Blog Automation

The Autonomous Enterprise, Synergies, and Eco-System

The autonomous enterprise is not a self-contained entity. In order to make intelligent decisions, it requires data; just as human beings can only make informed decisions after processing complete data and information.

Data flows within organizations are bi-directional; the network both consumes and provides data. The more data it can consume and provide, the more autonomous it becomes.

There are many types of data feeds that can be consumed by the autonomous enterprise. The clearest example is provided by the automation framework of Extreme Workflow Composer or Extreme Management Center’s scripting engine.

Extreme Workflow Composer grows from interfaces developed by the open-source community StackStorm, and provides inputs from almost any player in the IT ecosystem, among others:

  • Cloud integrations with AWS, GCP, and Azure.
  • Firewall integrations with Checkpoint, Palo Alto and Fortinet
  • IPAM integrations with Infoblox.
  • Office tool integrations like Excel and PowerPoint or the whole office365 suite.
  • Communication tools like Twitter, Slack, etc.

What Does This Mean for the Autonomous Enterprise?

All of the above interfaces provide data to and from the autonomous network to enhance its self-sufficiency. Without them, the autonomous enterprise is just networking as usual.

The autonomous enterprise can link all its systems together to boost the productivity of employees and provide better service to customers. The only limit is the imagination of the IT administrator.

Since we mostly focus on networking let’s imagine the following cases and how they impact the efficiency of network operations.

Secure DHCP Operations

Typically, we run our user networks on DHCP, but how do we know that the user or device requesting an IP address to the DHCP server is actually allowed to do so?

The autonomous enterprise allows network and IPAM subsystems to share data so that a device receives a DHCP address only if it has previously been verified by the network security automation subsystem. Once the network has decided that the user or device is permitted to access the network, it notifies the IPAM server and authorizes the IPAM server to provide an address to the device.

Automatic Security Operations

Most of the headaches in networking and security operations come from the disparate tool-sets used to define and apply security rules.

The autonomous enterprise can connect the security subsystems in disparate environments like cloud computing, networking, firewalling, sandboxing, and more. As well as ensure they all run corresponding policies for equivalent scenarios; similar to security groups in AWS, matching firewall rules on-prem or ACLs in switches.

What’s more, is that the autonomous enterprise provides intelligent rules to automate processes. This way the application of rules can be completed on-demand based on the security context of the actual threat.

For example, imagine the sandbox detects a major threat to the network, a network lock-down policy rule (panic button) can be deployed to all systems either automatically or on-demand to secure the operation of critical systems and minimal availability of riskier subsystems. The autonomous enterprise web of connections to IT subsystems will make sure that the lock-down policy is the same in all affected subsystems.

Human – IT Interface

Let’s face it, the IT worker of the past did not behave like a regular human in many ways. They knew and understood more about technology, and as such, the stereotype of the IT nerd became widely accepted.

But that is changing in the autonomous enterprise. While IT systems become more autonomous to make the decisions that humans made in the past, the human interface is also becoming even more human.

This may be one of the last days of the dark, green phosphor CRT-like interfaces. The generation that is taking control of the IT eco-system is fully digital and hasn’t seen a text interface except in classical movies like The Matrix. The autonomous enterprise delivers in terms of human, always on interfaces.

The ability to take any data from the enterprise and funnel it into a specific interface enables automation when the interface connects IT systems. But, it also allows for always-on monitoring when one of the ends of the connection is a human using modern communication tools like Microsoft Teams, Twitter, or Slack.

We can even manage IT from the beach. We can also take more security measures than in the past since the autonomous enterprise removes all the routine decisions from the communication channel and provides the operator with only relevant data or a limited set of options that require human oversight.

The bottom line is that the autonomous enterprise strategy that Extreme Networks delivers is not targeted at removing humans from the IT operations loop, but putting humans into a more strategic role to make the tough decisions that can’t be left to the machine, while everything else is managed by the ecosystem. 

This blog was originally authored by Director of Ecosystem Solutions, Salvador Ferrer.

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