Is there a minimal viable deployment for NetOps?

Is it really all or nothing for network automation?

Network automation – the practice of DevOpsing the production pipeline – is already in use by a significant percentage of organizations. While very few are fully engaged, the majority (77% according to our latest State of Application Delivery) are either piloting or partially using automation in production.

One of the concepts tightly coupled with DevOps – and thus often tied to NetOps – is the notion of a minimum viable product (MVP).

It’s part of the Agile methodology, and it’s used as a way to speed up development cycles and get solutions to market faster. That’s something we desperately need in “the network”. You might recall the Appian survey referenced in a previous blog that slapped us with research that said 72% of respondents lacked confidence in IT to scale to meet the needs of the business.

Ouch. Despite the fairly extensive use of automation in IT, developers and business stakeholders still lack confidence in our ability to get ‘er done.

So adopting tools, technology, and methodologies from DevOps to speed things up (by scaling smarter) isn’t all that crazy. But before we can figure out how to apply MVP to the network, we gotta understand what it is. So for those unfamiliar with DevOps, Agile, or MVP, here’s a straightforward definition from the Agile Alliance: 

A minimum viable product (MVP) is a concept from Lean Startup that stresses the impact of learning in new product development. Eric Ries, defined an MVP as that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort. This validated learning comes in the form of whether your customers will actually purchase your product.

A key premise behind the idea of MVP is that you produce an actual product (which may be no more than a landing page, or a service with an appearance of automation, but which is fully manual behind the scenes) that you can offer to customers and observe their actual behavior with the product or service. Seeing what people actually do with respect to a product is much more reliable than asking people what they would do.

A team effectively uses MVP as the core piece of a strategy of experimentation. They hypothesize that their customers have a need and that the product the team is working on satisfies that need. The team then delivers something to those customers in order to find out if in fact the customers will use the product to satisfy those needs. Based on the information gained from this experiment, the team continues, changes, or cancels work on the product.