Enterprise networks can learn from mimicking naturally resilient systems

Mimicking naturally resilient systems is the key to ending this reactive and repetitive cycle. The question is, what system should you mimic, says Mena Migally, senior director, MENA at Riverbed and offers his perspective on how to achieve this

Riverbed, SD-WAN

Today, most large enterprise networks are not only global but extremely complex. Their growth over time results in the introduction of a broad range of communication equipment, software and hardware platforms. Consequently, it can be incredibly challenging for the IT team to identify, resolve and future proof against issues in the network using traditional methods. Currently, in the event of an outage, IT teams are rushed to pinpoint the cause and resolve the issue within the network and application infrastructure to try and prevent it happening again. However, in spite of their efforts, another outage will inevitably occur because they’re fire fighting specific issues rather than preventing outages universally. The good news is, there is a way to break this broken cycle.

Mimicking naturally resilient systems is the key to ending this reactive and repetitive cycle. The question is, what system should you mimic. What follows is my perspective on how to achieve this.

Learning from the human body

A lot can be learned from the human body about protection and resilience. It has built-in redundancy and the ability to adjust in order to maximise the chances of survival. For instance, when submerged in cold water the body will selectively shut down to conserve energy for survival — a natural low latency queue which allows the most important things to be prioritised.

Similarly, a simple injection provides our immune system with the ability to fight future infection. From 1950-1968, 2,176 people died from measles according to the Office for National Statistics. Upon the introduction of a vaccine in 1968, Public Health England has estimated 20 million measles cases and 4,500 mortalities have been prevented. If IT infrastructure could be inoculated in the same way it might still experience the first outage but future issues would have far less of an effect.

Crossing SD-WAN with emerging technologies

Software-defined wide-area networks (SD-WAN) have the ability to learn and evolve based on the information they receive. In this way, they have the potential to mirror the human body’s capacity to identify issues and resolve them before the whole body is affected. However, SD-WAN has to be crossed with other emerging technologies, such as cloud, artificial intelligence and machine learning, if it’s to become a truly resilient, organic network.

For instance, by combining SD-WAN with automation, operators will be able to develop built-in monitoring which will enable IT to replicate the bodies’ response to infection and immunisation. At present, bolt-on monitoring within the network is far more prevalent. This approach involves implementing troubleshooting tools once an issue has already arisen which monitor for the recurrence of the same problem, at which point IT have a chance to pinpoint and fix it. Built-in, automated digital performance monitoring on the other hand enables every computer, mobile device, network application and piece of equipment to deliver telemetry to a central command center. As a result, early signs of an issue can be identified before it develops into a significant problem — much in the same way that blood clots to limit blood loss in response to a cut.

Organic networks are within our grasp

Technology is often viewed as the antithesis of nature. However, the paradigms offered by the natural world can present inspiration for solving problems in the technological sphere. By learning from the human bodies’, built-in redundancy and our ability to develop immunisations we’re creeping closer to the possibility of an organic network. Consequently, in the near future, operations professionals faced with an outage and questioned on how they’ll prevent another could simply explain the network has been inoculated against similar future threats. A revolutionary prospect.

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