The intelligent approach to cloud-based network management

Network managers and administrators are seeing big business benefits associated with managing all their corporate network assets from one cloud-based solution.
Read time 4min 50sec

The worldwide public cloud services market is forecast to grow by 17% in 2020 to $266.4 billion, up from $227.8 billion in 2019, according to Gartner, the global research and advisory firm. Organisations are increasingly seeing the benefits of moving IT infrastructures to the cloud, and consuming them “as-a-service” instead of hosting them locally.

While many organisations in South Africa have boarded the infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) bus ‒ and use cloud deployments to provide a wide range of virtualised computing resources over the Internet ‒ many are lagging behind when it comes to optimising the cloud for the management of the corporate network.

Surprisingly, some companies still rely on aging, on-premises, controller-based network management solutions.

This is not because there is a dearth of cloud-based network management and monitoring platforms on the market. In fact, there is a variety of secure, feature-rich cloud-based solutions available, along with platforms designed to simplify the deployment, management and service assurance of wireless, wired and SD-WAN environments.

So, why the delay in their adoption?

Along with other as-a-service offerings, cloud-based network management solutions are typically hosted in the cloud by a third-party via a subscription-based model. It’s a model that has taken time for some organisations to accept. One analyst says users may have experienced “sticker shock” when reviewing the bills provided by managed service providers.

Users are now better able to understand how IaaS platforms can be optimised, their transparency enhanced and any negative aspects obviated.

But times are changing. Users are now better able to understand how IaaS platforms can be optimised, their transparency enhanced and any negative aspects obviated.

When it comes to network management, they are seeing the benefits of operating in an “opex” cost environment – paying as cloud services are consumed – rather than incurring the upfront capital expenditure associated with hosting their network management in-house.

Today, many network managers and administrators are experiencing the big business benefits associated with an ability to manage all their corporate network assets from one cloud-based solution via “a single pane of glass”.

In other words, managers are now able to access their network management consoles via the Internet using an intuitive, visual dashboard with contextual filters giving a comprehensive overview of network assets. And they can watch and configure devices anywhere on the network without relying on a complex VPN or other unreliable solution.

Most importantly, security is no longer an issue. Respected cloud management service providers invest heavily in proven, sophisticated protection from leading organisations and generally operate within the confines of security and reliability standards-compliant data centres with 24/7 monitoring, scheduled backups and built-in disaster recovery capabilities.

SOC 2 Standard compliance, for example, addresses security, availability, confidentiality and privacy, as well as processing integrity, ensuring system accuracy, completion and authorisation.

It’s increasingly accepted that most small and medium enterprises do not have an adequate budget or access to skilled staff to implement this or other levels of security required to protect a business in today’s world. The growing numbers of penetration attacks targeted at on-premises environments support this.

Perhaps the key incentive for the adoption of cloud-based network management platforms is their close association with advancements in artificial intelligence (AI).

Through the adoption of AI technologies in conjunction with machine learning (ML) algorithms, modern cloud-based network management platforms are able to analyse and interpret millions of network and user data points – from the network edge to the data centre – to deliver actionable business and IT insights.

At the same time, AI-based management solutions are geared to deliver higher levels of network automation and intelligence to provide solutions such as unified, full-stack management of wireless access points, switches and routers, while enabling and simplifying onboarding, configuration, monitoring, trouble-shooting and reporting.

For network managers constrained by tight budgets, AI and ML can detect cost spikes, provide deep visibility into operational issues and answer questions such as ”who used what?”, thus assisting companies to minimise costs.

In this light, AI has the ability to support – and perform – functions vital to effective, efficient cloud-based network management, including continuous log analysis, anomaly detection, predictive maintenance, root cause diagnostics and closed-loop issue remediation.

What makes cloud-based network management, AI and ML such good bedfellows is the almost unlimited compute and storage capacities available in the cloud. As a result, AI-optimised application infrastructures are gaining acceptance in step with the increase in IT platforms geared to accelerate and automate AI workloads through various combinations of compute, storage, hyperconverged and interconnect resources. These platforms are purpose-designed for high-volume, high-performance, fast training, inferencing and other vital AI and ML workloads.

As the industry looks ahead, the long-awaited goal of the continuously self-managing, self-healing, self-securing, self-repairing and self-optimising network management infrastructure is within grasp.

This is largely due to AI and ML’s growing roles in the management of IT, data, applications, services and other cloud infrastructures. It also flows from AI and ML’s ability to automate and accelerate many tasks more scalably, predictably and proficiently.

Significantly, AI- and ML-optimised cloud network management platforms are a fit for organisations of all sizes in almost any industrial or commercial sector. They are capable of evolving as technology advances, allowing users to create processes that deliver new competitive advantages, improved operational efficiencies and greater cost-saving benefits in line with future business demands.

Paul Stuttard

Director, Duxbury Networking.

Paul Stuttard is a director of specialist distributor Duxbury Networking. Currently Cape-based, he has been with the company for 29 years and has extensive experience in the IT industry, particularly within the value-added distribution arena. His focus is on the formulation of future-oriented network optimisation strategies and business development objectives in collaboration with resellers and end-users in Southern Africa.

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