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Automation and Orchestration Help Customers Navigate Network Complexities


February 8, 2018 - 0 Comments

I’ve been working in the technology industry for three decades, and there’s never been a more complex—or exciting—time to be in IT.

The complexity is self-evident: A large global enterprise might have hundreds of thousands of devices from different vendors, running a variety of proprietary and semi-proprietary purpose-built applications, many of them siloed and disconnected from one another. In their pursuit of digital transformation, customers are embracing turnkey architectures such as Cisco’s Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and Software Defined Access, as well as more DIY approaches and open-source tools. However, as they navigate the requirements of the Internet of Things (IoT) and multi-cloud environments, the sheer scale and complexity are becoming increasingly unmanageable.

But here’s the exciting part: Cisco and Cisco Services now offer a broad and deep set of capabilities to bring sanity back to managing and optimizing your network. Cisco’s Network Intuitive offers a robust, intent-based networking platform that uses machine learning and automation to take the complexity out of network management. It serves as the foundation for two new services portfolios that enable us to deliver an entirely new class of automation and orchestration services to our customers.

As I talk to customers, it is clear that network automation and orchestration are top of mind (along with security) for almost every customer we work with. Why? Because these are the capabilities that will enable them to accelerate their digital business strategy. With automated network provisioning, we can deploy a new network configuration in a fraction of the time it would take to do it manually. And with predictive analytics and machine learning, we can keep that network up and running at peak performance.

One of my favorite examples of this is our work with a global financial services institution.  They were challenged with flat OpEx, no business agility and a need for higher compliance and policy level controls. We built an Automation Framework that they can leverage across various infrastructure domains such as core, branch, and data center.  Our new services, enabled by AI and machine learning, moved them from a reactive approach to a preemptive approach. This enabled us to predict a potential outage-causing event for this financial services institution 32 hours before it would have taken place.

We were able to do this because predictive analytics, artificial intelligence, and automation yield powerful insights faster than human analysts ever could. Cisco’s Business Critical Services combines our unrivaled engineering expertise with integrated analytics and automation to enable customers to predict opportunities, preempt risks, and navigate technology transitions. We use machine learning to correlate your network’s performance with our knowledge base from similar deployments and industry best practices. We build a “fingerprint” of each device across the millions that we support, so we can correlate thousands of parameters within the hardware, software, and features you are using. So, for example, if you are suffering from a high number of crashes, we can identify anomalies and pinpoint the cause of your problem.

Another innovation, Network Early Warning, studies and learns from patterns of events that lead to major failures, so we can preemptively take action. Drawing on multiple machine learning and data engineering techniques, it analyzes billions of data points from the network in real time. So it can automatically deliver predictions of network events before they occur.

In the case of a large mobile provider, we analyzed voice log anomalies and identified a pattern in random packet drops three days before it led to noticeable call drops. With the ability to identify the causes of network failures automatically, we are helping organizations move toward 100 percent availability.

Automation and orchestration enable more reliable network services for customers and users, greater service agility, better security, and dramatically reduced costs. They are no longer futuristic add-ons. They are must-haves for 21st century IT services.

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