Automation can help you streamline network management in your enterprise by reducing human error, speeding up processes, and facilitating NetDevOps. Hyperautomation takes things a step further by attempting to remove all human intervention from IT and business workflows.
This blog will define hyperautomation and automation, compare both concepts, and discuss the challenges and best practices for implementation.
Hyperautomation vs Automation: How are they different?
What is automation?
Automation is the removal of manual intervention and workloads within IT departments. You can use automation for development, QA testing, systems administration, and security, but we’re focusing on network automation in this blog.
The goal of network automation is to solve specific challenges. For example, configuring and deploying new network devices is a tedious, time-consuming process. A configuration mistake could cause downtime or even a security breach, so reducing human error is critical to preventing these issues. Plus, there are logistical challenges involved in deploying new devices to remote data centers, branch offices, and edge locations: do you pre-stage the device and risk someone intercepting it in transit and gaining access to your enterprise network? Or do you spend the time and money to fly engineers out to remote sites to configure and install the equipment in person? One way automation solves this problem is through what’s known as zero touch provisioning (ZTP), which allows devices to automatically download and install their configurations over the network without human intervention.
ZTP solves one particular problem for you—new device configurations—and that’s all. It isn’t concerned with any other workloads or processes. You can integrate ZTP with other automated tools and systems, or you could use it by itself, and in either case, it’s still considered automation.
Learn more about automation:
What is hyperautomation?
Hyperautomation, on the other hand, seeks to automate all (or most) IT and business processes. That means automation is essentially a subset of hyperautomation – you need as much automation as possible if you want to achieve true hyperautomation.
Hyperautomation requires automating every workflow and process involved in achieving a certain outcome, including simple tasks like rebooting devices and complex workflows like updating servers. That also means every part of a workflow sequence of events needs to be automated—both the success path and the failure path—otherwise, you won’t achieve full hyperautomation.
Let’s consider the above example of a new network device that needs to be deployed to a remote site. If everything goes according to plan, the device—let’s say a wireless access point—automatically configures itself via ZTP, and no human intervention is required. However, if something goes wrong and the configuration can’t execute successfully, the ZTP process stops, and a human engineer must jump in to troubleshoot the problem.
Hyperautomation requires that you anticipate and programmatically account for any potential failures in an automated workflow. What happens if the TFTP server is offline or unavailable? What if there’s no existing configuration file for the specific model of AP you’re deploying? There should always be a next step available for your automated workflow, even if the previous step has failed. The hyperautomation failure path may eventually lead to a human being (ideally with automatic alerts and notifications), but only after exhausting all automated troubleshooting and error correction possibilities.
Hyperautomation can only be achieved through the use of an automation orchestration platform. These platforms give you a big-picture overview of your hyperautomation efforts so you can store, deploy, and manage all your automated workflows in one place. Orchestration also involves automating your automation—another essential component of hyperautomation—which means your platform automatically runs, monitors, and troubleshoots your automated processes. This is accomplished through technology like AI (artificial intelligence), SDN (software-defined networking), and ZTP mentioned above.
Learn more about network orchestration:
→ Orchestrating Hybrid Network Environments: Challenges, Solutions, and Best Practices
Automation and hyperautomation are a little easier to achieve in development and systems administration, but unfortunately, network automation has been slow to catch up.
The biggest network hyperautomation challenge is automating legacy systems designed without automation in mind. If these legacy systems are left out of your automation efforts, it’s impossible to achieve hyperautomation. You could replace all your legacy devices with newer systems that support automation out of the box, but that’s an expensive and time-consuming endeavor that could delay or even prevent your hyperautomation efforts from getting off the ground. A better solution is to find an orchestration platform that can interact with both legacy and modern systems.
One challenge to network hyperautomation is vendor lock-in. Modern enterprise networks are often composed of several solutions from different vendors. That makes it challenging to find automation solutions compatible with every single piece of your infrastructure—like storage, security, etc. For hyperautomation, you need your orchestration platform to dig its hooks into every device, workflow, and process in your network infrastructure, which means it needs to be truly vendor neutral.
Another difficulty is maintaining the hardware that makes up your network infrastructure so that your hyperautomation can work efficiently. This is especially challenging for highly distributed enterprise networks with critical infrastructure in many remote locations. To ensure successful hyperautomation in such an architecture, you need a robust environmental monitoring system that can detect issues in remote data centers and branches. The data collected by this monitoring system should provide feedback to the orchestration platform so problems like high humidity or physical tampering can be automatically acted upon and remediated before they hamper other automated workflows.
Though network hyperautomation is challenging, there is a solution that can help you overcome all these hurdles.
How Nodegrid supports network hyperautomation
The Nodegrid solution from ZPE Systems is a network orchestration platform that delivers true hyperautomation capabilities without limitations. Nodegrid runs on the open architecture Nodegrid OS, which means it’s compatible with any Linux-based system on your network. Nodegrid also supports integrations with third-party automation and orchestration tools, so you can create a fully customized hyperautomation environment.
Plus, Nodegrid can communicate with legacy devices on your network, for example, through a console connection, as well as modern networking solutions. That’s how ZPE Systems can deliver a hyperautomation platform that can be used consistently across your entire infrastructure to orchestrate and deploy automation on any and all target systems.