In the realm of enterprise computing, we have already automated the management and orchestration of software-defined compute and storage resources. Need another server or more storage capacity? Those virtual resources can be created in mere minutes \u2014 and without intervention from a human to initiate or manage the process.\nNeed changes to the network, such as a router reconfiguration? Well, that\u2019s going to take a lot of time and effort from a range of humans. Even something as simple as an update to a DNS or IPAM server can take three to five days to complete. A port turn-up can take just as long \u2014 not because any physical action takes that much time, but because the workflow of all the human reviews and approvals takes time.\nContinuing to do networking in this fashion is quickly becoming unsustainable, especially as organizations maintain their existing infrastructure while also adopting and integrating new cloud-based technology. We have reached the point where the network is the bottleneck.\n\nEnterprises and network service providers want to increase automation and reduce the time to complete typical actions, and networking vendors are working toward what\u2019s being called \u201cthe modern network\u201d \u2014 that is, one that is designed to enable automation through new methods of managing the network. Ultimately most companies will get to a fully programmable, software-defined network, but it will take time.\nAchieving the modern network\nGetting to the modern network is a journey, not an overnight adoption. Companies have too large of an investment in existing equipment and management tools to abandon it all for something new. Thus, any tools and techniques that espouse the modern software-defined network (SDN) must also account for the old physical network. The legacy network management tools \u2014 the ones that are based on a command line interface (CLI) \u2014 weren\u2019t built for the modern network and can\u2019t support it. Something new is needed.\nThis is a tall task, given all the permutations and combinations of the modern network ecosystem. Itential is putting its stake in the ground as a platform for tying the pieces together \u2014 the modern network and the legacy one as well. Itential federates functionality and data from existing tools to enable modern network automation. The complexity of this environment, and where Itential fits, is best shown with an illustration.\n Itential\nMost enterprises and service providers will look at a chart like that and think, \u201cWe have this, and we need that, and how do we tie it together to achieve our network automation?\u201d They\u2019ll pick some way to talk to the network differently through some orchestrators. They\u2019ll pick various technologies and need to integrate them in order to consume them. What\u2019s more, things are moving very fast, so what they choose for now is likely to change. They need to abstract that change and the complexity away from the people that perform these jobs on the network.\nThis is where Itential comes in with its Intelligent Network Automation solution. Itential software is built around network automation. It talks to systems that talk to the network. To deliver on such a broad scope, Itential\u2019s solution is built upon four important principles. First, the solution is multi-domain in that it can work with any network \u2014 traditional physical, programmable, virtual, and cloud.\nSecond, it supports intent-based network APIs, which simplifies the network automation ecosystem by providing a single, aggregated network API to northbound systems such as Salesforce and ServiceNow. What\u2019s more, it integrates with open-source systems such as the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). Itential\u2019s solution works with multiple orchestrators, which send commands to various systems, and with SD-WAN controllers. Itential integrates with many different tools and systems in order to send programmed commands not just north, but also east, west, and south.\nThe third principle Itential adheres to is \u201clow-code,\u201d which means the solution uses a drag-and-drop interface so that it\u2019s easy to visualize, build and execute network intelligent workflows. Network engineers can do their jobs without having an application development background. This provides less risk of error and higher productivity.\nAnd the fourth principle is that network intelligence is built into the platform so that those routine functions that network engineers perform day in, day out are completely automated. This includes any type of change, from routine maintenance to device and service provisioning. Teams can automate and execute complex use cases and operational workflows.\nOrganizations are tying to solve problems around activating a new customer or upgrading a branch office. The challenge is that the process to complete this work order touches many groups across the organization. It starts in a ServiceNow or Remedy ticket: \u201cI want to add a new application to the datacenter.\u201d There are all sorts of things that have to be done to fulfill that request \u2014 punch a hole in firewalls, turn up ports, and so on. Itential\u2019s solution coordinates that effort and threads commands into these systems to allow working through that function in an automated way. Software can do activities so that humans don\u2019t have to get involved. Machines are talking to machines, and humans are involved only when a hiccup occurs, or when it makes sense to pause the automation and have a person make a decision.\nI mentioned this is a journey. Organizations should plan for \u201cnow, next, and later.\u201d There are things that can be done now on their network to automate very basic activities. For example, SD-WAN automates managing security policies through a central orchestrator. This is a good first step. A next step could be to add the ability to collect all sorts of analytics about the network and use them to provide insights to network engineers to help resolve issues that arise. Then later, the organization could use those insights to develop templates to automatically resolving the common issues on the network. Itential could be used to feed commands to other systems to resolve the issues.\nBenefits of network automation\nThere are numerous benefits to the overall notion of network automation. Taking humans out of the equation for routine activities can reduce errors and increase productivity. Making changes to the network can be done in much less time. Itential lists example results of successful network automation:\n Linda Musthaler\nAnother benefit is that network engineers don\u2019t need programming skills to utilize the drag-and-drop interface. Moreover, this approach abstracts away the need to know what vendor\u2019s equipment is being used, so a network engineer doesn\u2019t have to care if it\u2019s Cisco\u2019s or Juniper\u2019s router on the backend of the automation, which greatly simplifies the knowledge and expertise people have to have.\nIntent-based networking is definitely the way our industry is heading. It might take a little while to get there, but get there we will.