Today, nearly fifty years after Bob Dylan’s debut of the iconic song, “The Times They Are A-Changin’” the same can be said when we think about the evolution of automation in data center fabrics.
While the data center architectures have evolved alongside the technologies that enable them, the unfortunate truth is that our operational models have stayed consistent for the most part. Engineers are logging into devices to perform configuration changes or to retrieve an understanding on the health of the fabric. From the outside looking in, this may be perceived as a manageable workflow, but this new era of containers workloads and multicloud connectivity has led to a significant increase in complexity, thereby reducing the quality of life for the operators.
Many network engineers have chosen to delegate the configuration complexity to off-the-shelf products from their hardware vendor and many more have explored the adoption of open-source automation frameworks like Ansible. But standing up IP fabrics in an automated fashion only accomplishes one critical, albeit limited, aspect of a device’s lifecycle. Once the fabric is online and serving application traffic, many of these tools fail to deliver any form of operational simplicity or actionable insights.
As the song states, “If your time to you is worth saving, then you better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone”, network engineers owe it to themselves to explore how open-source automation can provide a raft to stay afloat.
## automation solutions
Just as the tail doesn’t wag the dog, customers should not be expected to build their operational models around of the limitations of the tools within the environment. Automation is an enabler of a new paradigm, one that find engineers focusing instead on building integrations based on the strengths of their systems to create unique workflows to tackle difficult challenges missing from the appliances sold by traditional vendors.
For instance, with a basic understanding on how APIs work, a network engineer can build an integration between ServiceNow and Ansible to safely drain traffic off a device before performing an upgrade to a new release of software.
What about leveraging Slack or Microsoft Teams to quickly gather the current health of the data center fabric? With a little bit of Python and experience with APIs, ChatOps is enabling network operators to deliver innovative ways to safely interface with the network, becoming the hero of their operations and project delivery teams.
But how about some of the more tedious, time consuming tasks like maintaining technical documentation? Concepts like Network Source of Truth (NSOT) are helping data center teams automate the documentation of every aspect of their fabric’s lifecycle: from managing their device inventory to detailing circuit terminations, power systems and even providing cabling plants.
The role of automation has quickly transformed from its limited role of configuration management to a resource that empowers engineers to create unique workflows to address the overwhelming complexity of modern data centers.
To more about the benefits of automation in the data center, join us in our upcoming Data Center Masterclass on April 14 at 9 am PST where we will showcase several examples of automation improving the quality of life for network operators. For the times, they are a-changin’.