How to buy network automation tools

Here’s the factors you need to weigh so you can make a smart decision about the network automation tool that’s best for your organization.

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The concept of network automation has been around for as long as there have been networks, and until now the uptake has been slow for a number of reasons including resistance from network engineers.  But now forces are coming together to create a perfect storm of sorts, driving a need for network automation tools.

One factor is that more and more network teams are starting to feel the pain of working in the fast-paced digital world where doing things the old way simply does not work.  The manual, box-by-box, method of configuring and updating routers and switches through a command-line interface (CLI) is too slow and error prone. 

Also, the rise of software-defined networks (SDN), including software-defined WANs (SD-WAN), has enabled network-automation tools to evolve from operationally focused point products that address things like change management and configuration into policy and orchestration tools.

Today, network-automation tools are strategic, enable business alignment, and provide a roadmap to the utopian state of a fully intent-based system where the network runs and secures itself. Their time is now, but there is a wide range of them. Below are seven key criteria that enterprises should consider when deciding which is best for them.

Single vendor or multi-vendor?

There are several third-party and vendor-specific network automation tools.  Red Hat, NetBrain and Forward Networks are three of the leading multi-vendor tools.  All of the major network vendors including Cisco, Juniper, Arista and Extreme have their own automation platforms.

Customers need to determine if they want to go all in with a single vendor or strive for multiple vendors. Neither is better per se; it’s a choice the enterprise needs to make. If a single vendor platform is chosen, ensure it works with the vendor's entire product line and not just a subset. If a third-party tool is chosen,

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