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Improving IT and Business Agility through Automated Network Operations

In today’s business world, an organization’s success depends on both business agility and operational efficiency. As the rate of innovation accelerates, competition is becoming fiercer – and faster. As a result, many organizations are turning to automation.

But organizations are only as agile as their least agile component, and for most organizations that is the data center network. In fact, according to Gartner, organizations that automate at least 70 percent of network changes reduce outages and increase release velocity by 50 percent.[1] Clearly, there is a strong need and desire to implement automation.

For this to happen, organizations need a workflow-centric, cross-domain automation solution that leverages the power of DevOps methodologies, popular open source technologies, industry best practices, and a thriving technical community for peer collaboration and innovation. Workflow Composer is an automation platform built on the powerful and widely used StackStorm Open Source Project. It is designed to automate the entire network lifecycle and enable cross-domain workflows to deliver split-second, cross-domain automation for improved IT and business agility.

[1] Gartner, Inc. (Andrew Lerner and Sanjit Ganguli), Take These Six Steps to a Better Network (ID: G00307825), December 2, 2016.

Workflow-Centric Automation

To enable network lifecycle and cross-domain automation, organizations must think in terms of workflows.

A workflow is a series of steps and logic assembled and executed to accomplish a business or technical objective. More important, workflows are a proven mechanism for converting manual operations and business rules into IT services delivery at scale. They also can vary in complexity. Workflows can be single-domain, such as provisioning a network device or service, or they can be cross-domain, such as detecting a network device issue and automatically creating and assigning a help desk ticket if the issue cannot be resolved automatically.

Workflow Composer provides turnkey, customizable, or do-it-yourself workflow automation. Turnkey workflows ease the transition to automation by automating frequently performed tasks, such as provisioning and configuring an entire network fabric from scratch, adding a device to an existing network architecture, or validating a network configuration. Do-it-yourself workflows are created by organizations to meet specific tasks and executed through Workflow Composer to meet unique customer requirements, such as automating multivendor network platforms or other technologies.

Cross-Domain Workflow Automation Powered by StackStorm

Built on the StackStorm open source project, Workflow Composer can integrate with and automate cross-domain technologies to provide cross-domain workflow automation. The StackStorm open source project is an event-driven, DevOps-inspired automation platform already in use by many mega-scale service providers and IT organizations.

Workflow Composer, leveraging StackStorm components, architecture, and integration packs, accomplishes this cross-domain integration by using customizable sensors and actions (see Figure 2).

Sensors and Actions

Sensors are inbound integration points that watch for specific events from external systems. When an event occurs, the sensor triggers the corresponding workflow based on customizable pre-built or DIY rules. Rules are defined in the form of If This Then That (IFTTT) format to provide the ability to tie cross- domain workflows together. For example, when a new leaf switch registers, a sensor detects that event and then triggers the “Configure IP Fabric Leaf” workflow.

Actions are outbound integration points that request changes to external systems. Actions are invoked either by users via the Workflow Composer Admin UI, a Command Line Interface (CLI), a ChatOps window, or by workflows. For example, when a “Configure IP Fabric Leaf” workflow is run, it uses a Network Configuration Protocol (NETCONF) action to configure the IP, Border Gateway Protocol (BGP), and other settings on the switch.

With this unique, open, and customizable approach, workflows can respond to events and execute actions in a programmatic way using rules and logic defined by experienced admins and executed on virtually any network device, cross- domain platform, or application.

 

 

Highlights

  • Improves IT agility by automating the entire network lifecycle—including initial provisioning, configuration, validation, and troubleshooting/ auto-remediation—with event-driven automation
  • Improves business agility by integrating network automation with tool chains and processes from other IT domains for true end-to-end IT workflow automation
  • Allows organizations to implement automation at their own pace with customizable turnkey or do-it-yourself network workflow automation, all supported in multivendor network environments
  • Leverages the power of DevOps methodologies, popular open source technologies that embrace industry best practices, and a thriving technical community for collaboration and innovation
Workflow Composer Specifications
Server OSRHEL 6.x, 7.x;
CentOS 6.x, 7.x;
Ubuntu 14.04, 16.04
Server CPUTesting: 2×CPU cores
Production: 4×CPU cores
Server memoryTesting: 1 GB RAM
Production: >16 GB RAM
Server storageTesting: 10 GB
Production: 40 GB
Programming LanguagesPuppet, Python, Mistral, Ansible, Ruby
Language Models And APIsYANG, NETCONF, YAML, REST
Workflow Composer Ordering Information
BR-BWC-ENT-S-02-1Includes one-year subscription for the Extreme Workflow Composer automation platform per data center or admin domain, LDAP and RBAC security, the Design UI, and Extreme Technical Support