What is NetOps?

How can businesses adopt this broad school of thought, and what is its relationship with DevOps?


To many, NetOps may seem like another random tech buzzword,, but it is a very important area relevant to a variety of roles, procedures, and protocols within an organisation. From network engineers to app developers, NetOps provides benefits for many in IT.

The term NetOps is short for “network operations”, but this doesn’t tell its whole story. Much like automation and DevOps, or software-defined networking, NetOps involves the skills, people, and tools deployed by an organisation to deliver a network of services for its employees or end users.

It tries to help engineers meet the needs of their business and improve network agility, and involves linking changes in a network with the services and applications as and when they are deployed. This includes analytics, automation, and some cloud-based services to provide a link between the teams that run them and the engineers that fix and maintain them.

What does NetOps entail?

Through NetOps, the traditional barriers that exist between network, operational, and data teams are expected to be overcome by workplace teams. Due to this, any NetOps project must reach beyond the realm of networking.

However, implementing NetOps throughout your business isn’t as simple as turning on a switch and seeing a change happen overnight. Instead, it’s a process made up of small steps, and organisations must take this into account to embrace the ideas behind NetOps. As a result, the process involves making changes to culture and internal structures instead of a quick-fix reorganisation.

Network automation is one of the keys to implementing a change of this nature. In this kind of structure, applications are deployed with constant improvement in mind, and a network needs to support new services and features quickly.

Ordinarily, one team would examine the issue before handing it on to the next, but this is inefficient. Engaging in this process via NetOps could bring the relevant teams together under one umbrella to create an automated process. This will involve the design, documentation, testing and operating processes involved in solving the issue. An automated system would be able to collect diagnostic information the engineers would seek anyway and bring it together in one place.

NetOps vs DevOps - How do they overlap?

Development operations, or DevOps, is commonly defined as a set of practices that combine software development and IT operations to shorten the development cycle when delivering features, fixes, and updates.

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The DevOps movement changed the way software engineering was done by borrowing inspiration from the manufacturing industry. Likewise, the world of NetOps has taken inspiration from DevOps, but focuses on transforming networking within an organisation.

DevOps does account for networking, but it isn't a priority indeed, there's something of a natural conflict between the two. Whereas networking prioritises uptime and minimises risk, DevOps adopts a risk-taking and iterative approach.

So while DevOps inspired NetOps, in many ways it was these opposing attitudes that ultimately necessitated the creation of NetOps.

A tech team in discussion

Getting started on a NetOps project

As in most walks of life, keeping up momentum may often prove more difficult than the process of starting from scratch. Issues may be encountered at any stage, from the researching and planning of your project to the execution. Teams may encounter difficulties articulating to senior managers the business benefits of engaging in a NetOps project - or they may even find it hard to choose which project to pursue in the first place.  

While physical and logistical barriers are difficult to overcome, you may also find the cultural barriers are the most tricky. Fundamental shifts don’t happen overnight, though appreciating how NetOps can improve your organisation will involve a fairly radical transition in the practices and ideas with readers to internal processes.

The best option, for most companies starting out, would be to pick out a manageable project that allows teams to explore the shallows of NetOps without taking on too much risk. Automating troubleshooting is one potential candidate, as is developing networking applications through agile development methodologies. Network abstraction, meanwhile, also serves as a viable route. This involves removing the physical ties between network components to precede the virtualisation of the infrastructure, in terms of routes and device to offer more network flexibility.

Planning your entire workflow, and all the tasks this comprises, follows from identifying the project you’d like to explore. The NetOps team assigned to the venture would then have to pick out any bottleneck areas in order to optimise them, for example, areas which may need human interaction, and thus could lead to slow-down. When these potential pitfalls are identified, automation should be fed into the process to ensure it’s as efficient as possible

The pursuit of a NetOps project doesn't just stop there, however, with teams expected to keep on top of the workflow and everything it entails, with constant tweaks and improvements made to ensure the project is swimming along.

Switching to NetOps

Depending on where you're coming from, moving to NetOps can be quite a radical change for your business. Done correctly though, NetOps can boost productivity, increase collaboration and help businesses embrace new projects, process and technologies as they emerge. 

Just like starting from scratch, however, businesses can move as incrementally as the possible, rather than a complete cultural overhaul. Progress can still be made, no matter how minute the change.  

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