IP network automation: How to get results
Over the past few years, I have talked to many network operators who have a strong willingness to automate their IP network but have been struggling to get results and make meaningful progress.
These operators have a good understanding of the benefits that automation would bring to them, including faster delivery, quicker service turn-ups and migrations, higher productivity, fewer errors and outages, and lower support costs.
They also understand that it takes focus and investment to start realizing these benefits. Operators need to spend time and capital to figure out what to automate and how. But the answers to these two questions – the what and the how – are not obvious. The challenge of finding them can eventually slow down the implementation of automation.
That’s where I believe our prepackaged IP network automation use cases can help.
What to automate
Network operators have many opportunities to automate. Architecture, engineering and operations teams all execute some manual and repetitive tasks that are candidates for network automation. While it’s not realistic to automate every large process at the same time, operators need to start somewhere.
To decide where to start, operators should identify the end goals they want to achieve. For example, is the objective to:
- Increase revenue?
- Reduce churn and protect revenue?
- Simplify network operations?
- Optimize and maximize network assets?
Automation can cover it all. But the desired business outcome dictates what to automate. Addressing all these goals at once might simply be too difficult because it could bring too much disruption to the present mode of operations and take too long to see meaningful results.
The right approach is to automate step by step, addressing goals one after another, starting with areas that deliver the best result with the lowest investment.
Assessing and prioritizing network automation use cases
How to automate
Once an operator has made a decision about what to automate, it’s time to think about the implementation.
It is critical to select the right automation platform — one that includes open APIs, supports multiple vendors and integrates network resource control, service enablement, analytics, assurance and orchestration, such as the Nokia Network Services Platform.
But choosing the right automation tool is not enough; I have seen many automation projects that were delayed or stalled by issues that go beyond tools.
One issue operators encounter is a lack of skills among the team in charge. The skills required to use new tools, technologies and programming languages are often rare and expensive to acquire through hiring or training. The team also needs strong network domain and process expertise.
Network engineering and operations teams who already have their heads down and their noses to the grindstone with their daily tasks often struggle to find the time to learn these skills.
One way to solve the problem is to work with a partner that has an automation culture and the experience to match. At a time when ecosystems and cross-business collaboration are imperatives, the sharing of experience through strategic partnership is essential. The knowledge transfer that occurs while jointly working on automation projects brings benefits to both parties.
Minimize the risks
Another reason for project delays is that many suppliers have to highly customize their solution.
As I mentioned, the right tools and platforms are essential. However, some tools require lots of coding on top to address the needs of the operator.
It is critical for operators to select easily programmable tools that allow for some level of flexibility. A tool that does not have the ability to quickly adapt can lead to unexpected extra time and cost to adjust the solution. It can also lead to ongoing support challenges.
Automation made easy and predictable
My team has been working to overcome these challenges by developing a catalog of network automation use cases that produce predictable business outcomes and are faster to deploy.
The catalog currently includes more than 40 predefined use cases, and is growing monthly. It is meant for operators that want to accelerate the automation of their IP network but don’t necessarily have the resources to do it.
IP network automation use cases
Operators can use our proven use cases to quickly introduce a broad set of automation functions into their networks. By choosing a use case from our catalog, they can take advantage of the experience of others to reduce risk and speed up implementation.
Tools and services
Our catalog approach bundles tools and services to make life easier for our customers.
I like to use do-it-yourself (DIY) stores as a comparison. If you want to build something in your garden — a pergola, for example — you can go into a DIY store and purchase tools and material on your own. But it’s hard to figure out what exactly you need if you’re not an experienced handyman! The beauty of the catalog approach is that the pergola comes with all the parts you need.
For every use case in our catalog, we provide exactly what operators need to implement automation themselves. We provide options for multi-vendor networks. We package both the software tools and services needed to get results from automation.
Reduce risk and speed up implementation with a catalog approach
Use cases for all
For operators who are interested in automation, the initial challenge is to determine what to automate. While our use cases cover all aspects of the network lifecycle, most of our customers are prioritizing service fulfillment, network operations and network assurance. These use cases are primarily aimed at opening new revenue streams and improving operational efficiency.
We have other customers who are more interested in optimizing their networks to reduce CAPEX and improve reliability. These use cases make use of resource control, whether dedicated to one domain or one layer of the network, or across the IP and optical layers.
Whatever your goal is for automation, we most likely have something for you in our catalog. Don’t hesitate to get in touch and find out more about how we can help.