It’s that time of year again – the weather’s getting colder (well, in some parts) and pundits are racking their brains to come up with predictions for what trends we’ll to see as we start the new year.
As we enter 2022, we asked our own resident thought leaders here at Juniper Networks for their thoughts on what to expect in the industry this year. We assembled a mini-panel featuring Patrick MeLampy, Juniper Fellow; Mike Baj, VP of Engineering; Sujai Hajela, SVP, AI-Driven Enterprise; Kevin Klett, Senior Director of Product Management; and Jeff Aaron, VP of Enterprise Marketing. Throughout the conversation, a few key themes resonated that we’ll share in this blog.
The importance of building and managing networks to focus on the user experience was a key theme oft-repeated by our guests. This year, we can expect increased understanding of how important the user experience is to the definition of network success. Users remember when their network goes down, or when there are service lags that affect their video calls, for example.
Sujai Hajela echoed this, adding that, “…we’ve already seen it [user experience] gain such great traction, and as more come to realize what they’re really judged on – how strong the experience is for the end-user – they will re-focus their activities to maximize that experience.”
But experience doesn’t just refer to the end-user experience exclusively, according to our experts. Just as important is considering the experience of those managing and servicing the networks. Network success can, and should, also be defined as making their experience a better one. Mundane tasks should be automated or eliminated, upgrades and maintenance should be made easier and the team should be able to lessen the time it takes them to identify and solve problems.
Those are the hallmarks of an experience-first network – improving how both end-users and the network managers interact with the network at all levels. “Juniper is leading the industry in providing the technology that enables companies to put the experience first,” added Sujai.
The Use of AI to Improve Network Management
Naturally growing out of this topic were the ways that network management is being improved with new, innovative technologies and approaches – and how those innovations will really take hold through 2022. Mike Baj described the situation as one where automation will play a bigger role in the long run: “…while there will always be a place for seasoned network veterans to solve the hardest networking problems, typical tier one to level three support will be handled by machines more and more as the years go on. We see this happening in other industries already, and networking is next, as the pressure put on the industry to drive down costs is never ending.”
That pressure to drive down costs and time-to-repair – and thus, improve network management – led to another topic, namely the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) to assist with network management. Juniper’s WAN Assurance solution has led the way by applying AI to identify network problems and help teams solve them, often before users even know there’s an issue. Mike likens this process to the way “…a chatbot (really, an AI with a NLP interface) can solve issues with your phone or internet service…AI will change the face of networking – and I’m happy to say that we here at Juniper are leading the charge.”
Convergence Drives Benefits for MSPs – and the Industry
Our experts also discussed the effect that network convergence will have on the industry. There has been continued growth in the adoption of SD-WAN, and, as Kevin Klett mentioned, “…as it gains in adoption and the trend toward convergence continues, there will be an increased focus on implementing SASE.”
As discussed earlier, these advances will have a positive impact on the work-life of those responsible for network management. By improving the ease with which the network can be updated, secured and managed, and the ways problems can be discovered and fixed, their user experience is improved, as is that of the overall organization. Patrick MeLampy explained that “…WAN networks are all converging into simpler networks and application layer security will be cloud based in the future. In building secure WANs that are experience-based, Juniper can simplify and remove decades of complexity that was added over the years to solve problems that no longer exist. By offering a single cloud infrastructure that covers Wi-Fi, switching, SD-WAN and security functionality, Juniper will lead the way to WAN as a service for all.”
As these innovations are adopted and convergence continues, everyone agreed that managed service providers have a lot to look forward to this year. “The idea of putting LAN, WAN, WLAN and more under a common umbrella – what we here at Juniper call client-to-cloud – will continue to gain momentum,” added Jeff Aaron. “This and the increased inclusion and adoption of AI technologies will drive the industry forward.”
Patrick went on to sum up nicely what the ultimate outcome of convergence is for those responsible for managing the network. He said, “…instead of discrete products with thousands of knobs, a single, cloud-based approach is where the industry is heading and I’m happy to say that Juniper will be there first.”
At Juniper, we’ve made great strides in 2021 to align our products and services with this vision. Through the combination of convergence into more simple, easier-to-manage networks and with the addition of AI to speed time-to-repair, it’s easy to believe that 2022 will end up as the year of the user experience.