Gluware automation tech shines in brownfield networks

Gluware's intelligent network automation technology helps enterprises outgrow manual configurations, even in technically complex, multivendor brownfield environments.

SearchNetworking has recognized Gluware Inc. with its Network Innovation Award -- an editorially independent prize that acknowledges meaningful advancements in networking and unified communications -- for its multivendor, multi-domain intelligent network automation software. Of particular note: The Gluware automation platform has impressed real-world enterprise users with its ability to efficiently and effectively automate tens of thousands of devices across challenging brownfield environments, where new tools must cooperate with legacy hardware and software. Importantly, network engineers don't need coding or scripting experience to use the intent-based software. The recently released Gluware 4.0 platform also offers a SaaS option for smaller organizations interested in self-service, cloud-based automation.

SearchNetworking spoke with Gluware co-founder and CEO Jeff Gray about how the company's intelligent network automation software works and why it's garnered unprecedented interest since the beginning of the global pandemic.

Editor's note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What problem or challenge did Gluware set out to address?

Jeff Gray: Gartner says [around 70%] of networks are still managed manually today. And [according to 2016 research McKinsey & Company conducted on behalf of Cisco] 70% of all policy violations are due to human error, with 75% of annual NetOps Opex -- billions of dollars -- spent making network changes and troubleshooting things that have gone wrong. But what if there was software that could prevent those problems before they happen? That's why Gluware is focused on helping enterprise networks become intelligent, self-operating, self-healing environments.

Jeff GrayJeff Gray

Every single enterprise network out there is a snowflake. How do you automate something that's different every time? How do you melt that snowflake so you can automate it? Well, that's really the superpower of Gluware. We are the only company, that we're aware of, capable of auto-discovering any enterprise network across 30-plus different vendor operating systems. Our config modeling app allows the customer to onboard and abstract their unique snowflake, automatically breaking configurations into different feature objects and creating an exact data model representation of what is operating in the network and how -- a digital twin.

Once we do that, we're able to expose a tremendous amount of security violations, outage-causing misconfigurations and performance-limiting misconfigurations, and share those with the customer's IT or networking team. And invariably, every customer we've worked with has found configuration deviations. We can tell them how far deviated and how far out of compliance the network has gotten, which is valuable information for customers looking to eliminate or significantly reduce outages, enhance security, increase agility and save money.

At that point, our software is then able to go out and cleanse the network and keep it clean. With Gluware, it's possible to take the gold standard for how the network should look and behave, and force multiply to bring everything back to the corporate standard and into compliance. Then the next phase involves keeping it in compliance -- constantly auditing and auto-remediating. Our technology is also capable of taking any new change the customer wants to make and applying that consistently throughout the network at scale. One of our large customers made 41,000 changes over 12 months, for example.

Do users need to know how to code and script to use the Gluware platform?

Gray: Our platform allows network engineers that know CLI [command line interface] to get in there and start automating today -- without needing to learn how to code, script or write playbooks. After the auto-discovery process, they just choose the 'golden configuration' they want to use. Gluware wraps it in JSON, makes it fully item potent and declarative and then force multiplies it to cleanse the network so it aligns with policy.

Gluware Inc.
Network engineers don't need any coding or scripting experience to use Gluware, according to CEO Jeff Gray.

Webscale companies like Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs, major retailers that compete with Amazon, etc., consider scripting and automation part of their core business. But for the vast majority of companies, their core competency isn't building their own software. None of us are going to build our own self-operating cars, right? The Teslas of the world are going to do that. Similarly, Gluware is focused on driving the advent of self-operating networks.  

MasterCard adopted our full stack and automated 15,000 devices across their existing brownfield architecture in 16 weeks. [They] told us that might have previously taken them years to achieve.
Jeff GrayCEO, Gluware Inc.

That said, we are also exposing our development environment to our more advanced customers that have development capabilities. So, we service the enterprises that don't want to reinvent the wheel -- the ones who just know CLI -- and we bring them into the automation game quickly. Then we also work with advanced enterprises that want to develop on top of our framework and bring the DevOps and NetOps worlds together.

Acuity Insurance, for example, is a company with about 250 developers. They wanted to automate their Juniper-based [Ethernet VPN]-VXLAN fabric to spread VLANs and other parameters from their CI/CD [continuous integration and continuous delivery] pipeline. Gluware is able to go out, auto-ingest EVPN-VXLAN and make them automatable. Then we use our northbound API to plug into their CI/CD pipeline and connect the worlds of NetOps and DevOps. Now they don't have to spend time attempting to script everything in this advanced and involved fabric.

Can you tell us more about your customers?

Gray: Mastercard adopted our full stack and automated 15,000 devices across their existing brownfield architecture in 16 weeks. James Radford [vice president of site reliability and engineering at Mastercard] told us that might have previously taken them years to achieve. With Gluware, they now have the ability to implement 99% of global network changes in 24 hours and have 99.9% configuration consistency. The remaining 0.1% accounts for intentional drift for some of Mastercard's one-off, customer-specific tasks, before auto-remediation brings it back to 100%. The senior executives there are also tracking the Gluware defect rate, which continues to be 0%.

Mastercard had also been having challenges keeping their audits up to date. They now have enhanced security, having moved first to quarterly patching and now to on-demand and monthly patching with our technology. Their ultimate goal is to treat their network fabric as an extension of their CI/CD pipeline, with totally automated implementation and no manual configurations or human intervention.

Chart showing most business leaders agree on importance of automation since COVID-19
The global pandemic underscored the immediate and ongoing need for automation across the enterprise.

Terracon, a global engineering firm, already had Gluware when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and they were able to reconfigure their entire network for all new remote workforce traffic patterns in two hours. That was a real feather in the Terracon network team's cap -- that made them look smart for purchasing Gluware before the pandemic. They've also had an 80% reduction in major outages since adoption, with 90% less time spent on troubleshooting. They're able to quickly and accurately understand where problems are -- whether it's a vendor OS issue or security restrictions or other defects. Their team shared that they are now able to see and resolve some problems before the trouble tickets even hit their desks, letting them immediately respond to users and say, 'We've just fixed that.'

Other public reference Gluware customers include Merck, First Bank and Acuity Insurance. We also worked with a Big Four tax and audit firm on accelerated adoption in the height of the pandemic, when automation became a top priority in their COVID-19 response plan. Suddenly, everybody had to work from home; all of their traffic patterns changed; there were all kinds of security violations; no one could touch their equipment anymore; there were supply chain challenges. If someone sawed off a network branch, then users were locked out of the network. So, automation became a core infrastructure need literally overnight. I like to say that we were a really good vitamin before COVID-19, but intelligent network automation has now turned into a painkiller. We've had an influx of mature deals like we've never really before seen, because automation has become much more important.  

And how does the new Gluware Pro offering in Gluware 4.0 work?

Gray: Gluware Pro is designed for networks with up to 2,000 devices. We were forced to go on-prem for some of our largest customers, but this is our refreshed SaaS offering. While the enterprise product is much more customized and tailored, we're bending the branch down so smaller organizations can use the same automation that the Mastercards, Terracons and Acuity Insurances of the world use. It's all self-serve out of AWS, so you never have to talk to our sales team. We had a customer recently that got everything up and running and was auditing their organization in two hours, and we believe we can get that window down to 30 minutes in the future.

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