Monday, February 26, 2018

Automation won’t cost you your job — it could save it

Automation won't cost you your job — it could save it
// Cumulus Networks Blog

If you're a regular reader of our blog, you probably do a lot of professional work with networking, manage an enterprise data center or play around with networks as a hobby (if you don't, close your eyes for just a moment and imagine yourself in a well air-conditioned data center). You also likely know about the day-to-day tasks that maintaining a network requires, and how much time they take out of the day. Or, perhaps you're a director that's trying to resolve the issues your networking team keeps having. Has it ever occurred to you that there might be a better way to tackle these daily problems? Sure, what you're doing now works, but there's so much else you could be doing if the management of these tasks were optimized. That's where network automation solutions can step in and give you more free time than you could have dreamed of. Why automation? Well, let's get into what problems it eliminates and the benefits it brings — you can thank us later!

Problem: A manually configured and operated network

A day in the life of a network engineer includes three layers of regular tasks. At the top, we have troubleshooting operation issues. This takes priority over the others, since issues that occur today require immediate attention versus long-term fixes and fire drills. Next is answering tickets and editing configuration accordingly. These tasks focus on adding new applications and functionality on a per request basis. Again, correcting current problems and completing necessary re-configurations is more crucial than thinking ahead to tomorrow's problems. Finally, the lowest priority is optimizing architecture for future-proofing. While an important part of creating a lasting data center, network optimization falls to the bottom of the priority list since it doesn't involve immediate problems (for now).

Professionals are no strangers to these demands, but have you ever stopped to think about what this repetitive routine is costing you? Symptoms of non-automation-itis include:

  • Intense stress and lack of sleep due to constant troubleshooting and being blamed for issues you didn't create
  • Burnout from the mind-numbing repetition of doing the same simple tasks every day
    Sloppy patches from reactive configurations, as opposed to preemptively dealing with potential errors
  • Bloated costs and broken budgets caused by preventable network downtime, which can take hours to remediate
  • Inability to appropriately scale with the growth of your business
  • Dizziness and uncontrollable hiccuping

If you experience one or more of these side effects (okay, maybe not the last one), talk to your networking vendor today about treating them with automation! Network automation solutions can cure even the most terminal of optimization issues and even improve your network's health.

Solution: What an engineer can accomplish with automation's freedom

Automation gives you a lot more free time (and since we all know time is money, you can expect decent savings as well). With these extra hours, you can accomplish feats like:

Architecture optimization: Without repetitive operations tasks hogging all of your time, you finally have the opportunity to take a good look at your network's architecture and think about how it can be done better. Play around with different configurations. Maybe even look into solving layer 2 complications and implementing layer 3 solutions. Pinpointing the recurrent problem areas in your network and adjusting them will save you from having to deal with inevitable operation issues in the future.

Breaking down bottlenecks: There's no "I" in "team," but there is in "automation!" Now that you've got a moment to look up from your monitor, you can take the time to reach out to fellow employees across different teams. Once your end of the operation starts running smoothly, the positive effects will work their way further down the line and make things easier for others as well. They'll probably find they suddenly have a little more free time! Try communicating with other teams to figure out how you all can better interoperate and get the whole company running more efficiently.

Creating documentation: With these extra hours in your pocket, you have the opportunity to record the work that's been done. Documenting your solutions and innovations is a great way to make sure everyone at the company can access, understand and replicate them (as opposed to directly asking you for an explanation). Plus, posting your work to github or even submitting to the Linux Kernel allows the community to benefit from your genius as well!

Trying out new tools and tech: There's a lot of cool new trends that are taking the data center by storm, from containers to private clouds. Learning to use automation tools like Ansible, Puppet and Chef not only increases your knowledge of automation, but also gives you the free time to catch up on all of the hot new data center practices that can revolutionize your network. Additionally, you can use this time to take advantage of great certification programs to add new abilities to your wheelhouse. Developing these skills can help you remain competitive in the ever-evolving tech world, ensuring job security or even the possibility of career growth.

Ensuring quality: As the saying goes, "measure twice, cut once." It's difficult to keep up with the constant demands of troubleshooting and validation, but network automation solutions make it possible to stay ahead of the game. With more time to devote to quality assurance, you can validate deployments before deploying and be certain that you're rolling out the best.

Treating yourself to better coworkers: When you're working from immediate issue to immediate issue, there's zero time to spend on ensuring the people you're hiring are the best your company can do; you end up hiring based on current needs and desperation rather than long-term potential and how they fit in with the company's mission and environment. Consider using the free time automation provides to keep potential candidates in the interview cycle longer. You'll be able to weed out less viable candidates and recognize where true talent and skill lie. It pays to hire premium engineers. Remember — you could be working with these people for a long time. Having the ability to confirm you're bringing on colleagues who will make your job easier will make your life easier as a result. No need to worry about coworkers whose mistakes reflect poorly on you (or who steal your lunch from the fridge).

Quit taking work home with you: What happens in the office should stay in the office! No one should have to lie awake at night worrying about everything that could go wrong when they step away. Thanks to automation, your network is running as intended with little to no supervision. Sleep easy knowing you won't be woken up in the middle of the night due to a networking issue (that might not be your fault).

Organizational optimization: Since automation gives you more time to optimize your network, you can research and develop more ways to save even more time! As you implement more time-saving techniques, the hours you're NOT using to carry out mind-numbing tasks grow exponentially. Plus, your newfound ability to spread out solutions among cross-functioning teams means that your organization as a whole becomes more efficient. Your decision to automate will earn you the gratitude of your peers (and possibly the recognition of your superiors).

How can Cumulus help you achieve your automation dreams?

If you're looking for a place to begin your journey with network automation solutions, we've got you covered. Cumulus Networks is 100% Linux, so when you're setting up the network, you're not just working with Cumulus — you've got the support of the 50,000+ engineers that make up the Linux community to help you with quicker troubleshooting and patches. No need to sit around and wait for proprietary vendors to fix things for you; take the power into your own hands.

The tech helps keep things running as well. Cumulus Linux is an operating system built to make configurations and deployment simple with its unique CLI, Network Command Line Utility (NCLU). Our telemetry-based fabric validation system NetQ also makes automation a breeze because its preventative nature enables you to reduce errors, and thus downtime, saving you thousands of dollars.

Eager to incorporate automation and improve your network? We've got more information and plenty of resources on our website's network automation solutions page. Head over there and start reaping the benefits of automation!

The post Automation won't cost you your job — it could save it appeared first on Cumulus Networks Blog.


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