Network Automation Products for Brownfield Deployments

Got this question from one of my long-time readers:

I am looking for commercial SDN solutions that can be deployed on top of brownfield networks built with traditional technologies (VPC/MLAG, STP, HSRP) on lower-cost networking gear, where a single API call could create a network-wide VLAN, or apply that VLAN to a set of ports. Gluware is one product aimed at this market. Are there others?

The two other solutions that come to mind are Apstra AOS and Cisco NSO. However, you probably won’t find a simple solution that would do what you want to do without heavy customization as every network tends to be a unique snowflake. 

The best analogy to deploying a network automation solution in a brownfield environment is a new Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system deployment (example: SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle ERP…).

As every company creates invoices in a slightly different way (because they are so very special) and calculates salaries in slightly peculiar way (yet again, because they’re special), it’s usually impossible to take an off-the-shelf ERP system and deploy it without heavy customization… and after going through endless rounds of customizations, it’s really hard to get rid of the army of consultants tweaking the system on a daily basis to implement all the other bright ideas the business comes up with in the meantime.

Being a grumpy skeptic who has seen too much, I see only three major ways forward for my reader:

  • Replace the existing infrastructure with an automated black-box solution (like Cisco ACI or Cisco SD-Access), and enjoy the show once it breaks;
  • Buy a generic automation framework and have someone (internal or external) tweak it to meet your requirements. I’ve seen various vendors building and/or acquiring automation frameworks along these lines since mid 1990s, and they always remained a niche market due to heavy investment required to make it work.
  • Slowly build your own system, focusing on major pain points where the automation could result in maximum business/operations impact. Or, in the immortal words of Andrew Lerner, invest in premium people instead of in premium vendors.

And just in case you might be interested in the last option, do check out our automation webinars and online course. Numerous networking engineers built great solutions after attending it.


  1. Hi Ivan, thanks for your insights. I'd like to add NetYCE to the mix. These are the typical cases in which they excel.

    They would fall into your 2nd bullet. Though they provide it as a service as well.

    You might want to take a look at it.

    Cheers, Bart

  2. Worth mention: Gluware Brownfield Network Automation

  3. Hi Ivan,

    An interessting solution to have a look at: Here a use case description on medium.

    It‘s a young solution coming from the heart of europe.


  4. Thanks for the pointers Gian Paolo and Ivan. Both look like interesting tools, but as they have zero documentation online, I'm not (yet) interested.

  5. Hello Ivan

    First of all I would like to say that I am a member of the core team.

    The platform is being developed in partnership with multiple customers and we are about to release version 1.0 really soon. A draft of the documentation can be found at Hopefully we will soon have filled the many black spots in the documentation and can link to it on the website.

    Related to your blog post, I would like to say something about your last two points and the sceptical words: As a network engineer who has taken the road and moved towards software developers, I would like to quote a German proverb: "No master has yet fallen from heaven"

    What I mean to say is that the road to acquire new skills and a new way of thinking can be hard. So why not combine points 2 and 3 and make this path easier? Because in my opinion not only the technology but also the people have to be guided into the new world.

    This point, and the fact that each network is a unique snowflake (the logic is implemented by the network engineer, because he knows the network and its requirements best), is what we have brought together in

    If you are interested, I would be happy to show you and get your feedback.

    Greetings Simon

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