Network automation: What is it, and how important is it?
Network automation is the process of automating every network task, such as configuration management, backups, and monitoring, to attain optimal efficiency in managing large network infrastructures and to minimize the management load for admins. With network automation, mundane and repetitive tasks can be automated to improve the overall integrity and productivity of the network infrastructure manyfold.
Network automation via a network automation tool or network automation software is key for all network infrastructures. Without the right network automation tool, an organization with a large network environment made up of many devices will not be able to perform vital operations, such as backing up configurations on time, keeping track of unwanted changes in real time, and complying with industry regulations.
The importance of network automation
Network automation provides hassle-free configuration management, makes it seamless to deploy configurations to the production environment, and ensures network admins attain efficiency and a reduced workload in daily tasks.
For example, in a manually managed network environment, repetitive and mundane tasks are carried out on a regular basis, deterring network admins from working on other tasks effectively. This prevents the network environment from operating optimally and eventually reduces its efficiency and security, causing frequent downtime.
This common issue can be nullified with the help of network automation via a network automation tool that allows you to schedule the execution of mundane tasks on a regular basis. This leaves plenty of time for network admins to concentrate on other tasks and improve their network infrastructure manyfold.
Not only that, network automation with a network automation tool also helps network infrastructures stay compliant, secures device firmware, offers a bird's-eye view of all operations, and backs up vital configurations automatically.
Disadvantages of not having network automation
- A higher risk of human error
- Frequent network downtime
- Complex network workflows
- Hectic workloads for admins
Advantages of having network automation
- Nullification of human error and reduced workloads for admins
- The ability to track and revert unwanted changes made to your network
- A streamlined automation approach for compliance management
- Enhanced network security and boosted reliability
ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager: A must-have network automation tool
ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager is a network configuration and change management (NCCM) tool for all your network devices, such as routers, switches, and firewalls. Network Configuration Manager also supports multiple vendors.
Benefits of having Network Configuration Manager as your network automation tool
- When an admin, operator, or user logs in and out of a network device, the device generates a syslog message.
- These syslog messages reach the built-in syslog server in Network Configuration Manager, which looks for the logout message.
- Upon receiving the logout message, Network Configuration Manager triggers a configuration backup of that network device. This is because whenever someone logs out of a device, there is a possibility that they made a change in the configuration file of that device.
- This backed-up configuration file is then compared to the latest configuration version of that device in Network Configuration Manager and is checked for any new changes.
- If any change is detected, the backed-up configuration file is encrypted and stored in Network Configuration Manager's database. If no change is detected, the backed-up file is discarded.
- You can schedule repetitive backups of core devices for any time you want. Network Configuration Manager will execute and finish backups automatically at that desired time.
- The supported scheduling options include hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, or one-time.
- Receive real-time change notifications about any changes made in your network infrastructure. This helps you avoid missing any changes made to configurations before production.
- Notification options include emails, SNMP traps, syslog messages, and tickets.
- If any unwanted changes are detected, Network Configuration Manager automatically reverts the configuration to the previous stable version.
- For this, the rollback option needs to be enabled for the device. With rollback enabled, no new device changes will take place, keeping the device secure.
Automation with script templates
- Network Configuration Manager provides automation script templates called Configlets for the bulk execution of tasks or uploading security patches.
- These Configlets can also be used to rectify noncompliance issues with devices instantly.
- Configlets can also be scheduled according to your requirements.
- Network Configuration Manager automatically checks if your devices are compliant with the default policies and lists them if they are not.
- The default compliance policies include the PCI DSS, SOX, HIPAA, and Cisco IOS.
- You can also create custom policies according to your organization's requirements.
Firmware vulnerability management
- Network Configuration Manager automatically gets firmware vulnerability data from NIST and lists the devices that are vulnerable, along with the CVE IDs, base scores, severity levels, and links with patches.
- Network Configuration Manager updates its data from NIST every day at a particular time. This can be modified.
Dashboard and reports
- Network Configuration Manager's dashboard is fully customizable and in widget format.
- Get a bird's-eye view of all your operations on one screen.
- Network Configuration Manager supports various real-time reports pertaining to different use cases.
- These reports can be exported in various formats or can be sent via email automatically when an operation is finished.
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