The network automation market continues to grow rapidly. Whether it’s IT investing in mega-trends like cloud computing or intent-based networking or finding ways to drive greater efficiency within layers of the network operations center, enterprise networks—and culture and processes behind them—are going through seminal change.
According to Gartner, by 2021, productized network automation tools will be used by 45% of enterprises, an increase of fewer than 10% today. This is largely driven by infrastructure and operations leaders who need to deliver greater agility to the business.
For teams managing networks day-to-day—the architects, the NOC technicians, the network security engineers—their needs are equally acute. The network must be secure and available 24x7. But they’re often living in a world dominated by the command-line interface (CLI) or where having the right information, at the right time can be challenging. Unfortunately, that can put the network teams at a tremendous disadvantage, as revealed in our recent “State of the Network Engineer” survey report.
That’s why at NetBrain, we’re excited to share how we’re working with one of our partners, HCL Technologies, to power enhanced network automation.
Our partnership combines the capabilities of NetBrain’s network automation platform with HCL’s NetBOT platform to bring together a new level of agility and speed to network workflow management by empowering teams with visibility and automation.
NetBrain, delivering network visibility and automation
At NetBrain, our technology enables network engineers to visualize their hybrid networks end-to-end while automating tasks across their workflows. With dynamic network mapping capabilities, engineers can quickly and accurately visualize the network details —contextualized to the task at hand—with layers to detail to support essential workflows such as troubleshooting, security, and change management. Through runbook automation, engineers can codify network best practices and automate CLI-driven tasks (e.g., data collection, diagnosis, and analysis) within these workflows for maximum efficiency.
With our open API framework, NetBrain can integrate with Third party solutions like ServiceNow and Splunk, enabling third-parties to provide just-in-time visibility and automation and enhancing existing workflows that they support. It’s with this API integration that the partnership with HCL becomes exciting.
Built on an open source orchestration platform – NetBot uses inbuilt libraries of actionable workflows to automate the complete operational lifecycle of network devices. NetBot’s advanced features such as built-in expertise for automated provisioning, predictive performance, incident auto-remediation, self-awareness, cognitive learning and AI enabled collaboration, helps to pave a roadmap for enterprises envisioning a continued transformation journey. It leverages enterprise’s existing investment by integrating with a multitude of tools and platforms including ITSM, element monitoring, analytics, and Cisco DNA-C platform
How NetBrain and HCL are working together
For network engineers, the NetBrain-NetBOT team-up means a higher level of automation capabilities that saves time, lowers the risk of errors, and ensure optimal network health and up-time. Some of the use cases are as follows -
Automated network device provisioning and topology mapping
Take the example of provisioning a new device in a branch, where having a clear, real-time view of what’s changed in the branch is critical. In our aforementioned survey, 61% of network engineers said up to half their network documentation is out of date. Is there a better way? With NetBrain-NetBOT, device provisioning and topology mapping are now all integrated—into a single, unified workflow.
Through open APIs, NetBot fetches change details from an ITSM tool, runs automated workflows, and instantly provisions devices through Cisco DNA-C platform. It then consumes NetBrain’s APIs to create real-time network map from the hub till the last mile. This provides instant visibility into network topology, design and performance—all without having to document the network manually.
Diagram: Integration between NetBOT and NetBrain, providing a unified workflow for device provisioning and subsequent topology mapping
Asymmetric route auto-remediation
When troubleshooting network issues, engineers often need to know how traffic flows across the live network. The point is that the path is specific, however, determining that path manually through traceroute and CLI can often slow down engineers.
One of NetBrain’s strengths is the ability to dynamically visualize and monitor traffic. With NetBrain, you can simply enter the source and destination IP address to visualize how application traffic is flowing between points A and B. To determine whether that application is experiencing asymmetric routing (which could be an issue), NetBrain can just as easily map the reverse path to see how traffic flows back from B to A. If a problem is identified, NetBrain issues an alert which acts as an input for NetBOT. NetBOT can then access devices of the asymmetric path and run the appropriate remediation commands. The bottom-line—an enhanced nested workflow with better visibility, all automated.
Diagram: NetBrain’s A-B calculator provides key visibility into application traffic flow, the basis for better troubleshooting and remediation
Health check performance and automated metric threshold correction
Finally, take the example of troubleshooting a slow application. Today, executing CLI commands device-by-device can be time-consuming and laborious, and when it comes to reducing mean-time-to-repair, every second counts. From our survey, 43% of network engineers said that troubleshooting today simply takes too much time through the CLI.
That’s where automation comes in. NetBrain contains vast library of predefined apps (or you can build them yourself even nest them together to daisy-chain automation) that automate CLI execution. With NetBrain, you can run apps to identify root causes like network congestion, excessive link delays, or other bandwidth issues, thereby saving tremendous amounts of time through manual diagnosis. Based on NetBrain’s diagnoses, NetBOT can then ingest NetBrain’s data and trigger a set of targeted steps to reset bandwidth, latency metrics, etc., thereby enhancing the overall troubleshooting workflow.
Diagram: NetBrain allows you to automate CLI commands so you can more quickly understand network health
At NetBrain, we’re always excited and eager to learn how our customers are using our platform today. According to HCL, their customers have experienced great agility and speed through the deployment of these nested workflows, and we’re looking forward to even deeper partnership innovation.
If you’re attending Cisco Live, be sure to stop by the NetBrain booth (#1951) where HCL will be highlighting the how NetBrain and NetBOT work together. Our automation experts will be available for questions from attendees. See you in Orlando!