“In a post-COVID world, advanced networking technologies are critical. With intent-based networking, for example, operators can describe exactly what they want out of the network and the network can then continuously deliver on this intent,” says, Mansour Karam, VP-Products, Juniper Networks, in an exclusive interview with EnterpriseTalk.
ET Bureau: COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation and changed the playing field. But most enterprises are still relying heavily on legacy digital strategies that may not be useful in the post-pandemic world. What are some of the dangers of over-reliance on pre-pandemic digital strategies and how can they be overcome?
Mansour Karam: Although COVID-19 accelerated digital transformation, it doesn’t mean the strategies used before are now obsolete. Rather, this means businesses must rely more heavily on those digital strategies, and expand their use.
One example is the surge in online shopping. With the pandemic, shopping predominately moved online, and nearly everyone in the retail industry needed to invest in e-commerce platforms or update their current systems to accommodate the rise in digital sales. As the economy recovers, in-store shopping is making its return. However, the digital strategies that became popular during the pandemic — such as buy online, pick up in store (BIPOS) and curbside pickup — will carry over to the in-store shopping experience because we now know how convenient these strategies are.
As another example, the default used to be meeting physically — in offices, at conferences or at restaurants. Virtual events did exist, but physical events were always perceived to be more effective. Now we’re seeing that virtual events, irrespective of COVID, can be more effective than physical ones.
So, even as the world continues to reopen, I believe we’ll continue organizing virtual events. We’ll likely see a hybrid model as the new standard — you can still visit a client on occasion, but most meetings can be held virtually.
Also, employees can be just as productive at home as in the office. So, as the pandemic subsides and some employees go back to the office, I believe we might see a hybrid model that combines working at home and working in the office, balancing the distinct advantages of each.
With all of these trends in taking more business online, we’re seeing a surge in demand for digital solutions. And organizations need to ensure their technology and network are up to the task. In short, if organizations haven’t embraced digital transformation, they absolutely need to do so now to succeed as the economy restores.
TCMO Bureau: How has COVID-19 impacted the intent-based networking market? Is the future of data centers dependent on intent-based networking?
Mansour Karam: Yes, absolutely. Intent-based networking (IBN) is all about powerful network automation at scale. With IBN, you can manage networks more efficiently, and you can also do so remotely. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of the network. Digital transformation can’t happen without a capable network at the core.
All the things I described — online shopping, virtual events, virtual meetings, remote work, — require a network. And when you’re that deeply dependent on the network and scaling the network to keep up with the demands of digital transformation, what you’re left with is a monumental operational problem. You need to be able to manage and operate this network, at scale. That’s where IBN comes in: It manages these networks in a fully automated manner and does so remotely. Without the ability to manage your networks, you can’t scale to the demands of digital transformation.
TCMO Bureau: How can advanced networking technologies help organizations stay a step ahead of the competition?
Mansour Karam: In a post-COVID world, advanced networking technologies are critical. With IBN, for example, operators can describe exactly what they want out of the network and the network can then continuously deliver on this intent. This automation frees up network operators to perform more crucial tasks and reduces human errors that arise during the manual operation of a network. Deploying advanced technologies helps organizations run more efficiently and simplifies their operations.
We’re now seeing just how critical digital transformation is to an organization’s success. And having a fully automated network that can readily adapt to new business needs is a prerequisite for digital transformation. Solutions like advanced networking technologies absolutely allow organizations to differentiate from their competitors by enabling them to fully embrace digital transformation.
TCMO Bureau: How is automation changing the data center industry? Can it help reduce complexity for customers?
Mansour Karam: Modern, state-of-the-art automation, such as IBN, automates the entire life cycle of your network services — from day zero to day one, day two and beyond. Not only does this technology allow you to configure the various aspects of your network, but it also continuously collects telemetry and validates that the network is behaving as it should be — that is, it ensures the network is delivering on your intent. Hence, the name: intent-based networking.
IBN is a powerful technology that delivers significant value to the customer and those that deploy it. In terms of the benefits IBN provides, we’ve seen an 83% reduction in operational expenses and a 70% improvement in mean time to repair. And we’ve also seen up to 99% improvement in agility, meaning a task that originally took weeks could take just a few minutes to implement with IBN.
TCMO Bureau: What is experience-first networking? How can it help businesses consistently deliver excellent customer experience, especially in the 5G and multi-cloud services landscape?
Mansour Karam: When we talk about experience-first networking, we’re talking about the experiences of two different personas: the operator and the end user.
Historically, network operators have run massive networks using predominantly manual processes. When they needed to change or upgrade their networks, they constantly worried that the changes or updates would cause a devastating outage. Manual upgrades, and the resulting network troubleshooting, take so much time that operators often spend long evenings at work, missing out on family time.
Outages can be devastating for businesses and operators. So, operators have struggled with this trade-off where on the one hand, they need to perform their jobs quickly to meet business demands, but on the other hand, they need to perform them reliably to avoid outages. Advanced networking technologies, however, automatically ensure that planned changes don’t impact reliability. When problems do occur, these technologies reduce the mean time it takes to repair a network, vastly improving the experience for the operator. Operators can use their freed-up time to spend with their families or on more strategic initiatives for their organizations, rather than just the day-to-day fire drill of making sure the network is up and running.
From the end user’s perspective, we must look to the applications that run on the network. If you have a network that’s working well and delivering on the intent set by the operator, then the applications on that network will provide a positive experience for the end user.
Mansour Karam is an entrepreneur and executive with a passion and successful track record for building high-tech infrastructure companies from the ground up. As Founder and President of Apstra, Mansour leads the company’s culture and business, focuses on strategic business initiatives, and runs day-to-day operations.
Prior to Apstra, Mansour was an early recruit at several startups and led critical efforts in various functions: engineering, product management, business development, and sales.