ChannelLife New Zealand logo
Industry insider news for New Zealand's technology resellers
Story image

Why network managers must embrace automation, not fear it

Fri 17 Feb 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

When discussing the value of a software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN), issues raised include cost and user experience. SD-WANs are certainly cheaper and deliver a better and more predictable user experience, with better application performance leading to higher productivity.

But according to Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, writing for Silver Peak, a third element is less apparent. It is the automation that SD-WANs bring to networking.

Network management is manually intensive and time-consuming. Things are done a box or location at a time and network changes can ages to implement. A recent study by ZK Research found that the average time to make a network change was over four months.

Historically this hasn’t mattered much, as the business and the network were somewhat decoupled. But in today’s digital era where speed is everything, four months can be an eternity.  Also, because the network is so important, most changes — even simple ones — are made by senior network engineers. These expensive resources are spending much of their time making repetitive changes to network devices via antiquated CLI interfaces, instead of working on strategic initiatives to move their organisations forward.

So what is holding back network automation?  Automation changes the paradigm and makes the network dramatically more agile, yet network engineers have not fully embraced automation for two primary reasons.

Many have feared automation. They didn’t trust turning the network over to a machine to make changes. An engineer might be a good CLI jockey, and through the use of scripts, custom code and a lot of cut and paste, he/she might make changes at lightning speed. There may have been some errors along the way causing unnecessary downtime, but they could fix these through more cutting and pasting, which might cause more problems. It seemed cumbersome but it was better than turning operations over to a machine!

The other reason — and few engineers will admit this — is a job security concern regarding automation. If a tool comes along and automates core tasks, what role will the engineer play moving forward?  Most people, even others in IT, have no clue as to how a network operates and work done at the command line level seems like some super network Jedi magic that only the most highly skilled and technically trained and certified will understand.

Network landscape is shifting

But the world is changing, and sticking with this mentality will eventually impact the organisation. No matter how talented a network engineer is, there’s simply no way that the individual or team can work as quickly or efficiently as an automated system.

We hear lots about digital transformation and how companies need to move with greater speed and agility. But how is a business supposed to move fast if network changes take months to implement?  Make no mistake, network managers need to embrace automation. Old school thinking is that there is a level of risk associated with automation, but the reverse is true: by not automating network operations the risk increases of the business losing its competitive edge.

SD-WAN can automate tasks

SD-WANs are grounded in automation, and orchestrating network and application changes can be made in tight alignment with changing business requirements. SD-WAN rollouts can be achieved quickly and efficiently, automating configurations in alignment with business policy and intent. Dynamic tunnels, security controls and application optimisation can be applied when the business needs it instead of when the CCIE has time to make the change.

Network professionals should also consider that as the world changes, the skillset of every IT individual needs to change. Sticking with legacy processes that require manual configuration means the engineer is not learning the skills required to compete in the digital era.

Network changes can be made much faster and far more efficiently through the use of automation vs. trying to manage the network a device at a time. This is particularly important for the WAN as the network endpoints are located worldwide and errors can result in lengthy outages. SD-WANs change the networking paradigm and make automation a reality.

Clearly this is good for enhancing business agility, as changes can be made quickly and the network can become an enabling resource for the digital enterprise. But is automation the death knell for today’s network manager? The answer is both yes and no. Networking is difficult, and knowledgeable people will always be in high demand. However, successful network managers’ skill sets will be radically different. Change is difficult, but it is critical to maintaining relevancy.

Sticking with a legacy network means sticking with a legacy skill set. The automation capabilities of an SD-WAN enables engineers to stop doing mundane, repetitive operational tasks through antiquated CLI interfaces and to shift their focus towards building new skills to meet the demands of the future head on. For 2017, network managers are strongly urged to embrace an SD-WAN, automate processes and focus towards gaining new strategic skills:

  • Orchestration. The ability to orchestrate network changes with business or application policies is critical to automation. There are many orchestration tools available to businesses today. Some, like Puppet and Chef have become de facto standards, while some vendors, such as Silver Peak offer their own orchestration platform, along with free training and certification. It’s impossible to be proficient in all of them but it’s important to master a few of them.
  • Programming. We cannot expect a network manager to be able to create mobile applications and assume the role of a software developer. However, most software-defined products have southbound and northbound APIs that interface directly with business applications. Network engineers should seek to learn new languages such as Ruby and Python to remain strategic in today’s rapidly evolving, software-first industry.
  • Big data and analytics. This certainly isn’t for everyone, as a mastery of data sciences requires a strong maths foundation. However, most CIOs polled say there is a significant shortage of talented people capable of gathering information, analysing it, and understanding how to make it actionable. Many believe big data and analytics to be foundational for successful digital transformation, and any engineers who are looking to move into a hot space should jump in with both feet.
  • Business communications. Success in the digital era requires a tight partnership between the business units and IT. Unfortunately, there is no Rosetta Stone that can be used to translate IT vernacular into a language the business can understand, and vice versa. There’s a definite need for individuals who have the ability to translate business requirements into something that IT can understand and implement. Also, financial engineering is becoming more important as IT purchasing shifts from a CAPEX towards a subscription model. Being able to accurately compare perpetual licences to subscriptions is a key component of making the best financial decisions.
  • Security skills. The shift to digital has changed security requirements. Security is moving away from the protecting the perimeter and is shifting towards being able to protect the internal network with tools like segmentation. This too is in high demand. One advantage network managers have is that digital security is dependent on network data and analytics. Security presents an exceptional evolutionary path for high level network engineers.

Change is hard and it can be daunting. Many network professionals have spent years or even decades mastering their current skill set, earning strategic certifications along the way, so having to learn new skills can be unsettling. Yet technology marches on and resisting change will result in becoming irrelevant. Honing the simplicity and automation capabilities of an SD-WAN will free valuable time to evolve skillsets in line with changing business requirements.

By Graham Schultz, Sales Director Australia and New Zealand, Silver Peak

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.
Story image
SaaS
Maintaining secure systems with expectations of flexible work
Most office workers feel they've proved they can work successfully from home, and as much as employers try, things aren't going back to the way they were anytime soon.
Story image
Ransomware
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Cybersecurity
NCSC advisory highlights poor security configurations
The GCSB's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) has released a cyber security advisory identifying commonly exploited controls and practices.
Story image
Surveillance
Motorola Solutions acquires Videotec S.p.A for security portfolio
Motorola Solutions has acquired Italian ruggedised video security company Videotec S.p.A, along with its portfolio of highly versatile cameras.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Managed service providers: effective scoping to avoid costly vendor pitfalls
Managed security services are outsourced services focusing on the security and resilience of business networks.
Story image
Sustainability
Legrand unveils Nexpand, a data center cabinet platform
Legrand has unveiled a new data center cabinet platform, Nexpand, to offer the necessary scalability and future-proof architecture for digital transformation.
Story image
Microsoft
New Relic enters multi-year partnership with Microsoft Azure
New Relic has announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft to help enterprises accelerate cloud migration and multi-cloud initiatives. 
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS unveils AI experience to improve kids' batting abilities
SAS has created The Batting Lab, an interactive experience using AI, computer vision and IoT analytics to help kids improve their baseball and softball swings.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Collaboration
Meadows exits Ingram Micro New Zealand on a good note
We look at the resignation of Danny Meadows from Ingram Micro's New Zealand Unified Communications & Collaboration business unit.
Story image
PaaS
New digital traffic light system to tackle construction defects
Smarter Defects Management launches its PaaS digital system and says it will revolutionise managing defects in the construction industry.
Story image
Apple
Apple previews new features for users with disabilities
Apple says new software features that offer users with disabilities new tools for navigation, health and communication, are set to come out later this year.
Story image
Lightspeed
Lightspeed launches all-in-one marketing platform in A/NZ
ECommerce provider, Lightspeed has launched a new all-in-one marketing solution, Lightspeed Marketing & Loyalty in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
WolfVision
WolfVision announces new range of visualisers
WolfVision has announced a new range of visualisers to help meet multiple industry demands for remote learning and educational solutions.
Story image
SAS
New SAS service overcomes subscription fatigue for media companies
SAS has launched SAS 360 Match which helps media companies move towards a AVOD model to generate revenue as subscribers cancel.
Story image
Phishing
KnowBe4 celebrates reaching 50,000 customers worldwide
KnowBe4 has reached the milestone of 50,000 customers, adding nearly 2,500 in the first quarter of 2022 alone.
Story image
Cloud Security
Aqua Security createa unified scanner for cloud native security
“By integrating more cloud native scanning targets into Trivy, such as Kubernetes, we are simplifying cloud native security."
Story image
Cybersecurity
The 'A-B-C' of effective application security
Software applications have been a key tool for businesses for decades, but the way they are designed and operated has changed during the past few years.
Story image
Ransomware
Cybersecurity starts with education
In 2021, 80% of Australian organisations responding to the Sophos State of Ransomware study reported being hit by ransomware. 
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS launches human-focused responsible innovation initiative
SAS has launched a responsible innovation initiative, furthering its commitment to equity and putting people first.
Story image
Application Security
What are the DDoS attack trend predictions for 2022?
Mitigation and recovery are vital to ensuring brand reputation remains solid in the face of a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack and that business growth and innovation can continue.
Story image
Cybersecurity
BlackBerry offers Kaspersky replacement cybersecurity for the channel
BlackBerry advises that users of Kaspersky software in Australia and New Zealand undertake a rigorous risk analysis of their current security posture.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Pluralsight and Ingram Micro Cloud team up on cloud initiative
Pluralsight has teamed with Ingram Micro Cloud to build upon cloud competence and maturity internally, and externally support partners’ capabilities.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS announces new products amid cloud portfolio success
Analytics and AI company SAS is deepening its broad industry portfolio with offerings that support life sciences, energy, and martech.
Story image
Commerce Commission
ComCom appeals $2.25 million fine in Vodafone FibreX case
The Commerce Commission has filed an appeal in the High Court against a $2.25 million fine imposed on Vodafone NZ for its offending under the Fair Trading Act.
Story image
Application Performance Monitoring / APM
Why SolarWinds Partners will have big wins in 2022
We summarise the key recent changes that the monitoring software vendor has made to accelerate its channel business.
Story image
Wireless
Cradlepoint expands its Cellular Intelligence capabilities
Cradlepoint has announced additional Cellular Intelligence capabilities with its NetCloud service.
Story image
Workato
Workato unveils enhancements to enterprise automation platform
"The extra layer of protection with EKM, zero-logging, and hourly key rotation gives customers a lot more visibility and control over more sensitive data."
Story image
Fortinet
Fortinet's Security Fabric hits new record for integrations
The Fortinet Security Fabric has surpassed 500 technology integrations with more than 300 Fabric-Ready Technology Alliance Partners.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Noname Security partners with Netpoleon to target API issues
Specialist API security firm Noname Security has appointed Netpoleon as its distributor in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
Nozomi Networks
Nozomi Networks, Siemens reveal software integration
Nozomi Networks and Siemens have extended their partnership by embedding Nozomi Networks’ software into the Siemens Scalance LPE local processing engine.
Story image
Microsoft
SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure to deliver 204% return - study
The Forrester Total Economic Impact study finds SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure brings a 204% return on investment over three years.
Story image
Fonterra
Fonterra to use automated guided vehicles by Dematic
New Zealand's dairy giant Fonterra is upgrading its manufacturing facility in Edendale with new automated guided vehicles (AGVs) from Dematic.
Story image
Sift
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Vodafone
Vodafone NZ buys remaining stake in retail joint venture
Vodafone New Zealand has purchased the remaining 50% stake in the specialist joint venture (JV) with private equity company Millennium Corp.
Story image
Wireless
Hands-on review: Technics EAH-A800 Noise Cancelling Wireless Headphones
Designed in Osaka, Japan, these headphones just exude quality. They aren’t heavy, but they feel well built and solid.
Story image
Gaming
PNY launches XLR8 Gaming EPIX memory products in A/NZ
PNY has launched its XLR8 Gaming EPIC-X RGB™ DDR4 Silver 3200MHz and 3600MHz memory products in Australia and New Zealand.
Story image
Commerce Commission
ComCom welcomes new marketing codes for the telecom industry
The Commerce Commission is welcoming the creation of new marketing codes for the telecommunications industry.
Booster
Booster Innovation Fund. A fund of Kiwi ingenuity – for Kiwi investors.
Link image
Story image
Remote Working
How zero trust and SD-WANs can support productive remote working
The way people connect with applications and data has changed, users are remotely accessing resources that could be stored anywhere from a corporate data center to the cloud.
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.