Automation is at the top of agendas across the whole of the communications networking and services industry, so it was no surprise that it was one of the key themes discussed at the recent Big Communications Event in Austin, Texas.
Artificial intelligence, predictive analytics, intent-based networking and open source solutions are all helping CSPs on their journey to zero-touch automation and all of these topics were analyzed during panel discussions I moderated at BCE.
All of these topics, and more, are explored in a new whitepaper, "Network Automation Roadmap: Where to Start & What to Aim For," and an upcoming webinar From Scripting to AI, the Journey to Network Automation on June 13.
In Heavy Reading's view, network automation will require significant changes in technology, processes and organizational culture. From a technology perspective, it is about augmenting or replacing the manual tasks involved in configuring, managing and operating network equipment and associated services. Automation components include APIs, scripting languages, data modeling, templates and new methodologies, such as CI/CD (continuous integration, continuous delivery).
The scope of network automation can appear daunting. In the paper we suggest breaking it down into four phases:
- One-way automation: Engineers instruct machines to perform certain tasks in a programmatic way using standards-based interfaces such as NETCONF and using scripts to automate operational tasks.
- Data-driven automation: Build a feedback-loop from the machine to a human operator using telemetry so the human operator can analyze and decide if actions -- for example, configuration adjustments -- are required.
- Machine-assisted automation: Machines take their own remedial actions based on rules, policies and high-level intents that have been designed by a human. This phase may also be considered as "closed-loop automation."
- Autonomous operation: Using artificial intelligence, machines create a network that is predictive and adaptive to its environment. This phase may be considered "zero-touch automation," although humans are still required to redefine intent to meet ever-changing business requirements.
In the paper, we outline some of the tools required for each stage of the automation journey and provide real-world examples of how companies such as Groupon, Dyn, KDDI, Telefónica and Telus Communications are applying them.
CSPs are on a journey from traditional, manual networking to software-driven, cloud networking. Network automation has become, more than ever, a priority, resulting in many forward-looking CSPs embarking on the automation journey as they constantly innovate to stay ahead.
To download the white paper, click here.
To participate in a webinar based on this paper, register here.
— James Crawshaw, Senior Analyst, Heavy Reading
This blog is sponsored by Juniper Networks.