What Is NetDevOps?


By: R. Scott Raynovich

(The following Tech Primer is sponsored by Itential.)

These days, you hear about a lot of “Ops” in technology. This is short for operations. Two of the more important types of operations are development operations, or DevOps, and Network Operations – NetOps. These two types of operations have started a trend to merge in the future in a movement known as NetDevOps.

NetDevOps is a way to build network automation into the application development process, so that an application can understand the infrastructure needs and be programmed to create networking resources on demand. It also helps to dynamically monitor, adjust, and understand the interaction between the applications and the network environment.

Why does this make sense? The short answer is that the software needs infrastructure. In the past, the software development process was often isolated from networking and infrastructure planning. As the public cloud movement took place, orchestration tools such as Ansible and Terraform became popular as ways to automate the configuration and orchestration of hardware for cloud applications. On the network side, applications and network performance management tools provided visibility. But now these functions are all starting to merge.

These automation environments also need to extend beyond the public cloud to other networking environments, including traditional enterprise, hybrid cloud, and private clouds, and network operations to be separated.

There’s another reason why the areas of DevOps and NetOps are coming together: The proliferation of data and applications tools such as Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) means that networking needs can increasingly be programmed directly by an application – which will require DevOps and NetDevOps teams to work together.

Shifting Left for NetDevOps

Where did the idea of NetDevOps come from? In software development, the movement known as continuous delivery and development (CI/CD) adopted driven ongoing testing, validation and monitoring into the development process, to yield DevOps. Through a process of continuous integration, which is often referred to as “shifting left,” developers can merge and manage code without shutting down an application.

Networking isn’t any different than an application. Imagine the same process of shifting the testing, validation and monitoring forward in the production process of an application while at the same time doing this for the network as well. Production networks need to be continuously tested and monitored as new applications are put to work. This is where DevOps and NetOps come together to make NetDevOps.

Networks and applications have many dependencies and requirements, so it makes sense that they shift left together to form NetDevOps. With the explosion of complicated applications running across many platforms and clouds, it’s more important than ever to involve networking earlier in the application development process.

Elements of NetDevOps

NetDevOps sounds great to a lot of people, but you might be asking what’s needed to implement this? The answer is that it comes from a variety of networking tools and functions tied together through partnerships and the creation of an ecosystem.

NetDevOps requires network orchestration, monitoring, and fault remediation. It also requires a network management platform that can leverage APIs and REST/RPC interfaces. Key functions for NetDevOps include monitoring, analytics, and configuration management.

But to attain true NetOps – creating network management across a wide range of multivendor platforms and networking domains – there are other elements that will be included. Some of these include:

  • Use of APIs and REST/RPC to drive software programmability of hardware
  • Use of Git repositories for configuration source of truth for software development
  • Pipelines for ensuring consistent, repeatable testing and deployment
  • Tools for instrumentation and automation/orchestration

Successful NetDevOps teams will likely tap into several partners to build their own ecosystem, because NetDevOps requires many different elements. With the opportunities for NetDevOps expanding, it’s likely that over time a more complex ecosystem will develop to combine functions into full NetDevOps platforms.

Many vendors are active in this area. For example, networking software producer Itential has been a leader in the field of NetDevOps by building low-code and no-code automation platforms for the NetDevOps markets. Network management powerhouse Broadcom Software has been a big advocate of using its network visibility and management tools to drive NetDevOps using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). And cutting edge multicloud networking vendor Prosimo recently launched a NetDevOps toolkit to drive continuous validation of the networking experience.

You are likely to see a lot more of this activity over time, as the use cases and the demand for NetDevOps expands with the needs of multicloud and hybrid cloud operations.