Going back in time – The history and evolution of the industry
Before we delve into the topic, it’s important to understand some historical facts about the industry and how it has evolved over the years. Network operators, telcos and managed service providers in this space have traditionally been people heavy organizations. Throwing people at new processes or when changing existing processes have never been an issue for these large players. The footprint, regulated nature and management structure of these large organizations often paved the way for siloed teams doing the same thing regionally to stay in compliance. With the advent of globalisation and outsourcing models in the industry, consolidation of these dispersed and large teams in global operations centres or centres of excellence became a reality and then the problem became that of standardisation of operating procedure and managing a largely diverse and globally spread customer base. With time, these problems were addressed and again mostly by throwing in people to perform the tasks to meet the demands of consolidation and growing customer base … sounds familiar by now? Challenges in managing process changes, training, learning curve, churn, operational costs and SLA (Service Level Agreements) adherence became the new challenge paradigm for these organizations. All of this and the infusion of newer technologies and some of the tectonic changes in comparison to what existed at the time was sending the industry reeling and achieving operational efficiencies under such circumstances was the new challenge. Automation naturally presented itself as the way forward to take on some of these challenges.
Fundamentally, Network automation is the approach of automating manual and thereby error-prone, time-consuming tasks such as configuration, provisioning, management, testing, maintenance, and operation of a network. Automating them helps organizations save time, reduce errors, lower operating expenses, and improve network efficiency.
We looked at a bit of history, the evolution and the challenges the industry faced. All this coupled with the push for digital transformation came in products with simple UI and surface-level automation capabilities, the RPA (Robotic Process Automation) that we know of today. With RPA, achieving a level of automation especially in the areas of repetitive but simple tasks in these organizations was realised but challenges related to scalability of these automation and business values became newer challenges. In a way, RPA got the automation momentum going in the industry but with its lack of capability to do things beyond just click, drag, drop and fill forms it had its limitation. Often the cost of implementing this automation, managing the RPA solution and long ROI outweighed the value businesses got from them. The industry needed automation, no doubt, but something that addressed the most pressing needs. Automations that addressed the processes that –
- Zero-touch – Reduced or eliminated human in the loop
- Reduced errors and costly business impact
- Added value beyond just automation of low skilled resources – the movement to core processes and thereby value chain
- Required the intelligence, experience and congestive capabilities of skilled resources
- Didn’t need expensive or highly skilled resources to set up and build newer automation
- Interact with industry-specific applications and tools just as humans did
- Worked at scale and could work on unprecedented volumes
Enter a new approach to automation …. Hyperautomation. Very few players in the industry have solutions focused on network automation.
One of the biggest challenges facing people managing networks today is the growth of costs for network operations. With the adoption of newer technologies such as SDN (Software Defined Networks), VNF (Virtual Network Function) and the shift to cloud and hybrid network solutions the growth of data and devices is starting to outpace IT capabilities, making manual approaches nearly impossible. Yet most network changes and tasks are performed manually, resulting in operational costs that are multi-times higher than the cost of the network itself. Increased automation is essential for businesses to stay abreast in the new digital era and to unload the potential of these new-age technologies. Automation reduces errors in network operations and service management and accelerates tasks. The benefits of automating your network include:
- Improve Scaling – Automation allows you to take on more work without having to rely on expensive and limiting capabilities of human resources.
- Standardize processes – Automations drive organizations to standardize operations and processes. The more standardised the approach the higher the automation potential.
- Remove human error – Most network changes are manual today. Manual tasks are extremely prone to errors as humans are involved. Automations help removes and minimise the involvement of humans and therefore improve network availability and resiliency.
- Humans for higher-value tasks – Repetitive but important tasks is another area in which automation can help. For example; alert toil or burn is often considered one of the foremost reasons for network outages. Automation of the most commonly and frequently called for actions helps free up humans, who can be used to network events without intervention.
- Service Creation – The ability to design and build new revenue-generating services using automation reduces development costs and time-to-market.
- Revenue Generation – The ability to rapidly deploy, provision and orchestrate network functionality and services across networks and rapidly deliver them to users increases revenue and improves time-to-cash.
- Network Performance – The ability to monitor networks in real-time, to locate, identify and resolve network issues as they arise increases network availability.
Build or Buy?
Once you’ve decided that you want to automate your network and its associated services, you ought to decide whether to build the automation yourself or outsource it as a service or a combination of both. Here are some of the questions that will help you make your decision:
If you are looking at building your automation yourself, you need to ask yourself the following questions:
- Have you clearly defined or are you able to define your automation goals, milestones and potential?
- Do you have the skills to develop, sustain and maintain the automation technologies you choose?
- How much time do I have to start showing network automation value?
- Are my processes well defined and aligned to industry-accepted processes that I can start to define some workflows or reuse what others have defined?
If you are looking to buy automation, either as a service or by purchasing a product, here are a few things you need to consider:
- Do I have the skills and the time to learn a new technology?
- How easy is the adoption of the new product or technology that’s helping me in automation?
- Can the product start showing me the value in the shortest time?
- Do the product(s) provide integrations to the applications and tools that my team uses?
- Does the product or partner offer professional services to handhold you to onboard and get you going?
- Do the product(s) and its team understand the business that you are in?
- How much do you have to spend (Time, effort and money) and how much do I realise from automations (Efficiencies, productivity and ROI)?
- Can the product/service help you realise both short term and long term automation goals?
There are automation solutions and partners out there that help you kick start your network automation without too much effort from your side.
Botprise – Your trusted partner
Botprise is one of the leading hyperautomation players in the market today that has solutions specifically targeted at the network automations space. The Botprise core team has considerable expertise in the network space and has years of experience in the operations, design and engineering aspects of networks, legacy and new age alike.
Someone the areas in network automations that Botprise has solutions include:
- Self-service and service request automation
- On-demand automated provisioning and de-provisioning
- Automated change management
- Automate health check
- Auto resolution or remediation for self-healing networks
- Continuous compliance and standardisation
- Automated monitoring and capacity planning
- Automated mass configuration rollout and release management
- Event correlation, RCA and impact analysis
Botprise offers features that no other player in the industry offers today. Here’s a glimpse of a few:
- Total cloud solution – Botprise is a true cloud-based offering with solutions for on-prem access and deployment.
- Credit & consumption-based billing – The industry’s only platform whose billing is based on the consumption of automation resources.
- Automated onboarding – Simple but super-fast setup process embedded with the intelligence of auto-detection of your environment, mapping to off-the-shelf automations, and running automations. The fastest value realisation in the market today.
- Automation units – Network-specific automation units that can readily be used by dragging and dropping into Smart studio to develop simple to complex networks automation processes. So be it logging into a router, copying a configuration over to a network device, pushing firewall rules, flapping a routing protocol or interface, restarting a network element, booting up a specific network OS, you have access to all these and much more to create the workflow of your choice.
- Smart studio – The no-code workflow design canvas made for the novice and the skilled alike. All you need to have is the desire to automate and use the smart studio to create powerful Smartbots for your networks.
- Decision studio – Leverage the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to supercharge your Smartbots with human-like cognitive capabilities. Anomaly detection, RCA, entity extraction, classification and a lot more network-ready solutions made simple and intuitive on the Decision Studio.
- Workbench – Do not throw away your existing automations just because you decided on Botprise. Our workbench allows you to adopt your existing scripts, get them Botprise ready and thereby ready to use in your workflows. This way we safeguard your existing investments in automations. The workbench also offers the opportunity for your developer to develop new capabilities on Botprise and expand your automation potential.
- Event Hub – Send events from your tools (such as monitoring tools) to Botprise, create triggers from those events that drive your Smartbots into action. Channelise all events to Botprise and the Smart Studio can give you detailed insights and give direction to your automation journey.
- Network Smartbot Catalogue – A list of ready to use Smartbots for your environment – change deployment bots, health check bots, events specific remediation bots and a lot more. Clone these smartbots and use them directly or by making changes to map to your process.
Automation can get organizations carried away. What’s important is that the decision to automate your network should be for the right reasons – simplify management, reduce error, free people for higher-value tasks, optimise performance and lower operational costs. Planning your automation goals, identifying your milestones, choosing the right technologies/products and involving the right people are just as important as the decision itself. Keep all this in mind, keep a tab on your execution, keep a keen eye for continuous improvement and you are well on your way to set up an agile, responsive and easily manageable network.