Enterprises in Australia have started embracing software-defined networks and related technologies, with a focus on using SD-WAN to strategically shift workloads to the cloud.
SD-WAN solutions with its inherent flexibility, high reliability, and lower costs are rapidly becoming the platform of choice for managed business services. The $40+ billion markets for managed business services is undergoing a seismic change and competitive re-alignment according to Kentik’s The State of Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Network Management, 2019 report.
Currently, the vast majority of Australian companies use at least one type of network automation, a trend that is projected to increase substantially in the near future. Enterprise customers need to shift to a business-driven SD-WAN platform. This particular platform unifies SD-WAN, firewall, segmentation, routing, WAN optimization, and visibility and control functions, all in a single, centrally managed platform. A large Australian firm also partnered with Spooster to overhaul their existing IT processes and automate network operations, thereby increasing operational speed, accuracy, and reducing costs.
Why Automate Network Functions?
An influx of data, more apps, and multiple devices are constantly pushing the limits of traditional WAN architectures. Coupled with this, network traffic is growing substantially year over year. It is becoming almost impossible for enterprise networks to keep up with these rapid changes.
A band-aid solution in terms of increasing expensive bandwidth by improving connectivity will not be able to solve the problem of slowing networks. It is here that by harnessing the power of SD-WAN, an enterprise will be able to optimize a wide area network, reduce cost, and enable robust security. This is just the tip of the iceberg. There are several other reasons why you should automate your network –
- Solves Network Traffic Problems: A network automation solution using SD-WAN that is cloud-based and utilizes software-driven architecture will be able to solve network traffic problems, ensure multiple application performance, and rapidly adapt to changing conditions—all without direct IT intervention.
- Quicker Deployment: SD-WAN solutions can be deployed faster and easier on Cloud by enabling different applications in minutes on any platform and at the same time will maintain a consistent and predictable performance.
- Improves Network Agility: A traditional WAN is unsuitable because backhauling all traffic – including data destined to the cloud – from branch offices to the headquarters introduces latency and slows application performance. However, a cloud-based SD-WAN increases network agility and simplifies management and network operations, lowers cost, and most importantly provides a better experience for customers and employees.
- Better Security Controls: Single cloud management of networking policies through the SD-WAN along with robust security policies simplifies deployment and helps make network protection more pervasive.
A leading Australian firm recently underwent a digital transformation using Spooster’s network automation systems in hopes of creating more reliable, efficient, and cost-effective networks. This firm had suboptimal business efficiency due to traditional network infrastructure which was spread across geographically dispersed Data Centers. The traditional WAN systems caused major delays in launching new applications due to manual efforts coupled with longer cycle times. Moreover, the basic network systems hampered application availability, resulted in weak security controls, and overall offered poor visibility of the entire network infrastructure.
The firm’s IT staff required an automated solution that would take the pressure off its employees and optimize its maintenance capabilities while reducing the risk of significant network downtimes.
On completion of the SD-WAN Automation project, we helped them profitably achieve their business goals. We also dramatically reduced the time and OPEX associated with turning up new customers and enabled true, closed-loop automation for the entire network services lifecycle. The results of Spooster assisted network automation effort, resulted in the firm achieving a significant reduction in time for global network configuration changes.
Challenges faced by the client before automation
Similar to other organizations, this particular client of Spooster had a legacy network architecture in place that offered only marginal success in network management.
Before the SD-WAN automation, the client’s IT team used to manually configure thousands of network devices. This was an extremely laborious and inefficient process. Moreover, they had grown in size over the last two decades and had an expansive network of offices across the globe. While their traditional WAN network was relatively stable, it was not dynamic and agile. This overtime affected the functionality of the network.
Also before embarking on the digital transformation with us, this client’s IT team had a requirement of high levels of compliance and uniformity for both hardware and software devices used in all their locations. However, they had a network infrastructure that was lagging in comparison to their servers, storage, and virtualization.
Though their IT teams flirted with the ideas of automation, it was mainly in the form of writing scripts to optimize their internal workflows. Moreover, the IT team was in desperate need of an automation solution that could simplify its manual network maintenance processes and dramatically accelerate updates without destabilizing its network.
The client was only scratching the surface of its network automation capabilities coupled with its network engineers following the old school manual approach to networking. There were inordinate delays and resulted in projects taking anywhere from 6 to 8 months to complete. This was a far cry from a complete overhaul through an end to end Network automation.
How Spooster helped with automation?
Our team began the engagement process with a holistic understanding of the client’s technical and organizational goals. The need to understand the existing corporate culture and ethos is especially important when dealing with a realignment project of this magnitude. We commenced with a gradual rollout of SD-WAN in the first quarter, starting small and making incremental progress. The complete network migration across various client’s locations was completed by the end of the third quarter of the same year.
This firm has since progressed from a company whose core network was completely fragmented, to a company that completely ‘changed its game,’ by becoming centrally-managed with a unified SD-WAN network architecture that is agile and scalable into the future.
Our team helped the client to automate their network in the following key areas:
- Inventory: We noted that there was a big difference between the client’s security standard and the assets out there in the field. We helped them derive formidable insight into the real condition of this inventory. This helped them resolve the situation much faster and with a greater degree of precision.
- Configuration drift: By using automated configuration management tools, the client’s IT team noticed that the system was out of alignment for a shorter time period as they operate in real-time. They were easily able to detect any changes from the norm and run audits on their networks. This helped them adhere to their compliance policies and guidelines.
- Operating System upgrades: The newfound automation provided them with streamlined management of network devices and operation, security upgrades. This helped them dramatically reduce operational risk and errors.
- Policy: After the audit had taken place and the team had verified the software was up to date. The next steps were to begin making organization-wide changes. The automated network enabled the client to make policy changes with ease and transmit those changes consistently across the network.
- IT productivity: Finally we helped by automating frequently performed operational tasks with pre-built apps. This helped simplify processes and automate repetitive tasks. This also helped the IT team save time and focus on more impactful activities.
Challenges in the project and how Spooster overcame them
The biggest challenge in any SD-WAN automation project is convincing a company from changing from its existing status quo. Therefore it is essential to build trust with decision-makers and higher management so that the client/enterprise sees the value in the sizable investment that goes into network automation.
Convincing employees to adopt radical organizational changes is usually challenging. However, organizations must foster a culture of curiosity and experimentation. This is because without questioning existing processes, any company cannot further optimize existing processes thereby improving productivity and efficiency.
Enterprise-wide network automation is not an overnight activity. Keeping this in mind, Spooster’s team helped its client’s IT team break down this daunting goal of network automation into small bite-size chunks. We diligently assisted our client initially with small projects and kept incrementally adding to the automation project list.
We also worked with the internal IT team and prioritized feedback whilst delivering promptly on timelines. But most importantly we helped our client establish a new thought pattern wherein automation is prioritized whilst reducing dependencies on inefficient processes.
Over time the various individual automation projects undertaken by us all added up to create a well oiled highly functioning network automation model for the client.
Archaic manual processes followed by companies can no longer keep up with rapid network innovation, complexity, and ongoing evolution. The future for IT infrastructure for organizations across Australia and the globe consists of autonomous self-driving, self-healing, and intent-based networking. Organizations must seek to incorporate agility in their IT operations whilst being fluid and capable of adopting new technology. Automation should be viewed as a journey that begins with creating a workflow centered around high-level business intent.
Contact Spooster or share this post with your connections today to help your organization cut down on operational costs by streamlining operations with end to end lifecycle automation. Our highly skilled team of network automation engineers are committed to going the extra mile while aiming to provide clients with a healthy mix of human expertise coupled with cutting edge automation to streamline complexity and optimize your IT infrastructure.