Self-Adaptive Configuration: The Survival Trait of Business-First Networks

This is Part 3 of a 4-part Intellyx BrainBlog series on Business-First Networks for Silver Peak, a leader in the SD-WAN space.

Just as consumers will pay for a superior customer experience while allowing those who deliver subpar service to go extinct, businesses expect consumer-level service from their networks. The network is no longer just an enabler of business, it has become a critical adaptation for business survival.

The evolution toward SD-WAN solutions started out by making cloud resources and apps more accessible for network operators to manage them ‘through a single pane of glass.’

However, this ‘single-pane’ management console capability, while more convenient for IT, is now just the ante for entering the game. Solutions for pulling together network configuration, control and monitoring into a common user interface are not uncommon. The ability to orchestrate all of the aspects of that network to deliver business services at the speed of change is the key enabler.

Today’s enterprise needs a new breed of network, one that eliminates manual programming at the device level and embraces automation to adapt to the application usage and performance needs of business, securely serving teams and partners that are wildly diverse in location, function and needs.

In other words, the business network itself must become self-adaptive to serve the changing needs of business users everywhere.

Automatically drive network functionality exactly where you need it with AI

To resolve the challenges of disruptive change, next-generation SD-WAN solutions are emerging that apply artificial intelligence (AI) to fill in network services with better context and connectivity, at faster-than-human speeds. AI fuels self-adaptation of the network, resulting in a huge productivity boost and cost savings to IT and Network Operations teams seeking to deliver business services to their constituents, across the most efficient infrastructure, wherever they are located.

UK-based fitness and wellness center chain Nuffield Health deployed the Silver Peak Unity EdgeConnect™ SD-WAN edge platform and Unity Boost™ across 189 sites, along with service chaining to zScaler cloud security and Palo Alto Networks next-gen firewalls to enforce centrally defined security policies, citing a 4X to 6X bandwidth increase for users while reducing WAN traffic.

“We have been pleased with the positive impact on our network, and the speed of deployment was a massive bonus,” said Dan Morgan, IT director at Nuffield Health. “We now have visibility and control of our network, meaning we can see how SaaS and IaaS is being used. This level of cloud intelligence is critical to our organisation as we continue to embrace new healthcare technologies available in the market.”

Surviving in the fast lane by simplifying compliance

All the agility in the world cannot help a business if the resulting network is allowed to operate outside of security and business compliance requirements. How can AI help roll out new business services without exposing private information, or negatively impacting customer experience due to suddenly flagging performance or errors on an unplanned configuration?

Another key area where self-adaptive networks can improve the overall quality of the business services they deliver is by centrally designing and enforcing configuration, business and security compliance rules over all activity on the extended SD-WAN ecosystem, wherever that activity is happening.

Compliance must therefore include both predictive modeling and self-monitoring of the impact of every change the adaptive network will make for users. If for some reason a change in bandwidth will interrupt a service level agreement (SLA) for high-priority customers, or expose unauthorized data usage, an AI-enabled network must have the ability to react and respond to self-correct the issue immediately.

Tory Adams, IT Director of J-U-B Engineers, who deployed the EdgeConnect SD-WAN edge platform across 17 locations in six states, and centrally manages his network using Silver Peak Unity Orchestrator management software, discussed the impact of automating SLA compliance. “We can prioritize traffic—that’s gigantic. We can give non-business streaming best effort, while making sure critical traffic like voice and file services aren’t compromised.”

How Self-Adaptive Networks serve business services differently

Next-generation SD-WAN solutions are delivering network functionality as business services with the help of AI, providing unique differentiators:

Standard WAN Approaches Self-Adaptive Networks
Discretely define on-prem service or external cloud providers with reserved capacity, regions and nodes per company or department Automated orchestration discovers, recommends and moves workloads to optimal public or private cloud regions or infrastructure
Monitor and change the routing of WAN network traffic periodically by IT / Ops teams to improve availability and performance System continuously monitors and adapts to changing network bandwidth and resource conditions and selects the most optimal path at the time
IT selects an appropriate application suite and provisions to users based on departmental, branch office or employee-level specifications Network can automatically recommend and provision customized applications and delivery method as business services to users based on declared needs
A ‘single pane of glass’ or dashboard for self-service network management Self-service, coupled with AI inferences, recommendations about how to improve services and auto-pilot changes where allowed
Monitoring and alerts framework to notify operations staff of possible security or policy violations Add self-driving AI features to automatically detect and correct policy and security violations and prevent unintended ‘drift’ of network configurations.

The Intellyx Take

The concepts of AI can be applied to many different solution areas, but the real impact of AI in the next few years will largely work behind the scenes. Or, behind the screens, in the case of next-generation SD-WAN networks, which are now being called on to deliver practically every edge computing resource a business could ask for.

There’s great potential value here for almost any distributed business. Ensure that your approach to the SD-WAN edge and AI not only improves agility, but can respond to the unintended consequences of every change it helps your IT Ops teams make. Otherwise, how could you trust it with your most critical services?

This Intellyx BrainBlog, third in a series of four, focuses on the Self-Adapting nature of AI in SD-WAN networks. It expands upon blogs about 1) the benefits of implementing a unified WAN edge, as well as 2) delivering the highest levels of service and connectivity to remote locations. Look for the final blog in the series about delivering the highest quality of experience through a unified management approach.