Investing in Network Automation

February, 2009

The rationale for automating the myriad tasks associated with network management is obvious to anyone who has attempted to perform them manually. For many organizations today the counts of switches, routers, and other network devices frequently number in the thousands, and manual deployment is labor-intensive, costly, error-prone, and difficult to track. Accurate verification and auditing are often impractical because of labor constraints.

None of this is lost on IT managers today. Our research shows that, even in the current climate, more than half of all IT organizations are investing in network automation tools and more than 70% have already deployed or are in the process of implementing such tools.

This Research Byte is a summary of our full report, Recession No Barrier to Adoption of Network Automation Tools.

We define network support automation tools broadly as systems and software that reduce the need for network administrators to manually manage, repair, and upgrade network devices. These tools support specific tasks such as configuration management, management automation, and performance monitoring. In the next section, we provide a fuller briefing on the automation functionality provided by products from the leading network management software vendors.

Configuration Management, Performance Monitoring among Key Functions
Configuration management, performance monitoring, and management automation tools are key components of product lines offered by all the leading vendors. But network automation software can support a variety of other tasks routinely required for smooth network operation. An understanding of each is useful in assessing the capabilities of network management products. Figure 1 lists some of the key functions network automation can provide, along with leading vendors that offer the functionality within their product lines.

Automation Fig1 - Investing in Network Automation

The full version of this report examines adoption trends for network support automation tools by organization size and sector. We also break down the key functions that network automation tools provide, as defined by the leading network management software vendors. We conclude with our viewpoint: Now is the time to make incremental investments in productivity-enhancing solutions that provide immediate payback, and network automation tools fit the bill.

Justifying Investments in Network Automation
While IT organizations may find it difficult today to obtain funding for new initiatives, investments in streamlining and automating the administration of IT infrastructure should be a high priority. In many cases, IT organizations can find the resources in their operating budgets. By making ongoing, incremental improvements to automating systems, they should be able to realize productivity gains that free up resources for further investments. This study indicates that is exactly what many IT organizations are doing today as they press ahead with current investments in automation tools.

This Research Byte is a brief overview of our report on this subject, Recession No Barrier to Adoption of Network Automation Tools. The full report is available at no charge for Computer Economics clients, or it may be purchased by non-clients directly from our website at (click for pricing).