The new dynamics in the NetOps-DevOps collaboration

F5 research a couple of years ago highlighted how NetOps and DevOps respect each other’s priorities and their common understanding of broader goals. This has given hope for increased collaboration between the teams. Indeed, the survey results point to their rising interest in automation and self-service that can be linked to the rapid adoption of cloud-based solutions, and the desired flexibility they provide.

A joint F5-Red Hat State of Network Automation report highlighted benefits such as minimized human errors; higher IT productivity; faster application deployment; improved application performance; and reduced infrastructure cost. Automation technologies also offer enterprise operations teams the opportunity to take advantage of infrastructure as code.

The compute, storage, security and networking operations of an infrastructure “must be operating in sync to achieve continuous deployment and enable the kind of optimization IT and business leaders are looking for out of digital transformation,” opined Lori MacVittie, principal technical evangelist at F5 Networks. “That makes infrastructure as code in production a bit trickier, but also has a greater impact on efficiency and speed. That’s because automation can eliminate the wait times between hand offs that are too often the source of inefficiencies in deployments.”

However, while NetOps’ goal is rock-solid infrastructure, DevOps’ goal is speedy app delivery. F5’s survey findings underscored these divergent goals. NetOps are twice as likely to deem a deployment frequency “too frequent” than their DevOps counterparts while less than 5% on the DevOps side believed there is such a thing as “too frequent” releases. So, how will the NetOps-DevOps partnership evolve?

Automation pay-off

As NetOps and DevOps teams embrace the power of automation and apply it to different phases of an application’s lifecycle, an inevitable and necessary upshot will be the elimination of silos and the forging of greater collaboration between the teams.

With DevOps already focusing on automating and integrating dev and test tool chains and the provisioning of systems and cloud infrastructure, NetOps teams have to keep in step by maintaining security, scale and availability to support the growing use of DevOps-driven applications in production environments. The challenge is that the frequently changing DevOps workloads demand equally dynamic network response to assess risk, scale and performance requirements.

Clearly, NetOps teams have to match DevOps teams’ use of automation technologies for key operations activities including configuration management and upgrades. Software-driven automation tools enable NetOps teams to standardize, scale and reduce configuration errors related to a number of tasks.

Orchestration is also paving the way for NetOps teams to embrace DevOps-style reusable automation technologies and best practices paired with collaborative workflows. By using programmable, open source, agentless technologies, NetOps teams, along with their DevOps colleagues, can work smarter and scale operations to effectively support their organization’s digital transformation priorities.

Further, DevOps’ decisions to turn to cloud will see NetOps providing more of the self-service access necessary to speed up the application deployment pipeline. Dovetailing with this are API-enabled, multi-vendor network and application services automation solutions that enable NetOps teams to support the rapidly changing workload and networking requirements.

F5’s recent acquisition of NGINX, an open source leader in application delivery, combines F5’s application security and application services portfolio with NGINX’s application delivery and API management solutions to bridge the divide between NetOps and DevOps with consistent application services across an enterprise’s multi-cloud environment.

Better together

Additionally, network automation workflows, reporting and compliance activities can be easily integrated with DevOps workflows and operational metrics.

NetOps and DevOps respondents in the F5 survey believed that improving metrics, monitoring, and visibility would allow all stakeholders to be apprised of performance. For example, it may be more important in an agile world to focus on reduction in repeated errors and failed code integrations than on mean time to repair for individual device failures.

F5 has also been developing more tools to plug its enterprise-class technology into more agile, automated workflows. Some of its key initiatives include giving training in new ways of working to any enterprise stakeholder that wants it and Aspen Mesh, an enterprise-ready platform for managing containerized applications or microservices.

F5’s Super-NetOps training program is designed to bring network-based services into continuous delivery pipelines. The free, on-line, self-service education enables network engineers and architects to learn skills transferable across network technologies developed by F5 and that of other vendors.

The strategic intention is for NetOps teams and relevant stakeholders to create revolutionary strategies that will allow them to learn and benefit from using modern, open automation technologies while aligning processes and metrics to better reflect business priorities and support integrated, collaborative workflows.

Improvements in interaction, communication, collaboration – coupled with collaborative tools and methodologies that span network, security, and application services – promote a culture in which the successful delivery and deployment of an application is a shared goal that aligns operational activities across DevOps and NetOps teams and their business stakeholder. Such alignment is critical to the success of agile digital transformation efforts.

This is a QuestexAsia blog post commissioned by F5 Networks Asia Pacific.