The Current State

of Network Automation

"Network automation tools enable network operations staff to gain process and configuration agility, while ensuring compliance"

Gartner, Market Guide for Network Automation, March 2017

In that same enterprise report from Gartner, a poll taken at a Gartner’s 2016 U.S. Data Center Infrastructure & Operations Management Conference in December 2016, shows that more than half of the respondents, 54%, have no automated network changes performed today and 37% have only 1% to 25% of network changes automated.

Enterprises are feeling the impact of this as they move to digitize their businesses. Automation has been identified as a top priority to improve responsiveness to the business needs while also reducing network errors, outages and security risks. The challenge enterprises face is that their networks are made up of devices from dozens of vendors, which have been deployed over many years creating a situation sometimes known as “technical debt”.

Public clouds and cloud services are being increasingly leveraged, and they provide many automation tools to spin up and change services quickly, but the legacy network infrastructure they depend on lacks this level of comprehensive management software. The traditional approach to network automation usually comes in two flavors:

Scripting

Scripting languages such as Java, Python, Perl, Ruby, TCL, and others provide one method to automate network changes.

Scripting lacks business/lifecycle process or network scope, they:

  • Typically, only cover immediate device specific changes
  • Are not scalable or intended for more than one-time use
  • Vary by vendor making network-wide changes impossible

Intent oriented support for Discovery, Analysis, and Validation structures require hard to find deep programming skills; no integrated audit mechanisms mean ongoing dependency on “push and pray” deployments; and if changes are late or updates overlooked, non-compliance is risked at a business level.

Vendor Management Tools

Most vendors provide management software with a variety of features to monitor and make changes to the network devices.

Given the many vendors making up the equipment in today’s networks, they:

  • Each one has their own tool with a different focus and workflows
  • Make network-wide approaches or changes impossible
  • Typically incur a high cost in maintenance and training to use the variety of different tools to support their network

These tools often have script based backends, meaning they:

  • Often lack intent-oriented support for Discover, Analysis, and Validation structures
  • Lack integrated audit mechanisms and depend on “push and pray” deployment
  • Have gaps in functionality and security updates leave IT waiting at the mercy of vendors for updates

Modernize To Model-Driven Automation

Gluware takes a modern approach to automating the enterprise by offering pre-built solutions, as well as the ability to “onboard” the customers existing network feature set using Config Modeling for immediate and ongoing lifecycle management of their network.

How Gluware Works

Gluware Control is a data-model driven platform leveraging an intent-based, network-aware orchestration engine. Using pre-built or configuration modeled solutions customers can configure and deploy at scale.

Learn More

Create Users and Organizations

Use Systems Settings tool for enterprise-grade User and workspace (ie Organization) setup for a customer’s different users and network projects.
Including multilevel RBAC (4 different user roles), and integrated LDAP Support for interacting with a company's existing LDAP infrastructure enabling fast and secure sign on for new users.

Customize Organizations with Features and Tools

Customize Orgs and Sub Orgs with the specific tools and feature sets needed for each project or phase of a customer’s network using the Solutions Manager.

Configure Features

Use the Model Editor and Guided workflows with either Config modeling (for existing networks) or Advanced Modeling (for new networks) to customize and configure the different features being applied to a customer’s network.

Configure Devices

Use the Model Editor, and leverage Device Detect, and Vendor Extensions to discovery and onboard the specific vendor, device, and OS-specific details for each network device.

Preview/Provision/Sync Nodes

Preview (using the Orchestration engine and generating logs and CLI), then Provision and Sync nodes (using Gluware’s intent-based Discover/Analyze/Validate engine).

Track and act on Configuration Changes

Using the Config Drift utility and integrated mechanisms like the agent-based manual config change notification, track and audit the configurations of all devices being managed by Gluware and either update the “golden” configs or remediate nodes that have drifted from the desired config state.

Benefits of Model-Driven Automation Using Gluware

Rapid Automation - onboard in days
Vendor agnostic feature abstractions or leverage existing customer CLI
Open architecture to accommodate vendor specific issues, updates and changes
Automate existing brownfield devices - each with their own unique CLI
Evolve from struggles with home grown scripts and maintenance of software

Data Modeling Abstractions - From Low Level to Intent

Automating a network is challenging. Network Engineers must move from what they are comfortable with, low-level CLI, to programming concepts and skills. The idea behind Config Modeling is to leverage the existing CLI and “hide” the required programming from the user. The issue with staying at low-level CLI is that at some point, it will limit what can be “expressed”. For example, using Intent-based Networking principles, a high level “intent” can be expressed and the orchestration engine will then execute the required actions to realize the intent. Gluware has been designed to consume low-level task-based expressions, as well as higher level intent based expressions to provide the desired outcome on the network.

Top 10 Requirements For A Network Automation Platform

Automation Platform Requirement Gluware Control
Support for legacy network configuration and change management (NCCM)
Multi-domain – supporting automating the LAN, WAN, Data Center and more
Multi-user with LDAP integration and rights/roles management
Multi-tenant enabling management of many administratively separate networks
Ability to extend support to new, emerging virtual infrastructures leveraging SDN and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)
A platform that can help the IT organization adhere to corporate and government compliance policies, auditing standards and regulations
Ability to perform secure and reliable changes to the network, across multi-vendor network devices
Identifiable return on investment (ROI) to ensure alignment with the business needs
Ability to implement automation quickly, with limited training and onboarding time
An extensible platform which can grow and change with evolving business needs

Automating a network is challenging. Network Engineers must expand from the familiar low-level CLI to programming concepts and skills of scripting or a dependence on vendor-specific management tools. The idea behind Config Modeling is to leverage the existing network feature CLI and integrate structure for the non-coding engineers. An issue with sticking to CLI without structure is that at some point, it will limit what can be “expressed”. Gluware has been designed to combine low-level task-based expressions with higher level intent-based expressions to provide the desired outcome on the network.