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Kubenet, making network automation more consumable

Wim Henderickx during his presentation

Today, we are excited to launch a new community initiative called Kubenet. This initiative aims to educate and train the network automation community on the benefits and powerful capabilities of Kubernetes as a network automation platform.


In today’s fast-paced digital landscape, organizations are perpetually asked to do more with less. The demand for efficiency and agility has never been higher, yet we constantly face constraints—limited resources, tight budgets, and ever-increasing complexity.

Network automation to the rescue!

Network automation emerges as a critical tool to not only keep up with the demands but to transform the way we manage and optimize our networks.

Despite the evident benefits of automation, over 80% of CSPs remained at lower levels of automation in 2022, according to TM Forum.

In a recent blog I explain that the networking industry, although having created the extensive autonomous system that is the internet, has lagged in integrating machines into operational tasks. Vendors have focused insufficiently on scalable operational automation, leading to products lacking unified interfaces, complicating integration and management. Additionally, a shortage of skilled personnel and the absence of standardized structures hinder progress.

Some key attributes for effective network automation

To foster network automation, it’s important to focus on several key attributes that make automation effective and sustainable:

  • Consumable: The tools used must be easily accessible to a wide range of users, leveraging a low footprint. They should allow for low-code/no-code solutions and AI assistance to lower the barrier of entry and simplify usage.

  • Predictable: It’s crucial to ensure that automated processes align with the intended network configurations and actually work as expected. It’s not just about the "what" but ensuring it actually works.

  • Collaborative: Effective automation must support collaboration by providing a record of changes and the ability to test and verify changes before they go live. Features such as a service catalog, robust change control processes, digital twins, and continuous integration play vital roles.

  • Intelligent: AI plays a pivotal role in enhancing the expertise and efficiency of the operations staff. Intelligent automation systems offer knowledge assistance, artifact assistance, and advanced troubleshooting capabilities. They can detect, correlate, and predict issues, ensuring proactive and efficient network operation.

No matter how you look at it, you should approach automation as a product with the goal to minimize the effort to maintain its lifecycle.

Next steps in network automation

Given the importance of automation in managing and optimizing networks, the next logical step is to identify the right platform to support these efforts. Kubernetes stands out as the most extensive and robust automation and orchestration system available today. While its primary use case remains container orchestration, the flexible and extensible nature of Kubernetes allows it to integrate with various tools and services and be applied in other domains, including infrastructure as code, edge computing, CI/CD pipelines, machine learning, AI data processing, and many more.

So, why not include network automation? Here’s why Kubernetes should be the go-to platform for network automation (and note, we're not talking about a CNI here, but using Kubernetes as an automation engine to manage physical, virtual, or containerized NOSs).

  • Open source: As an open-source platform, Kubernetes offers transparency, flexibility, and a collaborative community-driven approach. This fosters innovation and continuous improvement.

  • Highly extendable: Kubernetes is designed to be highly extendable, allowing for customization and integration with various tools and services to meet specific needs.  

  • Vast ecosystem: The Kubernetes ecosystem is immense, with a wide range of tools, plugins, and extensions available. This ecosystem provides the resources needed to build comprehensive automation solutions.

  • Declarative model: Kubernetes uses a declarative model, making it easier to define and manage the desired state of network configurations.

  • Event-driven and continuous reconciliation: Kubernetes supports event-driven automation and continuous reconciliation, ensuring that the network’s state is consistently aligned with the defined configurations.

  • Collaborative approach with GitOps: Leveraging GitOps principles, Kubernetes enables a collaborative approach to network management. Changes can be tracked, reviewed, and deployed using version control systems, enhancing transparency and collaboration.

  • Extensive knowledge base: The widespread adoption of Kubernetes means there is a vast knowledge base and a large community of experts. This allows organizations to leverage existing expertise to extend and optimize their automation systems.

Join Kubenet

Moving to Kubernetes as a platform for network automation is new territory and one that the networking industry is only beginning to explore. While we have seen initial forays into this area for cloud RAN automation via the Nephio initiative, we also believe there are emerging opportunities in other networking domains as well, especially in the data center.

To help bridge the knowledge gap, Nokia is launching a new community initiative called Kubenet aiming to educate and train the network automation community on the benefits and powerful capabilities of the Kubernetes ecosystem.

Join our Discord channel to learn more and get on the right track. On this channel you will find examples of how to use Kubernetes for network automation, some video on how to get started, and some weekly sessions to grow your skills.

Wim Henderickx

About Wim Henderickx

Wim Henderickx is Head of Technology and Architecture at Nokia, based in Belgium.  Mr. Henderickx provides consultancy and architecture advise in various domains such as, IP networking for Fixed/Wireless and Enterprise, Cloud Computing, Automation, etc. He has over 30 years’ experience in the communications and networking industry and is a regular speaker at technical conferences all over the world. He is active in several SDO’s like IETF, etc and is an active member in open-source projects.

Wim holds a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial Engineering, Data Communications and a Masters degree in Economy and is a Bell Labs Fellow.

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