning ‘“‹œ”’ ¢ecently, many early attempts at formal automation have been too structured, which limits their flex- ibility, while other attempts have been too crude and hence, unsupportable Many early types of automation are created from the bottom up, with network engineers teaching themselves new scripting and coding techniues and building folders of single-use scripts hile their expertise is captured in these very rigid one-off scripts, there is also no system to leverage these efforts to be applicable to similar problems, nor make their knowledge accessible by a broader group of users with varying skills Ž ƒM†, “etwork Management Megatrends Ž‹Ž‹,” †pril Ž‹Ž‹ “ Ibid œ ƒM†, “£ost-£andemic etworking¤ ƒnabling the ork-­rom-†nywhere ƒnterprise,” ¥uly Ž‹ŽŒ 2

EMA White Paper | Taking a Strategic Approach to Network Operations To adopt this needed automation-centric approach, IT should create a top-down plan for ˆay ‹, ˆay Œ and ˆay Ž network operations that builds easily accessible automation into its very core IT leaders should push for a platform approach in which everyone involved in network operations has a common view of the network and one consistent mechanism for automating any problem that occurs This automation should be available to anyone at any time, for any size of problem, and without engaging software developers or reuiring complex coding †utomation-centric network operations is scalable It starts with typical ˆay ‹ and ˆay Œ operations, such as auto-discovery, configuration management, and change controls ¦owever, when it also includes capabilities for ˆay Ž operations, it becomes strategic Three main categories of automation form the basis for next-generation network operations¤ • †utomation that responds to problems at the moment an event occurs This automation would triage problems and perform diagnostics before human operators become involved, while assessing the issue for business impact More importantly, it should also verify against all previous problems that have occurred on the network - and make sure that it hasn’t happened again This dramatically reduces the MTT¢ and the duration of tickets to which human operators must respond • Mechanisms that capture the interactive resolution of any problem and make it available to the entire organization for subseuent problem solving The same platform would provide a more intelligent envi- ronment for network problem solving, reducing the time it takes to resolve problems in the first place • †utomation that validates, verifies, and enforces various infrastructure conditions that must exist for the organization’s business applications to perform as designed This can range from simple available bandwidth validation to protocol filtering for security reasons NetBrain: A Network Automation Platform etrain offers a comprehensive network automation platform built for hybrid networks, including the public cloud ow in its fourth generation, it discovers an end-to-end network and provides real-time visibility and dynamic maps of every device and traffic flow in any size of infrastructure etrain’s visual management console is available to all network operators and engineers, along with their opera- tional counterparts across the organization 3

EMA White Paper | Taking a Strategic Approach to Network Operations uilding on that same continuously discovered data model, the etrain solution implements a highly accessible automation engine that can be used by anyone to diagnose and solve network problems at scale etrain does so by capturing the first occurrence of problem diagnostics using a no-code approach and makes that knowledge and experience executable at any time in the future, by anyone, when solving similar problems The etrain platform automates problem diagnosis, which greatly reduces MTT¢ y making knowledge executable and repeatable, it eliminates the resource-intensive tedium of resolving the same common problems repeatedly etrain can also be configured to validate and enforce operational rules that must exist for the litany of business applications to function properly etrain’s preventive automation capabili- ties assure that time-sensitive applications like ¨oI£ will continue to function by uickly pinpointing problem areas caused by network configuration changes and reducing the time it takes to troubleshoot them EMA Perspective The global pandemic increased attrition rates among experienced IT workers, which has caused IT executives to rethink their strategies and investment priorities for the delivery of critical IT business services This resource pressure has prompted growing interest in network automation ¦owever, in con- versations with very large enterprises where networks are largescale, we still find that many of these automation efforts are tactical and shortsighted ­or example, a very large financial company developed a homegrown zero-touch provisioning server to automate onboarding of switches ¦owever, it did not automate the ongoing process for gathering performance data needed for executing automation Instead, network engineers sometimes spend several hours gathering data needed to automate operations etwork teams need to adopt tools that have complete visibility and provide automation for networks end- to-end The days of maintaining siloed tools for individual tasks are over etwork operations teams must look for ways to combine automation across data centers, ‡†s, †s, and the cloud They should adopt platforms with visibility into the intent and the state of the network to minimize manual data gathering The platform should capture the knowledge of the network team’s experts to make it available to the entire network team in the form of no-code runbooks Many network managers know etrain for its stateful discovery and mapping of networks, but etrain is not •ust a tactical network automation solution It offers the end-to-end strategic automation that ƒM† recommends It is an ideal tool for enterprises that want to shift from tactical to strategic automation from human-centric to machine-centric automation 4

EMA White Paper | Taking a Strategic Approach to Network Operations About NetBrain ­ounded in Ž‹‹œ, etrain is the market leader for etps automation, providing network engineers with dynamic visibility across their hybrid networks and low-code©no-code automation for key tasks across IT workflows Today, more than Ž,Ÿ‹‹ of the world’s largest enterprises and managed service providers use etrain to automate network documentation, accelerate trouble- shooting, and strengthen network security—while integrating with a rich ecosystem of partners etrain is headuartered in urlington, Massachusetts, with locations in ‡ondon, Munich, Toronto, £une, and ei•ing ­or more information, visit www.netbraintech.com 5

About Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. Founded in 1996, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) is a leading industry analyst firm that provides deep insight across the full spectrum of IT and data management technologies. EMA analysts leverage a unique combination of practical experience, insight into industry best practices, and in-depth knowledge of current and planned vendor solutions to help EMA’s clients achieve their goals. Learn more about EMA research, analysis, and consulting services for enterprise line of business users, IT professionals, and IT vendors at www.enterprisemanagement.com. You can also follow EMA on Twitter or LinkedIn. This report, in whole or in part, may not be duplicated, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or retransmitted without prior written permission of Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. All opinions and estimates herein constitute our judgement as of this date and are subject to change without notice. Product names mentioned herein may be trademarks and/or registered trademarks of their respective companies. “EMA” and “Enterprise Management Associates” are trademarks of Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. in the United States and other countries. ® ©2022 Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. All Rights Reserved. EMA™, ENTERPRISE MANAGEMENT ASSOCIATES , and the mobius symbol are registered trademarks or common law trademarks of Enterprise Management Associates, Inc. 1995 North 57th Court, Suite 120, Boulder, CO 80301 +1 303.543.9500 www.enterprisemanagement.com 4149.011822