Guest Column | June 30, 2023

The Importance Of AI And Location Services To Managed SD-LAN Offerings

By Karen Falcone, Juniper Networks

GettyImages-1281389422 AI

The changing economic environment has put even more stress on Managed Service Providers (MSPs). Their enterprise customers are under pressure to make sure their networks can handle an unprecedented increase in users, devices, and cloud services. At the same time, many enterprises are looking for ways to optimize revenue-impacting operations without overwhelming their already constrained technology budgets. This contradiction can make life difficult for an unprepared MSP.

Between clients’ tightening budgets, the increased costs of materials, and the ongoing talent shortage, it is crucial for MSPs to stay one step ahead of the competition both from a technology and a cost standpoint. This means that MSPs need to constantly explore new opportunities and adapt their offerings while keeping an eye on efficiency and cost-effectiveness – a task often easier said than done.

To provide the services and capacity that enterprise customers of all sizes have come to expect, without driving budgets to unseen levels, MSPs must take a modern approach to SD-LAN (Software-Defined Local Area Network) solutions, including the integration of automation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) - driven technologies.

Embracing Modern Managed SD-LANs

Wikipedia defines SD-LANs as “a local area network (LAN) built around the principles of software-defined networking…[that] decouples control management, and data planes to enable a policy-driven architecture for wired and wireless LANs.”

Traditional LAN solutions are often static and require manual configuration, leading to inefficiencies and limitations in network management. However, with the emergence of Software-Defined Networking (SDN), MSPs can offer modern managed SD-LAN solutions that bring unprecedented flexibility, scalability, and agility to network infrastructure. By centralizing network management, MSPs can dynamically adjust network policies, optimize performance, and enhance security, leading to improved end user experiences.

Put simply, with an SD-LAN, MSPs can gain greater control of the enterprise network, down to the application layer, achieving deeper insight into the network's performance and use. This helps to streamline the network management process for an MSP, allowing visibility to inform decision making and make network performance improvements and repairs easier.

Harnessing The Potential Of Embedded AIOps

AIOps, or artificial intelligence for IT operations, refers to the use of AI technology to give networking teams the information they need to make faster, more accurate decisions about network performance and security incidents. AIOps contextualizes large volumes of data across an enterprise’s infrastructure in real time, combining it with relevant historical data to generate actionable insights.

The value of incorporating AI-driven technology into an MSP’s SD-LAN is unlimited. AI can function as an assistant to any technician, using its expansive knowledge of the network environment to answer questions, provide immediate analysis and share details on where a problem may originate - and the best repair or mitigation solution.

By embedding AIOps capabilities within managed SD-LAN solutions, MSPs can leverage advanced analytics, machine learning, and automation to identify and resolve network issues proactively. This approach enables predictive maintenance, faster problem resolution, and improved network performance, all while reducing operational costs and minimizing downtime.

AIOps also can help an MSP streamline the management (and expenses) of growing its own business. As MSPs look to expand and bring additional clients into their portfolios, they require talented staff to manage the additional clients. With the well-publicized difficulties in finding and retaining talent - and the increased costs of doing so - it is necessary to embrace AI and automation to manage growth while still providing the services clients have come to expect.

The ability to provide real-time network analysis data - and to repair problems, often before they are widely known - helps an MSP’s reputation and performance become a strong market differentiator as well.

The Significance Of Location Services

Another key area where MSPs can improve their SD-LAN offerings is the addition of location-based services. By incorporating location-based technologies, MSPs can offer enhanced services such as asset tracking (making it easy to find key assets and people with detailed location analytics), indoor navigation (wayfinding and location-based notifications), and proximity marketing. These capabilities enable businesses to optimize their operations, improve customer engagement and gain valuable insights into user behavior. 

Location-based services can be easily added on top of existing wireless services, enabling MSPs to add additional value to customers without requiring costly and time-consuming expansions and integrations. The additional knowledge on performance and usage that enterprises gain enables them to improve the end user experience, keeping customers happy and maintaining a competitive edge.

Continuous Evolution

In an era of rapid technological advancements, MSPs must constantly evolve to retain a competitive advantage. By aligning their offerings with customer needs and collaborating with dependable partners, MSPs can deliver enhanced network performance and proactive problem resolution, positioning themselves as long-term trusted partners in their customers’ digital transformation journeys.

About The Author

Karen Falcone serves as Sr. Director of Product Marketing for AI-driven SD-WAN and Service Provider as a Channel at Juniper Networks. Before this role, Karen served as Vice President of Marketing at 128 Technology, which was acquired by Juniper in 2020. Karen is enjoying her tenure at Juniper Networks, having been a member of the Unisphere Networks team acquired by Juniper in 2002. Karen holds a BA in Finance and an MBA in Marketing from Bentley University.