How AIOps is Fueling IT Operational Excellence at Verizon

    In today’s dynamic, demanding digital environments, AIOps is increasingly critical for teams looking to establish IT operational excellence. In this post, Usman Nasir, who’s in global product management for Verizon, reveals how he and his team have been approaching AIOps implementations, and some of the key lessons learned along the way.

    Transformation Acceleration in 2020

    Over the course of 2020, we’ve all been challenged with navigating all the change brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s something that’s had an enormous impact around the world. Regardless of the industry you’re in, the reality is that your organization has been affected in one form or another.

    I’m in global product management with Verizon, a massive player in the information and communications technology industry. Like other organizations, we’ve been hit by this concentration of trends—including remote work, remote learning, increasing online digital transactions and interactions, sustainability, and so on—that have been going on for a while.

    The pandemic has really crystallized our awareness of these things, and brought these to the forefront of our organization’s priorities. We were very forward-looking in our plans and evolution, but some of these changes have fast-tracked our transformation. This is a journey that would have probably taken us three years, but we’ve had to execute these changes in about two quarters.

    Digital Innovations and Imperatives

    In today’s enterprises, and across industries, digital transformations will be ushering in a range of innovations:

    • Virtual reality. Customers are talking about increasingly immersive end user experience personalization. We’re talking about augmented reality and virtual reality. You're going to have events where people are going to go, and have completely personalized, three-dimensional experiences.
    • Autonomous vehicles. In the next five years, we’re going to be moving to smart motorways, autonomous vehicles, and so on. These advances will make driving more efficient, safer, and reduce bottlenecks.
    • Energy efficiency. There’s been a surge in environmental consciousness, with organizations striving to reduce their carbon footprint. Leaders may be setting goals, such as instituting mandates to be carbon neutral by 2025.
    • Remote medicine. In recent years, you’ve seen the advent of things like remote medicine, and even surgery, where an expert in London is able to operate on a patient in Kenya.
    • IoT. The move to adopt machine-to-machine communications, or internet of things (IoT), represents one of the biggest transformations for many organizations. Through these approaches, leaders seek to fuel cost savings, operational efficiencies, and improved customer experiences.

    All of these innovations require resources. Ultimately, the only way that all this can keep going is through data communications across network. That’s what is at the heart of all this. If organizations are to ultimately achieve the objectives of what their leadership has set out, these instantaneous digital communications are vital.

    AIOps Use Cases

    To pursue transformation and innovation objectives, AIOps is emerging as a critical requirement. Within Verizon, there are a number of opportunities for capitalizing on AIOps. Following are a few areas we’ve been pursuing.

    Speeding Root Cause Identification to Boost Service Levels

    The demand for optimized service levels only continues to intensify. You've got communications that are much more time-critical. For years, we’ve been using the phrase “real-time” for discussing voice and video communications, but it’s gone beyond that. For example, in the case of remote surgery, just losing connectivity or the quality of a signal, even for a microsecond, can potentially make the difference between whether a patient lives or dies. It is that critical. These availability and performance requirements are also vital when you think about things like autonomous vehicles, smart motorways, and so on. How will organizations ensure these availability and performance requirements are always met?

    For a company like Verizon, our immediate needs are to reduce the number of alarms that are being generated by overlaid services. We have the basic network, and we have SDN running on top of that. We have hybrid clouds and edge computing being added on top of that. All that means if there’s an outage on one device, it could create thousands of alarms. That does not stop all those multiple applications or monitoring tools from raising havoc, with thousands of alarms and everyone stretched to capacity.

    If people are attending to those thousands of alarms, it’s like having a police force, where there’s a burglary in one bank and alarms go off in 50 banks. How do you make the most of your limited police force? Do want to go investigate each of the 50 banks or investigate one—the one where the real problem is? You want to find out what the source of the problem is and focus on that.

    That’s the first win where people can immediately save so much money with AIOps—simply by reducing all the time and money being wasted with staff running around, sifting through all these alarms, and trying to figure out the real problem.

    AIOps is the only way to bring it all together to say, okay, this is the event takes priority. If an event arises, AIOps can help with correlating it to the other downstream systems, devices, components, and user applications. This is essential, isolating the right cause, so you can get to where you can most effectively resolve the problem.

    Network Security

    The integrity and security of data in modern enterprise environments is paramount. You need to inspect in-depth intelligence to identify where the problems and risks are. That’s why we’re looking to tie AIOps to network security.

    Network security is something that eluded some of the most amazing brains in our engineering world. We typically have network experts and security experts. These are separate teams looking for different things, but the reality is that there are security events that can impact the performance of a network and associated applications and services. These events could be falsely attributed to the network. If you've got multiple parties, who have different objectives and stakeholders, you can imagine the blame game that goes on, with people pointing fingers and not taking responsibility.

    How do you maintain the integrity of your data beyond just having secure network components that data is traversing? For example, in an IoT environment, if there's a problem with the integrity of the commands that are being executed by a machine, that's a much bigger problem than not being able to communicate with that machine. You’d rather not talk to the machine or really have anything to do with it at all if it's going to start doing the wrong things.

    This is where you're getting to such aspects as blockchain technology, where you have these digital signatures or codes that machines scan. Then, an intelligent system is automatically able to validate and verify the integrity of the data and the commands that are being executed by end users.

    Intelligent Network Resource Management

    Today, the network is at the heart of all the enterprise’s key transformation objectives. It all starts with the network, because if the network sitting at the middle of all your environments is not working, then different elements can’t communicate with each other and the cloud doesn’t work; in fact, nothing works.

    While performance and uptime grow more critical, environments continue to get more complex. There's a unique value chain that is now getting created. You now have so many different components coming in. You don’t just have a network and security any more. You have software-defined networking (SDN), you have mobile edge computing that is rented for the technologies 5G enables, and more.

    At Verizon, we’re leveraging AIOps to address our evolving network management requirements:

    Efficiency Through On-Demand Resources

    Innovations continue to require more resources. At the same time, we need to be carbon conscious: we can’t just build a billion data centers on this planet. We have to make sure that resources are being distributed dynamically, on demand. The best, most efficient way to do that is by decision making that is being made at millisecond intervals.

    We’re applying AIOps to support virtualized resources, which is core to making the resources needed available on demand. In that way, you can automate the allocation of these resources based on the customer's consumption, peak demands, and usage trends.

    By aggregating all the necessary intelligence, you can see, for example, that on Wednesdays, traffic goes up significantly for a particular application in a specific data center. Based on that, you could employ automation in AIOps that delivers those resources on demand. As a result, you can improve your engagements with customers and establish a much better service assurance model.

    Intelligence to Fuel Enhanced Prioritization

    Managing networks today requires more advanced intelligence. For example, you’ll need to go beyond simply distinguishing between private and public traffic. It has to be more intelligent and granular. If multiple applications need to be supported simultaneously, you have to determine which to prioritize. Also, you need to continue to be adaptive to the criticality and the context of specific transactions as details evolve. For example, this means distinguishing and prioritizing communications for a surgeon operating on a patient, which is much more critical than me playing a video game. In autonomous vehicles, brakes are much more important than the wipers.

    Through AIOps, we are bringing that intelligence to the networks so you can start having context on the criticality of transactions. This is very critical. To make this happen, you need multi-layered data and multiple systems running autonomously.

    Scale to Support Massive Data Volumes

    You need to have remote working capabilities and the ability to support more digital interactions, not just between humans, but machine-to-machine exchanges as well. You need to have an AIOps platform that can rationalize the large volumes of network information and data being generated.

    To achieve our urgent objectives and sustain our IT operational excellence, we need microsecond decision making. Which human being on this planet can do microsecond decision making, for example, in managing a complex network infrastructure that end user applications are reliant upon? If you’re relying on people, you won’t be able to handle that demand.

    You need to have multiple systems that are monitoring and controlling different aspects of your overall end user application value chain. You need these different systems to be communicating with each other. That's the only way to achieve that goal of prioritizing transactions. Quite simply, that only happens with AIOps.

    Business Impact of AIOps

    Overall, AIOps has a significant impact on costs in enterprises. Once you start to see the impact of AIOps come to life for the first time, it will start driving cost efficiencies and awareness within the whole business. Over time, these advantages will have a domino effect.

    For example, look at problem isolation. As mentioned above, you have network security and a multi-layered architecture that enables the new world of 5G. At the heart of it, you have to identify the source of a problem—not be bogged down by the 15 different things that are going wrong because of that problem. Improving speed to problem isolation alone can save organizations millions upon millions of dollars. That’s true for virtually every enterprise.

    Another area of impact is on the customer experience. With 5G emerging, customers will have increasing expectations for the experiences you deliver. Even if you’re not going to 5G immediately, ultimately, you have to meet customer expectations or risk having them walk away.

    To stay relevant, businesses have to continue to reinvest and adopt the latest and greatest. This enables them to establish superiority and sustain it. In order to accelerate innovation, teams will need the right intelligence system, one that enables automated information analysis and optimized decision making.

    Conclusion

    The demand for digital products and services continues to grow, and customers are increasingly demanding. When you fail to meet their expectations, they’ll go elsewhere. With AIOps, teams can continue to meet and exceed customer expectations, while keeping in front of their rapidly evolving technological and business environments. To learn more about the benefits AIOps can deliver to your business, be sure to view an on-demand event, AIOps Virtual Forum.