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 businesses today as they have started relying more on digital transformation to run their businesses. As the world caught up with this transition, it pushed businesses to go digital and resulted in a greater focus on network automation. Modern networks are now diverse with their potential spread all over the world and their complexity continues to grow. Additionally, cloud adoption for compute workloads and data storage has made cloud connectivity essential to ensure business continuity.

‘SaaS’ in the transition to network automation

As networks grow, the chances of something going wrong increase, and any network disruption has significant implications for the business. Network failures can have several reasons: human errors, hardware failures, software errors, link failures and misconfigurations. Since network IT teams are responsible for keeping networks running smoothly, it has been observed that a lot of time is spent troubleshooting network issues, finding the root cause, and then fixing everything. According to a Gartner report, network automation cuts operational 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 only needs network connectivity to perform configuration, monitoring and troubleshooting tasks on network devices. The foundations of SaaS-based network automation lie in continuous innovation, simplified enterprise networks, economy of scale, and lower barriers to entry. For business leaders who are already worried about the focus on security and the cost of scaling, the SaaSification model in network automation has multiple benefits. First, it reduces the burden on companies to host another tool on their site and manage its lifecycle. This reduces internal IT effort. Second, public cloud hosting services provide continuous access to new software releases, features, and patches, all taken care of by the SaaS solution provider. Finally, and most importantly, the SaaS solution reduces the technical debt of the infrastructure, that is, it allows the company to take advantage of the solution built on modern technologies. SaaS solutions are generally driven by an agile delivery model and hosting them on the cloud allows them to adapt to new technological trends.

The “ready-to-go” culture

The past few years have taught businesses to be agile and to improve consistently and continuously. People and businesses don’t want to wait, and the digital transformation revolution has fostered 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-premises network devices to send network data to the cloud. Most of the initial steps can be handled by the network’s IT team with minimal reliance on the SaaS provider’s professional services. As the number of network devices that rely on automation increases, the public cloud-hosted solution scales seamlessly to support the increased workload. What’s more appealing is that it happens seamlessly without any involvement from the network’s IT team. A service that requires no hesitation!

The culture also seems to have taken inspiration from B2C when it comes to trying the product before buying it. The service supports a trial purchase option for shoppers and a subscription-based model that requires businesses to pay only for the services they use.

In a parallel scenario, the SaaS business supports economy of scale and network infrastructure on the cloud can be shared among multiple users, enabling multi-tenancy. This means that profits multiply after an inflection point when new customers sign up for the service. The SaaS model for network automation is also well suited for distributors and managed service providers (MSPs), which help scale the business by leveraging the multi-tenant aspect of the solution.

Is the technology already ready for the future?
In terms of maturity, SaaS-based network automation is still in its infancy. Existing solutions on the market address some aspects of advanced network automation, but there is currently no single complete solution that addresses all aspects of this model. Significant research investments need to go into building the technology supported by AI and ML to diagnose and solve network problems. This is partly because failures can occur for multiple reasons in a network with a diverse set of devices. In addition to the closed-loop automation capabilities currently available, the model needs to work on security, compliance management, and intent-based networking to refine it and get its momentum back in place to prepare for the next wave of digital transformation.

SaaS-based network automation can drive monetization using a tiered economy and with the right pricing strategy. The channel partner ecosystem is critical to the success of a SaaS business to penetrate different verticals, scale profitability, and leverage various external sales channels rather than investing in building your own. Revenue generation is also boosted using different pricing plans based on the target customer and the nature of engagement with the customer. These disruptive business models will further fuel advances in this area

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