What is network assurance?
Network assurance is the method of validating whether services and policies configured on and across network appliances appropriately align with operational goals. Network configuration and telemetry data are collected and analyzed to assess network behavior and detect and recommend deviations from the operator's original intent.
The process of translating business requirements into network policies that are applied using command-line or graphical interface commands can be challenging. Because network appliances such as switches and routers can be configured in many ways using hundreds or thousands of configuration options, it's possible that the network configuration policies applied do not fully achieve what they were intended to do.
Network assurance helps to verify that configurations and running network services align with what the business requires as closely as possible. The result of this procedure is suggestions on how network equipment can be better configured.
Why is network assurance important?
The overall reason for network assurance is to ensure networks are running as optimally and securely as possible within specific business parameters. Failing to do so can result in situations where applications and services operating across the network fail to meet performance, network security and usability expectations.
Additionally, network assurance processes can help NetOps teams unify and standardize commonly used network policies across an entire corporate network. Doing so can significantly lessen the risk of varying end-user experiences from one part of the physical network to another. Examples of how network assurance can help include the validation of the following items:
- Quality of service (QoS) policies from end-to-end.
- Which VLANs are trunked to network switches and whether pruning is required.
- Router and switch port security policies to ensure compliance obligations are met.
- Network software redundancy protocols.
- Network component access rights.
- Traffic loads over time.
- Proper operating of network services.
- End-user performance experiences.
- Incident root causes that affect network operations.
Manual validation of each of these examples can consume valuable NetOps resources that could be allocated elsewhere. The better option for many might be to invest in a network assurance platform that automates these processes on the NetOps teams' behalf.
What is a network assurance platform?
IT teams can accomplish network assurance by using manual processes and tasks. However, the growing complexities of networks combined with improvements in automated network performance and security analysis are the key drivers behind steady growth in the network assurance platform market.
Network assurance platforms use network automation, machine learning and computer modeling to eliminate mundane administrative tasks by:
- Automating the monitoring of network behavior and identifying areas where performance or security gains can be made.
- Delivering network visibility of changing data flow behaviors to proactively identify misconfigurations or network deficiencies that can lead to congestion or network outages.
- Reviewing and predicting the effect of proposed network changes before implementation on production networks.
- Providing advanced service and configuration rollback and remediation recommendations that rapidly eliminate identified network issues.
Essentially, network assurance tools continuously analyze how networks are operating against the network operator's original intent. If the tools identify ways that network components can better enhance performance and security, these changes can be reviewed and implemented faster than ever before.
How does network assurance help companies?
Assuring that network services and policies are operating as expected has long been a reactionary approach. For businesses that increasingly rely on enterprise network connectivity to run effectively and without end-user disturbances, a more proactive approach to network management is now required.
This is the true benefit of network assurance platforms as they identify service and policy inconsistencies in real time so administrators can remediate any issues before they affect the business. The agility, speed and troubleshooting capabilities of these tools can significantly increase uptime, decrease end-user performance complaints and bolster data security compliance.