The network must be automated. And Light Reading must write about it.

Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

July 21, 2017

3 Min Read
NFV, SDN, Big Data – It's All About Automation

We're surrounded by disruption. Telecom, data centers, networking in general -- everything in the Light Reading universe seems on the verge of major changes that are still taking shape.It's our job to guide readers through the maze. And we think we've found one word to encapsulate a lot of what's going on: automation.We've even made "Automation" a category on Light Reading. It's got its own news page just like 5G does. You'll find it here.Automation is the next step after virtualization. Virtualization was about turning functions into software. Those functions can then be housed almost anywhere on plain old servers. Carriers' data centers become one vast bank of processors where network functions blink into and out of existence all the time.But this won't work if we have to wait for human intervention. The network must be automated.This isn't a new concept. But in our stories, as we dig into the minutiae of NFV and survey the hundreds of services available on public clouds, we sometimes lose sight of the endgame. It's time to recognize the big picture and call out automation as the driving force behind many technology initiatives. That includes:Software-defined networking (SDN). In a sense, automation has long been the thesis here. SDN started out as a way to apply different types of routing to a small network -- specifically the Stanford University network, if you want to go way back to the beginning. By the time SDN went commercial, we were talking about a network intelligently reconfiguring its switches to respond to traffic conditions. What's more "automation" than that?Network functions virtualization (NFV). This is the big one. NFV has become a story about automation -- about using cloud-like technologies to bring network functions into being on an as-needed basis. It's also about moving those functions as necessary, due to fiber cuts, traffic congestion or plain old economics.Artificial intelligence and machine learning. This one's fuzzier, because AI can be used to "automate" anything. The AI stories in our automation bucket will gravitate toward network-centric tasks such as provisioning, configuration and the feedback loop of telemetry. Not as glamorous as helping spinal patients walk, but still potentially world-changing for telcos.Big data. Speaking of telemetry. Automation doesn't work unless a carrier builds that now-famous feedback loop, tapping the network to find out what's working and what isn't. I've spoken recently to CenturyLink, where they consider big data to be a necessary early step toward automation. That means creating a distributed data lake so that a global orchestrator can grab information about any part of the network at any time. Big data is the legwork behind orchestration, so we intend to keep an eye on how carriers use this technology.That's the foundation. I expect our automation focus to widen over time to include pieces of security and IoT. Eventually, automation will become so ubiquitous that the "automation" keyword will be redundant.Of course, we'll continue covering the other major topics around telecom and networking, such as 5G, smart cities and the impact of the public cloud. We'll continue to draw from sister sites Enterprise Cloud News and Security Now to keep abreast of major advancements in communications. And as we cover this "automation" stuff, we won't lose sight of the potential impact on jobs.These are all pieces of one very complex puzzle. I've described how we see it through the Light Reading lens. I'd love to hear what other points of view might be out there.— Craig Matsumoto, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Craig Matsumoto

Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Yes, THAT Craig Matsumoto – who used to be at Light Reading from 2002 until 2013 and then went away and did other stuff and now HE'S BACK! As Editor-in-Chief. Go Craig!!

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