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Wednesday, May 22nd, 2019

Secure Your Cloud

Business at the speed of apps – automation to mitigate deployment risks

The inherent objective of enterprise digital transformation efforts is to innovate faster. In these application-centric enterprises, modern agile development practices, microservices, containers and cloud infrastructure are jointly empowering application developers to build, deploy and update applications more frequently than ever before. 

These practices and strategies have led to a new discipline – DevOps – that integrates application development and IT operations at many levels including culture, process workflows, and infrastructure management, as well as application creation, test, deployment, and delivery. In a 2018 survey co-sponsored by F5 and Red Hat on the state of network automation, 72% of respondents expect their enterprise IT teams to have adopted DevOps methodologies for at least some of their development activities within the next 12 months. 

DevOps-driven workflows to support production applications also require network operations (NetOps) teams to rapidly configure, scale, secure and integrate network infrastructure and Layer 4-7 application services. So, just as the DevOps team must anticipate and respond to dynamic, ever-changing workload requirements for flexible capacity, application security, load balancing and multi-cloud integrations, the NetOps team needs to be as agile and flexible and be fully empowered to drive network agility.

Both the DevOps and NetOps teams are generally in solid agreement on the importance of automating delivery and deployment pipelines to achieve the scale and speed required. Automation also helps overwhelmed staff to minimize the risk of failing to ensure the reliability, performance, and security of applications. 

Automation race

This is critical because the IT organizations’ ability to decrease risks across application portfolio and deployments hold the key to securing a successful future in the digital era. The F5-Red Hat survey found that on average, DevOps are ahead of NetOps in automating components of the deployment pipeline but NetOps is not that far behind.

It is worth noting that the current ecosystem of tools and toolsets are geared toward developers and application infrastructure while the NetOps ecosystem integrating various components of the deployment pipeline has hardly been nurtured. 

“One of the reasons DevOps has been so successful is that it’s comprised primarily of developers,” said Lori MacVittie, principal technical evangelist at F5 Networks. “They have the know-how to integrate what needs integrating. NetOps doesn’t necessarily have that skill set. The deployment pipeline is comprised primarily of devices and systems that integrate via protocols.Well-defined, RFC-based protocols that don't require code-based integration because they were designed not to.”

This inadequacy has spurred F5 Networks to introduce its Super-NetOps training program. The Asia Pacific-first initiative is aimed at helping businesses and the wider IT industry more effectively embrace automation, unlock new levels of performance, address lingering skill gaps and help IT professionals deliver critical network operations functions through DevOps methodologies. F5 is expanding the program’s curriculum to include security-focused automated deployment methodologies for the burgeoning DevSecOps role as well as application language frameworks and third-party automation toolchain enablement.

Bridging gaps

Crucially, the Super-NetOps program helps to get previously siloed NetOps and DevOps teams to collaborate and drive better business outcomes. The free training helps traditional NetOps professionals become systems thinkers and service providers to support the business rather than mere ticket takers from the developers. 

By standardizing services and deliver them through automation tool-chains, operations teams can collaborate to reduce time to service from days to minutes. They can automate tasks and processes, including provisioning of self-service catalogs.

Whether an organization is seeking to automate existing deployments or integrate into CI/CD pipelines, such automation and orchestration also help to reduce exposure to operational risk. 

In this regard, F5 has been enabling shared empowerment between NetOps and DevOps teammates with its programmable BIG-IP solutions, along with adjacent technologies such as its container-focused offerings. Organizations adopting containerized environments to speed app development can integrate app services, such as routing, SSL offload, scale, and security, to enable frictionless deployment and self-service traffic management. 

Moving ahead, the NetOps team must build on its decades of experience deploying, managing, maintaining and securing applications, and be equipped to deliver the automation and agility needed by the business. As with the DevOps movement, this requires NetOps to reassess attitudes around risk and identifying and removing constraints of all types: technical, cultural and business process.

DevOps teams have been introducing automation by starting small and expanding over time. In the same way, NetOps teams need to learn and benefit from using modern, open automation technologies first while aligning processes and metrics to better reflect business priorities and support integrated, collaborative workflows. 

This is a QuestexAsia feature commissioned by F5 Networks Asia Pacific.