As businesses demand agility, it requires a different approach to manage changes within your network. Today we all live in a highly competitive environment. Faster go to market, adaptability to environmental changes, elasticity needs have become essential elements that drives a business. As network is the underlying infrastructure that facilitates secure connectivity needs of a business, it is essential that above business drivers are taken into consideration when managing networks. This requires a paradigm shift, a modern mindset, competencies, tools and a culture to sustain the change management process.
Traditional brick and motor businesses moves slow and the rate of innovation is less frequent. Therefore, frequency of change is quite minimal where steady operations and processes are run without disruption. In alignment with business, networks were also managed with minimal architectural and operational changes. With businesses taking a more proactive approach to change their business models and operations, so did it require the networks to be managed in a different way.
Although a business could wait for months for a new product launch back then, this is not the case anymore. You need faster product launches, elasticity, responsiveness to consumers and timely modifications. With the rapid changes in businesses, you are compelled to ensure that you meet the connectivity needs of applications, users and developers in a timely and a reliable manner. After all, businesses want faster go-to market with their products and networks should not be a bottleneck for this. This requires frequent changes to your network and a different approach towards change management.
Typically, product development team is a separate team that works in silo to operations team. For a product launch to be successful, it is essential that the handover from development to operations is seamless and the product is run with least errors when put in operation. This is what NetDevOps facilitates. And especially when the network infrastructure is complex and involves handling high volumes of workloads, NetDevOps becomes handy as it helps you to run at scale. And adopting a NetDevOps environment helps you manage a pipeline for continuous integration and continuous development making new product development and integrations become a part of routine.
NetDevOps, a term derived out of DevOps is the application of DevOps practices within the networking domain. NetDevOps is a culture that encourages frequent change management within a network environment. Hence, it’s not just a set of tools, programming languages nor a technology but a fresh approach. Of course, the developments within the networking field such as API based communication, automation, network programmability has fueled the development of NetDevOps practices.
As with any other transformation, adopting NetDevOps too will have to go through change management process. NetDevOps is a new concept and a methodology that network engineers are not used to as these concepts were more revolved within software development practices. And to break that barrier, its important that fear or resistance towards change is managed by means of building awareness and education. Making network engineers understand the business landscapes, its drivers and the expectations from infrastructure as a starter will help them feel a part of a larger purpose than merely forcing them to adopt. Once the bigger picture is set, its crucial to enable them with competencies and practices that required to inherit NetDevOps within an organization. Some of the areas that needs attention when adopting NetDevOps are described in brief as below.
Collaboration with teams – Ability to collaborate with teams, share knowledge is vital in NetDevOps. As discussed earlier, NetDevOps encourage collaboration bridging gaps between siloed divisions. This is important because the end objective is to launch error free, user-friendly products, upgrades, modifications in a timely manner on frequent basis. This requires both developers and operational teams to communicate and share their perspectives, challenges and ideas in order to make sure the end objective is achieved.
Adherence to processes – when you practice NetDevOps, it becomes crucial to follow the process and not to have any shortcuts or ad-hoc workflows. Knowledge is not siloed to individuals but rather managed centrally using repositories. Therefore, it’s important to keep strict adherence to process, keep source of knowledge updated and make handovers seamless. In order to do this, following defined processes is crucial so that NetDevOps lifecycle is not broken.
Building network programming skills – Training your network engineers for the new set of skills is another crucial part. Learning Linux administrative skills, languages such as python, understanding about using APIs, NETCONF/YANG for model driven management are some of the few areas where legacy networking skills should be evolved. Understanding these technologies will be equally important as much as your knowledge on networking. Further, network automation will play an integral role under NetDevOps and the ability to communicate with devices over APIs to build an automated environment will be one of the first few changes that will be made in a network infrastructure. Therefore, enabling network engineers with these skills will determine how fast and how far you would go with NetDevOps adaptation.
Familiarization with tools – it becomes important for network engineers to get themselves familiarized with the new set of tools that needs to be adopted in order to practice NetDevOps. Across the NetDevOps life-cycle there are tools that are being used to make the work done. NetDevOps has its own life-cycle from planning, developing, releasing to operating and monitoring. In order to practice NetDevOps, you will have to adopt tools to perform practices defined under NetDevOps life-cycle. For instance, tool such as Github, Jenkins for code management and CI/CD, Ansible for network automation, EVE-NG/VIRL/GNS3 for testing and Nagios/ELK for monitoring, etc.
Above are key areas that needs to be in place in order to adopt NetDevOps in your organization. As NetDevOps becoming increasingly popular and relevant, it will create benefits for organizations that has the capability to adjust fast. Adopting NetDevOps will also require certain investments, but the returns will be much more valuable in the long run, as it creates an agile, responsive business that can run at scale. It’s important to understand that adopting NetDevOps requires a mindset change and proactivity. And in order to adopt a long lasting NetDevOps culture, it is equally important to have the drive from top level highlighting the importance of adopting NetDevOps for the business’s horizontal and vertical growth.