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SaaSy Approach to Network Automation

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By Sai Sandesh V, Senior Director, Product and Platform Engineering, Brillio and Pavan Gupta, Consultant, Brillio

Today, networks have become the backbone of enterprises today as they have started relying more on digital transformation to run their businesses. As the world was catching up with this transition, it put weight on businesses to go digital and resulted in a greater focus on network automation. Modern networks are now diverse with their potential spread across the globe and are continuously growing in complexity. Also, the adoption of the cloud for compute workloads and data storage has made connectivity to the cloud critical to ensure business continuity.

The ‘SaaS’ in network automation transition

As networks grow, the chances of something going wrong increase, and any disruption in the network has significant implications for the business. There could be multiple reasons for network failures – human errors, hardware failures, software errors, link failures, and misconfigurations. With network IT teams responsible for the smooth functioning of the networks, it has been observed that a lot of time is spent in troubleshooting network issues, finding the root cause, and then fixing everything. According to a report by Gartner, network automation cuts the operating costs in half while avoiding 70% of the time spent trying to identify and diagnose networks. Network automation has its own charms, and the platform needs only network connectivity to perform configuration, monitoring, and troubleshooting tasks on network devices. The bearings of SaaS-based Network automation lie in continuous innovation, simplified enterprise networks, the economy of scale, and reduced entry barriers. For business leaders who are already worried about the extensive focus on security and cost of scaling up, the SaaSification model in Network automation comes with multiple benefits. First, it reduces the burden on enterprises to host yet another tool on their premise and manage its lifecycle. This reduces the internal IT effort. Secondly, hosting services on the public cloud provides continuous access to new software releases, features, and fixes, everything is taken care of by the SaaS solution provider. Finally, and most importantly, the SaaS solution reduces the infrastructure technical debt, i.e., it allows the enterprise to leverage the solution built on modern technologies. SaaS solutions are usually driven by an agile delivery model and hosting them on the cloud makes it possible to adapt them to new trends in technology.

The ‘Ready-to-go’ culture

The past few years have taught businesses to be agile and improve consistently and continuously. People and businesses do not want to wait, and the digital transformation revolution has encouraged an ‘instant’ culture in services and experiences. SaaSification fosters this culture in network automation and the process is as simple as installing a software agent that communicates with on-premise network devices to send network data to the cloud. Most of the initial steps can be managed by the network IT team with minimal reliance on any professional services from the SaaS provider. As the number of network devices that depend on automation increases, the solution hosted in the public cloud scales seamlessly to support the increased workload. What is more attractive is that this happens transparently without any involvement of the network IT team. A service that does not require second thoughts!

The culture also seems to have taken inspiration from B2C’s when it comes to trying the product first before buying it. The service supports a try-buy option to buyers and a subscription-based model that requires enterprises to pay only for the services they use.

In a parallel scenario, the business of SaaS supports the economy of scale and network infrastructure on the cloud can be shared across multiple users, allowing multi-tenancy. This means that profits grow manifold after an inflection point as new customers sign up for the service. The SaaS model for Network Automation also fits well with distributors and managed service providers (MSPs), who help scale the business leveraging the multi-tenancy aspect of the solution.

Is the technology ready for the future yet?
In terms of maturity, SaaS-based Network Automation is still in its mid-early stages. Existing solutions in the market address some aspects of advanced Network Automation, but there is no single comprehensive solution presently that addresses all aspects of this model. Significant investment in research needs to go into building the technology backed by AI and ML to diagnose and troubleshoot network issues. This is partly because failures can happen due to multiple reasons in a network with a diverse set of devices. Apart from closed-loop automation capabilities that are presently available, the model needs to work on security, compliance management, and intent-based networking to refine it and put its zing back in place to prepare itself for the next digital transformation wave.

SaaS-based Network Automation can drive monetization with the help of a multi-layered economy and with the right pricing strategy. The channel partner ecosystem is vital for the success of a SaaS business to penetrate different market verticals, the scale for profitability, and leverage various external sales channels rather than invest in building one’s own. Revenue generation is also driven with the help of different pricing plans based on the target customer and the nature of the engagement with the customer. These disruptive commercial models will further fuel the advancement in this field

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