Compare 8 network automation tools

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The current surge of community automation instruments has marked a shift in how directors construct and handle networks. Whereas server and software automation instruments have been round for a while, network-focused instruments have solely change into in style within the final couple of years.Historically, handbook processes have largely completed configuration setup and ongoing community adjustments, however community automation instruments have since emerged to scale back these handbook steps. Though community automation instruments may take different approaches toward automation, all of them intention to scale back admin time spent on easy and repetitive configuration processes.On this article, we take a look at the advantages of community automation instruments, tips on how to differentiate three forms of community automation platforms and eight in style multivendor community automation instruments.

Options of community automation instruments

Each community automation software on this record of eight can automate configuration adjustments in multivendor environments. The instruments accomplish this by automating command-line syntax after which pushing these adjustments to every system that requires the change. As an alternative of getting a community admin launch a Safe Socket Shell (SSH) session into each router, swap and firewall to change the text-based configurations manually, automation instruments create configuration scripts that accomplish the identical aim in far much less time and with fewer errors.

One other in style technique for community automation instruments to entry and automate community system configurations is thru an API. This extra trendy and chic means of interacting with community gear can cut back admin time spent making frequent community adjustments.
Some community automation instruments transcend the method of merely automating configuration adjustments. Examples of different community automation options embrace the next:

Configuration backups. Repeatedly scheduled backups are encrypted and saved safely in case a community part configuration must roll again or restore.
Device entry management. This function manages who has the authority to push configuration adjustments throughout sure segments of the community. An accounting log additionally generates to indicate the whole historical past of adjustments.
Compliance monitoring and verification. Admins can automate the method of figuring out if a community system meets preestablished compliance and regulation requirements.
Vulnerability assessments. This automated course of identifies firmware and configuration settings which might be recognized to be weak.
Efficiency monitoring. IT can learn and analyze community efficiency insights on sure vendor {hardware} to offer configuration suggestions to additional enhance efficiency.
Community orchestration. This function auto discovers community units for the centralized management and end-to-end coordination of LAN configuration additions and adjustments.

3 forms of community automation instruments

Community automation instruments can fall into one in all three classes: infrastructure automation instruments, purpose-built community automation and software-defined platform instruments.
The primary class consists of instruments that had been primarily constructed for server and software automation however have expanded to incorporate the community. Many enterprise IT retailers could have already got a few of these instruments in use for infrastructure and DevOps functions. The profit with these instruments is that they’re already in-house and IT workers could also be effectively versed on tips on how to use them. Thus, including community automation processes into an present software wouldn’t be a lot of a stretch from a price, implementation and studying curve perspective. That stated, a few of these infrastructure automation instruments are gentle on community automation options and compatibility with numerous community {hardware} and software program.
One other kind of community automation platform consists of instruments which might be purpose-built for the community. These instruments provide essentially the most network-specific options and functionalities. The caveat, in fact, is the software turns into one more one-off software for a particular objective. IT retailers experiencing what’s referred to as software glut — which occurs when too many administration instruments are in play — could need to look elsewhere.
Lastly, software-defined platforms create a logical overlay throughout LAN {hardware}. This overlay allows admins to centrally handle and orchestrate configurations from a single administration pane, masking the underlying configuration instructions which might be occurring throughout the underlay. This selection is nice for simplifying multivendor environments that require frequent adjustments to LAN configuration settings.

A breakdown of the completely different classes for community automation instruments

Evaluating high community automation instruments

Editor’s word: The next instruments are listed in alphabetical order.

1. Ansible for Community Automation

Ansible is an open supply platform that was initially constructed as an automation software for Linux-based programs. The platform was acquired by Crimson Hat in 2015. Since then, Crimson Hat has expanded Ansible capabilities to automate different components of enterprise IT infrastructure, together with community units. Ansible consists of particular modules for the automation of all kinds of community distributors and units. These modules embrace automated community features, equivalent to community system discovery, configuration, testing/validation and configuration drift identification.
As a result of Ansible makes use of an agentless structure, it really works effectively when automating hardened and proprietary programs, equivalent to community home equipment. Thus, interactions between the Ansible platform and any community gear it automates is carried out by way of SSH or by means of an open API.
Moreover, Ansible affords a whole bunch of pre-built community modules that do a lot of the heavy lifting for creating automation processes. Pre-built modules embrace automation templates for a number of distributors, equivalent to A10, Cisco, Dell, Excessive, Juniper and Fortinet. Ansible for Community Automation is a very good possibility if it is already in use by server, software and improvement groups.

2. BeyondEdge Networks

BeyondEdge Networks — previously iPhotonix — acquired its begin in service entry networking applied sciences. Anticipating the evolving panorama and rising complexity for enterprise community structure, the corporate acquired software-defined expertise to additional advance the power to handle networks with its software-defined community imaginative and prescient.
Taking the framework and expertise from the software-defined market, the corporate expanded its product into enterprise LAN. The result’s a software-defined LAN (SD-LAN) platform that may overlay throughout any present switching vendor or white box technologies. As a result of the platform is vendor-agnostic, it could actually function on high of nearly any underlying community, together with copper or fiber. Thus, it provides companies the community automation capabilities inherent in software-defined networks at a decrease value.
BeyondEdge SD-LAN auto discovers all Layer 2 connectivity on a community, dynamically stitching the underlying topology of the community into a visible mannequin. On the identical time, network automation templates are used to configure the LAN companies on to their respective endpoints. As soon as full, community admins can centrally handle networkwide adjustments straight from the BeyondEdge UI.

3. BMC TrueSight Automation for Networks

BMC’s TrueSight Automation for Networks is a standalone, purpose-built platform that typically takes a security-focused method to community automation. The software set can combine into the bigger BMC TrueSight AIOps platform, which incorporates instruments for operations administration, community orchestration and server automation.
Automation for Networks additionally consists of instruments that automate community gear vulnerabilities, compliance checks, configuration verifications and different security-minded provisioning duties. The product integrates with community discovery instruments, together with the BMC Discovery product, in addition to third-party choices from Cisco, Entuity and Ipswitch.
From a community vendor compatibility perspective, TrueSight helps a variety of distributors, together with Arista Networks, Verify Level, Cisco, Dell, HPE and Juniper. It could actually additionally combine and automate processes inside software-defined networks, together with VMware NSX and Cisco Software Centric Infrastructure.

4. Chef Enterprise Automation Stack

Chef is a very open supply automation software set. Nevertheless, most enterprises which might be community automation ought to contemplate the commercially obtainable Chef Enterprise Automation Stack (EAS), because it provides many options which might be crucial in as we speak’s IT departments, together with skilled help.
The software set helps admins streamline and handle numerous server, software and community insurance policies, each on premises and within the cloud. Chef has been a preferred alternative for server and improvement groups, so some groups inside IT could already use Chef EAS.
In contrast to others on this record, Chef requires that consumer software program be put in straight on community units. The consumer software program works with the Chef platform to automate numerous community configuration duties, equivalent to making adjustments to router/swap ports and digital LANs or modifying high quality of service insurance policies throughout a community.
Due to the requirement of an put in agent, Chef helps fewer community distributors in comparison with others, though it’s appropriate with a few of the bigger community distributors, together with Arista, Cisco, F5 and Juniper.

5. ManageEngine Community Configuration Supervisor

A division of Zoho Company, ManageEngine designs enterprise-grade IT administration platforms. The corporate’s Community Configuration Supervisor is a purpose-built platform with a number of helpful options. Moreover being a multivendor community configuration automation platform, the product has instruments to handle and management community adjustments, securely retailer configurations, and create and implement community compliance and auditing. ManageEngine helps router, swap, firewall and different community system automation from distributors, together with Cisco, Dell, Fortinet and Juniper.
Community Configuration Supervisor makes use of the idea of configlets, that are automation templates that admins can construct to automate many repetitive duties. The software also can automate many compliance monitoring and verification processes for Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Fee Card Trade and HIPAA purposes. It could actually additionally generate detailed reviews when admin-defined configuration insurance policies are violated. An instance of this might be to confirm that Easy Community Administration Protocol communities are set utilizing the suitable password energy.
The platform even affords a smartphone app, the place admins can handle configuration automation and compliance on the go. ManageEngine has been within the community automation enterprise for a very long time and has a big buyer base.

6. Puppet Enterprise

Puppet is one other infrastructure automation software that is in style within the server and app dev world. For community admins seeking to consolidate instruments, Puppet Enterprise could assist, as different IT groups throughout the firm could already use it. It does require the set up of a number of networking modules to squeeze some fundamental community automation options out of the platform.
Puppet is open supply, however most organizations have possible opted to make use of the paid Puppet Enterprise. The enterprise model can also be crucial to acquire the add-on community automation modules. Moreover, whereas Puppet is essentially agent-based, the community automation modules are totally agentless.
Present community automation modules embrace help for Cisco Internetwork Working System, IOS XE and Nexus {hardware}. Different modules exist for Palo Alto PAN-OS firewalls, Lenovo switches and F5 Native Visitors Supervisor load balancers. Whereas this record is not as in depth as a few of the others, it might function a low-cost possibility for organizations which have already bought Puppet Enterprise and run a community largely composed of their community gear.

7. SolarWinds Community Configuration Supervisor

SolarWinds was within the community automation enterprise lengthy earlier than it turned mainstream. Its Community Configuration Supervisor product is appropriate with a number of community distributors, however superior options are inclined to skew towards Cisco and Palo Alto. Different supported distributors embrace Dell, Excessive Networks, F5, Foundry, HPE/Aruba, Juniper and Lenovo.
Like ManageEngine, SolarWinds additionally consists of a number of safety features, along with typical community automation capabilities. One of many extra distinctive options of SolarWinds Community Configuration Supervisor is the mixing with the Nationwide Vulnerability Database. With this constantly up to date database, the platform can carry out vulnerability assessments and automate the identification of unsafe firmware or allow companies on networked units.
Community Configuration Supervisor integrates with different SolarWinds instruments within the vendor’s product portfolio, together with its Community Efficiency Monitor software.

8. VMware vRealize Automation

After finalizing the acquisition of SaltStack in late 2020, VMware made modifications to the automation software set. These modifications had been completed so safety and community automation duties might be built-in seamlessly alongside the corporate’s in style NSX software-defined community overlay platform. The automation part has been rebranded as vRealize Automation, and its objective is to quickly arrange and handle NSX-controlled hybrid and multi-cloud knowledge heart environments.
VRealize consists of instruments that automate and supply self-service portal entry to different facets of the information heart, together with VMs, Kubernetes clusters/namespaces and safety insurance policies. It additionally features a single level of administration from which to automate the creation of digital networks and related community safety insurance policies. These polices can then be pushed throughout a number of private and non-private clouds throughout the NSX overlay. This offers assurance that community and community safety insurance policies are constant throughout all apps and companies, in addition to on-premises or cloud areas the place these companies are positioned.
For organizations that rely closely on VMware NSX, vRealize Automation is a straightforward means to make sure that community and community safety companies are robotically deployed and managed in lockstep with the functions and companies they help.

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