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What is NetOps? Start with these 5 common questions

This compilation is an essential starting point for NetOps novices. These five common questions explore what NetOps is, how it can benefit networks and its effect on network teams.

The English language has a variety of polysemous words -- or words with various meanings -- including book, play, man and NetOps. In addition to being polysemous, NetOps can also be synonymous with NetOps 2.0, Super-NetOps, DevNetOps or NetDevOps.

What is NetOps, though? The term can refer to two aspects of networking. One uses NetOps as an abbreviation for network operations, while the other refers to the evolving relationship between networking and DevOps -- a term for the collaborative work of an organization's application development and IT operations teams.

The goal of NetOps is to use DevOps initiatives to improve network agility and programmability, and for network teams to start embracing automation and virtualization more than in traditional networking.

This compilation of expert advice can help both novices and seasoned professionals learn about the NetOps concept. Dive deep into five common questions about what NetOps is, its benefits and how it can change enterprise networks.

What is NetOps, and how can you prepare your network for it?

NetOps in its DevOps context is a much different approach to networking than traditional strategies and processes. The inflexibility of traditional networking can curb newer DevOps initiatives and impede network innovation. NetOps can help modernize networks and create more flexibility with automation and provisioning. These features can also increase speed and programmability.

In the way that traditional networking practices tend to put out fires as they occur, NetOps looks to prevent these fires before they start. NetOps requires both top-down and bottom-up approaches to implementation, and it also enables network teams to reevaluate previously normalized practices in order to embrace new technologies and practices that can benefit networks overall.

Learn more about the history of NetOps and other background knowledge.

What effect does NetOps have on networking teams?

NetOps has two main themes: virtualization and automation. As network teams move away from fixed hardware, they move toward software that provides more flexibility and agility in the network, according to Andrew Froehlich, president of West Gate Networks. The increased desire for flexibility paves the way for NetOps workflows.

With virtualization in NetOps, deployments become quicker because teams have less hardware to deploy. Teams can combine virtual overlays and virtual appliances to save time and money, as they can also centrally deploy physical components virtually, Froehlich said. With automation in NetOps, networks gain increased agility and can better support rapid network changes.

Read more about NetOps' effect on network teams.

what is NetOps
What is NetOps, and how does it differ from other increasingly common abbreviations? Use this graphic to learn how to tell them apart.

How can NetOps and DevOps work together to alleviate network issues?

NetOps is not only heavily inspired by DevOps, but the two approaches can come together to deal with network issues. NetOps and DevOps teams can collaborate and share tools, which can benefit and strengthen IT as a whole, said John Burke, CIO and principal analyst at Nemertes Research Group in Mokena, Ill. With DevOps initiatives, NetOps teams can more efficiently approach challenges.

Network teams can reap similar benefits as DevOps teams if they embrace, adapt and use DevOps concepts, as well. DevOps can help virtualize change management, Burke said, which enables NetOps teams to move toward automation for network testing. Yet many networks teams are still wary of automation and its effect on networks, which can slow down NetOps adoption.

Dive deeper into the relationship between NetOps and DevOps.

What KPIs benefit NetOps?

Traditionally, network teams have key performance indicators (KPIs) based on uptime and the stability of network infrastructure. These KPIs block many DevOps initiatives -- which require flexibility and responsiveness -- that could modernize and benefit networks. Basically, a new type of network is necessary to move beyond legacy limitations.

NetOps KPIs include emphasizing business initiatives and delivering business-critical applications, as well as embracing automation where the organization can and encouraging collaborations between NetOps and DevOps teams. The key KPI shift is from a focus on what to a focus on why. Instead of teams focusing on uptime specifically, for example, they can focus on why or how new technologies and policies could benefit their network.

Explore more KPIs for NetOps teams.

What are data center pods, and how do they affect NetOps?

Network teams can embrace the transition to NetOps by taking a multifaceted approach to NetOps environments. Instead of teams designing a data center network as one large entity, they can design it in separate pods or zones to ensure more adaptability. These separate zones are called data center pods and include few network switches -- sometimes as few as two.

These pods can enable more innovative data centers, as they allow for staggered upgrades to eliminate the need for entire system refreshes. Updates to data center pods are contained to their specific zones and the pods can constantly improve, either singularly or in groups. Also, data center pods better support DevOps initiatives, such as automation and virtualization.

Discover more about data center pods for NetOps environments.

Next Steps

Network Innovation Award: F5 Networks' Super-NetOps training program

This was last published in June 2019

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