The Autonomous Enterprise: Many Vendors, Many Choices
Ok, let’s start with what the Autonomous Enterprise is – it is really a continuation of the digital transformation process we have all been experiencing over the last several years. At its foundation, the autonomous enterprise is really an architecture that leverages machine learning, artificial intelligence, policy-based decision making, and automation to drive workflows that enable self-configuration, self-repair, and automatic mitigation of network issues, whether performance or security related.
To be honest, all major and some not-so-major, enterprise networking vendors either have a solution, components of a solution, or at least some messaging around the autonomous enterprise as it does seem to be the topic of the day.
I don’t mean to sound flip as the autonomous enterprise is an important step in the evolution of enterprise networking, however when companies post information to their web pages stating essentially, ”We will tell you more about our solution when we actually figure it out all its components,” it is a clear indication that they not only don’t have a solution but are not even really sure what the architecture will look like (name withheld for my own safety).
The concept of the autonomous enterprise comes out of something called Intent Based Networking (IBN), it has actually been around for several years and there are plenty of research and informational materials on this topic, although not everyone agrees on its scope, Tech Target has a really good paper to get you started.
Additionally, vendors use different terms to describe their solution, you will see Autonomous Enterprise, Autonomous Networking, Intent-Based Networking, Experience-Driven Networking, Self-Driving Networking and all will define it using terms like Machine Learning, Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Thinking, Proactive, Automatic, ok you get the idea.
One of the biggest challenges for many networking vendors is to provide a solution that is not siloed by solution sets, like Data Center, Campus Fabric, Edge Switches, WLAN, Cloud, SD-WAN, etc. All major enterprise networking vendors have good-to-great hardware solutions and management solutions and even a good autonomous enterprise message in one or more areas of the network, but for most cases, there is not a single framework that ties them together. In this case, you may see them pitching their message in only one area.
Is the System Open?
Next area to watch out for is vendors who try and lock you into their proprietary solution, the message focuses on the automation without mentioning all hardware has to be theirs, all software has to be theirs, and there are a few other optional/mandatory software packages that are required to make it all ‘seamless.’ Well, most networks aren’t built that way so make sure to look for terms like multi-vendor, open-ecosystem, standards-based, and open standards. Then make them demonstrate it.