With so much attention on artificial intelligence (AI) today, you’ve likely heard how Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) is going to revolutionize almost everything. And now there’s a something called AI Networking to contend with.
If you’re responsible for wireless, wired and wide area networks, all the noise probably has you searching for answers to how AI, machine learning and automation can help your retail organization. So let’s explore the topic to help you gain clarity.
To best understand the topic and the key characteristics of an effective AI solution, reviewing a few definitions is a good place to start.
What AIOps is and what it can do for you: Originally coined by Gartner, AIOps combines big data and machine learning to automate IT operations processes, including event correlation, anomaly detection and causality determination. In short, AIOps is like DevOps, in that it brings together service and performance management along with automation to provide continuous insights and enable improvement.
However, confusion began to arise due to the different interpretations on Google for terms like networking, storage and support services. Because of this, Gartner recently introduced AI Networking, which is a subset of AIOps defined as more efficient way to manage Day 2 network operations. In other words, AIOps refers to the broader infrastructure managed by the information and operations (I&O) teams, while AI networking is specific to wired, wireless and WAN networking.
Essentially, AIOps — and, more specifically, AI networking — provide you with the intelligence and automation that enables quickly seeing and responding to issues, or even preventing network outages, faster than is humanly possible given the proliferation of cloud and private services, users and IoT devices across the various locations your retail network supports.
In fact, AI-powered solutions are already helping IT pros like you with solving today’s biggest retail networking challenges:
- Remotely managing multiple stores. With centralized IT teams and dispersed locations the retail norm, AI networking features are providing near-real-time visibility into network activity. This includes determining the type of devices being connected to networks, identifying sites experiencing LAN or WAN issues, and collecting the necessary data logs automatically. In addition, you receive AI-powered alerts that focus troubleshooting efforts on the most urgent issues.
- Accurately identifying issues. As machine learning models are designed to point out patterns of behavior and deviations from them, AI networking insights and alerts also assist with uncovering wireless, wired and WAN gateway issues that traditional tools miss. For example, AI networking features help determine the difference between a device that’s misbehaving because of a hardware failure or something intermittent that a firmware upgrade can fix.
- Improving user experiences. With today’s customers not only expecting products that meet their needs but also high-quality in-store experiences, IT departments are challenged to offer the exceptional guest and employee access in an environment where technical expertise is sparse and on-site troubleshooting can be difficult. The most advanced AI networking features address these challenges by recommending ways to boost network performance, without costly upgrades, while simultaneously delivering on operational expectations and customer experiences.
Top 5 Considerations for Evaluating AI-Powered Solutions
Although every AIOps solution offers the ability to automate efficiencies to an extent, some solutions provide significantly more capabilities than others. The most innovative options assist with Day 0 and Day 1 tasks as well as Day 2 responsibilities. To obtain the best solution for comprehensively addressing your specific retail networking challenges, look for the following attributes:
1. Intuitive and effective to use. In addition to providing a streamlined dashboard, other characteristics of an innovative offering include built-in natural language search for assisting with basic Day 0 activities such as configuring a service set identifier (SSID) or setting up a guest network. At a more advanced level, the best solutions offer capabilities like automatically baselining the performance and behavior of each of your locations without any manual configuration of service level expectations. In other words, look for a solution that augments your entire team’s efforts — from the most senior to the newest member on the IT team.
2. Detects behavioral anomalies. One of the surest signs of an impending device failure or security breach is a behavioral change. Look for an AI networking solution where the AI and machine learning are trained with data from thousands of deployments and millions of devices and endpoints, along with clustering technology that helps differentiate each of your locations by size, number of network devices used and how many clients connect daily — whether IoT or those carried by employees and guests. By combining external data with the internal information your locations generate, an advanced AI networking solution provides you accurate insights for sorting out behavioral anomalies.
3. Generates actionable insights. A robust AI networking solution goes beyond crunching numbers and churning out lists of issues to resolve or opportunities to optimize. The most advanced AIOps solutions present their analysis as actionable recommendations that range from reducing power consumption by changing the settings for a location’s WiFi access points (APs) to eliminating the source of intermittent wireless issues by replacing a suspect cable between a specific AP and switch. Such actionable insights eliminate manual troubleshooting, guesswork and lengthy forensics tasks.
4. Takes a full-stack and Zero Trust approach. To maximize efficiency, the best solutions use AIOps and AI networking methods across your entire network, including for enhancing security. This includes AI-powered Zero Trust features for accurate client information, visibility into which applications IoT and guest devices are accessing and whether devices exhibit behavioral anomalies. For example, if a stationary point-of-sale (POS) device or electronic shelf label exhibits roaming behavior — or starts communicating with unknown resources — leading AI networking solutions can detect such behavioral anomalies and enable rapid pinpointing of an issue’s source.
5. Engineers AI into the overall network architecture. In addition to providing a full-stack approach, the most innovative solutions come from networking vendors that are integrating AI networking into their overall architecture — from network devices to management solutions. This reduces acquisition and maintenance costs, minimizes manual configuration tasks and eases the time it takes to develop competency across your organization. In general, tightly integrated solutions are more likely to provide you with higher-value insights at no added cost.
No matter which networking solution you ultimately choose, what’s important is that you’re exploring how AI plays a role. With always-on networks a competitive imperative across the retail landscape, it’s important to consider how AIOps can provide insights, automate tasks to free up IT resources for higher-value projects and help improve business and competitive outcomes overall.
Trent Fierro is a Senior Marketing Manager for AIOps and cloud solutions at HPE Aruba Networking. In his decade of experience with HPE Aruba Networking, Fierro has overseen multiple wireless, wired, AI, security, location and management solutions for the company. With more than 30 years of experience as an enterprise IT technical and marketing expert, he specializes in translating complex technology innovations into consumable insights for business and IT professionals.