The economic benefits of network automation and the digital twin it creates for large enterprises are undeniable. A complete view of the network and services, predictability of issues, and fast and automated fault resolution improve the well-being of experts and the quality of the network for the business. The digital twin is the insurance of IT outsourcing. However, few still use the solution, and there are reasons for that. I will examine the matter from the perspective of corporate management as part of the outsourcing strategy.
Why does the marketing message of automation not appeal?
Marketing the benefits of network automation and the digital twin it creates focuses on the automation of fault management and the cost savings that can be achieved. Why does this not appeal to large enterprises?
Reason 1 – Most companies acquire IT infrastructure services from ICT service providers and telecom operators. In addition, services are increasingly being received from the cloud as SaaS services. After outsourcing, the company does not perform configuration management of network devices or servers. Therefore, the marketing message of network automation’s benefits is irrelevant to companies whose strategy is outsourcing or an As-a-Service operating model.
Reason 2 – The supply of network solutions has shifted from device-specific configuration management to centralized cloud-based management consoles. The cloud management console provides a reasonably good view and control of the network by default. The more a customer concentrates its basic infrastructure into such a system, the less need there is felt for separate systems. Almost all modern systems are sold with the promise of easy management and great views.
Reason 3 – The network automation user interface does not appeal to top IT management. It is too technical, which network management certainly is. For a specialist responsible for procuring and monitoring a specific area or for a team working in silos, it is just “another new system” that requires training. With the multitude of different system projects, network automation is left behind in management priorities.
Benefits of network automation for an outsourcing company
Network automation is ideal for large corporations with tens of thousands of network devices, SD-WAN, SDN, data centers, server infrastructure with hypervisors, as well as Azure™ and AWS™ private cloud solutions. The more heterogeneous and extensive the network environment, the more benefits there are from the network automation and digital twin.
Situational awareness is required in the company’s middle management, regardless of where and by whom the management and monitoring are carried out.
Network automation and its digital twin serve large corporations by improving service management, cybersecurity, and development management. Detailed situational awareness is needed for management and development. Here are the five most commonly used functions that save time and resources, i.e., money.
Inventory and asset management are automatically and perfectly created. It is real-time and includes historical information. The entire network or a specific area can be listed using search tools based on device type, location, and vendor. Inventory accuracy is improved, and network automation can find any device connected to the network, even without authorization, and determine its location. The information can be synchronized with ServiceNow™ and its service requests or used as it is. The truth is found here.
The digital twin does for your network what the Google™ search engine did for the Internet. The data is easily retrievable and presentable, whatever architecture or configuration management the system’s management, auditing, or development requires. The truth is found here.
Management view of changes. Network automation has access to the configurations and history of devices. Changes can be listed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Numerous configuration changes made by experts are left out of ITIL change management records with all their details. “We haven’t changed anything” or “it wasn’t supposed to affect anything” are common explanations every week. The truth is found here.
End-to-end path monitoring of applications is not possible without a digital twin. Networks have asymmetric routing. Traceroute, the de-facto tool of experts, only displays part of the L3 level (not the L2 level), and the return route is a mystery. Changes in change management, network expansion, and outages often change the active route from the workstation to the application. The digital twin shows the true path of an individual application based on device configuration, whether it was today, yesterday, or last week. The truth is found here.
Documentation and Visio™ network diagrams are automatically created and maintained. Dynamic documentation and a network map that includes the details of the area under review are more valuable. Manual documentation is rarely up-to-date, and hand-drawn diagrams are unsuitable for operational use. The truth is found here.
The digital twin risk is a revealing truth.
The implementation of the functions described above does not involve any technical risks. The system does not need to change management rights to the network devices and services and therefore does not affect the network’s operations. It also does not burden the network, as many network management solutions do. It is only an accurate copy and digital twin of your network and its services.
The system is implemented as an on-premise solution by default. It does not require an internet connection to function. Access control and views are based on roles and strong authentication.
The truth about network configuration and reality will undoubtedly reveal risks to business continuity management. However, it enables development management and risk reduction without requiring super expertise. Despite SLA agreements, business continuity is responsible for the company itself. The digital twin is the insurance of IT outsourcing.
Hannu Rokka, Senior Advisor
5Feet Networks Oy