Businesses that implement network automation outperform those that do not. This was one of many key findings in the recently published Juniper Networks State of Network Automation Report (SoNAR) 2020. The Juniper SoNAR is an annual publication that tracks the status of network automation within enterprise, cloud provider and communications service provider networks around the world. Its objective is to provide network operators with insight into how automation tools and solutions are being adopted and deployed in networks like their own. As such, SoNAR provides a benchmark for network operators to assess and understand how they are progressing in their automation journey relative to their peers.
If you are not familiar with SoNAR, here are a few highlights of the research you will find in the report:
- The automation revolution is well underway
- One of the top drivers for automation is operational efficiency
- Automation is quickly changing how networks are deployed and managed
- Automation reduces risk and improves job satisfaction
- Businesses that implement automation outperform those that do not
In this blog, we’ll explore some of the key findings in this year’s SoNAR as they relate to Communications Service Providers (CSPs) and Cloud Providers.
The network automation revolution is not only here, it is well underway!
Network automation solutions have been adopted and deployed in all networking industry segments. Cloud providers are leading the way with 24% of cloud providers reporting that they are leveraging network automation across their entire network. Enterprise IT and CSPs are not as mature, but are gaining, with 12% of Enterprise and 10% of CSPs reporting that they have fully automated their networks across all domains.
Operations efficiency and service assurance are the top drivers for automation adoption
The top business drivers for network automation adoption as identified in this year’s SoNAR report are:
32% Operational efficiency
24% Service assurance
24% Service delivery efficiency
The report expands upon each of these categories in a bit more detail. As an example, simplifying network operations tasks was identified as the top driver within the operational efficiency category for CSPs with 20% of respondents selecting that as a top reason for automation adoption. Improving overall network/operational efficiency, to make greater use of the network resources they have, came in second at 13%, followed closely by the desire to improve time to change at 12%.
Service assurance is another key adoption driver for network automation. In a recent blog, Automation for the 5G Era, I shared that as devices, applications and services become more portable, customer experience will become a key factor in CSP success. CSPs who fail to focus on service assurance will find themselves struggling to compete in an expanding market of traditional network operators and over-the-top providers. As our industry continues to evolve, heavily influenced by 5G and IoT, the network is becoming a service delivery platform for more than basic connectivity services. The network will play a key role in influencing customer perception of not just network connection services, but also the customer experience associated with the services and applications that run across it. Therefore, it is not a surprise that in this year’s SoNAR, 41% of CSPs who have deployed automation across their entire network identified reduction in mean-time-to-repair (MTTR) as the top use case for automation in their network, followed closely by application and service experience at 34% and reduction in mean-time-between-failure (MTBF) at 21%.
Networks that are automated change more frequently
Given the importance and focus on service deployment, management and assurance, CSPs identified change management as a key benefit to network automation. For CSPs who have fully automated their networks, 27% of them make changes to their network one or more times a day, with an additional 20% making changes one or more times per week. Additionally, 14% of these CSPs reported that service changes take effect in their production network within the day they are requested.
They also reported that the more automated the network, the faster services are restored. For CSPs who run fully automated networks, 80% of them shared that they restore service outages or repair issues the same day they are reported. For CSPs who have partially automated their networks, 73% are able to restore services or repair issues in less than a day.
Inhibitors to adoption – why isn’t the pace of adoption faster?
Automation is not new to networking or any other industry. We have seen and experienced its benefits in the automotive industry, with computers, the introduction of smart phones, healthcare, industrial automation and even in our space programs. As I write this blog, I am using a word processor as opposed to writing it by hand, producing it with a printing press, or using a manual or even electric typewriter.
However, with most automation and new technology, adoption takes time. There are often training and cultural barriers to deployment. Network automation is not immune to either of these. In this year’s SoNAR, lack of time to learn on the job and lack of knowledge or necessary training were identified as the two top inhibitors to automation.
While vendors are certainly working to simplify automation solution deployment and adoption, there are CSPs who are leading the way by making automation a business and cultural imperative. As identified in the SoNAR 2020, those who make automation an imperative will certainly have a competitive advantage over those who do not. It is important for network operators to invest in not only their networks, but also in the people who run them.
Automation is a catalyst for change. We have experienced this firsthand across industries, technologies and use cases. However, the rate and extent of the change that automation has enabled is always dependent upon how quickly an industry or market chooses to embrace, deploy and adopt it. The networking industry is no different. We live in a world where cars, airplanes and spacecraft can drive, monitor and manage themselves. Therefore, there isn’t a good technical reason as to why our networks are not more automated, and as we found in this year’s SoNAR, the business benefits of network automation justify the investment.
We encourage you to read the rest of the report. If you would like to learn more about network automation or how Juniper can help, please visit us at www.juniper.net/automation.