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The self-driving car has been a sci-fi staple for years. It would rock up when you need it, you’d tell it where you want to go and what time you have to be there and it would just get you there, by land, sea or air! 

automation orchestration autonomy


And as we know, technology doesn’t sit still! We are now closer than ever to the reality of autonomous vehicles. Remote control has been available for some time - think of the drones that take photos, drop bombs, or light up the skies when fireworks just aren’t practical. And thanks to advances in electric vehicles, sensor and materials technologies, it won’t be long before we’re being chauffeured by the latest Apple, Tesla, or Google car! 

Imagine a world where once you’ve decided where you want to go and by what time you want to be there, your vehicle will:

  • Calculate the best route to take, including external factors like weather, roadworks etc.
  • Pick you up at a prescribed time at your front door.
  • Manoeuvre you along your route, controlling your speed and direction.
  • Monitor road conditions and unexpected events.
  • Track every movement of every other road user and pedestrian along the way.
  • Make small adjustments to immediate behaviour, and altering route based on larger scale issues.


sketch



It would certainly make getting from A to B a lot simpler for us as individuals, and we would have so much extra time to focus on more interesting things than the bumper of the car in front in that traffic jam!

Of course, the cars themselves would be even more complex under the hood, so technicians and mechanics would still be in demand, and the car designers of the future would have to consider the software that presents the car as a service to the passenger – so we’re not talking about automating away the skilled jobs, just improving the quality of experience of the user.

Which all sounds very much to me like what we are trying to do in IT. User requirements are not getting any less complex – so we still need complex network solutions to fulfil them. But there is a strong desire to simplify consumption of network services to save time and energy for users and for the network operations folks.  Hence the push for automation and self-service orchestration.

So, what does a Self-Driving Network look like?

You might want to:

  • Tell the network that you want an app service to be spun up for a certain group of users only.
  • Know when the service is ready to be used.
  • Ensure that all network elements – LAN (Local Area Network), SD-WAN, Cloud, Security etc – are automatically configured to a template
  • Track that the service is available and network paths are redundant.
  • Gather telemetry data about application performance and network device behaviour.
  • Detect drift from the stated service intent across all network domains and trigger config adjustments to fix it


app sketch



This dream of the future might also be a lot closer than we realise. Network automation, service orchestration and the Intent-Based Network (as described in the IRTF draft https://datatracker.ietf.org/doc/draft-irtf-nmrg-ibn-concepts-definitions/) are milestones along the road to self-driving networks. 

The one thing you need to support you along this journey from the very beginning is data.  From having a complete view of the starting point to having a validated source of truth for network automation. From the assurance that orchestrated change is having the desired effect, to detecting the drift of your network from the intent you have expressed in your Intent-Based Network. IP Fabric’s Network Assurance platform provides you with both the data and the context for that data.

To find out more, download our new white paper “The Road to Self-Driving Networks”

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