How to Use Network Automation to Save Time and Money

By Huy Nguyen  |  Posted 2010-09-27

How to Use Network Automation to Save Time and Money

Today, more than ever, IT administrators running the network are at the intersection of justifying their time and costs while still providing increasing levels of high-bandwidth services, either over wired or wireless connections.

Users are expanding what "plugs in" to the enterprise LAN, in the form of rugged mobile devices, iPads, netbooks, wireless access points (WAPs) and, of course, mainstay laptops and PCs that most employees use every day. Additionally, there are high expectations and requirements for plug and play connectivity for devices, reliable connectivity for communications, and secure network connectivity for employees and user communities.

However, the fact is, both the time and money available for IT to address these everyday tasks is shrinking in many cases. Budgets and staffs have either been downsized or remained flat, making it difficult to keep up with the demands and proliferation of on-demand applications and devices that run on the network.

What typically eats away the time of a network administrator? Monotonous tasks such as moving an IP phone from one location to another, isolating a device connecting to the network that needs authenticating, moving someone's work space to a new cubicle or providing power to network ports for phones. In addition, resources are spent reacting to help desk calls or network troubleshooting.

All of these tasks have something in common: they strain costs and personnel resources. All of these moves and changes add up quickly. It typically costs more than $100 for each move, add or change and more than $200 for performing fault isolation. This is why emerging software and network intelligence at every point in the network has become necessary. A "smart network" helps rein in expenses through advanced management and automation features.

Five Benefits of Network Automation

Five benefits of network automation

Network automation delivers multiple benefits today. With network automation, IT administrators can:

1. Discover, identify and provision services to devices that attach to the network such as mobile phones, PCs, gaming consoles or any IP-based devices,

2. Identify users whose devices-either by username or log-in credentials-are on the "preapproved" guest list sitting on a server behind the scenes, while segmenting or deauthenticating those that are not permitted,

3. Provide dynamic power management using power over Ethernet (POE) to provide electricity to edge-connected devices,

4. Provision key network services and applications instantaneously. This can be levels of quality of service (QOS) to promote responsive IP communications (including voice and video) or to send virtual LAN (VLAN) parameters and dynamic, role-based policies to keep individual network access "departmentalized" or on a need-to-know basis,

5. Provide location-based tracking, monitoring and automated event response to help simplify troubleshooting and repetitive tasks. The network can automatically respond to events without requiring manual intervention to deliver higher levels of service assurance.

Network Automation Helps Secure the Network

Network automation helps secure the network

A smart network puts control into the IT administrator's hands-all at the push of a button. Just as importantly, network automation is also used to secure the network.

For example, in a hotel, hospital or school where visitors might be tempted to unhook a voice over IP (VOIP) phone and connect their laptop to the network, the automated features prevents these users from gaining unauthorized access. They do this by identifying that it's no longer a VOIP phone attached and that the applications that run on the network port are no longer voice traffic.

The network automatically reenables the port after a few minutes to see if further change has occurred (such as the user reattaching the VOIP phone). The software continues to keep the port deactivated or quarantined if a laptop is still connected. This is yet another example of how automation erases the long-lasting headaches of a static network.

Whether it is the configuration and monitoring of phones, access points or users, these simple tasks add up quickly. By streamlining network tasks through automation, the network edge is automatic, accurate and simple-leaving the network staff to focus more proactively on critical endeavors of the business.

Huy Nguyen is Director of Product Management at Extreme Networks. In this role, Huy drives strategy and direction for the company's products and partner alliances. He can be reached at

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