In this era of dynamic business and market changes, uncertainty, and rapidly evolving IT infrastructure consumption models, every IT executive is aware of the advantages and necessity of network agility. Agile networks are able to respond rapidly to market, consumer, employee, and technological shifts. Scalability and automation are two of the most important capabilities of genuinely agile distributed networks that the majority of businesses have yet to exploit.
Stumbling blocks to network automation
Looking back, we can identify several causes for this. Early efforts to automate were limited to cost-cutting initiatives, without consideration of how automating certain functions would affect IT personnel or customers. Some initiatives were project-based and frequently varied by individual or department, making it difficult to facilitate the desired business outcomes.
There were also technological limitations. Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) were insufficiently developed to precisely capture, organize, and interpret the data in order to generate accurate recommendations.
Therefore, it is not surprising that only a limited number of businesses have adopted automation. 41% of businesses, according to a Gartner study, have automated less than 10% of their network activities.
The cloud, transparency, data, and AI/ML enable simplified automation.
Many changes have occurred in the past few years. Today, network automation is not only feasible and desirable, but also highly trusted by the IT industry.
Automation is orchestrated across an entire network to help reduce and streamline workflows, as the majority of automation initiatives are now centered on the outcomes of network users, including IT staff, employees, and customers.
By leveraging a standardized networking architecture and multiple cloud-based devices, users can view and manage a network end-to-end via any number of interfaces (e.g., web UI, APIs, mobile). It also facilitates the implementation and management of automation tools across a network.
Automation is now applicable to a variety of operational and business use cases, such as automating device configurations, security and firmware updates, alerting, and routine maintenance.
In addition, machine learning has advanced significantly over the past decade. We have seen how it can aggregate and organize telemetry data gathered from all parts of a business’s network.
In addition, AI solutions from networking industry partners can analyze and interpret this data to provide detailed insights into network metrics, such as the health of a device, and recommend better ways to optimize a network (e.g., turn off this application when not in use to improve network optimization by X percent).
APIs have been utilized by IT personnel in an effort to reduce duties even further. Using data and actionable insights from APIs, businesses can analyze how and why their network is being used (e.g., how many customers use a drive-up banking window or Wi-Fi at a restaurant chain).
Business and operations analysts can make crucial decisions and identify opportunities by employing this information to a variety of professional domains. In addition to traditional networking technologies, they can gather valuable information from Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as smart cameras, kiosks, gas stations, and physical security systems to gain additional insights.
Taking advantage of scale and automation
Networks designed for scalability and automation accelerate time-to-value for businesses and their consumers, while also enabling businesses to be more agile. What once required hours can now be completed in minutes, allowing IT personnel more time to focus on strategic initiatives such as enhancing customer satisfaction and advancing digital transformation.
Not interested in creating automated apps from the beginning using APIs? Cisco Meraki’s Developer Hub offers hundreds of use cases across a variety of industries, as well as hundreds of use cases to choose from. The Cisco Meraki website provides additional information regarding network scope and automation.