Gluware this week introduced a tool to simplify the orchestration of multiple automated tasks into a single workflow.
Network Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the newest product in Gluware's intelligent network automation suite, is designed to help network engineers and operators make process-oriented automations, instead of automating discrete tasks in a coding-intensive way.
The main function of Network RPA is to simplify the orchestration of multiple automated tasks into workflows. Gluware's existing automations have been populated into Network RPA's drag-and-drop user interface like building blocks. Network managers can then build workflows that resemble flowcharts out of these tasks; a specific network failure could trigger one automatic resolution, then another, and if neither works, automatically send an email detailing the problem. Workflows can be manually triggered, scheduled or event-driven.
Competitors for Network RPA include Itential, which was recently named a 2022 cool vendor in network automation by Gartner, and Apstra, which is owned by Juniper but has repeatedly committed to remaining a multivendor tool.
Network RPA supports API integrations with all the services on the Linux Foundation's open source automation platform StackStorm. Industry heavyweights such as ServiceNow, AWS, Azure and Kubernetes are among the 167 supported integrations. The integrations will help support the automation of tasks that require third-party support, such as automatic Slack notifications when certain network problems occur.
The network process automation tool also offers more advanced troubleshooting capabilities than Gluware's earlier offerings. Network RPA aggregates device logs so when something breaks, either with the product itself or in one of the underlying automations, IT pros can access what Gluware CPO Ernest Lefner describes as a "crash replay" to more quickly identify and resolve the problem.
The company's overall goal with the product is to make it as simple as possible for enterprises to experiment with what the company calls "hyperautomation," or the automation of entire processes rather than single, discrete tasks. Lefner's ultimate goal is a network that mostly runs its own day-to-day functions, allowing IT professionals to concentrate their time on enabling business outcomes. He said he recognizes that most enterprises aren't there yet, but tools like Network RPA help to build trust in automation.
"You've got to build trust slowly, like a pyramid, and the tip of the pyramid is where you really start talking hyper-automation," Lefner said.
Ease of use is key to getting enterprises to adopt automation, said Shamus McGillicuddy, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates.
"There's always a lot of people in the networking team who are resistant to using network automation because they think the manual processes are more dependable and more familiar and more trusted," McGillicuddy said.
He has found that some IT pros adopt an automation tool for one function when asked to do so, but they continue to perform other tasks manually, rather than experiment further with the tool.
"A good way to [encourage them to adopt automation] is to make the tool as easy to use as possible, and as flexible as possible, so [Network RPA] is obviously going to appeal to IT leaders who struggle to get people to use [automation]."
The next priorities for Gluware involve security, policy and AI, Lefner said. To that end, Gluware appointed new vice presidents of AI and security in January.
Network RPA is available now as a standalone product in the Gluware intelligent network automation suite.
Madelaine Millar is a news writer covering network technology at TechTarget. She has previously written about science and technology for MIT's Lincoln Laboratory and the Khoury College of Computer Sciences, as well as covering community news for Boston Globe Media.