Strategies for fostering greater network automation

BrandPost By Pete Bartolik
Oct 23, 20193 mins

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Credit: istock/wbritten

With network automation correlating highly to achieving business agility, CIOs and other top IT executives may be struggling with how to get their organizations to pick up the pace.

Juniper Network’s 2019 State of Network Automation Report (SoNAR) provides some keen insights into the top issues that hold back organizations, as well as IT decision makers, from making progress toward greater automation.

Overall, the top organizational challenge survey respondents face in developing their automation practice is an overwhelming number of technology choices, according to more than half of all respondents. Not surprisingly, those most overwhelmed (59%) have little or no experience in automating parts of their networks. But it’s also true of 50% of those that have automation in production mode across all places in their networks, and 53% who have automation in production across parts of their networks. Other key challenges include budget, of course, and older networking equipment that is difficult to automate.

Only one group—evaluators who have automation up and running in lab or test environments—views lack of budget or financial barriers as a greater challenge.

A daunting task

The challenge is probably not a big surprise to those involved in network automation decision making. As Heavy Reading Senior Analyst James Crawshaw points out in a white paper, “Network automation is not a single technology, but rather a ‘Swiss army knife’ of protocols, tools, methodologies and processes.“

Crawshaw also observes that as new technologies such as AI and machine learning bring new opportunities for innovation, business outcomes can be advanced by a strategic transformation in business models, internal processes, and organizational culture.

Clearly CIOs face a daunting task in finding the right skills—internally or externally, via service providers—to rise to the challenge. Technology innovation will continue apace, even as organizations demand more from their IT teams, so the prospect of creating a comprehensive automation solution from a plethora of tools and components and vendors might indeed seem overwhelming.

Reaching out for help

Decision-makers are going to have to balance build-vs-buy options and decide how best to leverage their internal skillsets with those of external partners who have specialists dedicated to the task and can call upon experiences helping other organizations improve their automation capabilities.

They can also take advantage of community knowledge, drawing on the experiences and expertise of other organizations that are going through the same journey and are perhaps further ahead of the curve. NRE Labs is a community-centered initiative that aims to bring the skills of automation within reach of everyone. Lessons and documentation, freely available, can expose your staff at all levels to the tools, skills, and processes that will help your organization “consume” automation more readily.

Take a look at the NRE Labs lesson catalog to find out how you might begin to plug the skills gap and make the task of network automation less overwhelming. And for more insights into how other organizations are dealing or struggling with this issue, download the 2019 State of Network Automation Report at