In 2022, nearly 77% of technology professionals see the need for improvement in their data center network automation strategies. Despite years of predictions about applications and data migrating to the public cloud, a consensus has been that data centers remain the indispensable core of any digital infrastructure. While the public cloud has a vital role to play and it continues to grow, enterprises and service providers continue to rely on data centers to power their operations. To remain relevant in a cloud-centric world, data centers must modernize – needing scalable, efficient, and agile operations. Highly manual processes do not scale gracefully, therefore calling for organizations and their data centers to adopt network automation or be left behind. 

 VMware is proud to have an opportunity to sponsor Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) in producing The Future of Data Center Network Automation research report. This report analyzes cutting-edge technology of data center automation – drawing on quantitative and qualitative research done by EMA analysts – focusing on how tech orgs are planning, implementing, and using data center network automation solutions, the specific technologies they’re using, and the benefits and challenges associated with data center network automation. Using real-time VMware customers who are adopting network automation strategies we present the 10 reasons to implement network automation. 

Network Automation by the Numbers 

EMA surveyed 359 technology professionals who are directly engaged in their employer’s data center network automation strategies. Many of these interviewees had different responses when asked about their definition of data center automation, but to sum it up, data center automation means eliminating manual tasks and enabling self-service networking. This means a controller can push out configurations instead of going into command line interface (CLI), automating scripts for some templates that are being pushed out, touching the network in the graphical user interface (GLI) rather than CLI to drive the said scripts. Datacenter automation – depending on your organization’s needs – can also focus on picking a particular server that can be automatically taken out of service and put back into the network once necessary updates have been run. Datacenter automation is not easy, but most individuals in the survey believed that their overall data centers could be better. Only 23% believe they have a “good one.” Adopting a full-on network automation approach means the following for your enterprise’s operations: 

  1. Better compliance practices. Investing in a better automation strategy helps organizations decongest any potential compliance issues they may face.  
  2. Increase operational efficiency. 40% of those surveyed agreed high-level operational efficiency was the most important factor within their organization. In fact, over 90% believe that AIOps-driven network management will lead to better business outcomes for their overall enterprises. Operational efficiency is the oil enterprises need to continue to fire on all cylinders. 
  3. Reduce issues with standardized configurations. Most problems that are encountered come from configurations that drift from the standard. Standardizing configurations means targeting and eliminating potential data center chaos – especially if an employee that set up the initial configurations leaves your organization. 
  4. Faster incident response. Having an agile, resilient, and accelerated incident response within your network is crucial for operational ease. Rebounding from systematic faults will help reduce manual recovery time and get your app working in the market faster. 
  5. Reduce manual errors. By targeting a reduction of people spending hours doing changes and racking up overtime and spending time to eliminate the issues that could take out a system. 
  6. Reduce security risk. Automation can help boost your security by making sure all devices are properly configured to enforce necessary security policies and to detect if something is amiss. 
  7. Accelerate time to market for new applications/services. Straight forward, but essential: rapid application and service deployment will set your enterprise aside from your competitors.  
  8. Capital expense avoidance. Implementing network automation can be an effective way of reducing overages for the company with employees, and it can also protect your organization from major financial impact with being subjected to malicious actors or equipment back up processes. 
  9. Decrease skills gaps. Network automation is not easy, and at times can expose where your teams may feel they can build upon their development. With that said, simplifying network automation and workflows presents a key opportunity for your organization to mature efforts and execute against broader business objectives for your digital transformation. Automating a company provides leaders to see exactly where they’re lacking, and to upskill using learning and development programs and training to close the gap.  

And an honorable mention for number 10: Earn ROI within two years. According to the report, half of automation projects earn ROI within two years. And the remainder can expect ROI within three years. Investing the time and resources into automation primes your org to receive results tenfold, compared to the losses it may face if the digital transformation is not embraced.  

Set Your Network Automation Strategy 

This research found that enterprises, communications service providers, and cloud providers are all taking multi-tool approaches to data center network automation. They usually have at least two tools, if not three or more. Most organizations are simultaneously developing network automation software internally and implementing commercial automation. Most organizations are being aggressive with automating their data center networks. They are increasing their spending, integrating their tools with DevOps toolsets, and extending their tools to the public cloud and cloud edge. It is quite clear that this automation is essential to establishing hybrid, multi-cloud architectures. Extensibility is one thing, but this report dove deep. Networks are complex, and so are data center network automation tools. This research examined the technical requirements that organizations are setting for their tools. We’ve also identified the pitfalls that many organizations have stumbled over during their automation journeys.  

This report should serve as a guide for organizations that are setting their data center network automation strategy or revisiting it with starts and stops. With that said, EMA ends this report with some tips for success.  

Download the full report now.