Partner POV | Advanced Networking: The Key to Educational Excellence
In this article
Article written by Mike Newcomb, Vertical Business Development, Juniper Networks.
The world is becoming more technologically complex by the minute. Developments like artificial intelligence (AI) and the internet of things (IoT) are radically altering the way we interact with and manipulate the tools we use to manage our daily lives – everything from automobiles and cell phones to eyeglasses and shoes.
This is placing great pressure on the educational system to prepare new generations – and re-train existing ones – for a world in which technology runs itself to a significant degree and the key to prosperity lies in the ability to direct these resources toward positive outcomes, not simply manage their daily activities.
There needs to be a change in how networks are built. Instead of relying on designs from the days of the Blackberry, it needs to embrace the advantages of cloud-based architectures and the incorporation of AI. Old architectures relied upon trying to centralize everything and creating parallel sets of equipment to add feature sets such as network management and location-based services. This model creates a central point of failure and adds unnecessary complexity as updates to any one system can adversely affect another related/dependent system.
The first step of the needed evolution is to stop focusing on the equipment and understand that it is the user experience that needs to come first. The old methods of creating trouble tickets and then dragging the user through a tedious process of mitigation must change. To make this change, the incorporation of AI tools is a must.
There's a lot of hype these days regarding the topic of AI and machine learning (ML). Many vendors tout that they have (or will have) AI for network management. However, if we peel back the onion, it's easy to see that these claims are more of a marketing ploy than a reality.
To make good on the claim of having usable AI, one must understand some simple key points:
- Real AI and ML require the crunching of massive amounts of data over a long period of time. The more data that is accumulated means machine learning algorithms have a larger universe to work from, which can yield better results
- The best way to accumulate data is to have a modern microservices cloud. This allows data to come from more than just a single entity. Data can be accumulated across a broad spectrum of companies and industries. In addition, a microservices cloud enables a specific university to take advantage of additional services to create applications that are specific to the needs of education.
- Time spent analyzing data is another important component. As previously mentioned, AI produces real, actionable insights that require massive amounts of data that must be analyze over a long period of time. There are no shortcuts. If a vendor represents that they have (or will have) AI, it's important to ask the hard questions of how this is accomplished without a microservices cloud and data accumulated over years of experience.
- Lastly, to be usable, there needs to be a conversational assistant. You should be able to ask simple questions, such as "Who's having a bad experience in the network?" and gain actionable results in response. Integration with tools such as ChatGPT will further help make the experience of problem resolution easier.
To accomplish this, educational institutions, from primary schools to post-graduate programs and all of the trade, technical and business organizations in between, must employ the latest technologies to instruct the largest number of students on the widest variety of subjects – and nothing is more crucial to this effort than networking.
At its finest, teaching is a collaborative effort. Unfortunately, the finest educators are rarely in the same place at the same time. Networking is the way to overcome this limitation, whether the distance involved is across campus, across town or on the other side of the world.
With advanced networking, educational systems can fulfill a wide range of objectives, many of which are currently beyond the scope of existing capabilities or are at best extremely difficult to accomplish:
- Students gain access to a wealth of information from the world over. By combining wired and wireless infrastructure, knowledge on a scale that was previously unheard of is available at their fingertips.
- Educators can tap instructional resources at the touch of a button or the click of a mouse. Much of this is freely available from learning institutions and government sources, which helps to reduce educational budgets.
- Advanced security services can be implemented end-to-end with intelligent agents constantly monitoring potential threat vectors and quickly restoring operations to minimize loss.
- Collaborative learning experiences can extend beyond the classroom to bridge the divides between races, creeds, genders, and cultures. Even languages are no longer a barrier with modern translation technologies.
- The exchange of scholarly research becomes faster and more streamlined, enhancing global knowledge and fueling new developments across a broad range of industries and disciplines.
Contrary to what many people believe, however, establishing this state of network agility is neither complex nor overly expensive. With decades of technological and architectural knowledge at its disposal, the networking industry has reached a level of expertise that allows new, highly customizable networks to be deployed quickly and, most importantly, non-disruptively.
From central facilities to access and backhaul networks and all the way out to the wired and wireless edge that connects to user devices, networks are quickly becoming virtualized – meaning entire architectures can now be created and managed completely in software – and imbued with intelligent technologies that make them easier to operate, more resilient to disruption and better able to support universal connectivity by automatically navigating the plethora of formats, protocols and transmission techniques that can otherwise hamper the flow of information from one point to another.
Equally important to the modern education experience is the care and maintenance of the numerous resources that learning organizations acquire at great expense every year. Using advanced networking, these tools – everything from desks and chairs to lab equipment and laptops – can be tracked and monitored to provide greater insight into where they are located and what state they are in. With this knowledge, organizations can fine-tune their budgets according to actual needs, while at the same time extending the life cycle of resources and reducing maintenance and inventory costs.
We are living in a connected world, and it's becoming increasingly interconnected at an accelerated rate. These kinds of advanced networks are already empowering the world's healthcare, financial, service, manufacturing and other industries. Education should place itself on an equal footing considering the value it brings to civil society – nothing less than the development of the human mind.