Deploying, provisioning, operating and configuring data center networks is still a largely manual and time-consuming process that is susceptible to human error. Its automation greatly enhances agility, accelerates deployment, increases reliability and improves the performance of critical business applications, and at the bottom line it saves on operational expenditure.
The datacenter is an ecosystem composed of computer servers and storage and networking equipment, while each of these components is managed by a separate team using separate tools. Nowadays it is possible to increase efficiency by allowing IT departments to break down barriers, automate processes and better divide resources across the entire datacenter. Network automation enables IT departments to be more responsive to various, real-time business requirements, and more service-centric in their approach to delivering value.
Additionally, it enables a more efficient method to easily change server configuration and apply it to all affected elements of the infrastructure (e.g. when a new virtual machine is spun up, its corresponding VLAN should be configured automatically).
The transition to automated operation is vital to the data center in each of the following aspects:
- Provisioning and deployment: Instead of a time-consuming manual staging process, new switches enable automatic downloading of the correct image and configuration as soon as they are installed on the rack and booted, automating set-up, configuration and the provisioning process.
- Management and operations: Once the network is up and running, adjustments can be programmed to occur automatically, using analytics to deliver current, consistent and accurate information.
- Orchestration: The network must be synched with all other elements of the data center. When a server or storage configuration is changed, it often requires corresponding changes in the network, which need to take place immediately and automatically.
To enable data center orchestration, switches should:
- Support orchestration tools such as OpenStack and CloudStack
- Support SDN solutions from a variety of vendors, such as Juniper’s Contrail Networking product
- Support IT automation solutions, such as Puppet or Chef, so the network can be managed in concert with the overall data center infrastructure
The below sections provide detailed guideline on how to use two of the main automation tools (Ansible and SALT stack), enabling higher automation in the data center.