HPE's vision for the intelligent edge

HPE plans to incorporate segmentation, artificial intelligence and automation into its wired and wireless gear in order to deal with the increased network challenges imposed by IoT and SD-WAN.

It’s not just speeds and feeds anymore, it's intelligent software, integrated security and automation that will drive the networks of the future.

That about sums up the networking areas that Keerti Melkote, HPE's president, Intelligent Edge, thinks are ripe for innovation in the next few years. He has a broad perspective because his role puts him in charge of the company's networking products, both wired and wireless.

“On the wired side, we are seeing an evolution in terms of manageability," said Melkote, who founded Aruba, now part of HPE. "I think the last couple of decades of wired networking have been about faster connectivity. How do you go from a 10G to 100G Ethernet inside data centers? That will continue, but the bigger picture that we’re beginning to see is really around automation.” 

The challenge is how to inject automation into areas such as data centers, IoT and granting network access to endpoints. In the past, automation and manageability were afterthoughts, he said. “The wired network world never really enabled native management monitoring and automation from the get-go.” 

Melkote said HPE is changing that world with its next generation of switches and apps, starting with a switching line the company introduced a little over a year ago, the Core Switch 8400 series, which puts the the ability to monitor, manage and automate right at the heart of the network itself, he said.

In addition to providing the network fabric, it also provides deep visibility, deep programmability and deep automation capabilities. "That is where we see the wide network foundation evolving," he said.

In the wireless world, speeds and capacity have also increased over time, but there remains the need to improve network efficiency for high-density deployments, Melkote said. Improvements with the latest generation of wireless, Wi-Fi 6, address this by focusing on efficiency and reliability and high-density connectivity, which are necessary given the explosion of wireless devices, including IoT gear, he said. 

Artificial intelligence will also play a major role in how networks are managed, he said. “Behind the scenes, across both wired and wireless, AI and AI operations are going to be at the heart of how the vision of manageability and automation is going to be realized,” Melkote said.  

AI operations are fundamentally about collecting large amounts of data from network devices and gaining insights from the data to predict when and where the network is going to face capacity and congestion problems that could kill performance, and to discover security issues, he said. 

“Any one of those insights being able to proactively give our customers a view into what’s happening so they can solve a problem before it really becomes a big issue is a huge area of research and development for us,” Melkote said.

And that includes AI in wireless networks. “Even more than Wi-Fi 6, I see the evolution of AI behind the Wi-Fi 6 network or the next-generation wired network being really the enabler of the next evolution of efficiency, the next level of insights into the operations of the network,” he said.

From a security perspective, IoT poses a particular challenge that can be addressed in part via network features. “The big risk with IoT is that these devices are not secured with traditional operating systems. They don’t run Windows; they don’t run Linux; they don’t run an OS,” Melkote said. As a result, they are susceptible to attacks, "and if a hacker is able to jump onto your video camera or your IoT sensor, it can then use that to attack the rest of the internal network.”

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