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Avoiding Automation Archipelagos with Extreme Networks

One of the most impressive automation projects I ever saw was back in the early 2000s. One of my friends built an impressive Novell DirXML integration that pulled data from a student information system and created directory logins and email accounts for every student and faculty member that joined the school district. It was amazing to watch these pieces of the puzzle fly about their business and make everything look like magic.

That’s not to say the solution was perfect. Every exception to the rules that were created required hours of troubleshooting. Every input had to be perfect or something would go catastrophicly wrong. And there were still systems that couldn’t interface with DirXML for one reason or another. Those required even more time for manual input of data to make everything sync up. And constant vigilance to make sure that changes are consistent across all the data takes more time than it’s worth.

Fast forward to 2019 and automation is all the rage for networking and operations. We’ve reached the point in our lifetime where the number of devices and users on our network precludes us from being able to do anything but automate everything we can to help things run smoothly. With IoT devices being brought online on the network at an ever-increasing pace and users needing more and more customization to allow them to work from anywhere and still have the same access they would from an office desk you can see how the need to keep the basic tasks flowing properly is critical to any operations group inside your organization.

Automate To The Extreme

Recently, Extreme Networks has been upping their game in the automation department. They’ve invested heavily in machine learning and AI functions to help their Extreme Elements solution build a foundation for the automation process going forward. Take a look at this presentation from Markus Nispel from their recent Networking Field Day presentation:

You can tell right away from this discussion that Extreme knows how to build AI and ML systems. But what does that mean for your network and your environment? It means that they have the smarts to build an automation platform to enable you to serve your clients, whether they be your users or your systems.

Take Extreme Workflow Composer for example. This solution allows you to build out an automation strategy that not only allows you to slowly phase in automation in the areas where it is most effective, but to also to make that automation initiative work across multiple vendor devices in your network.

This is the key that most automation solutions aren’t addressing. When you automate a vendor system or group of similar vendor systems, you’ve created an automation island. Those islands are great at working inside their own little areas. But what happens when something has to talk to another island in your chain? What happens when you have to access data outside of your automation paradise?

That’s where you start to see the archipelago take shape. You have a lot of little automation islands and no real way to get between them without serious effort. And that’s why most automation initiatives start breaking down over time. Because you still need to access the data outside your island. You can’t just automate in a vacuum.

With Extreme’s knowledge with both Workflow Composer and the larger Extreme Elements initiatives, they’re making sure these automation archipelagos don’t get created in the first place. By giving you the tools to do proper automation in the network and then extend that automation across the islands they’re making sure that everything runs smoothly for everyone and that a minimum of manual tuning is needed to bring new systems online.

That’s part of the real value of this overarching support for AI and ML in automation. Because the system is always learning and getting smarter as time goes on it can help you see inefficiencies and get better when it sees new challenges like different kinds of IoT devices or different user behaviors. It can adapt and change over time as your environment does. So you’re not stuck in the dark ages of automation hoping everything doesn’t break this time.

Bringing It All Together

When you look at automation in 2019, you can’t just look at it as a single island. Much like the earlier example that I saw in Novell DirXML, you can only automate so much before you hit a wall. That means you need to build bridges between those islands using better technology. Extreme Networks is doing just that with their initiatives in Extreme Elements and ML and AI offerings. I can’t wait to see how this all comes together down the road.

For more information about Extreme Networks and their newest announcements, check out http://ExtremeNetworks.com

About the author

Tom Hollingsworth

Tom Hollingsworth is a networking professional, blogger, and speaker on advanced technology topics. He is also an organizer for networking and wireless for Tech Field Day.  His blog can be found at https://networkingnerd.net/

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