This article originally appeared on Dataversity
Are we at a watershed moment for network automation?
COVID-19 has pushed a significant number of consumers and businesses into a digital-first, connectivity-centric ecosystem beyond anything we’ve seen before. The pandemic has made it clear we can’t afford gaps and broken areas within our network infrastructure that were previously being addressed with “human glue,” or dealt with as checkmarks on a maintenance roadmap.
More than ever, ongoing dependence on time-consuming manual activities and long lead-time break-fix activities raise a far higher risk of disjointed experiences, missed growth opportunities and widespread outages.
To keep up with the pace of technology set during this time, an evolution must take place to deliver uninterrupted experiences continuously. Here are three areas where automation will be critical to this journey.
Preparing for the move to cloud and AI
Even before COVID-19, automation was a critical transformation area for service providers to save costs. But we’re beyond that now, and the urgency to automate is even more acute to keep up with revised expectations from consumers and businesses.
For instance, according to our recent research, 30 percent of surveyed U.S. consumers experienced remote work for the first time during the lockdown, while 20 percent tried remote learning for the first time. Further, 21 percent of consumers said they will continue using eHealth services after being introduced to them during the pandemic. Automation will be important to keep pace.
As communications technology dependency deepens and demands for new experiences grow, flexible cloud and AI-based networks will be needed to automate service delivery with a focus on continuous learning, development and management across every aspect of the business. To stay one step ahead, organizations will have no choice but to implement automation, with a focus on making ongoing improvements to networks and IT operations.
Managing increasingly complex 5G networks
While 5G rollout has temporarily slowed over the past few months, the rise in virtual experiences highlights the need for more dynamic 5G and progressive Wi-Fi adoption worldwide. When service providers can bring their focus back to 5G rollouts, there will be increased consumer demand for services, connectivity and innovative new devices.
Yet the size and complexity of 5G networks are far beyond those of 4G. Add to this IoT devices in areas like healthcare, manufacturing, connected cities and agriculture, and you have a potential mess on your hands. For service providers, automation will be critical for managing the size, complexity and cost-effectiveness of 5G networks, while also creating the agility to keep up with future services. It can also be used to keep 4G networks running properly while focusing full attention on the 5G network rollout.
Allocating network resources on demand
With network automation, service providers will be in a better position to handle the variability of device and end-user demands, with the ability to not only scale up or down capacity instantly, but also drive more efficiencies overall. This becomes critical in moments such as now, where a downed network can cost precious minutes during a medical emergency.
As more devices and users battle for connectivity, 5G network slicing will also be a critical part of this discussion. That’s because it ensures each service is allocated the capacity and resources it needs, while essential services are prioritized to meet expected performance. Adoption of network slicing creates a wide array of service orchestration and management complexities that automation can help make sense of.
As new technologies roll out, service providers can’t continue to manage the network in the same way they used to. Things are growing too fast and becoming too complicated to keep pace in this new landscape without deep and broad network automation. Service providers must therefore put far-reaching automation strategies in place now before technology’s demands outpace what the business can handle. Otherwise, our future networks will not be able to fulfill their critical mission of creating a better connected world.