Network Expert Randy Cross Shares Why Automation and AI/ML Are Opening Doors Within IT

Stephanie Rodriguez Co-Op, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 11 Mar 2019

“Beyond just automation, we’re moving towards more artificial intelligence in networking. When you have intelligent automation of the network and infrastructure, we really start to break into a more innovative place than we’ve been in decades within the industry.” – Randy Cross, Vice President of Systems Engineering, Extreme Networks

Meet the Expert – Randy Cross at Extreme Connect 2019

You may know Randy Cross as the leader of Extreme’s Americas Systems Engineering team, educating field teams and end users on the latest networking technology best practices. But, with over 20+ years of experience working in various functions of networking across numerous verticals, Randy is a true networking expert.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Randy to discuss where networking is heading and what he is looking forward to most about our upcoming user conference, Extreme Connect 2019. Here’s a glimpse of our Q&A:

Question #1: Can you tell us a little about your background in networking?

Randy: I started networking right out of college, and after starting in the network operations center and quickly moving into a technical assistant at Sprint; I realized I wanted to be on the vendor side of the house.  So, I moved into systems engineering.

I’ve been fortunate enough to work across industries such as federal, enterprise, service provider, and commercial. I’ve seen all different types of networks, and different kinds of technologies ranging from transitions to voice and working with MPLS and video – it’s been an interesting adventure.

Prior to my current role in overseeing systems engineer’s in the Americas, I spent six years running product management at Avaya. So, I am particularly familiar with the Shortest-Path Bridging solution Fabric Connect.

Question #2: What future technology and trends should we be on the lookout for when it comes to the network?

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Randy:  For the past few years, we’ve talked a lot about automation. Automation is starting to take hold. It’s essential to have a consistent deployment, especially as we look at things like IoT, security, and the scale required to maintain the network because it’s taking longer to do things manually.  

Beyond automation, we’re moving towards more artificial intelligence in networking. When you have intelligent automation of the network and infrastructure, we really start to break into a more innovative place than we’ve been in decades within the industry.

As we start to see things like machine learning and artificial intelligence come into play, we start to tie those things in with the analytics and automation capabilities we already have. Then the network itself goes far beyond just being easy, elastic, or even intent-based. The network almost becomes its own autonomous entity.  

Question #3: What are some benefits of Extreme Fabric Connect for those that might not know?

Randy: Fabric Connect, our campus fabric offering, is centered around two main points: simplicity and security.

Simplicity is essential for any network. Minimizing the points within the network and streamlining as much of the day-to-day operations as possible is crucial. Fabric Connect eliminates complex design constraints from the past, and maintenance windows can also be eliminated or drastically shortened because there is no need to touch any of the core or aggregation nodes.

Network security is probably the biggest thing on anyone’s mind these days. The ability to stop lateral movement is something that’s the difference between just having a security incident and having one that makes the front-page news. You don’t want an incident to become something bigger than just a run of the mill breach that you were able to find, isolate, and deal with. Fabric Connect is inherently secure and elastic and has stealth networking and hypersegmentation capabilities. Fabric Connect is so secure, it’s never been hacked despite multiple hackathons and a $10,000 prize offered at Extreme Connect each year.    

Question #4: What are you most excited for with Extreme Connect 2019 and what do you hope attendees will take away?

Randy: Last year’s user conference was a huge success with a great turnout; it was extremely impressive for our first conference. However, this year is different because we’re upping the ante. As a company, we will be introducing customers to brand new and exciting technologies. Believe me when I say, “Something big is coming.”

I hope attendees will walk away from Connect with the sense that not only does Extreme have a significant presence in the networking industry, but we’re constantly innovating and improving our offerings. We’re pushing the ball forward and doing things that are unique and pointed at addressing end-users’ businesses. It comes from the input we get back from them and the problems that they bring to us to solve.

Question #5: You’re presenting “Simplicity, Automation, and Optimization. Understanding Fabric Connect and Distributed Virtual Routing,” at Extreme Connect. Why should attendees add this session to their schedules?

Randy: This session is for those that are newer to the solution or that are looking for more information on what it’s about. It’s not going to be a technical deep dive, because we’ll have other courses throughout the conference that will go more in-depth into the technology. This session is going to be an overview of actual use cases across industries that are using this technology in their day to day life. We’re trying to focus more on the practical side of the technology rather than the technical.

Who said networking wasn’t easy?  Join Randy Cross, at Extreme Connect 2019 to learn how your network can become simple, automated, and optimized with Fabric Connect.  

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