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How DDI Helps Higher Education Surf the Network Automation Wave

BYoD, IoT & IPv6 make university networks tough to manage & secure. With limited resources, the only way forward is network automation. Core to this are trusted data and open APIs. IDC’s 2023 Report explains why DDI (DNS-DHCP-IPAM) helps higher education surf the automation wave.

September 19, 2023 | Written by: Surinder Paul | , , , , ,

How Ddi Helps Higher Education Surf the Network Automation Wave

University networks are increasingly burdened with new technologies and security concerns brought with the explosion of mobile devices and applications. At the same time, network administrators are becoming overwhelmed by privacy and compliance requirements, while also trying to meet student expectations for high performance and always-on connectivity. With limited budget and resources, the only way to cope is by adopting networking automation. Core to this are data insights, open APIs, and Network Source of Truth (NSoT). For advancing network automation journeys, IDC’s 2023 Network Automation Report explains why DDI (DNS-DHCP-IPAM) is fundamental.

Why the Education Sector is Adopting Network Automation

Higher education networks are mission-critical, meaning any downtime or degradation in performance cannot be tolerated. Almost everything relies heavily on good connectivity: interactive or distance learning, collaboration tools, streaming media, common core assessments … the list goes on. Universities and schools offering poor quality network access see sharp falls in enrollment, leading to financial risks.

The second big challenge lies with the volume and diversity of devices. Staff and students often bring three or more devices to campus, ranging from smartphones to gaming devices. Every single one requires the ability to get on and off the campus network, consuming huge time and resources of IT staff if registration is done manually. Add in the projected billions of IoT devices used for IP video cameras and controlling HVAC systems among other uses, and the network quickly becomes incredibly complex and costly to manage, requiring support of both IPv4 and IPv6.

With these technology demands of network modernization outgrowing IT budgets, education institutions are turning more and more to network automation for helping deploy and manage their networks. Time-consuming manual tasks such as provisioning will become a thing of the past. Networks will be easier to plan, build, configure and deploy. Visualization, monitoring and observability will be simplified and enhanced. And on the security side, application of security policies and troubleshooting will be automated, thus strengthening network resilience.

Where are Education Institutions Today with Network Automation?

According to the IDC report, the top automation drivers for Higher Education include operating cost reduction (for 61% of respondents), enhanced customer experience (56%), and improved flexibility & agility (46%). However, IT teams are being inhibited by challenges in integrating tools, legacy network systems being difficult to automate, and a lack of trusted network data repository. While 71% see NSoT as very important for their automation strategy, today only 23% have a NSoT in place, meaning they are forced to manage multiple data repositories. The result of the above is that 37% of institutions today are still using mainly manual processes with a small amount of automation driven by opportunistic ad hoc automation initiatives as needed.

For those who have implemented some automation in their processes or workflows, the resulting benefits are impressive. In particular, improvements have been seen in IT team productivity, service deployment velocity, operational efficiency, and reduction of human errors.

Focus areas for educational institutions have been in datacenter networks, security and compliance, and app/service delivery. In the next two years, 66% will give priority to network security analysis, 57% to network state monitoring/analysis and remediation, and 54% to network changes, provisioning and deployment. Amongst the main tools seen as important for these are SDN/SD-WAN controllers, configuration managers, and DDI solutions.

How DDI Helps Schools and Universities Advance Their Network Automation Journey

For network automation, DNS-DHCP-IPAM (DDI) solutions play multiple roles. Firstly, to streamline operations, via automated workflows within the DDI product. Secondly, to offer valuable DDI data to broader network automation tools, who use this source of truth to plan and implement changes.

Interestingly, the IDC report found that 74% consider DDI to be highly important in their automation strategy, rising to 79% in 2 years time. Today, schools and universities use it mainly for security compliance, management and security policy enforcement, capacity planning, and network discovery. Leveraging DDI has brought them immediate benefits, the top ones being risk reduction, compliance, and process standardization.

When using DDI, open APIs and NSoT are vital for maximizing the above benefits. These enable zero-touch operations for network administrators, allowing DDI to be used as a Network Automation Hub for pushing and pulling actionable data through automated workflows. But surprisingly, only 38% of higher education institutions use IPAM as a NSoT today, which is far below the average industry-wide of 46%.

Why Higher Education Needs Smart DDI from EfficientIP?

At EfficientIP, our experts have been involved in DDI for 20 years, and list many universities across the globe amongst our cherished customers. Our SOLIDserver DDI solution with its NSoT has helped optimize their network infrastructures for enhancing availability, performance, UX and costs. Many network automation solutions require data from a DDI tool in order to push a change through the automation solution. Our open APIs enable IT staff to customize SOLIDserver DDI, automate it, and easily integrate it with other systems.

Key areas where SOLIDserver DDI brings value for higher education institutions include:

  1. Connectivity: With ever-increasing bandwidth requirements and connected devices, automated high-performance DHCP, efficient IP Address management, and support of both IPv4 and IPv6 are essential.
  1. Remote Learning/Classes: Anywhere access to university resources from a multitude of endpoints, for both work and personal usage requires security, data privacy and resiliency.
  1. IoT Cybersecurity: To prevent unauthorized access to data centers and other critical systems, automated deployment and management of security policies is vital. DNS Filtering and access control via allow/block lists provide check points at the earliest point.

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Learn how your school or university can surf the network automation wave.