In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Spock’s half-brother, Sybok could ease one’s pain by doing some Vulcan trickery. He would look in one’s mind, find the source of pain and then enable people to take corrective action. Network and security professionals typically don’t have Vulcans around but constantly live in a world of pain. Wi-Fi isn’t performing quite right, security policies need updating, a configuration somewhere changed and now Zoom isn’t working right and someone added a new device that can’t be identified. It’s a non-stop set of problems and as the expression goes, things roll downhill and networking and security are typically at the bottom of the hill.
This week, Aruba, a Hewlett Packard Enterprise Company, rolled out new AIOps capabilities for its Edge Services Platform (ESP) that can help ease much of the pain felt by IT pros today. During a briefing, Aruba cited some interesting data points. Among other things, they noted 57% of IT’s time is spent looking at performance and user issues, 80% of companies find IoT devices the IT department did not install or secure, and 64% of IT executives now cite talent shortages as a significant barrier to the adoption of emerging tech versus only 4% in 2020. I’ll complement that with my own research that has found that network pros responsible for Wi-Fi spend 20% of their time (1 day a week) doing nothing but Wi-Fi troubleshooting and 75% of trouble tickets are opened by users, not the IT department, putting engineers in constant fire-fighting mode. This current IT environment is no longer tenable and needs to change.
Aruba aims to make running a network easier through the use of artificial intelligence (AI), which every network and security vendor is trying to do today. Aruba’s advantage in this area is the size of the data lake which is fueling the machine learning algorithms. In data sciences, there is an axiom that states, “good data leads to good insights.” While this is true, it’s also true that fragmented data leads to partial insights. Aruba currently has the largest single set of data to run its machine learning algorithms on. This wasn’t true a few years ago as Aruba and the old HPE network infrastructure had different code bases and management systems. Aruba has spent the better part of the last couple of years bringing together under its switches, access points and WAN devices. Its data lake is currently comprised of information from over 2 million devices, 120 thousand plus configs and north of 200 million endpoints. Its competitors either have much smaller install bases or multiple product lines.
During the briefing, I asked Aruba to quantify the benefits of the size of its data lake and they gave a few data points. The product currently has 99% accuracy when profiling clients and its recommendations are 95% accurate. I’ve asked other vendors about their accuracy numbers and have gotten numbers between 70% and 90% depending on the maturity of the solution. AI systems do get better over time and every vendor will eventually get to over 95%, but Aruba should have an early mover advantage.
The term AIOps is very broad and can include everything for deployment support to configuration to post deployment management. Within the context of this launch, Aruba is introducing the following features:
- Aruba Client Insights automatically identifies every endpoint connecting to the network. This becomes important with the surge of IoT devices being introduced with hybrid work. I recently interviewed a company that redesigned their office space with connected lights, environmental sensors, video boards and other non-IT devices. The CIO told me the number of IoT devices now exceeds the number of traditional IT devices for the first time in company history. This feature allows organizations to better understand what’s on their networks, automate access privileges, and monitor the behavior of each client’s traffic flows to more rapidly spot attacks and take action. This also has security implications as the insights can be used to create or refine security policies.
- AI-powered Firmware Recommender provides IT teams with the best version of firmware to run for the wireless access points in their environments. Keeping firmware up to date is often a painstaking process in large organizations. This greatly reduces support calls and guesswork that network admins face. Additionally, new features can be rolled out faster and error free.
- AI Search in Spanish brings the same built-in natural language search capabilities in Aruba Central to Spanish-speaking people.
- Automated Infrastructure Predictions leverages Aruba’s AI Assist feature and Aruba Support outreach to recognize possible hardware and software infrastructure issues for preemptive actions that can consist of firmware upgrades or recommended hardware replacement.
To use a baseball analogy, the network and security industries are in the early innings of the impact of the infusion of artificial intelligence. To date, all the vendors have done an effective job using AI for basic troubleshooting, which is important given the time constraints IT pros are under. Looking ahead, the battle will be won by the vendor that can use AI to automate full operations, which includes optimizing application performance as well as solving many of the security problems create from hybrid work and the related influx of IoT. This is a good release for Aruba but it should be viewed as its starting point.
Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. He provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long-term strategic advice. Kerravala provides research and advice to end-user IT and network managers, vendors of IT hardware, software and services and the financial community looking to invest in the companies that he covers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and follow him @zkerravala and on YouTube.
Industry Voices are opinion columns written by outside contributors—often industry experts or analysts—who are invited to the conversation by Fierce staff. They do not represent the opinions of Fierce.