What Is Network Orchestration?

Illustraion of a sphere with a network on it travelling fast through space.
Modular network components allow you to create something complete, fast, and provide total control.

When running a business, you need to be able to scale your solutions faster than the competition. To do this, many have turned to network orchestration. This makes it faster than ever to allocate and provision infrastructure solutions using a centralized control application.

In this article, you’ll learn what network orchestration is and how you can use it to reduce your routine tasks. I’ll also discuss how your organization benefits from it. Firstly, let’s take a look at what network orchestration is!

What Is Network Orchestration?

Network orchestration provides you with a way to quickly make changes and manage your network through abstracting tasks. For instance, if you need to add more resources to your network, you don’t need to touch hardware. Instead, you use software to allocate according to the needs you set. Network orchestration also helps rapidly growing businesses that have a vast number of users, sites, and distributed network frames to adapt to new business needs quickly. They won’t even need to worry about granular provisioning details. A user-friendly control console that propagates changes automatically handles everything. The control software also handles all security settings. In turn, this gives you total control of the network from your network orchestration software.

To get network orchestration working effectively, you’ll need to run every form of the cloud you can. This will make it easy to allocate or reallocate resources. This means you’ll still need to conduct traditional maintenance and implementation to cover the businesses needs.

Additionally, you’ll need to use a network orchestration software to get everything working. Cisco, for example, provides businesses with both the infrastructure and orchestration software to manage everything. Many cloud-based service companies also provide this functionality to add value to their offerings and attract businesses to use their services.

You’ve got the basics now about network orchestration, but how does it work? Let’s see. 

How Does Network Orchestration Work?

Network orchestration acts as a network controller that interprets the needs of the business into actionable tasks with real-time monitoring. For instance, if you need to allocate more processing power to a software development team, you can do it from a control console. The control software interprets and implements the intent of the administrator’s changes. During this process, administrators don’t need to prepare or allocate anything.   

Network orchestration also shows you what the network looks like from a top-down view from the control software. This is specifically useful for large and growing networks that change often to meet the demands of the business. From there, you can decide if anything needs more or less resources to function more efficiently.

Now you know how network orchestration works, let’s take a look at its benefits.

Benefits of Network Orchestration

You’ll often find network orchestration software using some form of artificial intelligence to help with network optimisation and load leveling. The more automated infrastructure and fabric management, the easier your life is as an administrator. 

Apart from catering to your own needs, network orchestration helps give teams resources quickly without them needing to wait for anything. This allows you to control your resource overheads effectively. This is also useful for companies that conduct resource intensive project based activities. For instance, companies that develop artificial intelligence (AI) solutions may need to scale resources dynamically for AI training during part of the project. Once complete resources can be scaled down and once the project completes, the whole project may be archived to further help save money.  

The orchestration software will also handle the majority of security scaling after initially asking you for some key information about your business needs. Its power comes from taking top-level intent of the administrator and translates that through automation into a working solution. This saves administrators time, gets resources to teams faster, and ensures no security settings are overlooked

Next, let’s take a look at the three different types of network orchestration.

3 Types of Network Orchestration

When looking for your perfect network solution, you’ll generally encounter 3 types of network orchestration. Here are they:

1. Policy-Based Automation (PBA)

Policy-based automation controls a device’s policies. It also allows companies to scale their solution through placing devices into logical groups or functions based on policy requirements. In turn, this helps a business prioritize resources and demands of groups based on these logical groups. A robust PBA will enable you to propagate policy across new devices and scale appropriately. Using a PBA will also enable you to nest groups and add subgroup policies as you need to give teams the resources they need quickly. That said, most PBAs work at the application layer. As a result, they’re useless for managing your network intelligently or enabling you to create one unifying solution. 

2. Software-Defined Networking (SDN)

SDNs are a little more complex than PBAs and use an intelligent software-based controller. You also can automate routines including managing loads and resources with SDNs. This is possible due to SDNs abstracting the control layer from the application layer. SDNs use automated functions to check things like security settings. Additionally, they can change them to meet new hardware configurations. However, they’re not as intelligent as artificial intelligent solutions that conduct filtering processes in complex systems to create an optimized network.    

3. Intent-Based Networking Systems (IBNS)

IBNS takes SDNs and uses AI to improve them through automating tasks. You’ll also see IBNS solutions using AI to manage and optimize resources, control service level agreements (SLAs), and modify security to incorporate new devices. These solutions are useful if you have a wide area network that spans multiple sites that need to improve encrypted data transfer through bandwidth control and media filtering. Anything where an administrator has to conduct a repetitive task is normally optimized in IBNSs to save you time. It also ensures you don’t miss anything. IBNS sits on-top of the operating system and works using REST enabling it to effectively communicate with modern devices efficiently. 

Now, let’s see the differences between traditional network automation and network orchestration.

Network Automation vs Network Orchestration

Businesses must race towards the most streamlined and effective solution for its business needs. Until recently, network automation has been used to help with network growth and governance. Here, we compare both network automation and network orchestration to show what the benefits of each technology is and if it can help your business needs.

Network AutomationNetwork Orchestration
Is useful for running single, low-level tasks without the need for a humanIs useful for running many high-level and repetitive tasks and processes without the need for a human.
Is often completed through the CLI or third-party script-driven frameworks of the hardwareUses REST APIs to implement automation across devices and management platforms
Has systems that are often proprietary and restricted to a particular network device offeringExecutes actions based on the state, status, and configuration of devices on the network; not just by continually searching for hardware
Contains no governance or policy management toolsProvides policy management and governance as a part of its functionality
Example: Load balancing based on server availabilityExample: Provisioning network services or resources as requested by teams through a centralized controller.
Which technology suits your business better?

Next, I’ll move on to the uses of network orchestration.

Network Orchestration Use Cases

To help you understand when to use network orchestration, let’s take a look at some of the challenges you may face. 

  • You need to improve your quality of service (QoS) through establishing better policies.
  • Your company is complex or large and you need to automate troubleshooting.
  • You need to dynamically scale devices and infrastructure to meet project based needs quickly.
  • You need to provision network services routinely and face complexity challenges due to the scale of provisioning required. 

Network orchestration helps improve the QoS provided to users through ensuring that the policies are followed. The software uses the administrator’s input to define intent and changes the network accordingly. As this process is automated and heavily abstracted, chances of human error impacting QoS are less. Likewise, dynamic scaling is possible thanks to network abstraction making an administrator’s life easier in project-driven companies. You no longer have to struggle with network complexity thanks to network orchestration abstraction or granular details associated with provisioning.   

The final question now, do you need network orchestration for your business? Let’s find out!

Does Your Company Need Network Orchestration?

Deciding when to use network orchestration is relatively simple. If your business allows most operations to be cloud based, switching to network orchestration will make your life easier. In fact, you’ll be controlling the scaling from one control interface. That said, you’ll find that some companies require internal management for data like engineering firms or companies that need to protect their IP or client information. Now, you have nothing stopping you from implementing a solution inside the company. That said,  most solutions you’ll find are cloud-based. If your company is large enough, it’ll make sense to automate and even create your own orchestration tools if necessary. Remember, you’ll still need to run infrastructure activities as normal which will make onsite management less effective than cloud-based alternative solutions.

Final Thoughts

Network orchestration is excellent to automate scaling and management workflows. It also benefits both the administration team and end users. It takes the top-level intent of the administrator and translates it into a coherent network. This is to abstract implementation and governance. You’ll find fewer security flaws when scaling or modifying a business solutions resource. In addition, resources can be scaled quickly to meet the demands of project based teams. 

Network orchestration often utilizes AI to automate many network optimization processes and implementation tasks. This makes it superior to network automation. In brief, network orchestration is a great solution to grow complex networks that need changes to occur quickly.

Have more questions about network orchestration? Check out the FAQ and Resources sections below. 

FAQ

What is network orchestration?

Network orchestration creates an abstraction between the administrator and cloud-based network solutions. This enables administrators to easily provision resources and hardware dynamically across complex multisite networks uniformly. The network orchestration tool also automates adding settings, rebalancing the network, and optimizing security. 

How do I know if network orchestration is right for my company?

If your company has a complex network that is growing rapidly or needs to reallocate resources fast to meet project demands, you need network orchestration. This is because it reduces the time it takes the administrator to create and provision solutions. Network orchestration also uses predefined rules to automate network growth.  

How can network orchestration save my company money?

Network orchestration makes it easy for companies to change resource allocation fast. This stops companies preemptively allocating resources to projects and either under or over estimating what’s needed. Both eventualities can also lead to wasting resource time and resources during a project. This streamlined approach increases the cost of the project and impacts profitability.

What connects hardware using network orchestration?

Connectivity between devices is achieved using REST APIs. Network orchestration cloud-based solutions are already set up to enable you to work directly with network orchestration. REST replaced SOAP-based communication channels making it easier for developers to create more efficient, secure, and user-friendly connectivity solutions. You might also see SOAP being used in older no longer used policy-based automation (PBA) solutions. 

What are intent-based networking solutions (IBNS)? 

Intent-based networking solutions use an administration abstraction layer. They also combine artificial intelligence (AI) to conduct background network optimization tasks. These tasks could be network allocation and updating security settings when new devices are provisioned to the network. When looking for a network orchestration solution, you should search for an IBNS to make governance as simple as possible. 

Resources

TechGenix: Article on Cloud Network Security

Learn how you can protect your cloud networks security

TechGenix: Article on Firewall as a Service

Discover how you can protect your cloud-based network with firewall as a service (FWaaS).

TechGenix: Guide on Network Segmentation

Find out how your business can benefit from network segmentation.

TechGenix: Article on Network Observability

Get ideas of how you can monitor your network easily.

TechGenix: Article on Network as a Service

Uncover what Network as a Service means and how your company may implement it.

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