Network automation – where do you begin?

How the Network as a Service model can help with network automation.

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This is a contributed article by Jay Turner, Vice President, Development and Operations at Console Connect by PCCW Global.

Businesses today need to be more agile and responsive than ever before. But as organisations continue to embrace the cloud and move towards a more digital and dispersed way of working, they are finding that traditional network services are struggling to keep up.

Through developments in Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), there has been a profound shift in how businesses can provision, manage, and maintain their network services.

Network automation has a wide range of benefits for businesses; from giving businesses more control over changes to their network through to reducing network service provisioning times, maintenance, and cost.  

In line with the 'as-a-service' model of consumption that has risen in popularity over the last decade, the easiest way for businesses to get started with network automation is through adopting a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS) model.

Using a NaaS model, businesses can tap into the advantages of network automation and be able to re-architect networks or rework unwieldy contracts from the ground up – and crucially only pay for the bandwidth that they use.

The necessity for NaaS

In a nutshell, NaaS, like any other 'X-as-a-Service,' is the continuation of a trend toward renting infrastructure and applications rather than owning them. For businesses this means a shift from capex to opex and more agility as digital transformation continues.

With NaaS, businesses can directly provision their network connections through a customer portal, reducing service delivery times down to a matter of minutes. This also means that capacity on the network can be scaled up or down in real-time to meet the needs of a business.

These services can result in cost savings in several areas. No longer do organisations need to be tied into long-term contracts that don’t adapt to changes in network traffic.

NaaS provides IT teams with a more granular view of their bandwidth usage, giving them greater control over network costs. And, as the organisation is using a NaaS platform rather than building their own, they don’t have the cost associated with purchasing and maintaining the hardware to benefit from network automation.

This is a valuable part of any CTOs toolbox as there’s a real need for businesses to turn networks on when they need to. Especially as it’s become harder to predict when a business will have peak periods of traffic on its network due to the large-scale shift to remote working, and regional lockdowns.

Protecting against the public internet

By using a private dedicated network to connect to cloud providers, CTOs can navigate some of the pitfalls of the public internet and improve their overall network performance and security. Sensitive systems are isolated on networks with no direct connection to or from the public internet, and businesses can integrate networking services and security services like firewalls.

Gartner predicts cloud to continue to change over the next several years as more businesses migrate toward distributed, hyperscale, and hybrid solutions. This will add to the complexity of IT infrastructures, necessitating IT to expedite cloud-based resource provisioning and configuration management.

To further enhance their cloud connectivity, CTOs can also explore API integration through a NaaS platform. APIs are the new frontier for businesses, allowing them to coordinate and automate applications, services, and networks in virtually unlimited ways.          

IT teams need to quickly integrate, coordinate, and deploy new processes and services to respond to new problems, crises, and trends. Intelligent automation tools and process orchestration will be required to face the future.

Gone are the days when businesses should feel that they are tied down by lengthy contracts for their network services – now they have the freedom to immediately access the capacity and services needed, and benefit from what network automation has to offer.

Jay Turner is Vice President, Development and Operations at Console Connect, powered by PCCW Global, responsible for global software-defined network infrastructure, and emerging technology. He has more than 20 years of leadership experience in open source software, encompassing development, quality risk assessment, operations and support. Prior to joining PCCW Global, Turner was Sr. Director of Quality Engineering at Red Hat, responsible for the quality risk assessment of all product deliverables in the Red Hat Cloud Business Unit.