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The Cultural Shift around Network Automation

April 1, 2019 – In today’s world of fast paced innovation, cloud technologies and automated processes enable rapid and reliable software delivery. However, none of this is possible without allowing the supporting infrastructure to scale when needed, perform with high reliability and remain secure from threats. The core infrastructure plays a critical role in this process, especially as environments become more dynamic in nature versus the traditional static architecture.

As environments scale, so does the complexity and management overhead. In a decentralized model, organizations would have to login to each device to manage them one by one. Today, some vendors offer a more centralized model by providing a single pane of glass approach, but it still requires a human to login and perform configurations using a deployment guide or runbook. This approach is still time-consuming and doesn’t allow for speed and agility and we still have the human error component. The challenge that we want to solve for is to reduce operational costs by shifting the challenge of manual configuration from people to technology.

The need to deploy full application stacks and services more quickly and in a repeatable manner has driven both developer and operations teams toward automation and orchestration. Automation provides relief to operations teams by offloading repetitive tasks and reduces the amount of IT resources required. It enables organizations to manage more devices more effectively and better manage applications, infrastructure deployments and the process of provisioning and de-provisioning, which in turn increases reliability, efficiency and agility.

Management Made Easy

Today, consumers expect fast and secure access to applications wherever they are. With 20+ years of application service experience, F5 provides the broadest set of services and security for enterprise-grade apps, whether on-premises or across any multi-cloud environment. F5 empowers organizations to take advantage of the benefits of automation and programmability, as well as their rich APIs, to improve operational agility, responsiveness and manageability. As market leaders in application delivery services and automation respectively, F5 and Ansible have partnered to provide a compelling solution that helps you quickly and reliably deploy secure applications in today’s multi-modal infrastructures.

Ansible provides a simple yet powerful multi-tier automation and orchestration platform, which can help organizations automate application deployment and configuration management, while ensuring repeatability. Its agentless architecture doesn’t require additional software installation on BIG-IP devices and automates every stage of the deployment process—from licensing through application deployment. Ansible also communicates and manages most devices over SSH or through API calls. In addition, Ansible version 2.2 and above ships with F5 modules for managing the BIG-IP platform. Using task-oriented Ansible playbooks, organizations can manage and automate secure application deployment on multiple BIG-IP devices across data centers.

Advantages of Ansible

Some of the key benefits include:

  • End-to-end automation from provisioning to application deployment
  • Reduced configuration time
  • Improved consistency and automation speed
  • No new software to install on your BIG-IP device
  • Prebuilt Ansible F5 modules for best practices and continuous compliance
  • Seamless integration of robust BIG-IP APIs and Ansible F5 modules
  • Reduced likelihood of human error
  • Lower operational expenses

F5 and Ansible enable IT to become more agile and better respond to business demands.

Change is Not Always Bad

There are many people who are concerned that automation will put them out of a job. As with any change, comes a challenge. However, those who resist, usually fall behind and become irrelevant. My response to this is: embrace it. Your job is not going away but your role is changing. This is a change that needs to be embraced by the entire organization. In other words, this is a cultural shift. Processes need to be developed, implemented and maintained. Teams will need to learn new skills. Make sure you plan in advance to ensure your teams acquire the skills for the new tooling.

Network Automation: A Competitive Edge

Automating infrastructure and application deployments is essential to ensure businesses stay ahead of their competitors. Organizations are under more pressure to deliver the information, services and experiences their customers expect—and to do it quickly, reliably and securely. Ansible and F5 enable organizations to save time, reduce the burden of management and reap the business benefits of true network automation. If you are just getting started around network automation and Ansible, we offer workshops for your teams focused around Ansible Fundamentals for Infrastructure and Ansible Fundamentals for Networking. To schedule a workshop or if you are looking for assistance with more advanced capabilities, reach out to us.

For more information on how F5 and Ansible can help your organization, email [email protected]

Daryl Harrington is Director of Cloud Solutions for Groupware Technology.