Most network automation journeys start with building custom scripts and integrations, validating use cases, and getting value from low-hanging fruit. This is the fun part! However, network automation becomes exponentially more complicated once your business relies on it’s accuracy and efficiency. Although it can be fun to build out complex integrations, test cases, pipelines, custom dashboards and reports, and link all this stuff together, there’s a point where you must decide if it’s worth the investment of time, money, and energy to reinvent the wheel, or just buy the car.
As an architect and engineer, I naturally want to design the car and build it from scratch, wheels and all. But the business often doesn’t want to pay for their engineers to do this, or to introduce risk to the business by operating production applications that cannot be supported by calling a TAC help line.
Inevitably, the question the business needs to answer is – do we build our automations from scratch or do we buy a platform that’s capable of meeting our goals? In his Building Network Automation Solutions course, Ivan Pepelnjak shared simple questions to inform whether you should build or buy.
- What are the requirements?
- How soon must requirements be met?
- Is an off-the-shelf solution available?
- How much will that cost?
- How much customization is required?
- Does the solution result in vendor lock-in?
- How extensible is the product?
- Do I have the resources to build it?
- Do I have support from the business and management to build it?
- Is it feasible to start small?
- How long will it take to build it?
Assuming the answer to these questions poses the idea that buying a solution could be better, and assuming you run a multi-vendor network, there are truly only a few platforms out there to choose from, with Anuta Networks in the top list.
Who is Anuta Networks?
Anuta Networks is a solutions provider for multi-vendor network automation and orchestration. Anuta’s main platform, ATOM, provides network configuration, compliance, assurance, telemetry, service orchestration, and much more, in a GUI with visual workflows for highly advanced automation scenarios. And in case you want to automate your automation, full functionality is available via northbound REST and RESTCONF APIs. ATOM is a micro-services architecture, highly scalable, and offered on-prem, cloud, or as-a-Service.
Anuta’s target market is Service Providers and very large enterprises who want out-of-the-box use cases that can jump-start automation initiatives and provide long-term strategic value through consistent and user-friendly automation workflows.
Not simply a walled garden
To make such a tool reliable and functional for a wide variety of customers while also providing professional support, there had to be some compromises in the functionality that a customer could make to the platform themself. There is built-in support for hundreds of devices and use cases, and tons of integrations with leading vendor platforms. For the most part, this accounts for a large majority of use cases. However, unique and unsupported features must be built on your own, or via Anuta’s technical teams for covered support. Regardless, the trade-off is likely worth it, and may even influence architecture and technology decisions by leveraging existing integrations.
Active Service Assurance
A brand-new use case for Anuta Network is their built-in Active Service Assurance capabilities. Large Enterprises have business units that require SLAs, and Service Providers have customers that have guarantees on up-time and availability. There are standalone products that can be used to audit availability – but Anuta has assurance built into the platform. It’s simply an addition to the workflow, either as a part of service instantiation, or as an ongoing capability that provides assurance data over time via synthetic transactions orchestrated by Anuta probes. For Service Providers, these active service assurance test can be multi-tenant. Current test capabilities include:
- Layer 3 – ICMP, TWAMP, and DSCP
- Layer 4 – UDP and TCP
- Layer 2 – DNS and HTTP
- More to come.. or build your own
I’ve talked a bit about workflows in this blog – but haven’t illustrated what that actually is. One big problem with many amateur automation deployments is the lack of visual representation and repeatability available. The ATOM platform uses interactive, schematic-like drag-and-drops that are interconnected into a workflow diagram.
The schematic visualizes the phases, steps, and dependencies, displaying status in real time as workflows are executed. In some ways this is similar to a CI/CD pipeline — but purpose-built for network automation. It looks very simple to use, and especially helpful for varying levels of skill-sets, not requiring full developer knowledge to incorporate complex automations into your workflows.
Architecturally, the ATOM workflow engine sits at the top as the brains of the entire operation.
Anuta Networks ATOM is impressive. For organizations that find themselves leaning towards “buy” versus “build” for network automation, Anuta Networks should be in the discussion. As a builder, I was initially skeptical of the platform, but as a solutions engineer helping clients make the best decision for their business, I genuinely see the value that Anuta Networks can deliver. And in some ways, it’s not build vs. buy… it’s build and buy.
If you have a shared interest, make sure to check out their latest presentation at Networking Field Day 30 which took place in January, 2023. And if you have thoughts on the subject, or experience with Anuta Networks, I’d love to hear from you.