How COVID Has Accelerated the Need for AI Across the Network

The pandemic is fundamentally changing how every industry operates. Enterprises must look ahead to adapt for a long-term or even permanent remote workforce.

Christian Gilby

July 16, 2020

5 Min Read
How COVID Has Accelerated the Need for AI Across the Network
(Image by Joshua Miranda from Pixabay)

With employees moving from central offices to their homes, IT teams have stepped up to make the transition to remote work as seamless as possible. From ensuring that employees have up-to-date technology at home to balancing the network security needs of enterprises with the troubleshooting needs of employees, IT has become the unsung hero for the remote workforce. However, there are a number of networking technologies that have proven to help IT teams during these unprecedented times – most notably AI.

Homing in on the End-User Experience

Well before COVID-19, one of the biggest challenges in networking was determining what the end-user experience looked like when deploying a solution. Without visibility into how the end-user is experiencing a solution, it’s difficult to measure its full value. This is where AI comes in.

AI can have multiple functions, such as proactively adjusting the network or optimizing the environment to minimize congestion. The vast amount of data flowing through thousands of remote locations is often overwhelming, so this is where enterprises see the most value of data science and AI in networking.

 IT teams can gain insight into the user experience through an AI system that proactively analyzes and correlates data and events to determine what service level is being delivered and when it detects an anomaly, to identify the root cause, and in a growing number of cases, to automatically resolve issues through self-driving actions.

In fact, in many cases, issues are resolved before end users realize there is an issue at all. By catching these problems before they impact remote employees, IT teams are able to decrease the number of support tickets, resulting in a more positive – and productive – end-user experience for employees overall.

AI as the WFH Gamechanger for IT

In addition to improving the end-user experience, AI is helping enterprises manage the network itself. After all, a positive end-user experience across the enterprise is undoubtedly powered by the IT team that is managing, running, and troubleshooting the network behind the scenes – all while adjusting to remote work themselves.

When employees were instructed to begin working from home immediately, this essentially created a drastic increase in the number of separate mini-corporate offices, or micro branches, overnight. For IT, this meant a shift in that way they troubleshoot employees’ network issues. Traditionally, with legacy solutions, an enterprise may have to send an IT professional on-site with a laptop to help with an issue, something they can’t do in this environment. This is where the use of AI throughout a network is proving to be a gamechanger by simplifying the ability to troubleshoot remotely and giving IT teams fast insights into the network – ultimately ensuring that business continuity is minimally disrupted.

The Growing Importance of AI-Driven SD-WAN

There is no doubt that we have entered a new era in the way we work. Many enterprises are planning to continue maintaining a partially remote workforce, even after employees start to return to the office. But while this means that we will see more satellite and distributed offices, most employees will not be expected to deploy a security endpoint in their home office. Rather, these new satellite offices will be connected through an SD-WAN gateway in order to boost application performance over the WAN while securing the corporate perimeter. With these factors in mind, SD-WAN will likely become a more crucial part of enterprises’ remote working strategies moving forward, and AI presents an opportunity to take SD-WAN to the next level.

AI-driven SD-WAN delivers improvements in remote operations and user experiences amid the unpredictability and increasing scale of distributed and satellite offices, personal devices, and WAN bandwidth concerns as applications like video conferencing and cloud-based file sharing systems explode with the boom in a more distributed workforce. SD-WAN is typically very distributed, but today’s landscape makes it even more challenging. By leveraging AI, IT teams can leverage a solution that detects anomalies, proactively performs root cause analysis and gets to the source of network problems, faster and more importantly, remotely.

With the need to maintain business continuity within the new normal, it has become critical to be able to gain insight into the end-to-end user experience, from WLAN to LAN to WAN. And AI will be critical in helping organizations turn insights into actions to simplify management of a distributed network while continuing to learn and improve in its self-driving capabilities that automatically resolves issues and optimizes the network through reinforcement learning. After all, it’s critical to be able to gain network insights in near real-time, no matter the location of employees. AI enables better routing across the WAN, optimizing performance throughout the network and driving quick insights for IT faster than before.

AI In Long-Term Network Strategies

There are a number of network strategies that enterprises and organizations must rethink to prepare for a future of uncertainty. The pandemic is fundamentally changing how every industry operates – this is just as true for our work lives. Enterprises will have to look ahead to determine how they can adapt for a long-term or even permanent remote workforce.

Fortunately, by optimizing the end-user experience, expediting troubleshooting issues, and driving improvements across the WAN, whether to home or satellite offices, AI has positioned itself as a critical enterprise technology for our new world of remote work.

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About the Author(s)

Christian Gilby

Christian Gilby is director of enterprise product marketing at Mist, a Juniper company. He has over 20 years of product marketing, management and engineering experience in the networking industry with a strong focus on mobility, cloud and wireless and speaks often at industry events globally. He currently leads product marketing for Mist and Juniper’s AI-Driven Enterprise campus portfolio (Wi-Fi, SD-WAN, campus switching, campus routing). Previously he led product marketing for wired, wireless and branch solutions at Aruba (acquired by HPE). He led product marketing and product management for Agito Networks product line (acquired by ShoreTel). Prior to Agito, he was an early member of the Meru Networks team leading product management and partnerships in VoWLAN and Wi-Fi Access Point solutions. Christian started his career at Nortel Networks where he held several networking and VoIP project lead and software architect positions and was also granted a patent.

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