A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to be the moderator of a panel on the future of Cloud Networking, at Cavell’s first Cloud Networking Summit. The event had great attendance and we have received positive feedback so far!
The panel featured speakers from Silver Peak, Cisco Meraki, Cato Networks and Juniper Networks, which was a diverse cast of voices and we had a great discussion. The panellists wasted no time in diving into what is shaping up to be one of the more interesting network trends coming up – Automation. You can see the full panel video below and read my broader thoughts on the subject in this blog.
When discussing automation there are two primary things that people agree networks need, easier deployment and intelligent or self-correcting maintenance. At the heart of both things is the promise of data collection and machine learning. Take Juniper and Cisco, for example, both companies are building comprehensive systems for SD-Branch (SDWAN but also going into the office to manage the local network and Wi-Fi etc). This area is also being addressed by most other major players in the market including companies like HPE, Fortinet, and more. Wi-Fi is rapidly just becoming another part of the network that needs to be optimised. The hope of these solutions (and others) reaching further into the business is that it will increase the amount of data that can be collected on customer’s network usage.
It is easy to see the appeal, if you as a vendor can create an end-to-end solution, then you will not only have the data on your own network and how it manages the traffic, but you will also be able to see the full impact of your network choices on individual end users. As many network problems happen at the edge of the network, the assurance alone of being able to pinpoint the fault in a specific device/site is extremely attractive. We are already seeing networks that self-correct or direct engineers to faults in an intelligent manner, leading to more time spent fixing rather than diagnosing and this will continue to grow.
There are also broad implications for security as the more data you have on network operations, the easier it is to identify anomalous behaviour, aberrant devices, and strange access patterns. Increased data collection and automation of networks is one of the primary drivers for the convergence of security and networking that Cavell (and many others) have been discussing this year.
However, automation does not wholly imply convergence of these two industries, especially for service providers. Whilst some companies are choosing integrated services and looking for single provider solutions, there is still an appetite for best-in-breed solutions that have good integration with others which is a position that networking specialists like Silver Peak are counting on. Many companies still want to articulate their own vision rather than purchase everything through one company, and service providers that can harness that energy will still succeed without needing to take on new areas of technology.
Ultimately regardless of the type of provider you are, networking tools provided by vendors are getting more automated, easier to use and deploy. This is a good thing for customers. What much of this technology does is aim to make the end user experience easier, solve customer problems and create more resilient networks.
There are still many questions about how the service provider will respond to increasing automation. Will they be happy to hand over more control over their customers (in the form of data) to vendors creating these solutions? Will they expand their teams to include more security expertise to respond to the demand? We already have some predictions and thoughts on this at Cavell, but I will leave you to your own speculation for now, as we watch things unfold.