What is Network Automation?

Brief introduction to Network Automation, helping to explain why in networking the worlds of software and hardware are colliding.

Internet of Things (IoT) Communications Network

By 2032, world population is forecast to increase approximately 10%, from 7.9 to over 8.6 billion. As self-sustaining ruralites continue marching toward data dependant cities, Internet of Things (IoT) is expected to double the number of internet-connected devices, totalling 30 billion by 2030. This growth will place unprecedented demands on current global network infrastructure, and it’s a big problem!

Even with bigger and more Sci-Fi like machinery, there’s only so much physical cable we can lay in the next 10 years. The key word here is ‘physical.’ Physical networks are expensive, time consuming and labour intensive to install and manage. At a time when telecom balance sheets are ladened with debt and interest rates increasing, investment into physical network infrastructure is likely scaling-back when it’s needed most. Throwing money at the problem is no longer an option; it’s time to innovate!

Ever since Western Union began building the world’s first telegraph networks in 1856, almost every human on the planet is now connected via an atmos of radio waves and millions of miles of subterranean and subsea fibre optic cables. That is some feat!

Fibre Optic Internet Cables

But roads of the past don’t always lead to the future. Like meeting your partner for the first time, two very different worlds are colliding: software and hardware.

Traditionally, these worlds have been distinctly separate. Network behemoths like Cisco and Juniper made hardware products like routers, switches and servers and software companies like Microsoft built applications and programmes using languages like C++, Java and .NET. However, with practical and physical limitations to extending global network capacity, and an insatiable appetite for data, software is being necessitated to improve the efficiency of the network. Essentially, by getting more data through the same pipe. This is achieved using intelligent management systems, which act like a brain controlled by software telling networks what to do.

Most of the networks that transport data across the internet today are dumb networks. That’s not my opinion of them, that’s a genuine term describing the TCP/IP pipeline that moves data from one IP address to another. It’s dumb because no intelligent processing is done to the data, the network simply facilitates its journey like a pipe.

Because it’s so dumb, the network requires lots of human intervention to manage it. For example, when a new device is added to the network, it must be manually configured so the data knows exactly where to go. On a global scale, these constant configurations, changes, and upgrades induce great complexity, managed by humans leading to a lot of human error. This is expensive, slow, and ultimately results in a very inefficient network.

Network Engineer Configuring Routers

The purpose of a software driven network management system is to relive humans of repetitive, manual configuration work by developing a set of programmes that control the network and tell it what to do automatically. Hence the term, Network Automation.

A variety of programming languages have been adopted or invented for programming network systems. This include YANG, Ansible, Go or C/C++, but the language that seems to be the most popular and offers the greatest degree of flexibility for networking products, is Python.

Python is an open-source programming language that provides engineers the freedom to target any attribute of any network device, and programme functions that run automatically.

Like programming a route into a satnav, the driver simply follows the script. Gone is the creased AZ, wrong turns, stops or dangerous glances at the map. The decisions are already made!

This code, or scripts that perform specific functions, can be stored in online repositories like GitHub and recycled repeatedly, saving a huge amount of time. These libraries are also called Playbooks, and they help network automation teams, quickly and efficiently develop, and deploy precise automation strategies. That’s the beauty of software, it’s highly available, easily accessible, and compared to building a new network – cheap! You can wait 6 months for new network kit to arrive, before it’s even manually installed and configured. Software Automation strategies can be delivered in a few days!

Software Programming Code

The main challenge with all of this is bringing the software and hardware worlds together. Network Engineers are rarely provided the opportunity to learn coding, and software engineers rarely know enough about networks to know which parts of the network to target with their code, and which network functions to programme.

This is the problem HireWave are solving. HireWave is a specialist recruitment consultancy that is helping to close the software / hardware gap, exclusively in a networking context. Whether you’re looking to implement Network Automation strategies, hire Network Development Engineers or are an engineer with these skills looking for opportunities to fully leverage them. We have relationships with some of the best Network Automation vendors and service providers globally and hundreds of talented engineers across Europe and USA.

For more information or a discreet conversation, please send an email to: .

We are looking forward to hearing from you!