The world has been steadily and increasingly dependent on automated systems for just about everything. These days, the mundane tasks of the administration of enterprise networks have been left to automated systems.
Uplogix, one of the worlds most relied on and trusted automated network administrative systems has been at the leading edge of keeping things running for the critical network infrastructure of organizations such as the United States Army, the Social Security Administration (SSA), Merck, the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), the Brooklyn Hospital Center and a host of others.
We reached out to Lisa Frankovitch, the Uplogix CEO to ask questions about the use of artificial intelligence on enterprise networks. Here is what she had to say.
How effective have artificial intelligence systems been when it comes to troubleshooting network issues?
A study by the Uptime Institute determined that 70% of data center downtime comes from human error. People make mistakes and take shortcuts; they have busy workloads and can’t always focus on one task at a time.
Adding an intelligent automation platform to the mix can remove routine troubleshooting and network management tasks from the plate of overworked network admins.
This frees up time to focus on more challenging problems as well as innovating new solutions and more resilient networks.
Please, can you tell us more about Uplogix’ artificially intelligent products and systems?
Uplogix is like a virtual network admin deployed in the rack with and connected directly to network infrastructure like routers, switches, firewalls, etc. over the same connection that a human network admin would use to manage the devices.
The difference is that Uplogix is always connected and always monitoring for issues, then can take automated remediation steps, often solving issues before they are even reported by users.
Finally, Uplogix provides a secondary link to manage gear remotely if the network is down. This out-of-band connection ensures that admins can always reach their gear without having to roll a truck to a remote office or data center.
Please, can you give us numbers on declining productivity for human network administrators? What steps do you think can be taken to improve the situation?
It’s less about declining productivity and more about increasing demands on network admins. Networks are getting more complicated with technologies like SD-WAN while they are also growing even more mission critical to the enterprise.
With employees split between working at home and starting to come back to the office, and more of the work we all do every day going over the network, the network has to support the needs of the business. This puts pressure on the network managers to find ways to do more with the same team.
In fact, according to Gartner, 53% of CIO’s intend to implement automation solutions to achieve cost-optimization. One way to accomplish this is through smarter platforms like Uplogix that let them offload routine tasks with the confidence of having an out-of-band link to reach their gear if needed.
What are the risks that exist with having artificially intelligent systems on enterprise networks? How can such risks be mitigated?
Networks are designed to reduce risk by isolating traffic. AI systems at work in enterprise networks are primarily analyzing traffic and adapting the network to meet demands.
In the event of this breaking down, having an out-of-band platform like Uplogix ensures that you can “see” exactly where issues are and get to your network infrastructure even when the network is down or degraded.
How have artificially intelligent systems on enterprise networks fared during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During the pandemic, the features Uplogix provides for managing remote networking gear have been more valuable than ever. With network teams working from home and travel severely limited, our customers have been able to continue to manage their networks as if they were onsite.
One example that’s particularly cogent would be The Brooklyn Hospital. When the pandemic was growing more severe and vital supplies like PPE were in high demand, the network team was able to use Uplogix to avoid having to gown up and go into Covid wards.
They could remotely manage network gear that was critical for electronic medical records and communications that have a direct impact on patient care.
Many naysayers think it’s still too early to implement artificially intelligent systems on an enterprise scale. Others think the A. I explosion will birth a “judgment day” scenario like has been seen in Hollywood blockbusters such as The Terminator series. What are your thoughts on this?
We’ve found the key to implementing automation on an enterprise scale is that you have to provide customers with the ability to choose their own thresholds and support them as they move along the automation adoption curve.
It’s not about turning on Skynet on Day 1 and hoping for the best. Security, customization, ease of use and strong product support are essential for enterprise scale deployments.
How do you think artificially intelligent systems can improve human existence?
A basic application of intelligent systems is to automate routine tasks. Humans get bored easily and naturally look to simplify boring tasks.
Often this means skipping steps, sometimes to the detriment of things like security. In networking, examples of routine tasks that Uplogix automates range from logging out of a terminal session on a device to ALWAYS saving a backup before making configuration changes.
Both are simple steps, but easy for an admin to skip as they move on to their next task.
How has the year been so far for Uplogix?
Incredibly busy. Like other companies, we moved to a work-from-home model for all but a few core onsite employees.
Demand for our product has increased as IT groups have been called to provide all of the same user experiences as well as support remote workers.
We’ve rolled out new software versions and new hardware with our fifth generation Uplogix LM83X and LM80 devices.
What’s the next big thing for Uplogix?
We’ll continue expanding our deployments with some of our larger customers and growing our customer base. As far as product advancements, we’re very focused on continued innovation and you’ll have to check our website at Uplogix.com!
How do you think A.I systems can help in I.T management?
Closed loop systems like Uplogix offer the ability to gather information continuously and then apply it to problem solving. IT groups use what’s called a Runbook to troubleshoot network issues. It’s a process of increasingly disruptive recovery steps.
A closed loop system can apply these same responses with the data it’s already gathering, both binary up/down data as well as trending data showing changes over time.
This type of data enables more proactive decision making so solve problems or avoid problems before they become disruptive to business.
What are your thoughts on the explosion of smart systems across many fields?
Smart systems are the answer for removing routine tasks from humans. The keys are that they are only as good as the data that smart systems base their decisions on and that for situations outside of the scope of a smart system, the handoff to a human operator is seamless.
For example, with Uplogix data is gathered directly by our devices that deploy in the rack with the network gear being managed. Therefore, our software “sees” the actual network situation from a first-person perspective – we’re not depending on other systems or the network itself to pass on data.
Then, for issues that are beyond our ability to automate a recovery, we’re integrated with trouble ticketing systems to hand-off the issue. For Uplogix this means showing that the initial runbook steps had already been completed, so the triage has been done.
Network admins take over knowing exactly where in the network they have a problem and can then use the out-of-band link to connect to remote gear.
It may sound like something out of a sci-fi movie, but what are the harsh realities of Cyberwarfare in the early 21st century and beyond?
There is nothing sci-fi about it. It’s real and here today. The reality is that every network can be a frontline when it comes to cyberwarfare. For Uplogix, we enable our customers to harden their networks on several fronts.
First, we integrate with their existing AAA (Authentication, Authorization and Accounting) systems, which validate that only the right people get access to the right equipment, and you can prove it.
Next, automation of routine tasks removes the tendency of humans to skip steps or move on to another task before completely finishing the first. While often these behaviors are not malicious, they can leave networks vulnerable.
Finally, taking network management to an out-of-band network removes management traffic (device monitoring and configuration changes) from the primary network.
The NSA (National Security Agency) recently put out guidelines on segmenting management traffic from operational traffic that fits with the Uplogix stance on network management.
When management traffic only comes from the out-of-band path, compromised user devices or malicious network traffic is prevented from impacting network operations and compromising network infrastructure.
What products and systems can Uplogix deploy to help forestall scenarios such as the recent ransom attack on oil pipelines in the United States?
I don’t think there is enough public information to know specifics about the ransomware attacks, but network security is a collection of systems.
Out-of-band management like Uplogix can play an important part, especially in hybrid networks like a pipeline or other industrial environment.
These operations tend to move data from SCADA, or industrial networks that connect the sensors, motors, and more of machinery to an IP network to transport data to data and operations centers.
Uplogix connects to devices at the console port level, which is where a technician would connect a laptop to make configuration changes or engage in troubleshooting. Uplogix is able to connect to and manage both SCADA and IP network devices, bringing a single management view of gear across the enterprise.
Another aspect of responding to attacks is how fast you can react. In a network hack, from even before the moment you become aware that something is wrong, a clock has been ticking. The first need is to minimize the scope of the hack by locking down impacted or potentially impacted network functions.
Uplogix can store network devices configurations for a “safe mode” that limits functionality to effectively quarantine sections of your network. With Uplogix you can push a config to one device, or thousands deployed across your network from the network operations center. Think of it as a panic button.
As the scope of the breach becomes clearer, Uplogix can push additional configurations to bring unaffected services and locations back up across your network, ensuring the fastest return to normal possible. Network resiliency is defined not just by how unlikely your network is to get hacked, but maybe even more importantly, how quickly you can recover.
Is it likely that we shall see more of these large-scale hacks into enterprise systems?
Almost without a doubt. It’s up to everyone in IT to keep up with patches and innovations on a daily basis to try to avoid their organization being the next headline.
What are your thoughts on the regulation of artificially intelligent systems?
I think it’s too early to tell and society will have to continuously evaluate technology as systems mature.
Where do you see Uplogix in the next decade?
We’ll continue to innovate and expand. We’ve been rapidly growing our engineering and sales teams and look forward to more happy customers. The need for automation in network management isn’t going to subside as networks continue to be the backbone of all businesses.
Do you have any secrets you want to tell us? Care to spill the beans?
Then they wouldn’t be secrets anymore. 🙂