Revolutionize Network Operations with Automation

By Val Olivia, Blog Contributor
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Driverless cars, also known as autonomous cars, are the future. They promise to reduce traffic collisions, road deaths and injuries because of errors made by human drivers. Driverless cars are especially important today, because traffic collisions are on the rise, caused by growing distractions like texting  or checking Facebook while driving.

Unlike driverless cars, automating network troubleshooting or finding/fixing the root cause of a network problem continues to be a dream. Yes, large companies, like the telcos, built network operations with lots of automations built by their DevOps teams.

But many enterprises lack DevOps teams. Think of the school districts who educate our kids; they often lack IT resources or may even have volunteers to help manage their networks. Automating network troubleshooting brings higher network availability, and more importantly, move their focus to better helping our kids' education.

Network automation is no longer out of reach for these kinds of organizations.

Driverless Cars for Network Troubleshooting

Imagine automating network troubleshooting so that a problem goes away before network operations (NetOps) gets a call. Think of a teacher who is about to complain to the help desk that he or she can't access Google Drive, only to notice that access has returned.

This scenario is much different from today. It's akin to calling your Internet service provider to complain about a problem and then later you notice the problem is fixed, not the service provider telling you they know about the outage and will fix it soon. It's a big difference in the customer experience!


The Aruba 8400 Core and Aggregation Switch includes the Network Analytics Engine. The Network Analytics Engine, with the help of a time series database, allows network operators to automate network troubleshooting. The time series database, with a built-in network recorder as one of its many important tasks, records key events within the Aruba 8400 and events from network devices connected to the Aruba 8400.

Why Collect Network Events?

Collecting events provides complete visibility, allowing NetOps teams to easily build workflows using the Network Analytics Engine to automate network troubleshooting. In addition to building workflows using user interfaces, the Network Analytics Engine includes APIs that are easily used within simple Python scripts. For example, a simple Python script can call an API that reports top-talkers for an interface or top-talkers for a specific hardware queue within an interface.

A Simple Construct for Automating Troubleshooting

Here is a simple construct, which automates network troubleshooting for a VoIP service, instructing the Network Analytics Engine to do the following:

  • Monitor: VoIP queue, say queue 0 for all interfaces within an 8400.
  • Condition: Perform an "action" when VoIP queue is greater than 90%.
  • Actions: Do the following:
    • Report configuration changes to all VoIP queues, and a more advanced action revert to the configuration when a VoIP queue change was made.
    • Report top-talkers for the VoIP queue and a more advanced action add an ACL blocking nonVoIP top-talkers as seen in the top-talker report.
    • Report VoIP mean opinion score (MOS) from devices connected to the 8400 and a more advanced action, identify devices affecting the MOS score.

This is a simple construct to teach an Aruba 8400 to look for a network problem and fix it. Building these smaller and simpler constructs eventually brings artificial intelligence to automate network troubleshooting.

Yes, it starts with simple and smaller constructs that can eventually grow in numbers.

To Infinity and Beyond

I'm sure everyone has heard the phrase, "It takes a village." Yes, it truly does and automating network troubleshooting also requires a village—a village of network engineers, developers, and customers.

The goal is to enable the Airhead community, together with our technology teams, including SEs, CSEs, Support and Engineering, to build useful constructs that can be included in the Aruba 8400, and to help deploy those constructs to automate network troubleshooting. Eventually, constructs can be expanded to include network configuration management, network performance management, and even help with business validation of the network.

The True Task at Hand

Bill Gates once said, "Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important."

Back to our story: Networking vendors selling to school districts or any other industries must have their customers' mission in mind. For school districts, automating network troubleshooting to improve network availability supports the mission of educating students.

It's not enough to gauge networking equipment using price/performance, completeness of networking feature, or worst, the ability to mimic a well-known command line interface. Those networking products abound. What's needed are networking products that can self-heal, and immediately bring back productivity.

The Aruba 8400, with the Network Analytics Engine, comes with machine learning abilities to automate network troubleshooting, eventually removing problems before they happen to deliver higher network availability.

Similar to driverless cars, it's time to revolutionized networking. And it starts with the Aruba 8400!

Watch the Network Analytics Engine demo.

Val Oliva is senior global product line manager at Hewlett Packard Enterprise.