Creating Digital Transformation Through Network Automation

Enterprises are racing to adopt EVPN-VXLAN to accommodate the networking demands of businesses in transition. As many shift from legacy monolithic architectures to modern application environments, EVPN has become the standard for facilitating traffic between domains and bridging networking needs among campus, branch, cloud, and data center. This enables old and new applications to run side-by-side, seamlessly, with built-in flexibility to scale as enterprise needs grow.

The fact is that the application economy has forever-changed the foundation of business operations. Now the network is the heartbeat of the enterprise fueling the applications that drive customer value. But transitioning a business from monolithic to microservices does not happen overnight – if it did, expect an environment rife with vulnerabilities and misconfigurations. Instead, there is a period of transformation that most enterprises find themselves in today. EVPN-VXLAN is one of the key technologies that help businesses unify network operations across diverse environments to help facilitate this transition.

Mitigating Inherent Complexity

EVPN-VXLAN deployments on their own introduce a range of complexities, including the need for manual configuration. The interdependency of the protocols involved with EVPN-VXLAN also makes it a challenge to manage applications manually as the network scales and the rate of changes to overlays and policies increase. Manual network changes can take days or weeks, slowing down application deployment and resulting in mistakes that cause costly disruptions and outages.

Any disruption that brings business to a halt, or that has even a marginal impact on customer experience, employee productivity or revenue growth, is dangerous for a modern enterprise. While EVPN-VXLAN technology has the ability to transform data center and campus networks, it also adds configuration and management complexity, which must be mitigated to truly glean the improvements in business agility and time to value it promises.

Operationalizing Network Management

There are two ways to address this issue of complexity – through people/processes or technology. On the people and processes side, the adoption of DevOps and DevSecOps initiatives, part of the driving force behind industry-wide digital transformation, are creating opportunities to operationalize and integrate network management into the realm of developers and operators. The almost universal shift left of key network operations has created demand for networking capabilities that can integrate the deployment of consistent and predictable configuration policies via APIs seamlessly through CI/CD pipelines. Using the CI/CD pipeline for network operations helps facilitate communication and collaboration between teams to increase the sharing of collective knowledge for the mutual benefit of virtually everyone in IT.

The shift to a DevOps or DevSecOps mindset for network operations can also be supported through the integration of Intelligent Network Automation and Intent-Based Networking (IBN). Not only can these technologies be seamlessly integrated into the CI/CD process, they offer a unique approach to enterprise network configuration management that brings the flexibility and built-in intelligence needed to handle the complexities of interdependent protocols of EVPN-VXLAN architecture. Using IBN ensures that the desired state of the network is achieved with each configuration change across the EVPN fabric, while Intelligent Network Automation enables enterprise customers to automate infrastructure changes like new spine or leaf nodes. This also helps automate day-to-day network management tasks like adding or removing VLANs or a class of service (CoS) from Virtual Tunnel Endpoints (VTEPs). These solutions offer a lot of flexibility and customization so it’s easy to adjust, maintain, and operate internal networks according to the specific need of an enterprise. The focus with these network management technologies is on greater operational automation that can improve the ability to rapidly design and deploy networks even with a combination of switches, routers, and firewalls across differing enterprise environments.

Future-proofing the Network

Network automation has never been more critical – not only has it become instrumental in supporting digital transformation initiatives, it’s become an important part of organizations’ abilities to adapt to pandemic workplace conditions. With no real end in sight for either of these trends, the network management decisions enterprises make now will either make or break business operations in the years to come. Through this lens, it’s easy to consider 2020 as the ultimate stress test.

But even as global events ebb and flow, network operators will struggle with the complexity of running massive multi-vendor networks, particularly as businesses succeed and scale their network footprints. Rapid expansion, corporate acquisitions, and an increasing user base are all signs of network risk-inducing success, which creates real IT challenges with device diversity, scalability, compliance, network changes, and availability/uptime.

Network automation promises several advantages, including reduced troubleshooting time, fewer outages, and more agile network operations. With the efficiency and agility gains alongside enhanced observability, network operators have a clearer patchway to deal with complex and messy network environments, without the need to rip and replace entire network infrastructures.

 

Author's Bio

Jeff   Gray

Jeff Gray

CEO and Co-Founder of Gluware