Artificial Intelligence Eases Network Challenges

This syndicated post originally appeared at Zeus Kerravala, Author at eWEEK.

Nabil Bukhari, CTO of Extreme Networks, discusses digital twin technology as it applies to networks.

Many technology vendors have used artificial intelligence to transform their products. This is evident in areas like unified communications, contact centers and cybersecurity.

Yet one area of IT that has yet to see AI play a significant impact is the network. AI has been used to improve basic management functions but has yet to transform network operations.

Digital Twins Boost Network Infrastructure

Extreme Networks is aiming to change that with the release of its new digital twin technology, which relies on AI to support its function. The vendor introduced the capability at its recent Extreme Connect conference. The digital twin feature is part of its ExtremeCloud IQ Co-Pilot and enables network pros to build their networks in demo mode and troubleshoot before deploying physical infrastructure, all using AI.

All of this falls into what Extreme refers to as the infinite enterprise—meaning networking everywhere—which has been the vendor’s go-to-market strategy for about a year now. I recently sat down with Nabil Bukhari, Extreme’s CTO, to understand more about the infinite enterprise and how digital twin technology fits into it – including the role of AI. Highlights of the ZKast interview, done in conjunction with eWEEK eSPEAKS, are below.

  • The pandemic dramatically changed people’s behaviors, making them shop differently, work and learn differently, and receive healthcare services differently. Companies have also had to adapt and run their businesses differently in a post-pandemic world. This has resulted in an infinite enterprise, which is based on three core principles:
    1. Unlimited distribution. People are accessing company resources from anywhere, on any device or network. Organizations have to securely reach everyone, wherever they are.
    2. Consumer-centricity. People expect wired and wireless networks to provide the same experience everywhere.
    3. Running technology at scale. If people and devices are distributed, the networks are going to be more distributed. Organization not only need networks that scale, but they also need to scale up operations with automation and help from AI-based tools.
  • The other side of running technology at scale is dependability and reliability. For large hospitals, scale is a matter of life and death. For consumer-focused businesses like stadiums, it’s about the spectator experience. If people don’t have a good experience, they won’t come back to the stadium. Figuratively speaking, scale is a matter of life and death for any business.
  • The challenge of an infinite enterprise is having more technology for IT to manage and secure, while staying in compliance with regulations. Network managers are no longer in a tightly controlled environment. In essence, it’s a challenge of complexity, which translates into higher costs and increased risks.
  • Extreme developed its digital twin technology to help ease some of that complexity. Digital twins are widely used in vertical industries like aerospace and manufacturing, but ExtremeCloud IQ Co-Pilot is a first in networking. It’s a virtual sandbox environment that allows administrators to test their networks before they go live.
  • Building complex systems requires staging and making changes over and over, which is a prohibitively expensive and difficult process. ExtremeCloud IQ Co-Pilot can create digital replicas of wired and wireless networks. With a click of a button, administrators can perform testing, verification, and troubleshooting—essentially everything in the cloud—and then deploy networks into production at a fraction of the cost.
  • Extreme also plans to introduce this capability in its software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) portfolio, so administrators can create a digital twin of a network that’s already running. Extreme has a vision of providing organizations with a real-time digital replica of their entire network, no matter how complex it may be.

Author: Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.