What is Wi-Fi DevOps?

DevOps is a pretty popular word in the networking industry right now. More and more tools allow for network automation and programmability.  Slowly but surely, we are seeing these tools becoming available in the Wi-Fi space. In the past couple of months, at SemFio, we have been involved in a few Wi-Fi automation projects. I wanted to use this blog article to explain what Wi-Fi DevOps is, from our point of view.

DEFINITION

Here is a simple definition of what Wi-Fi DevOps is:

Programming applied to Wi-Fi to automate operational tasks

Wi-Fi DevOps can be used to automate Wi-Fi operations tasks. These can be tasks related to Wi-Fi design, configuration and implementation of Wi-Fi networks and Wi-Fi monitoring. Wi-Fi DevOps can also be used to integrate modern Wi-Fi systems with third-party tools.

DO MORE IN LESS TIME WITH FEWER ERRORS

Wi-Fi networking needs are increasing as more and more users rely on the Wi-Fi network for business-critical applications. The size of networking teams does not necessarily increase consequently. Therefore, as Engineers, we have more and more work to do in a timely matter.

Having the ability to automate some of the operational tasks we do on a regular basis can greatly help us gain some time back. Saving time is one of the great advantages of DevOps.

Another big advantage of automating some tasks is that it reduces the error rate. A lot of users depend on the Wi-Fi to work. Our job is to maintain the network and ensure that the business is operating normally. Our actions can have a big impact (both positively and negatively). Therefore, it is important not to make a lot of mistakes.

DevOps allows us to build scripts that will have predictable results with fewer errors… if we design them properly!

THE TECHNOLOGY IS THERE TODAY

I remember doing some scripting 10 years ago to automate the creation of switch configurations. It was possible but required some work and was a little cumbersome.

Today, tools and technologies are there to greatly help us.

On one end, Most networking vendors and networking tools offer APIs and ways to program interactions with network applications and equipment. On the other end, programming languages are becoming simpler to learn and use (i.e. python). Some applications even allow us to automate tasks by creating little to no code (https://www.nocode.tech/tools).

WI-FI DEVOPS USECASES

All of these concepts can be a little hard to grasp if you have never been involved in creating such tools. Here is a list of a few use cases related to Wi-Fi engineering:

  • Generate Wi-Fi design documentation from an Ekahau project file
  • Generate an AP location map from an Ekahau project file
  • Automatically create a BoM from an Ekahau project file
  • Automatically configure a Wi-Fi controller/cloud from an Ekahau project file
  • Automatically update Ekahau project file based on installer input
  • Automatically receive infrastructure alerts in particular Slack channels
  • Monitor key Wi-Fi metrics in a custom Grafana dashboard
  • Create a custom Grafana dashboard to optimise and assist in Wi-Fi troubleshooting

Stay tuned for more, we will be sharing some of the Wi-Fi DevOps work we have been doing lately.

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