Automation deemed most important network trend: report

Thirty-five percent of respondents consider automation to be the top trend. (Pixabay)

The networking world is changing rapidly as new technologies and techniques proliferate, according to the 2018 State of Network Management Report from network analytics vendor Kentik.

Much is new and organizations are struggling to figure it all out. "As more network and security teams move towards trends in machine augmentation and automation, it’s apparent that many are in search of better understanding their infrastructure—especially as that infrastructure becomes more complex with the rapid adoption of hybrid and multi-cloud architectures," Jim Meehan, the head of product marketing at Kentik, told FierceTelecom. "Many organizations are overwhelmingly interested in a unified tool stack."

Thirty-five percent of respondents consider automation to be the top trend, though only 15% think their organizations are prepared to tackle the job. Automation is a broad category that includes SDN/NFV and approaches that ultimately will enable networks to self-diagnose and correct problems as they arise, Meehan said.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning were said to be the most important trend by less than 1% of respondents. However, those techniques were seen as helpful for network management by 45.2%.

Not surprisingly, security is a big concern. Data breaches are the biggest worry for 33.1% of respondents. These are followed by the user experience at 28.8%. Another security-related finding also involves overall efficiency. Sixty-seven percent of respondents think that using the same stack for security and network performance management is a good idea, but only 39.5% said their organization is combining the two.

Organizations are seeking the best way of managing visibility into the cloud and internet. The most popular is network traffic analytics at 28.3%.

Managing problems when they do occur is another area of concern. The most difficult element of this, at 30.1%, is that network users know about incidents before the experts. The inability to access existing data in real-time is the biggest challenge to 26% of respondents.

The industry is working to address these issues. "Every team recognizes that networks are changing rapidly, and the rate of change is increasing," Meehan wrote. "Many are frustrated that tooling hasn’t been able to keep pace with those changes—especially scale—and are pursuing new initiatives in multiple dimensions to deal with that failure. We also see a desire for tools that provide value across multiple teams or use cases to increase collaboration and make stretched budgets go further."

Meehan said companies must keep an eye on ROI and carefully consider the impact of each prospective move. "Thinking about how new initiatives can make teams more efficient, reduce cost, improve customer/user experience, or even generate revenue will make sure that those initiatives are well aligned with overall company objectives," Meehan wrote.

The survey was based on responses from 531 networking pros attending Cisco Live 2018 in Orlando, Florida, in June. They work in 12 industries, including telecommunications, government, finance, retail and healthcare. Most came from organizations with more than 1,000 employees.