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How the right network automation tools can modernize your network

In this roundup of networking blogs, industry experts examine network automation innovation, the partnership between networking and DevOps, and the importance of data sheet specs.

Various network automation tools could help modernize networks and curb complexity. In a recent blog, cloud and networking expert Matt Conran explored what it means to automate the modern network and which network automation tools could be the most innovative.

According to Conran, network automation innovation is lacking because users have equipment from different vendors, and the devices don't always connect. While this can hinder automation, network automation tools such as NETCONF or other protocols allow automation vendors to communicate to different types of networks. Major vendors, such as Cisco, are heading in this direction, Conran said.

Meanwhile, prebuilt legacy applications, such as the command-line interface (CLI), restrict the ability to automate. For automation to work, Conran said, fewer elements should be talking to the network. At the same time, DevOps tools, orchestrators, controllers and federated APIs could help with network automation, but companies are struggling to adopt some of these tools.   

"Moving off the CLI and building programmable interfaces is a massive move for network programmability," Conran wrote. "The ability to go from non-programmability to programmability will represent the biggest shift we will see in the networking domain."

Read more of Conran's thoughts about network automation tools, APIs and where intent-based networking fits in.

The relationship between networking and DevOps

Gartner analyst Andrew Lerner discussed a report about the best networking practices with regard to DevOps. In a recent blog post, he explored networking and DevOps, or NetOps, and how this relationship works.

Lerner said organizations need to go beyond virtualizing appliances, APIs and network automation to fully embrace DevOps -- and people can make this adoption difficult. Historically, networking teams have had limited DevOps involvement, and DevOps teams haven't needed networking expertise. But working together could benefit both sides and broaden leaders' skill sets. 

He suggested building data center networks with smaller pods and mandating network automation and network programmability. Also, organizations could integrate networking into the DevOps toolchain and treat network changes as products instead of projects.

"Treat networking configuration changes and operational tasks that are required to support a DevOps project as code. In this sense, network configurations and operational tasks can be treated like any other software component," Lerner wrote.

Read Lerner's full analysis of the NetOps report.

The truth, or lies, about data sheets

We spend money based on what data sheets tell us.
Lee Badmannetwork engineer

In a recent blog, network engineer Lee Badman discussed the importance of specifications on data sheets. He recounted a negative experience involving deceits on data sheets, and he said these "little white Wi-Fi lies" are more common than he'd like them to be.

Badman provided examples of times he was "burned" by data sheets. He called out two different controller data sheets that misled him about gigabits per second and access points, and how important technical honesty should be to all vendors.

He stressed the importance of data sheet specs, so customers can fully understand how their devices should operate with full confidence. He said he believes vendors should list exceptions and warnings, so users don't always require help if their devices do not operate as the data sheet said they should.

"Why do I care, really?" Badman wrote. "What about this one little falsehood got me perturbed? Because we spend money based on what data sheets tell us. It's insanity to see one number, but then have to go ask someone else what that one number really means."

Read all of Badman's thoughts on data sheet specs. 

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