While the official spinout of NetBox Labs was recently completed and our Series A investment was just formally announced, many NetBox Labs customers are coming up on their one-year renewal of using NetBox Cloud, our managed SaaS version of open source NetBox. With this milestone in mind, I recently took some time to look back at our customer conversations and really understand what circumstances led these former open source NetBox users to move to NetBox Cloud.
A few themes kept popping up in our notes when reviewing why the dozens of NetBox Cloud customers decided to choose our hosted solution, and we surmised that the tens of thousands of networking professionals in the NetBox community must also share these pain points and needs as well.
NetBox has become a key tool in their toolbox
One of NetBox’s huge advantages is its massive, growing and supportive community of network engineers. Many network engineers take NetBox from job to job like marketers take HubSpot with them, and salespeople take Salesforce.
This means that quite often, intrepid network engineers find themselves in the role of introducing NetBox to their company, and more often than not, they do so successfully and this initiative they got running on a VM starts to become a critical part of their network operations stack. Eek!
After winning over their colleagues many are now stuck with a dilemma: on the one hand, you’ve just convinced the company to use this and they love it, on the other hand you don’t know how to take it to the next step. Send help!
They are running NetBox on a single VM
While some network engineers are perfectly comfortable running and supporting applications on Linux, many are not. With years of understanding switch CLIs, following installation instructions to get NetBox up and running is a cinch; but when that system needs to be maintained over time or scale, many network engineers need help. While some companies have experienced sysadmin, DevOps or SRE teams that can help with these efforts, many don’t. For those that do have those resources, operating and scaling tools for the networking team is not often the best use of precious SRE time either.
Someone else was running NetBox on a single VM
While network engineers often take NetBox to their new job, sometimes nobody at their prior company knows how this critical piece of infrastructure works, let alone how to administer it. There are small pockets of DevOps knowledge all over the networking world, but if you’re lucky enough to have someone brilliant enough to bring self-hosted NetBox into the operations stack and they leave, or dare go on vacation, you’re now in the tight spot.
Day two concerns can creep up on you
Because of these scaling and hardening issues that many face, a few very important sysadmin duties can go overlooked. Does the single VM NetBox instance have backups? Are those backups stored somewhere safely? Do you have a procedure for testing that the backups work? Do you update your NetBox instance frequently? Is your NetBox instance exposed to the internet? Are you using your company’s mandated SSO for managing access to your instance?
The best time to be answering these questions is when you’re installing the tool, not when the auditors come knocking, or worse, when your colleagues are asking you why this critical piece of tooling that they have embedded into all their workflows isn’t working anymore or has been shut down by the risk department.
Shadow IT and critical tooling don’t mix
Even if you’ve taken care of all of the above, many companies, having been hurt one too many times by internal operational challenges, are turning to SaaS solutions. There are many good reasons for staying on-prem, but increasingly the shift is towards SaaS. Companies like NetBox Labs invest all our time and focus to make sure the critical tool you depend upon (in our case NetBox) is available, secure, resilient and compliant. After all, you’re busy enough working on your network automation initiatives.
Another theme we see here is support. Many companies, thankfully, are increasingly willing to let their engineers experiment with and choose the tools they deem best for the job, but when it comes to deploying those tools at scale, company policy often mandates a support agreement.
They require enterprise grade when making a technology leap
Many network engineers have heard of NetBox and want to use it but haven’t been able to do so because they would prefer to skip the open source step entirely. We are seeing this in droves at NetBox Labs, where in fact the majority of new NetBox Cloud customers are new to NetBox altogether, and getting up and running with NetBox Cloud is the fastest path for them to take advantage of this incredible tool and become part of the NetBox community without worrying about operational concerns.
How to get started with NetBox Cloud
In closing, it’s worth pointing out that thousands of companies are succeeding with open source NetBox and at NetBox Labs, we’re spending a lot of time making sure that not only remains the case, but grows. We want every network engineering team on the planet using NetBox.
However, if you think NetBox Cloud might help you with some of the issues mentioned above, let’s talk. You can find more details about NetBox Cloud on the website here. A great way to get started is by signing up for our easy free trial