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Adopting AIOps in Network Management: Essential for Modern IT Leaders
Mon, 19th Feb 2024

We live in an era where digital transformation drives business strategy, and the resulting complexity of network systems has escalated beyond the manageable scope of manual troubleshooting. The integration of remote work, cloud computing, IoT devices, and digital services has blurred traditional network boundaries, creating a labyrinth of interdependencies that challenge even the most seasoned IT teams. For IT decision-makers, user experience (UX) – a multifaceted criterion deeply entwined with network performance and reliability – has become the pivotal metric of success.

Real-World Challenges in Network Management
Imagine you’re a school network administrator, and you’ve just received an urgent report from a teacher that the network froze during a lesson, disrupting the class, only to recover by itself after 15 minutes. The teacher managed without the digital tools but wants to prevent future disruptions. 

The cause? It could be anything from cabling problems to a device needing an update, signal interference, or an overloaded access point. Or perhaps the issue isn’t in the network at all, but further up the stack at the application level or somewhere else in the complex infrastructure which runs it. 

With so many complex systems interacting, despite the best efforts spent troubleshooting, finding the exact cause and ensuring a fix is not guaranteed.

The Rising Complexity and the Imperative for Advanced Tools
The complexity of network environments has skyrocketed, driven by the adoption of hybrid working models, digitally enhanced learning, and telehealth care, to name but a few. Modern network environments characterised by their vastness and complexity, along with the proliferation of digital technologies and services, have not only expanded the operational perimeter but also intensified the volume and types of data that IT teams must navigate. This underscores a critical truth: the manual processes and conventional tools that once anchored IT operations are now increasingly untenable in the face of growing complexity and rising user expectations.

User Experience as the North Star
In this digital-first landscape, UX emerges as the ultimate measure of IT efficacy. However, achieving excellence in user experience is a complex task since it spans the entire IT operations spectrum. While important, traditional metrics such as uptime, latency, and error rates only offer a fragmented view of the network’s health. The journey from an end user to an application is highly dynamic and crosses organisational and technological boundaries. To view a complete picture of that experience, one must ingest and process a tremendous amount of data in real-time.

IT leaders must now consider adopting a holistic approach that transcends siloed measurements, integrating them into a cohesive dashboard that mirrors the reality of end-user experience.

The Role of AIOps: A Second Set of Eyes
Enter AIOps (Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations), a transformative approach that leverages AI and machine learning to automate and enhance IT operations. AIOps serves as a critical “second set of eyes,” augmenting human capabilities with AI’s power, flexibility, and scalability. This technology is not just an addition to the IT toolkit but a strategic asset enabling real-time, data-driven decision-making, predictive analytics, and proactive problem resolution.

AIOps tools excel in digesting and interpreting the deluge of data generated by modern networks, finding hidden patterns, and offering insights that would be nearly impossible for human operators in a fraction of the time. From predictive maintenance to anomaly detection and automated root cause analysis, AIOps empowers IT teams to shift from reactive firefighting to a proactive stance that prioritises uptime and performance. 

If we think back to that school teacher faced with a network outage during class, their main concerns are how quickly they can get back to work and ensure another disruption doesn’t occur. With AIOps, an IT administrator could more quickly pinpoint the cause of the issue, and predictive capabilities could identify similar anomalies in the future, ideally preventing further disruption.

Digital Twins: The Vanguard of Network Modeling
Another notable advancement in network management is the adoption of digital twins, which are virtual replicas of physical networks. Combined with AIOps, digital twins are a powerful tool for scenario planning, impact analysis, and change management. This powerful combination allows IT leaders to test and model optimisation strategies in a risk-free environment, ensuring that only the most effective changes are implemented in the real network. Digital twins also play a crucial role in root cause analysis, providing a sandbox for testing hypotheses and validating the outcomes of AI-driven insights without impacting end users. 

What’s Next for AIOps: From Reactive to Proactive IT Management
As AIOps technologies mature, their capabilities are extending beyond mere analytics and automation. The future of AIOps lies in self-healing systems and automated remediation, where AI not only identifies issues but also takes corrective action without human intervention. This evolution marks a significant shift from traditional alert-based models to one where IT operations are dynamically optimised in real-time, enhancing both the user experience and operational efficiency, reducing Mean Time to Resolution. 

Moreover, integrating AIOps with broader IT ecosystems, including edge computing environments, expands its scope and impact. This holistic integration ensures that AIOps benefits are not confined to core network operations but extend to the edges of the network, providing a more complete understanding of today’s dynamic IT environment. 

As leaders consider how to integrate AI into their operations, it is crucial to consider the role of explainability. As part of a broad ecosystem of tools and processes, any useful AI must be able to “show its work,” as its findings and recommendations may need to be shared with other vendors, system integrators, and outsourcers. When choosing AI-based tools, it’s critical to keep in mind how they will fit into IT operations as a whole. 

A Strategic Imperative for IT Leadership
For IT decision-makers, the decision to integrate AIOps into network management strategies is more than a technological upgrade; it is a strategic imperative. As networks become the backbone of digital business models, ensuring their resilience, performance, and adaptability is paramount. AIOps offers a pathway to achieve these objectives, not by replacing human expertise but by augmenting it with AI’s speed, accuracy, and scalability.

Embracing AIOps requires a mindset shift from viewing network management as a cost centre to recognising it as a competitive advantage. The insights and efficiencies gained through AIOps can drive significant improvements in user satisfaction, operational agility, and, ultimately, business outcomes. As such, IT leaders must prioritise the adoption of AIOps, ensuring their teams are equipped with the knowledge and tools to harness its full potential.

Conclusion: Preparing for the Future
Integrating AIOps into network management is not just a response to current challenges but a proactive step towards future-proofing IT operations. As networks continue to evolve, the data-driven, automated, and predictive capabilities of AIOps will become increasingly vital. For IT leaders, the journey towards AIOps adoption is both a challenge and an opportunity—a chance to redefine the role of IT within the organisation and secure a pivotal role in the digital future.