Part 5 of the 6-part Future of Work Networking SeriesReimagine the IT Experience

So far in this Future of Work series, I’ve addressed reimagining connectivity, mobility, security, and IoT in smart buildings. There remains an overarching theme that touches on all these topics—reimagining how IT manages the enterprise network and beyond to branches, cloud, and internet-connected applications.

Network architectures are changing to reflect transformations happening throughout the enterprise. The multitude of high-bandwidth application workloads and services that need to be accessed by mobile endpoints are increasingly distributed across data centers, private and public clouds, and co-locations—all the way to the edge. Managing all these connections at scale adds tremendous responsibility to the IT teams to ensure optimal application experience for the workforce. To meet expectations of performance and reliability, IT needs to reimagine network management using Artificial Intelligent and Machine Learning (AI/ML) tools for network event correlation and efficient troubleshooting to improve operational agility.

IT teams can be more productive and more proactive with a platform management strategy that unifies AI-based automation and insights, resulting in networks that can become smarter and more efficient over time. The foundation begins with Software-Defined Networking, based on intelligent controllers that provide a highly programmable network fabric, and AI/ML Analytics that enable IT to diagnose network issues and make appropriate updates and changes faster than ever.

But first, the existing infrastructure needs some upgrades for the workloads of the next decades. To do that, you’re going to need a review of your wireless network and then make the necessary upgrades.

Preparing for Workloads of the Future

Supporting the workforce with next-gen video, collaboration, and AR/VR applications will require upgrading the wireless network with Wi-Fi 6 and 6E access points. Hurdles for expanding and enhancing existing wireless networks can be overcome using a Wi-Fi 6 Readiness Dashboard in Cisco DNA Center that can verify existing hardware configurations and check capacity readiness. That speeds the upgrade process by assuring that IT can focus on upgrading locations that are critical to workforce productivity.

To augment Wi-Fi planning, monitoring, and troubleshooting, IT can leverage a Wireless 3D Analyzer to track performance of selected KPIs throughout the day, providing deeper visibility, isolating observable issues, and performing root cause analysis. Performance and capacity gains resulting from the new deployments can help justify additional network infrastructure. A Baselines Dashboard helps improve application experience by improving visibility into Wi-Fi Onboarding KPIs across buildings and SSIDs.

To accommodate the latest collaborative applications and high-definition video conferencing that will make hybrid work more frictionless, the newest generation of Wi-Fi 6E access points will need to be incorporated into existing campus networks and new smart buildings. These APs will automatically direct 6E devices—using RRM, Radio Resource Management—to use the new spectrum while previous generations of personal computers and IoT/OT devices are assigned to the appropriate spectrum—providing the best experience for all types of end points. The new APs also incorporate a range of environmental sensors that report to IT management consoles for monitoring health and safety parameters, such as temperature, air quality, and humidity, in buildings. The APs also add a layer of security and mitigation by monitoring for radio interference in the Wi-Fi spectrum and isolating rogue devices and APs causing disruptions.

AI+ML=Reimagined IT

Once the network is upgraded to handle the latest generation of collaborative applications, IT can shift to maintaining performance SLAs and troubleshooting issues as—or before—they arise. With literally millions of wireless endpoints—personal compute, IoT, and Operational Technology (OT)—connecting and moving around the campus, IT needs a supercharged assistant for detecting and evaluating by-the-second events and filtering out the signal from the noise.

AI network analytics, enhanced with Machine Reasoning Engines (MRE) and data lakes of anonymized telemetry, can provide extensive help to IT teams with a wide variety of troubleshooting issues. Dynamic baselining uses AI and ML to analyze the massive amounts of telemetry produced by controllers and access points to reduce the noise and false positives so IT can focus on pinpointing the urgent issues affecting application Quality of Experience (QoE). A Dynamic Baselines Dashboard in Cisco DNA Center continuously monitors onboarding KPIs over 14-day periods to identify SSIDs in buildings that need attention based on aggregated deviation details.

An Assurance Dashboard provides a unified view to manage the most common problems in a campus network, such as IP address failures, wired authentication failures, and PoE troubleshooting. The ability to integrate built-in MRE Workflows provides rapid troubleshooting assistance that enables less experienced admins to find and fix network issues without escalating them to senior technicians.

Leveraging the power of AI and ML can help deliver the best onboarding and application experience for mobile devices and alleviate much of the hunt and seek troubleshooting that IT teams dread. AI and ML can auto-label devices with perfect accuracy and integrity when classification data is reported by the client devices themselves. Apple and Samsung devices, and Windows Laptops with Intel Wi-Fi, share their device profiles with Cisco DNA Center and Meraki Dashboard without a need for agents on devices. This unique level of visibility and insights provides NetOps with an unprecedented level of insight to optimize application experience for Wi-Fi devices.

Increasing Network Visibility Inside and Outside the Enterprise

With the Enterprise network connecting to branches, home offices, and applications outside the campus, NetOps needs new tools for far-seeing observability. In a multicloud hybrid computing world, the internet has become an extension of the Enterprise WAN, but with limited visibility into all the different service providers, CDNs, and SaaS applications. With ThousandEyes integration with Cisco Catalyst 9000 switches (and Cisco SD-WAN), NetOps can pinpoint specific trouble spots inside and outside the enterprise network and initiate remedies to mitigate performance impacts before they cause damage to the business. ThousandEyes agents monitor and report on network performance issues whether in distant branch sites or scattered along the hops of internet connections as traffic flows among people, devices, and applications.

Reimagining the IT Experience

IT network teams are under increasing pressure to not only keep business applications at peak performance for a distributed hybrid workforce, but to partner with business operations to enhance digital transformation initiatives. Managing this workload is only possible by reimagining how the network is administered. With AI/ML analytics, automated monitoring tools, and far-seeing network agents at their service, I know that IT can deliver the expected business outcomes for applications designed for the speed of business in the hybrid workplace.

In the sixth and final post in this Future of Work series, we will look at reimagining the possibilities of the next generation of networked collaborative applications that will drive innovation in the decade ahead.

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Greg Dorai

Senior Vice President & General Manager, Cisco Networking Experiences - Campus Connectivity

Networking Experiences