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The concept of NetOps takes the agile software development framework popularized by application developers in DevOps and links it to the field of network administration. Because networks are moving away from a statically configured, hardware-focused architecture to a far more flexible, software-focused one, this pairing makes complete sense. As a result, networking teams are organically moving to a NetOps approach to keep up with rapid advancements and deployments of new applications within the enterprise.
As it relates to network administration within the enterprise, NetOps centers around two common themes: virtualization and automation. Virtualization is used within a NetOps framework to help speed up time to deployment, because routing, switching and network security no longer need to be deployed as physical hardware appliances in strategic locations within the network infrastructure.
Instead, networking teams can combine virtual appliances and virtual network overlays to centrally deploy physical network components, while still having the services virtually reach various critical junctions of a network. Doing so eliminates a great deal of time and money in deploying physical devices. As a result, NetOps teams are going to be far more focused on the deployment and management of virtual machines.
Automation as a linchpin
The second key component to a successful NetOps approach is automation. Because applications are now deployed with continuous improvement in mind, the network must be able to support newly added application features and services just as quickly.
The problem is networking staffs aren't traditionally designed to handle such rapid change, because so many manual network equipment configurations are still required. This is where the flexibility of software-driven networks and automation come into play.
Network automation can take any number of forms, from self-service portals -- where application administrators can spin up ports and virtual LANs without the involvement of a network admin -- to artificial intelligence that identifies new services and appropriately applies quality-of-service policies.
Automation is the linchpin to making sure the network can keep up with agile-deployed apps. This means network administrators are going to need to learn how to set up prepackaged automation tools, as well as learn how to configure new automation processes using networking APIs.
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