Network Automation: Driving The Future Of Connectivity
Voice and Data|Seotember 2021
Driven by the need to deliver more capacity and bandwidth, the networking industry is well on the way with network automation. Here is a look at how it is shaping up
Guy Matthews
Network operators are under more pressure than ever to reduce their costs and improve their margins. They must also work harder to deliver the experiences that their customers seek. The increased automation of the network would appear to be an essential part of meeting these challenges. It might even be the only way they can stay viable in the long term.

Network automation is the process of taking the human element out of the configuring, managing, testing, deploying and operation of physical and virtual devices within a network. With everyday tasks and functions automated and repetitive processes managed automatically, network service availability should in theory improve exponentially.

Automation empowers operations teams, freeing up their time for other tasks. It can also empower the service provider’s customer, allowing for greater selfdetermination and more effective self-service. It gives better visibility and clarity into what is happening in the network, helping solve problems before they impact services. It’s about a more agile and smoothrunning network. And at the end of the day it’s about transforming the service provider business, leading to a healthier bottom line and more secure future.

So where are we on the journey to a more autonomous network? And what are the technologies that will get us there?

“When it comes to network automation, I really think we are in what I call the ‘muddy middle’,” believes Tim Doiron, Senior Director of Solution Marketing with networking vendor Infinera. “We are clearly not at the beginning, but we also have not realized a completely closed-loop fully automated network either. The good news though is that as an industry we are aligning around common data models and open interfaces that facilitate wide adoption of network automation.”

However, admits Doiron, each automation project is a journey in itself and progress can only come with vendor and service provider collaboration to automate specific areas and functions of the network over time. With an incremental approach and a clear destination, he believes the industry can look forward to slowly improving specific aspects of the network and moving toward a fully automated future.

In terms of the technologies that will get us there, Doiron divides them between three key ingredients: abstraction, telemetry and programmability: “Abstraction is where common data models like YANG are used to describe the attributes of a physical element in the network, like an optical transponder or a ROADM,” he explains. “Telemetry tells us what the network is experiencing in terms of performance or capacity, and programmability enables the software to adjust settings or behaviours of the network.”

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