This article was originally published on ONUG.net on October 12, 2018.

ONUG is a group representing enterprise users of network technology. Some of those users are the biggest names in the industry – names like FedEx (shipping and logistics), Gap (retail), Bank of America, Citi (financial services) and Kaiser Permanente (healthcare) that gather together twice a year to define the issues they are facing with technology, working with vendors to solve those issues. Companies attending the upcoming Fall 2018 event on October 22-23rd in New York City will discuss what is happening particularly in the SD-WAN space.

The combined purchasing power of the enterprise members of ONUG has made the organization an important voice in the tech community, but beyond the power of the wallet, the group has influence based on its well-defined process for prioritizing end-user needs and working on the technical solutions to problems in conjunction with vendors. ONUG’s approach has helped foster the growth of technologies such as SD-WAN because service providers and vendors can see that there is a real market opportunity being defined by the corporate IT buyers.

Among the key issues expected to be at top-of-mind for IT executives at the event, Nick Lippis, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman at ONUG cites:

  • IT Ops automation via machine learning/AI
  • Agile and DevOps for infrastructure
  • Security in the context of DevOps and automation

ONUG working groups focusing on Monitoring and Analytics for example, help customers address the need to develop and operate an agile network infrastructure, responsive to fluid application performance requirements. In particular, the group is working to solve the problem of how users can leverage the data produced from their SD-WAN platform to vastly improve application and environmental performance.

The problem: Visibility into data that can improve performance

Some companies are seeking the ability to query statistics specifically within a six-month window for a particular circuit, and be able to compare these to other links in the network.  Traditionally, vendors restrict the type and amount of data that can be used to create that visibility across network links, thereby limiting what can be imported into spreadsheets. Allowing users to perform fast root-cause analysis of errors, and the ability to proactively update their network architecture based on hard data – not conjecture – is a crucial user requirement.

Freeing that data enables an additional step in network management: building predictive models. For example, by using a machine learning platform, we can start building functionality that takes historic latency measurements and predicts what those metrics will be for the next ten days, and then use those models to proactively optimize the network endpoints.  Simply put, such analytics enables deterministic networking – a key element in improving application performance in Hybrid IT environments.

The solution: Freeing data to enable interoperability

Having data locked into your monitoring and analytics system is a problem for another reason: it creates interoperability issues with other elements of your network, including security platforms (firewalls, IDS/IPS, WAF and other important security functional elements). Correlating an issue with a firewall configuration to network performance issues gets that much harder if there are two separate systems for monitoring and analytics.

For that reason, there is an opportunity for a digital analytics platform that can use APIs to consolidate data from different sources and then put them into a single data platform that can feed into an orchestration platform.

With an integrated view of the network, users can immediately see that the firewall was the source of network performance issues, as per our earlier example. What’s more, the orchestrator is the crucial component that takes data from a proprietary API and delivers the same command to a controller from another vendor. In other words, users have the basis for an interoperable SD-WAN system.

We are excited to meet with our colleagues in the group and see the innovation that comes from the group’s collaborative efforts.  For enterprises who have built and deployed SD-WAN solutions on their own, we believe such offering can unlock more value from the network and provide new market opportunities going forward.

We look forward to talking with you in New York City!