Data-center network automation: Its pitfalls and how to avoid them

Automation can streamline data-center networking, but it presents challenges that must be overcome when planning, implementing, and using it.

IT professionals converse in a network server room / data center.
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(Enterprise Management Associates has published The Future of Data Center Network Automation based on a survey of enterprises, cloud providers and network service providers. This article by EMA Vice President of Research Networking Shamus McGillicuddy details some of its major findings.)

More than 86% of companies expect their budgets for data-center network automation to increase over the next two years, and with spending ramping up, network teams need to plan carefully. Network automation is notoriously difficult to implement due to the complexity of networks in general, and only 23% of the people surveyed were fully confident in their data-center network-automation strategies.

Asked to identify their biggest challenges across three stages of their automation initiatives—planning and evaluation, technology implementation, and use of automation—the common thread was the challenge of integrating and contextualizing network automation with end-to-end digital infrastructure.

Planning and evaluation challenges

When planning and evaluating data-center network automation, technology organizations most often struggle to understand how it will interact with other tools and management systems (39%). Network infrastructure and operations teams often have a multitude of tools for managing networks, including multiple tools for data-center network automation. On top of that, other teams—including systems, storage, security, applications, and DevOps—are managing aspects of data-center operations with their own toolsets. The network team needs to think about how their automation toolchain will interact with these others. 

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