“It’s time to rethink network design and operation”

The question of the network today is of paramount importance in the activities of companies. How did this “poor relative” of IS acquire this new status?

I leave you the parentage of this term “poor relative”… Networks have always been the backbone of IT, but it is true that historically and until recently it has been very difficult for them to free themselves from a lot of complexity.

Any large-scale business transformation project results in new services, new connected objects and new functionality that should best serve the business goals or operational goals of companies. To guarantee this level of service, we gradually complicated the infrastructures, piling up layers, both hardware and software, more or less heterogeneous and most often forgetting to guarantee consistency between these building blocks.

As a result, information systems have gradually evolved into layered application sheets that include specific protocols, specific security rules, and significant functional limitations. The network commands must guarantee the proper functioning of the whole!

This observation is not new, but it has become even more complicated with the massive and sudden turn to remote work: within a few months, these information systems, reminiscent of the Towers of Babel, should have opened up to remote users and many new opportunities. use cases, protecting against exponentially growing cyber threats. We’re measuring here the incredible challenge this presents for IT teams to ensure business continuity for hybrid organizations while maintaining information security…

However, it is believed that the pandemic has served as a catalyst for innovation in the company…

To be sure, we have made phenomenal progress in terms of digital transformation and technological acceleration over the past few months. But we can no longer manage these myriad services and applications with design and network management from another era, much less with teams that remain small for the most part.

To cope with changing IT needs and maintain control over increasingly complex environments, you need to go through a phase of automation. Indeed, the application of domestic politics can no longer rely solely on the human element, however limited it may be. It is time to rethink the design and operation of networks to ensure proper functioning, resilience and overall security.

How to approach this project?

Of course, it’s out of the question to make big headway in such critical resources. Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise’s vision is to abstract from the physical dimension of infrastructure and think in terms of identity. At any time, I must be able to know which person or entity is connecting, by what means and from which location, and assign them the right privilege level to allow them to carry out their missions without compromising the security of the IP. In other words, set up policies and rules regardless of the environment (LAN or WLAN) and, above all, apply them to this identifier throughout my network.

This can seem like a big task, especially when it comes to large networks or companies operating in sensitive environments… How do you manage hundreds or even thousands of identities and use cases?

This approach cannot be announced or implemented at the snap of a finger. As with any structured IT project, this is about a medium to long term roadmap. The challenge is not to impose pre-established rules, but to continue the analysis of usage: what are the needs?

What are the real issues for my end users? It is necessary to identify recurring problems of users, IT services and classify by business, because the needs are different. We are talking here about progressive mapping based on observations: every time a new abnormal case occurs, my network will be able to create a new rule, precisely adapted to the needs and tasks of this category of users – tomorrow we want to automate all this. learning by integrating AI and machine learning.

In this way, over time, my network will dynamically adapt to field use cases and gain capillarity, accuracy, and therefore relevance, to offer a level of performance and security that is ideally suited to my goals.

In short, the shape of the human growth network. But how, then, to manage the many special cases that will not fail to see the light of day?

Of course, it’s out of the question to configure each of these use cases individually; And this is where automation comes in. The challenge is to put people where they are most valuable.

In other words, not in a static and reactive configuration of network policies, which no longer makes sense in today’s world of hypermobility of resources and increasingly dynamic business contexts, but in testing scenarios proposed in the field. This is a form of change for the systems and network engineer profession and should be based on the ability to transform unstructured data into business rules and then into network rules.

At Alcatel-Lucent Enterprise, we focus on converged networks and real-time unified communications tools. Our Rainbow communication and collaboration platform will create that middle ground between networked automation and decision making. In their usual chat/audio/video communications interface, IT decision makers will receive relevant network or IoT data, business application data, and multimedia for quick decision making.

Therefore, we are also talking about IT automation and the ability to set up predictive maintenance mechanisms with intelligent bots capable of detecting the risk of incidents in upstream networks, collating IoT type information to better understand the context of an incident and therefore to resolve it faster and more efficiently.

Finally, Rainbow may offer, in clear terms, an affirmation or renunciation of each new identifier/privilege pair. Thus, network administrators can rely on a fully automated tool to implement permanent configurations of their IS and focus all their energy on properly allocating resources to business priorities.

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