Thursday, 18 March 2021 22:24

Experience-first networking: shaping the future of UX through network automation

By Bruce Bennie, A/NZ VP & GM, Juniper Networks
Bruce Bennie, A/NZ VP & GM, Juniper Networks Bruce Bennie, A/NZ VP & GM, Juniper Networks

Today more than ever, networks play an increasingly prominent role in our daily lives. Whilst we are already more connected than we ever have been, the COVID-19 pandemic has further accelerated our reliance on networks as remote working and increased digital engagements become the norm.

To survive and thrive, businesses must ensure they are laser-focused on consistently delivering excellent customer experiences. This concept is called ‘Experience-First Networking’, which requires a high level of network automation to ensure large-scale networks are run safely and efficiently.

According to ReportLinker, the global network automation market is expected to reach $27.85 billion by 2024, growing at a CAGR of 19.8% during the forecast period. The Asia Pacific region is expected to witness the highest growth rate over this period, which is in part thanks to the increasing investment in 5G technology and artificial intelligence (AI).

While AI and machine learning have garnered a large amount of hype over the past five years, the role they can play in surfacing the right information at the right time and provide problem solving capabilities makes them more than just a fleeting buzzword when it comes to networks.

Network infrastructures bolstered by AI and automation enable IT teams to easily monitor and continually evaluate network performance, bringing substantial improvements in root cause analysis while simplifying operations and ensuring network uptime. Simply put, a few seconds of network downtime can have a significant impact on revenue, productivity and end-user experience.

The boundless potential and benefits of network automation can also be extended to smart city initiatives where the network plays a foundational role in the success of these projects.

Smart Cities Need Connectivity to Thrive

While there is a fair amount of debate around the reality-versus-hype of smart cities, IDC has predicted that the Asia Pacific region will account for a third of global spending on smart cities through the 2019-2023 forecast period, reaching $84.5 billion by 2023. In Australia, the government has invested $50 million into the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program that supports the delivery of innovative smart city projects across Australia.

Companies which sit at the intersection of networks and security will play a key role in determining the future of smart cities. There needs to be a new paradigm which is centred around leveraging data that comes from the network and using automation and machine learning to stay ahead of hackers and potential breaches. Smart cities require many applications working together and talking to each other at the same time, making it vital to have a strong network infrastructure centred around a secure, scalable, and automated multi-cloud environment.

The City of Portsmouth in the United States is one such example where they have built a state-of-the-art 400 Gbps municipal network. The network has set a foundation for economic development to attract businesses to the city, as well as to support the network needs of city government, schools, and hospitals. Despite being a small town, Portsmouth is using leading-edge networking infrastructure, giving the city the capabilities of next-decade technology now.

AI and Greater User Experience

While realising the true potential of smart cities has yet to become a reality, network automation and AI today are making tangible differences to businesses and the experience they deliver. A report by IDC highlights that spending on AI systems in Asia Pacific will increase to $21.4 billion by 2023 with significant investments seen in automated customer service agents and smart networking.

One example are virtual network assistants powered by AI that can fundamentally transform network operations from reactive troubleshooting to proactive remediation through self-driving actions. This will help eliminate the manual troubleshooting checkpoints initiated by support teams, thus minimising support tickets and reducing mean time to resolution.

AI-driven networks and cloud architecture can help businesses reduce costs while maximising IT productivity and delivering the best networking experience to end users. With 5G on the horizon, enterprises, service providers and governments alike need to understand the impact AI and automation will have on the future of networking.

Growth of 5G

The 5G ecosystem is increasingly developing and will soon be critical in delivering a wide variety of next-generation services to consumers, enterprises, and governments. This will range from cloud gaming to augmented, virtual and mixed reality applications to industrial automation, connected vehicles, and more.

In order to get 5G infrastructure right, automation must play a critical role. A truly efficient 5G network requires flexibility and optimised performance. AI can reduce the operational costs and complexity of 5G networks by automating complex network functionalities, and effectively utilise data with which to make and solve decisions.

With the global network automation industry set to reach $27.85 billion by 2024, its future is bright – and for good reason. It has the potential to revolutionise the way we live, how we experience our favourite cities, the user experience and network connectivity we receive – and even the potential quality and ubiquity of 5G technology.

Embracing the concept of ’Experience-first Networking’ and ensuring you are laser focused on customer experience is no longer a nice to have; it is a must – particularly in the hyperconnected, dispersed and digitally focused world we live in. Automation plays a critical part in that, and by taking the guesswork out of network operations, removing human error and improving decision making, businesses can consistently deliver excellent customer experiences.


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