Apr 10 2024

What Is Zero-Touch Provisioning?

This automated configuration process can help businesses speed up ROI for new devices.

To keep up with the evolving technological landscape, businesses must invest in the new devices that have resulted from recent tech advancements. And they are doing so: Gartner forecasts that worldwide IT spending on devices will surpass $732 billion this year, a 4.6 percent increase from 2023 numbers. But unless they adopt zero-touch provisioning, businesses might not be able to maximize this investment right away.

What Is Zero-Touch Provisioning?

ZTP is an automated process that allows the configuration of devices in a network without manual intervention. This enables new devices to be brought online more quickly and efficiently. It also empowers businesses to automate system updates, saving IT from having to implement changes device by device.

Essentially, ZTP is the enterprise IT version of the mobile and wireless data transfer, such as Android’s easy data transfer, generally used when setting up a new phone. Just as the mobile data transfer helps you avoid re-installing all of your old apps and configuring your security and other system settings manually, ZTP means that you don’t need to manually configure new business devices to align with company protocols. Using information from a Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol (DHCP) server, ZTP does this for all new devices. And in the case of updates, it can do this for all network-connected devices at the same time.

Further, ZTP is genuinely zero-touch. This is what separates it from one-touch provisioning, in which a network device is automatically configured except for one point in the process (e.g., entering an IP address or changing a default password).

Click the banner to learn about the networking technology that can grow your business.


How Does ZTP Help Businesses?

The goal of ZTP is to automatically configure network devices without the need for manual intervention. This is a big deal for IT leaders because it drastically reduces deployment time, minimizes human error and allows IT staff to focus on more strategic tasks rather than repetitive setup processes. This also benefits businesses in general by allowing them to scale device deployment across multiple locations. With ZTP, teams can start leveraging new devices and updates far quicker, promoting companywide productivity in a cost-effective way.

These benefits are a big reason that the ZTP market is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of 10.3 percent from 2023 to 2030. It’s also part of why businesses are increasing their investment in devices: With ZTP, they can actually use the technology almost immediately after purchase. In fact, according to a report published by Grand View Research, “The adoption of IoT devices has surged with the growing reliance on ZTP-enabled connected devices by several industries such as healthcare, agriculture, retail, transportation, manufacturing, and aerospace and defense.”


The expected worldwide increase in spending on devices in 2024

Source: gartner.com, “Gartner Forecasts Worldwide IT Spending to Grow 6.8% in 2024,” Jan. 17, 2024

How Does ZTP Work?

There are multiple ways to deploy ZTP, but the DHCP option is the most common. Regardless of the deployment method, however, a new device must be in its factory default configuration for ZTP to function with it. Palo Alto Networks outlines a simple ZTP process when using a DHCP server:

  1. When powered on, a ZTP-compatible device will execute a boot file that automatically executes its configuration parameters.
  2. Next, the device requests an IP address from the DHCP server.
  3. The DHCP server sends additional network configuration information (e.g., the domain name or the gateway address) to the device.
  4. With this information, the device connects to a file server or cloud service that has the latest operating system image and configuration files.
  5. Finally, the ZTP server authenticates the device, which then downloads, installs and executes the files.

RELATED: For better network connections, businesses turn to SD-WAN.

All employees need to do is boot up their devices. From there, everything happens automatically. And ZTP upgrades are seamless too. Even if a business is upgrading multiple device types across multiple locations using tools like Cisco’s SD-WAN Manager, IT personnel can automatically deploy upgrades to all connected devices from a remote server. Conversely, they can opt to upgrade any fraction of devices in accordance with business needs.

How Does ZTP Minimize Security Issues?

Human error is natural. But it’s also a security concern: The overwhelming majority of data breaches are caused by employee mistakes. ZTP helps address this concern by automating the configuration process, reducing the risk of security breaches caused by misconfigurations.

Beyond minimizing the human element, security protocols inherent to the ZTP workflow reduce cyber risk. Juniper Networks, for instance, explains that its Junos OS Software “has strict requirements for running unsigned Python scripts on devices running Junos OS. Only devices running Junos OS with Enhanced Automation and devices running Junos OS Evolved support running unsigned Python scripts as part of the ZTP process.”

In conjunction with ZTPs found in firewalls, wireless access points, routers, switches and other network devices, ZTP can be a security best practice for businesses of all sizes.

master1305/Getty Images

Become an Insider

Unlock white papers, personalized recommendations and other premium content for an in-depth look at evolving IT