Asia's Source for Enterprise Network Knowledge

Monday, April 22nd, 2019

Secure Your Cloud

Key trends shaping DevOps, transforming NetOps

The advantages of cloud computing – speed, agility, efficiency, and economies of scale – have empowered enterprises to initiate digital transformation. Multi-cloud strategies, augmented by modern agile development practices like DevOps, are reshaping IT to meet business demands for speed and innovation. 

Digital transformation efforts have resulted in exponential growth in applications, especially those deployed and managed through multiple clouds. Faced with the need to update applications more frequently than ever before and keep up with the rapid rate of change, developers are turning to automation and orchestration, and using moreDevOps-driven applications in production environments. 

A 2018 survey of more than 400 IT DevOps and NetOps professionals on the State of Network Automation, which was co-sponsored by F5 and Red Hat, showed that 72% of enterprise IT teams planned to adopt DevOps methodologies for their development activities within 12 months. 

At the same time, 62% of respondents are automating and orchestrating development and deployment pipelines. They are standardizing on developer-oriented solutions to implement continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) practices. 

The benefit of agile development and operational strategies is that they encourage scalable and flexible cross-functional teams and processes that speed up innovation. DevOps, for example, integrates application development and IT operations across culture, process workflows, and infrastructure management, as well as application creation, test, deployment, and delivery. 

Further, the need to rapidly configure, scale, secure and integrate network infrastructure and Layer 4-7 application services also means that NetOps professionals must equip themselves to deliver the automation and agility needed by the business.They need to be as agile and flexible as the applications team and be fully empowered to drive network agility. 

Learn and collaborate

To this end, NetOps teams can learn from DevOps best practices and integrate with continuous deployment toolchains. For example, they can consider infrastructure-as-code methodologies to easily deploy, provision and manage infrastructure by modifying, testing, and redeploying templates instead of modifying code. Further, pre-built open automation platforms and reusable automation code allow programmatic, software-based automation across network environments.

Following the evolution ofDevOps teams, NetOps teams not only have to learn to leverage modern, open automation technologies but also align processes and metrics to better reflect business priorities and support integrated, collaborative workflows. 

F5 Networks’ State of Application Services 2019 report highlighted how DevOps has driven NetOps to standardize on tools and team structures that have served to automate and orchestrate continuous delivery efforts. F5 had also found that both DevOps and Net-Ops professionals desire better collaboration and more automation of network services.

At a macro level, both DevOps and NetOps have similar technical requirements – intelligent traffic steering across systems and resources to minimize service interruption. But while developers solve traffic-steering requirements with software, infrastructure teams use hardware to meet their requirements.

To reduce the NetOps programmability skills gap and get NetOps processes automated and into a DevOps continuous deployment toolchain, F5 has created a free Super-NetOps training program. 

The program helps network engineers and architects move to a 'programmable infrastructure' model. The free curriculum also teaches administrators to standardize network-based services, bring them into continuous delivery pipelines, and provide them through automation toolchains – reducing time-to-service drastically. 

NetOps automation 

Hence, successful NetOps transformation requires new approaches to defining workflows, operational policies, and collaboration strategies across diverse functional teams while taking advantage of modern automation technologies. 

The F5-RedHat study showed that modern automation technologies can be used to effectively standardize and streamline NetOps capabilities that are currently highly manual. They include:

  • Managing VLAN, router and network access controller configurations. Use of automation can reduce the risk and scale of errors and free NetOps from repetitive tasks to focus on innovation.

  • Firewall, WAF, and DLP configurations. Use of automation can boost productivity via improved speed and frequency of deploying services. 

  • Network L4-L7 application service configurations. These services scale and secure applications for optimum performance. Automation helps to deliver these services faster and earlier in the development lifecycle, enabling collaboration to eliminate conflicts that can delay delivery to market.

  • Application infrastructure deployment. Automating app infrastructure components – servers, middleware, web, and app platforms that applications depend on – is as critical to success as delivering the application itself. Automating the development and test phases in an application lifecycle can ensure high success when the application is released to production.

Clearly, NetOps and DevOps can collaborate better. By shifting to modern, collaborative tools and methodologies that span network, security, and application services, the shared goal of successfully delivering and deploying an application can help to align operational activities across DevOps and NetOps teams and business stakeholders.

The implication is that harnessing a NetOpsteam that adopts DevOps practices to maintain application security, scale and availability will be a key success factor of agile digital transformation efforts.

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