AI means showtime for enterprise network modernisation
 (Reader Forum) 

Networking has had something of a shock to the system over the last few years. For a long time, its essential role in the functioning of enterprise operations went under the radar, underappreciated by most apart from those involved in technical roles. Then 2020 happened: the massive shift to more remote, flexible working patterns put the importance of network modernisation firmly under the spotlight, and necessitated huge effort to overhaul networks in line with the changing ways we live and work.

That was followed by something of a steadying of the ship, as demands on networks began to feel slightly more predictable again. Enterprises were afforded some breathing space to assess their networking operations and the gift of time to build towards longer-term, more strategic modernisation plans. Then AI came bursting through the door. Well, it hasn’t just come along – AI has been evolving in the background for years prior to ChatGPT taking it supernova – but it is now in a place where it’s set to inspire another step-change in network modernisation efforts.

In 2024, it’s showtime once again for network modernisation.

Security and latency on the agenda

Stuart Greenslade
Greenslade — performance is driving activity at the edge

This will be especially necessary with the proliferation of AI-driven devices at the edge, something that will pick up significantly in 2024, as vendors bring to market some of the innovations and breakthroughs which hit the headlines last year. The key things to look out for are solutions that tackle intensified demand for bandwidth, embedded security and lower latency.

Much has already been written about the challenges and risks associated with AI, not least the potential ramifications of a rush to deploy without proper preparation. But the good news is that there are already plenty of examples to follow in terms of what to do and what not to do, and general lessons to learn which will stand any enterprise in good stead when it comes to modernising their own networks in readiness for AI.

While each business and its network will have unique needs, there are some characteristics of AI that always remain true: for one, they require massive amounts of high-quality data which has been appropriately labelled and normalised. Doing that could be an unwieldy, complex task, but fortunately monitoring and insights are already mature areas of focus for networking. This means that, with an approach centred on holistic automation, modernising networks for AI needn’t be such a daunting step.

Indeed, AI will prove to be as much an opportunity as a challenge, as AIOps solutions mature and predictive analytics tools help to proactively identify network failures and bottlenecks before they cause damage. I think we’re also set to see an accelerating uptake of use-cases involving advanced wireless networks, including satellite, private 5G and national 5G. Through 2024 and beyond, businesses will lean on multiple modes of networking managed through smarter tools to build out the right connectivity, on time and on budget.  

However, to balance this all together successfully, maintaining network visibility, security and control will be critical. Also, a cautionary note that any organisation not investigating these technologies this year, may find itself at a competitive disadvantage in terms of ‘digital agility’, not to mention the perennial favourite, ‘cost-optimisation’.

Capitalising on the AI gold rush

The benefits to be derived from AI are tantalising, which is why so many businesses across so many industries are rushing to deploy it. Still, the landscape is dynamic, always evolving, with many businesses unsure of where to start and wary of the risks. To truly capitalise on AI technology this year, network modernisation will be crucial.

As the playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw put it, “The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself.” Adapting what we already have, to be ready for a changing world is crucial to success. With AI currently evolving in free-flow, without the guardrails that will no doubt come later, that adaptation will have to be strategic, adding further resilience, security and flexibility to networks.

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