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Self Driving Networks

When you think of machine learning and artificial intelligence, you probably think Siri, Alexa, or Google Now; network infrastructure isn’t really the first thing that comes to mind.

In 2017 though, IT scientists and researchers are looking beyond consumer applications. As compute technology grows more and more powerful with the proliferation of AI, we are starting to see brand new innovation possibilities, which can bring lucrative benefits to the various aspects of IT infrastructure – networking being one of them.

What the IT enterprise needs is keen vision. With rapid advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning, one question is begging to be asked – what if we could leverage advanced artificial intelligence technologies to build a vastly improved network?

Leaders of the networking industry, Cisco and Juniper, are already in the process of building networking capabilities that are founded upon the self-driving technology.

Self-driving cars have successfully made it to the roads! Is it time to make way for self-driving networks?

Considered mere Sci-Fi a few years ago, the tech behind self-driven cars has defied all odds and now makes regular appearances all over places like Silicon Valley, Pittsburgh and Miami. Tesla Autopilot, considered one of 2016’s breakthrough technologies introduced a software update that made autonomous driving a sudden, yet pleasant reality.

Can the “self-driving” technology and philosophy be applied to networks, as well?

What if we can imagine a network that can configure, monitor, and maintain themselves, adapting to their operating environments with little or no human intervention?

That would be the kind of disruptive innovation the IT enterprise desperately needs!

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Cisco and Juniper are working hard to make self-driving networks a reality

Kireeti Kompella, CTO of Juniper Networks’ Development and Innovation team, revealed that Juniper is working towards building a fully autonomous network. This independently functioning network can monitor and configure itself to the demands of the applications it serves, without requiring human intervention.

Kompella describes how he envisions a self-driving network, “It must be able to self-discover network elements, self-configure, self-monitor and self-correct, auto-detect customers, auto-provision to meet their requirements and to self-analyse and self-optimise.”

Cisco has their own branded version of this new, software-driven model, which they appropriately call the “Digital Network Architecture (DNA).”  The 90s networks focused on connecting people and comprised uncomplicated tasks that were easy for humans to manage and monitor. They were definitely a great start to increasing productivity, and laid the foundation for intricate enterprise networks that are in use today.

However, enterprise networking hasn’t evolved quite at the same pace as data center and the cloud (a fact made clear by IDC’s breakdown of tech investment percentages as well). Whereas these technologies have demonstrated rapid evolution in the recent years, enterprise networks are built and managed in the same way as they were 25 years ago.

Cisco is facilitating a change though.

According to Ravi Chandrasekaran, senior vice president of Cisco’s Core Software Group, “The network is on the road to transformation—from a siloed, manual, hardware-centric infrastructure, to a coherent, automated and software-driven new network that intuitively aligns to business intent.”

How does a self-driving network operate?

A self-driving network is fully virtualized and software-defined, with an underlying infrastructure that’s open, flexible, malleable and automated. It also needs to be easy to program, and capable of monitoring and correcting itself. (Source: Cisco, The Network).

Chandrasekharan says that a self-driving network can speak and comprehend business language. It can automate various functions such as – user onboarding, application onboarding, process onboarding and so on. Let’s take a look at a few interesting use cases of a self-driving network:

  • Location-based services can be leveraged to forecast customer trends and anticipate customer needs. This data can then be used to provide a highly personalized customer experience. Such an application would prove especially relevant for the retail or hospitality industries
  • Self-driving networks can improve the speed and security of various IT functions in the financial industry, through its ability to deliver automated provisioning and its programmed implementation of security policies.
  • A huge amount of costs seep through unwittingly by the unnecessary usage of lighting, air conditioning, and other climate control solutions. A self-driving network can automate the usage of these devices through IoT sensors, thereby saving the organization’s resources and reducing costs.

Several IT enterprises are already preparing strategies for building networks that are aligned with accelerated digital transformation. They are starting to realize that their journey towards making themselves more digital-ready requires that their network infrastructure must progress as well. While transforming into a self-driving network is not easily or quickly achievable, embarking on the journey is well worth the time and resources because of the astounding potential it holds. With AI enabling enterprises to take automation to the next level, it would be especially strategic for them to leverage the first-mover advantage.

Would you like to learn more about why your enterprise’s network is the real driver for digital innovation? One of our IT experts would love to talk with you.

Tell us your greatest networking challenge and receive a $10 Starbucks gift card.

Fill out a 3 question survey and receive a $10 Starbucks Gift Card. At IT Buyer's Resource we match your I.T. initiative with the industry’s best solutions and partners.
ITBR Networking Survey