Why 2017 promises to bring more network automation systems

Arista, Cisco and Juniper took steps this year toward providing better network automation systems. Next year, companies can expect to see technology from other vendors.

In 2017, network operators will find more management tools that provide actionable intelligence by analyzing extensive amounts of data gathered from physical and virtualized systems.

This year, legacy vendors and startups added analytics to network automation systems to reduce the workload of people managing corporate networks and cloud environments. The push for better automation is expected to continue in 2017, with vendors releasing more new and refreshed products.

"Vendors already in the market will enhance and extend their portfolios, both organically and inorganically," said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC. "Other vendors will become new market entrants. We'll see no shortage of activity and competition on this front next year."

Among the latest announcements was one from Juniper Networks Inc., which said in early December it would acquire AppFormix Inc. to incorporate the startup's machine learning approach to network management into Contrail, Juniper's software-defined networking controller.

Earlier in the year, Cisco launched Tetration -- a product that gathers telemetry from hardware and software and sends the data to an appliance for analysis. Cisco aimed the first release at monitoring data centers, but channel partners said they could also use the product to help customers migrate data to a cloud provider.

Also this year, Arista Networks Inc. introduced an upgrade of its analytics engine, called CloudVision. The new version continuously collects state data from an Arista switching fabric and then analyzes the information to find events damaging network performance.

Meanwhile, startups Forward Networks and Veriflow Systems introduced verification technology in network automation systems. The tools let data center operators discover in advance potential network problems that could arise from changing device configurations or application policies.

Juniper and AppFormix

Juniper declined to provide details on its plans for AppFormix. The company hopes to complete the acquisition by the end of the year. The AppFormix development team will report to the office of Juniper CTO Pradeep Sindhu.

AppFormix is part of Juniper's long-term vision for what the company calls a self-driving network. The idea is to sell tools that automate many of the routine tasks that network operators perform manually today.

"I think it's a step forward toward that vision," Dan Conde, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group Inc., based in Milford, Mass., said of the AppFormix acquisition.

Contrail is often used to create virtual networks that isolate tenants in a cloud environment, Conde said. AppFormix could provide insight on the adjustments needed at the physical layer to accommodate a new virtual network.

Next year, other vendors are expected to join Juniper in providing technology that drives automation deeper into network operations. As the number of those network automation systems increases, the more likely network operators will find what they need to reduce the complexity of their jobs.

Next Steps

Deciding whether to build or buy network automation tools

network automation brings 'set it and forget it' to life

Making a more cost-effective operation with network automation

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