NETWORK AUTOMATION: What Is It & How Does It Work?

Network Automation
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Network automation has emerged as a major changer in the rapidly expanding digital landscape for enterprises looking to improve productivity, eliminate human error, and optimize network operations. Network automation engineers are changing network management and setup by employing modern tools and programming languages such as Python. In this blog article, we delve into the world of network automation, looking at the tools that power it, the importance of Python, the skills needed for network automation engineers, and Cisco’s contributions to this field.

The Rise of Network Automation

Networks are critical in today’s interconnected world for facilitating communication, data transfer, and commercial activities. Manually maintaining complicated networks, on the other hand, can be time-consuming, error-prone, and wasteful. This is where network automation comes in, providing a game-changing option for streamlining network operations.

Organizations can use network automation to automate monotonous processes like configuration management, monitoring, and troubleshooting, freeing up IT experts to focus on higher-value activities. Businesses may increase their operational efficiency, network dependability, and reaction times by embracing automation.

Network Automation Tools

Tools play a critical role in network automation by simplifying and streamlining complex network processes. Network automation engineers can use these tools to automate processes, maintain configurations, monitor networks, and orchestrate workflows. In this section, we will look at some of the most popular network automation tools that are changing the way businesses manage their networks.

#1. Ansible

Ansible is an open-source automation tool that offers a straightforward yet robust foundation for network orchestration. Ansible’s agentless architecture eliminates the requirement for software installation on network devices, making it simple to deploy and manage. It employs a declarative language approach, in which administrators declare the intended state of the network, and Ansible handles device configuration accordingly.

Ansible’s adaptability extends beyond network device configuration. It enables network engineers to automate a variety of processes like software provisioning, application deployment, and cloud management. Ansible’s extensive module library enables smooth interaction with a wide range of networking vendors, making it a versatile and extensively used solution in the network orchestration environment.

#2. Puppet

Puppet is another well-known network orchestration tool that specializes in configuration management and infrastructure as code. It has a declarative language for defining configurations, which enables network automation engineers to express the desired state of network devices and ensure consistency across the infrastructure.

Puppet’s ability to manage network configurations at scale is one of its primary features. It provides a centralized administration platform from which network orchestration engineers may develop and implement configuration policies for a large number of devices at the same time. The agent-based architecture of Puppet enables efficient and reliable configuration enforcement, making it a powerful tool for enterprises with complex and distributed networks.

#3. Chef

Chef is an infrastructure automation application that allows engineers to automate network device provisioning, configuration, and management. It employs Chef Infra, a domain-specific language (DSL) that enables engineers to define the intended state of the network and execute settings in a consistent and repeatable manner.

Network automation engineers can use Chef to generate “cookbooks” that contain the appropriate network device configurations and policies. These cookbooks may be versioned, shared, and applied to numerous devices, maintaining consistency and decreasing network infrastructure management complexity. Chef’s adaptable and extendable foundation makes it an excellent tool for automating network deployments and ensuring configuration hygiene.

#4. SaltStack

SaltStack, often known as Salt, is a robust network orchestration platform with a focus on scalability and high-performance orchestration. It employs a master-minion architecture in which a central Salt master server connects with several Salt minions running on network devices. This architecture allows for the efficient and concurrent management of a large number of devices.

SaltStack offers a wide range of automation features, such as configuration management, remote execution, and event-driven orchestration. Because of its event-driven paradigm, network automation engineers can create sophisticated workflows and trigger actions based on specific events or situations. Organizations may gain granular control and network orchestration operations using SaltStack, making it appropriate for environments with stringent scalability needs.

#5. Netmiko

Netmiko is a Python module created primarily for network orchestration. It offers a straightforward and consistent interface for running commands and moving files to network devices using SSH connections. Netmiko is compatible with a wide range of network suppliers, making it a versatile solution for network engineers working with a variety of infrastructures.

One of Netmiko’s primary advantages is its connection with the larger Python environment. Network automation engineers can use Python’s broad capabilities to create bespoke automation scripts with Netmiko as the underlying library. This adaptability enables the development of customized workflows, allowing enterprises to efficiently address unique network orchestration requirements.


NAPALM is a Python package that provides an abstraction layer for network orchestration and management that is vendor-agnostic. It provides a single interface for network device interaction, regardless of the underlying vendor-specific protocols or APIs. NAPALM makes it easier to retrieve device information, configure devices, and perform network-wide actions.

NAPALM’s compatibility with several vendors makes it a useful tool for network automation engineers working in heterogeneous network settings. NAPALM enables engineers to develop vendor-neutral scripts that are easily adaptable to different networking vendors by abstracting vendor-specific complications. This dramatically improves the portability and scalability of network orchestration systems.

Python for Network Automation

Python has established itself as the programming language of choice for network automation. Its ease of use, readability, and a large library make it an excellent choice for network automation engineers. Python offers robust APIs and frameworks for network task automation, allowing engineers to interface with network devices, collect data, and make configuration changes programmatically. In this section, we’ll go over some of the most important components of utilizing Python for network automation.

#1. Parsing and Manipulating Network Device Configuration

TextFSM, Nornir, and regex are Python packages that help in parsing and manipulating network device configurations. These libraries aid in the extraction of specific data from configuration files, the analysis of that data, and the implementation of appropriate changes to automate configuration management operations.

#2. Automation Frameworks

Python-based automation frameworks, such as Ansible and SaltStack, provide significant network automation features. Using Python as the underlying language, these frameworks enable engineers to build workflows, manage configurations, and coordinate network activities.

#3. Python and REST APIs

Many contemporary network devices and management systems expose REST APIs, allowing programmatic access to device functionality. Python’s requests package makes it easy to interface with REST APIs, allowing engineers to obtain data, transmit configurations, and execute other network device tasks.

#4. Customization and Extensibility

Python’s extensibility enables network automation engineers to take advantage of the language’s extensive ecosystem of tools and frameworks. Engineers can create custom automation scripts, integrate with third-party tools, and create customized solutions to meet unique needs.

#5. Validation and Testing

Python includes testing frameworks like pytest and unittest that facilitate automated testing and validation of network setups and capabilities. These frameworks allow engineers to validate that network orchestration operations are working properly and identify any potential concerns.

Python is an excellent choice for network automation due to its simplicity, versatility, and community support. Python gives the tools and flexibility required to expedite and improve network operations, whether installing network devices, managing network infrastructure, or automating repetitive processes.

To establish SSH connections, automate command execution, and collect device information, network orchestration engineers can use Python packages such as Paramiko, Netmiko, and NAPALM. Furthermore, frameworks such as Ansible and Nornir allow the development of advanced network automation workflows using Python as the scripting language.

Network Automation Engineers

Network automation engineers are essential to the implementation and maintenance of automated network systems. They have a distinct combination of networking understanding, programming skills, and automation competence. Their major duty is to design, develop, and implement automation solutions that improve network performance and reliability.

Network automation engineers work with cross-functional teams to understand business objectives, discover automation opportunities, and develop customized solutions. They examine network design, create robust automation scripts, and guarantee that existing network equipment is seamlessly integrated. Furthermore, they constantly analyze and enhance automated operations in order to respond to changing network demands and increase operational efficiency.

Network Automation Cisco

Cisco, a global networking technology company, has been at the forefront of network automation innovation. Cisco’s comprehensive solution package enables enterprises to automate network operations, improve security, and enable programmability at scale.

Network Services Orchestrator (NSO) from Cisco is a robust platform for network automation and orchestration. NSO allows the construction of automation workflows using YANG models, making network device management and configuration easier. Automation is used in Cisco’s intent-based networking (IBN) solutions, such as DNA Center, to ease network setup, policy enforcement, and troubleshooting.

Here are some of Cisco’s noteworthy contributions to network automation:

#1. Cisco DNA Center

Cisco DNA Center is a centralized management platform that supports intent-based networking and simplifies network orchestration. It includes a wide range of capabilities for network provisioning, policy enforcement, monitoring, and troubleshooting.

#2. Cisco Network Services Orchestrator (NSO)

Cisco NSO is a robust network orchestration technology that enables enterprises to automate network service provisioning and administration. It provides a model-driven approach in which network services may be created and deployed across multi-vendor and multi-technology settings using YANG models.

#3. Cisco ACI (Application Centric Infrastructure)

Cisco ACI is a software-defined networking (SDN) solution for data center networks that provides automation and policy-based administration. It enables enterprises to use a centralized controller to automate network provisioning, policy enforcement, and service deployments.

#4. Cisco DevNet

Cisco DevNet is a developer program that offers resources, tools, and learning materials to enable network orchestration and programmability. It gives developers and network orchestration engineers access to programmable interfaces, sandboxes, and APIs for multiple Cisco products, allowing them to construct orchestration scripts, develop apps, and integrate with Cisco’s networking technology.

#5. Cisco Modeling Labs (CML)

Cisco Modeling Labs is a network simulation and modeling platform for network orchestration engineers that allows them to build, simulate, and test complex network topologies. It provides a virtualized environment in which engineers may evaluate network designs, test automation scripts, and simulate network behavior before deploying changes in production.

#6. Cisco PyATS and Genie

Cisco PyATS is a network orchestration and testing framework. It includes a series of Python libraries, notably Genie, which allows for model-driven testing of Cisco network equipment. PyATS and Genie enable engineers to automate network configuration testing, validation, and verification, assuring network reliability and conformity to the desired state.

Overcoming Challenges in Network Automation

While network orchestration has numerous advantages, its implementation can be difficult. Organizations must address issues like outdated infrastructure, talent shortages, security concerns, and change management. To overcome these obstacles, extensive preparation, stakeholder buy-in, and a well-defined automation strategy are required.

Organizations can avoid risks and guarantee a smooth transition to automated network environments by conducting rigorous evaluations, investing in training programs, and progressively rolling out automation efforts. Working with skilled network automation consultants or service providers can also provide useful direction and knowledge.

Where is network automation used?

Network orchestration is used in various sectors and industries where complex network infrastructures must be managed and operated efficiently. Here are some common applications for network orchestration:

  • Data Centers
  • Service Providers
  • Enterprise Networks
  • Cloud Computing
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Network Security
  • Network Testing and Validation
  • Network Operations Centers (NOCs)

What are the components of network automation?

Several components work together to automate network tasks and operations. These components may differ depending on the specific automation requirements and tools or frameworks employed. However, some frequent network orchestration components include:

  • Orchestration Platforms
  • Programmable Interfaces
  • Configuration Management
  • Network Monitoring and Event Management
  • Provisioning and Deployment
  • Testing and Validation
  • Policy Enforcement
  • Reporting and Analytics

What are the skills required for network automation?

Network orchestration necessitates a blend of technical skills, programming knowledge, and domain understanding. The following are some critical skills for network orchestration:

  • Networking Fundamentals
  • Programming and Scripting
  • API Knowledge
  • Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC)
  • Network Device Operating Systems
  • Data Manipulation and Parsing
  • Troubleshooting and Debugging
  • Continuous Learning and Adaptability
  • Collaboration and Communication

What are the basics of network automation?

The fundamentals of network orchestration entail automating network tasks and operations by using tools, technologies, and programming approaches. Here are some significant network orchestration concepts and considerations:

  • Intent-based Networking (IBN)
  • Programmability and APIs
  • Scripting and Programming Languages
  • Configuration Management
  • Network Monitoring and Event Management
  • DevOps and Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC)
  • Testing and Validation
  • Collaboration and Communication

Understanding the fundamentals of network orchestration allows network engineers to begin automating repetitive processes, increasing network efficiency, and improving overall network management.

Is network automation the future?

Yes, network automation is seen as networking’s future. Here are a few reasons why network orchestration is gaining traction and will play an important role in the future:

  • Increasing Network Complexity
  • Operational Efficiency
  • Rapid Service Delivery
  • Improved Network Reliability
  • Enhanced Security
  • Scalability and Flexibility

Where do I start network automation?

If you’re looking to start network automation, here are some steps to help you get started:

  • Learn the Fundamentals of Networking
  • Develop Your Programming Skills
  • Investigate Network Orchestration Tools
  • Begin with Basic Automation Tasks.
  • Leverage APIs
  • Embrace Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC)
  • Join Communities and Participate in Learning
  • Experiment and practice
  • Continuous Learning

Why do we need network automation?

Network automation provides various advantages that make it indispensable in today’s networking landscape:

  • Efficiency and Time Savings
  • Consistency and Standardization
  • Scalability and Agility
  • Enhanced Network Reliability
  • Security and Compliance
  • Cost Reduction

What is the latest network automation?

Below are some important trends and technologies in network orchestration:

  • Intent-based Networking (IBN)
  • Network orchestration
  • Software-Defined Networking (SDN)
  • Network Function Virtualization (NFV)
  • Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI)
  • Cloud-native networking
  • Network Automation as-a-Service

It is important to note that network automation is a dynamically growing industry, with new technology and methods constantly emerging.


Network automation is a fast-expanding field that provides several benefits to businesses of all kinds. Engineers can streamline network operations, eliminate manual errors, improve productivity, and improve network security by employing tools, frameworks, and programming languages such as Python. Network orchestration enables tasks such as device provisioning, configuration management, monitoring, troubleshooting, and policy enforcement, saving time and resources.


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