In a previous newsletter we discussed some research that we performed in 2005 to identify the areas of IT in which there is an innovation gap. As reported in that newsletter, the areas with the greatest innovation gap were security, performance management, management other than performance management and WAN services.As was also mentioned in that newsletter, the forthcoming Network Management seminar tour being produced by Network World will explore innovation. One of the areas of innovation that will be explored during the seminar tour is the automation of various management functions, particularly WAN management.There are three factors driving the need for automation. The first factor is that the network is becoming increasingly complex. This complexity stems in part from the ever broadening spectrum of functionality that is contained in the network; i.e., server load balancers, devices to perform intrusion detection and\/or prevention, appliances to optimize the performance of the network or specific applications. Another factor is the requirement facing virtually all IT organizations to provide increasingly more functionality to the business while keeping the budget and the head count of the IT organization relatively flat.One way to meet this requirement is to automate certain repetitive tasks and hence free up resources in the IT organization to provide higher value functionality. The third factor is the universal requirement to simultaneously reduce the time that key processes take while simultaneously increasing the quality of those processes. Automation holds the promise of achieving both of these goals.The next WAN newsletter will look at some specific examples of innovative solutions to important technical and business issues.