The human body is the most advanced machine that we know of. It has inbuilt mechanisms to constantly monitor its activity, detect threats such as bacteria, viruses, and pollutants, and neutralize these threats in most cases. The body also adapts based on past experiences to develop immunity for future threats. Most of these activities occur without humans being aware of it. The body can self-heal without us, the users, knowing about it. Only in rare cases is external intervention required in the form of a doctor visit or hospitalization to diagnose and act on a disease.
Do you wish wireless networks were smart enough to behave like our bodies do?
Wi-Fi Networks with Minimal Human Intervention
Autonomous networks utilize artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to optimize network performance. This is possible because machine learning, in combination with artificial intelligence, will allow for the constant processing and automation of wireless operations. It will, therefore, easily identify not just current problems but will also be proactive by indicating areas at which changes need to be made, using predictive analysis based on past and concurrently running analyses. AI/ML-powered Wi-Fi networks result in much smoother operations, therefore providing better user experiences with minimal human intervention.
Until a few years ago, all of this sounded like science fiction. The volume of data generated by a network is so huge that it was not possible to store and process this data to set up an autonomous self-healing network. However, with advances in cloud computing, Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning, the ability to store big data, increased processing power, and the availability of tools such as Hadoop/Spark, it is now possible to analyze huge volumes of data in near-real time. This has led to a host of AI/ML-based cloud offerings, one of which is Network as-a Service, or the NAAS model, for enterprise Wi-Fi.
Cloud-Based Enterprise Wi-Fi
There are several benefits to moving to a cloud-based enterprise Wi-Fi. The first and foremost advantage is the shift from the CAPEX model to the OPEX model for enterprise networks. There is no longer a need to set up and maintain network infrastructure, which is a significant cost. Enterprises can switch to a subscription-based model, which is more cost effective and can also be based on usage. Enterprises can now focus on their core business and outsource the handling of Wi-Fi to a network service provider who specializes in that domain. On top of that, setting up a cloud-based Wi-Fi network can be done fairly quickly, so initial setup and scaling is never an issue.
In addition, with an ever-increasing number and range of devices, such as Windows laptops, MacBooks, Android phones and iPhones, that connect to wireless networks, more Wi-Fi issues are being reported. It also takes longer to troubleshoot and fix Wi-Fi problems due to the diversity of connecting devices. An AI/ML-based Wi-Fi system can self-diagnose most connection issues, which significantly reduces the number of cases that require manual intervention.
With AI/ML Wi-Fi, WLAN is able to learn and communicate information proactively instead of requiring diagnoses by technicians based on symptoms (i.e., problems faced by consumers).
Even with all the benefits of AI/ML-based Wi-Fi systems, service providers are bound to face significant competition, as new business models will emerge. The traditional resellers are concerned about profit erosion from lowered sales of their high-margin equipment. However, this competition will benefit the industry on the whole, with the best managed service providers emerging as winners in the end.
The benefits of a cloud-based AI/ML Wi-Fi service are significant. They range from reduced upfront and recurring costs, reduced downtime and enhanced customer experience. Even though the industry is in a nascent stage at present, the future is bright as more small/medium/large enterprises and even residential Wi-Fi customers embrace this technology.