Automation is the technology by which a process or procedure is performed with minimal human assistance. Automation or automatic control is the use of various control systems for operating equipment such as machinery, processes in factories, boilers and heat treating ovens, switching on telephone networks, steering and stabilization of ships, aircraft and other applications and vehicles with minimal or reduced human intervention.
Network automation is the process of automating the configuring, managing, testing, deploying, and operating of physical and virtual devices within a network. With everyday network tasks and functions automated and repetitive processes controlled and managed automatically, network service availability improves. It is the process of using software to automate network and security provisioning and management in order to continuously maximize network efficiency and functionality.
Automation is still green, but when it begins to mature, network admins and engineers will not even need to log into any router or firewall equipment. Of course, automation will not replace human intelligence (our jobs). With the proper automation tool, we will be able to do thousands of tasks per day, something that probably took months before. Automation will give us more time to think about network architecture, design, and plan for its capacity.
Best Network Automation Tools and Software of 2020:
Here are some of the best network automation tools, some are free, and others are paid :
Solarwinds Network Automation Manager (NAM) –
Solarwinds Network Automation Manager (NAM) is an integrated network automation tool designed for highly scalable or enterprise networks. It provides full automation and management from a unified web-based console. (NAM) includes components of various network automation tools and operations management software for all your network deployments.
It includes some features of the Network Performance Monitor (NPM), Netflow Traffic Analyzer (NTA), User Device Tracker (UDT), Network Configuration Manager (NCM), IP Address Manager (IPAM), VoIP & Network Quality Manager (VNQM), and SolarWinds High Availability. The network engineer can configure certain network automation functions on NAM and let the tool monitor the availability, faults, and performance for all nodes and paths in your network.
Its key features include : analysing traffic and bandwidth and find hogs, monitoring and backing-up network devices automatically, deploying network configurations in bulk, automatic subnet discovery and IP scanning and monitoring network performance.
ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager (NCM) –
ManageEngine Network Configuration Manager (NCM) by ManageEngine is one of the most comprehensive software for network configuration, change, and compliance management. It supports multi-vendor networks with products from Cisco, NetGear, Fortinet, Juniper, HP, and more.
NCM can help you automate the management of the entire lifecycle of network device configurations. You can automate daily monotonous configuration tasks in bulk. Instead of going one by one, which generally would take a long time, you can apply a new configuration or changes to multiple devices. You can also schedule automatic configuration backups that might be useful in case of rollbacks.
Its key features include : automating new or edit configuration in bulk, network automation using Configlets, configuration backups, configuration change notifications and rollback actions.
Ansible (Tower) –
Ansible by RedHat, the simple automation framework, is definitely at the core of a lot of new networking DevOp solutions. It automates the configuration of servers and provides native support for legacy and open network infrastructure. Ansible is an open-source project built by the community. It is available for Linux/Unix-like OS and Windows.
To automatically configure servers, Ansible uses playbooks, which are ordered units of scripts (written in YAML) that define how a server should work and behave through the Ansible automation tool.
Ansible Tower is the enterprise web-based GUI tool that makes Ansible easy to use. The software is designed to be the central platform for all automation tasks. Ansible Tower helps network teams manage complex deployments.
Its key features include : leveraging the current network CLI commands to automate over 45 different networking vendors, between switches, routers, load balancers, and firewalls, provide automation for software-based controllers (SDN), automate interconnection of hybrid and multi-clouds.
Netmiko is an open-source Python library based on the Paramiko SSH library. It allows easier management and connection of network devices through SSH. Netmiko improves the library of Paramiko by including support to a wide range of networking vendors and platforms, such as Arista EOS, Cisco ASA, HP Comware7, Juniper Junos, Linux, and more. The tool simplifies and automates the logging to a network device through SSH and executes commands.
Its key features include : establishing an SSH connection to network devices, execute “show” commands and retrieve the results, execute configuration commands, it supports a wide range of vendors and platforms.
NAPALM (Network Automation and Programmability Abstraction Layer with Multivendor support) is a Python library that can interact with different network devices via a unified API. The software is cross-platform and open-source. It uses different technologies to connect to the network devices, execute configurations, and retrieves the output data. It can support different networking operating systems such as Arista EOS, Cisco IOS, Cisco IOS-XR, Cisco NX-OS, and Juniper JunOS.
Its key features include : connecting to single or multiple devices, executing commands automatically, replace, merge, and compare configurations, discarding or rollbacks configuration, retrieving and audit information.
Truesight Network Automation –
Truesight formerly known as BladeLogic, is now part of the BMC product portfolio. Truesight is an APM with AIOps (Artificial Intelligence Operations) capabilities. It is designed to improve the performance and security of hybrid-cloud environments at a cost-efficient price. TrueSight provides scalable and automated network configuration management capabilities. The software gives full control of the entire configuration across the network, from systems, routers, and firewalls. It can also be programmed to automatically keep track of changes in configuration and apply rollback in case of failure.
Its key features include : service-aware analytics, auto-scans and auto-backups, automatic audits and security compliance checks, patch and image update automation, capacity optimization.
Apstra OS –
Apstra OS (AOS) is referred to as a self-operating network, which automates the lifecycle of leaf-spine network switching. AOS supports multiple switches hardware vendors (Cisco, Juniper, Arista, and more) and operating systems (EOS, Junos, NX-OS, and more).
Apstra comes with a single console to automate your network. It decouples the network (software) from the underlying physical and virtual infrastructure. It works at the management plan to control switches or other devices through their open APIs.
ApstraOS ensures that network elements such as protocols, design, cabling, etc. work continuously. With AOS, you can create, edit, or remove leaf-spine devices, instantly across different network vendors. AOS also comes with closed-loop real-time validation and advanced data analytics.
Its key features include : automated L3 design and deployment with intra-rack virtual networks, operational analytics. Intent-Based Analytics (IBA), built-in Telemetry, NSX-T and vSphere Integration.
NetBrain Automation –
NetBrain is an adaptive network automation platform. It uses a single-pane-of-glass that shows all network data through mapping and visualization. The software also comes with a powerful search engine that allows you to look through all your network elements.
NetBrain performs an in-depth automatic network discovery to collect data from all network devices. It decodes multi-vendor networks and builds a digital representation of the network. The software creates a dynamic map to be used as a UI to all devices and to configure automation tasks. The software improves the device map experience by adding CLI automation and data from third-party network vendors through API.
Its key features include : automaticing network device inventorying, single-pane-of-glass and dynamic maps, viewing device’s CLI at the map-level, automating workflows with Executable Runbooks.