Why AIOps Will Drive the Future of SD-WAN and the Evolution of SASE Networking

September 12, 2022

By Reece Loftus, Contributing Editor

The pace of Digital Transformation (DX) shows no signs of slowing, and with new technologies, applications, automated systems, along with the need to compete based on delivering outstanding Customer Experiences (CX), increasingly complex and fragmented network infrastructures are causing severe IT headaches.

Network operations teams, who traditionally have never had simplified, unified and consistent insight into what controls and configurations are set up across their communications are looking at and investing in AIOps to automate more, detecting anomalies, cyberattacks, outages, and other events before catastrophe strikes.

“These are hard challenges,” said Indrajit Ghosh (I.G.), founder and CEO of ConnX, a Managed Service Provider and solution developer. “The only way we can serve our customers is to constantly invest in more software automation, including AI and machine learning, to simplify how we manage or help them manage increasingly complex and distributed communications and computing environments.”

AIOps network operations with built-in network security automation and orchestration eliminates silos and reduces complexity for network operations teams, Ghosh said, “with AIOps we can predict problems before they happen, prevent catastrophic outages and compliance fines, and perfect every employee’s experience, helping them become even more productive in this new work from anywhere and everywhere world.”

It has always been critical for network operations teams to see and understand what’s happening in their dynamic network environments, and progress has been pervasive over the last few decades in what is now an all-IP networking world (or nearly so, as analog copper wired networking is sailing into the sunset with the end of support for Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS), a challenge ConnX is also busy addressing.

“Disjointed tools for LAN, WAN, cloud performance, cyber security, and more have limited the industry’s ability to deliver holistic end-to-end user-to-application visibility down to the quality of every digital experience, whether CX or EX,” Ghosh explained. “Root cause analysis of those experiences have been impossible to accurately achieve, given the multilayered, distributed, and complex world of edge-to-edge communications, collaboration and related computing.”

AIOps will drive the future of SD-WAN, even as SD-WAN continues to morph into SASE (Gartner’s (News - Alert) “secure access service edge” defined as a technology used to deliver wide area network and security controls as a cloud computing service directly to the source of connection rather than a data center).

“To succeed in digital transformation, network teams need to ensure quality of user experience on any application from anywhere,” Ghosh continued. “AIOps network operations enables those responsible for ensuring quality of service to truly understand what users are experiencing by simplifying day-to-day network operations with advanced monitoring and automation. Only with world class AI algorithms and machine learning dynamic intelligence can we correlate events, detect anomalies, and optimize operations.”

The benefits of an AIOps approach, whether applied to traditional SD-WANs or evolved SASE, Fixed Wireless Access (FWA) and increasingly cloud-centered networking, are similar, but with different approaches and intensities.

“The explosion of cloud-based services, remote workforces, and edge computing are completely what the WAN must do, as network data is now flowing in new directions supporting work from everywhere teams,” Ghosh said. “We are in the Borderless Enterprise era and supporting the same 1,000 employees who used to work inside the corporate physical border – the office – and who are now working from home comes with a completely different set of challenges. The data center is no longer the epicenter of the network. Now, it’s all about the edge of enterprise networks, whether they are wired or wireless, 4G or 5G. Everything continues to change rapidly and the only way to keep up is automation enabled by AI and machine learning.”

Ghosh said cyber security is also a completely new world of complications: “Enterprises are no longer perimeter-based or location-based, and identity theft, stealing of credentials through incredibly sophisticated and socially engineered attacks on the browser, for example, is causing new headaches.”

Today, Gartner defines SASE as having these five core capabilities: SD-WAN, Secure Web Gateway (News - Alert) (SWG), Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB), Zero Trust Network Access (ZTNA) and Firewall as a Service (FWaaS).

“AI is needed throughout,” Ghosh said. “AI-based analytics for security purposes is very powerful, harnessing data from machine learning and behavioral analytics to identify threats and accelerate the response to those threats,” Ghosh said. “Today’s work from everywhere models require a solid endpoint security strategy with endpoint detection and response, in addition to basic Zero Trust network access, or ZTNA.”

The simple business goal of AIOps is to reduce the complexity associated with today’s distributed, multi-cloud IT environment.

“When we paired AIOps and rolled out our AI Assure offering, working with Juniper Networks (News - Alert), we proved autonomous networks are possible. With our Juniper-powered Maestro centralized orchestrator, as an MSP we have a powerful, unified control panel where AI can be given set by policy, by customer, to act on its own recommendations, making configuration changes to optimize performance, for example. The only way we could help so many of our Fortune 500 customers survive during the pandemic, and now thrive with less costs through automation, and greater quality assurance down to the end-user experience was to invest in AIOps and the most intelligent software tools we could find, then integrate to not only simplify life for IT teams but amplify the experience for end-users and customers.”

Edited by Erik Linask

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