The Zero-Touch Onboarding Solution

Mar 6, 2018 | Blog, Network Management

At an IT conference last year, I heard a (geeky) new take on an old joke. It went “How long does it take to onboard one IoT lightbulb?” The answer: “3 seconds to screw it in – and 20 minutes to type in the 256 character key … on my cell phone … on top of a 20-ft. ladder …”

Ok, I admit the joke is bad, but the point it makes is worthwhile; in today’s new world of IT systems, especially as it relates to the explosion of newly connected devices, there also needs to be some new thinking about how to (securely) onboard those systems in a reasonable time frame.

Historically, the process to onboard devices looked something like this:

process description, onboarding, devices

Of course, these steps are simplified to show the basic process. In the real world there are many additional physical tasks, like:

  • initial delivery and acceptance of the device
  • unpacking and assembling
  • physical installation in rack or other location

There are also typically a few stages to the configuration as well:

  • first connection and IP addressing
  • basic configuration
  • connection testing
  • advanced configuration

… which eventually leads to more testing, and then finally the last stages of complete onboarding with acceptance and updates into CMDBs, DCIMs ITSMs, and so forth. All of this for just a single device! When many of these steps are done manually, you can see there are lots of places where a single error can lead to a multitude of complications down the line. Now, multiply that by hundreds or thousands of devices in a large enterprise (or potentially millions if we are talking about IoT devices) and you can see the true scale of the problem.

The solution? AUTOMATION.

To borrow another old saying: “Automation will set you free”.

There really isn’t any other (workable) alternative to introducing an automated solution for this problem. At Infosim®, we like to talk about how StableNet® can be a central part of a zero-touch automation solution. What we mean is that by using the advanced Discovery, NCCM, and Integration features native to StableNet®, an organization can go from initial turn-up to final accepted configuration in a completely hands-off way using only StableNet® and other integrated platforms to plan, configure, test, and manage IT devices. With StableNet®, the process now looks more like this:

Graphic, Zero-Touch, Automation

The StableNet® approach to zero-touch onboarding begins with our device discovery capability. Once a device has been given a basic configuration (usually just an IP address, a DNS name, an SNMP community string, and some user credentials), StableNet® can discover the device and add it into our local CMDB. StableNet® now knows everything about the system from an inventory perspective which includes information like:

  1. Vendor and model
  2. Operating system/firmware
  3. CPU, memory, power supplies, and other components
  4. Interfaces (speeds and feeds)
  5. … and more

From there, StableNet® can use our Network Change & Configuration Management (NCCM) system to retrieve the basic configuration for storage, as well as provision the desired end-state configuration of the device. This may include performing multiple software updates or other configuration checks to bring it up to date. We can also perform policy checks on the configuration to ensure that it meets all corporate security and other compliance standards. Finally, StableNet® can also check the hardware, software, and applied configuration for known vulnerabilities prior to final deployment. Once all checks have been made, all configurations can be backed up and saved for future use like audits or break-and-fix scenarios.

Since StableNet® is also a complete monitoring solution, our zero-touch platform will then begin to automatically set up appropriate performance and fault measurements on the system. This includes all relevant KPIs and fault indicators which are completely integrated into our Fault Management capabilities, so that service desks and/or other monitoring partners are immediately presented with performance and fault information for the systems. Finally, our REST API makes it very simple for third-part applications to integrate with StableNet® in order to get the data they need for operation.

We at Infosim® are also well positioned for the future of zero-touch automation, since we are involved in major industry activities such as the “ETSI ISG ZSM” (Zero-Touch Network and Services Management) together with companies such as Amdocs, China Mobile, Deutsche Telekom, Ericsson, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Telefonica.

This project has the objective of gaining a better understanding of how NSM needs to be improved, with the ultimate goal being fully automated network management.

 

A fully automated “zero-touch” approach is required to attain a consistent, agile, and efficient service delivery and assurance solution. To deliver growth, you need to automate your core business operations using commercial off-the-shelf systems, enabling you to focus on differentiation where it matters – innovative services, partnerships, and business models.

Dr. Stefan Köhler, CEO at Infosim®

We feel that zero-touch automated onboarding is clearly the future of network and services management. The need for faster and more secure device onboarding is only going to accelerate in the future, especially with the explosion of non-traditional IoT devices being deployed.

StableNet® is exceptionally positioned to deliver on the promise of automated onboarding due to our unified approach to network and services management and our unique feature set of comprehensive Discovery, Configuration, Performance, and Fault Management.

Dietmar Kneidl

Dietmar Kneidl

Director of Sales Europe at Infosim®

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