Analyst firms like Gartner have given indications that soon there will be digital assistants, digital employees, digital co-workers and/or advanced virtual assistants in the workplace. All these terms signify a similar trend. A technological bot like tool as a full co-worker. I will use the term Advanced Virtual Assistant.
In this write-up I intend to connect two phenomenon and give an outline of what an advanced virtual assistant for IP Networks might look like. The first phenomenon is Hey Google, Apple Siri and Amazon Alexa. These are personal virtual assistants which listen and respond to inputs from people. The second phenomenon is the open space available for a virtual assistant helping run IP networks and technology systems.
The basic example of a virtual assistant is that of Siri, Hey Google and Alexa. These are devices which listen and respond like a human. They require computation and processing to listen and calculate what is being said. Thereafter they require computation and processing to formulate a response and send it through. The I/Os are a mic to listen, a speaker to speak and communications over the Internet.
The way I see it is that every large enterprise and large network which is run by multiple network engineers could have a trained virtual assistant. Some of the basic repeated tasks of a Network Engineer are:
- Run a ping or a traceroute on an IP
- Login to a switch, router or firewall and run some commands
- Look up an ISP circuits details from the ticketing system.
- Look up routes in a router for a subnet
- Look up empty IP address space in the IPAM. IP Address Management system.
- etc. etc. etc.
These are repeated actions regularly performed again and again by all Network Engineers throughout the world.
The question is: How could an Advanced Virtual Assistant help in these repeated actions?
From here on imagination starts. Imagine being able to speak to a bot on your work laptop. Lets call the virtual assistant Netty. Imagine being able to say Hey Netty, run a traceroute for 220.127.116.11 or Hey Netty, please you login to the route isbpk56. Imagine thereafter getting Netty to do this on the router: Hey Netty, run the command ‘show ip route 18.104.22.168’, or something like Hey Netty, run ‘show inventory’.
So basically, you have a Hey Google, Siri or Alexa type assistant for your network. It has been fed the networks IP addresses, limited rights login details, router names and other details as required. Now you are talking to it and it is doing some work. This is my understanding of ‘digital co-worker’ and ‘advanced virtual assistant’. An assisting device which you can talk to and it is able to execute the actions.
I feel that instead of large virtual assistants covering big domains there will probably be industry specific and audience specific virtual assistants. Even probably they will be company specific, trained and modified per organisation.
Let’s keep imagining. Imagine having a search option as well. For example: Hey Netty, search the network for any firewall rules on 10.62.45.3. This would be very handy when looking for some firewall rules. Or Hey Netty, search the network for the mac address. abcd.efds…
Similarly imagine getting a complaint for a circuit and saying Hey Netty, please bring up the circuit TX459’s details on the ticketing system. Or Hey Netty, search the network for the interface descriptions having the circuit TX459 in them.
I think this has a great potential to improve efficiency and productivity. If Network Engineers get a Hey Netty for their networks, they would probably be able to handle a lot of work very easily.
As expected, this will require work to get a conversational bot which is a good bot listener and a good bot speaker. There will also be search and response algorithms, databases queries and responses. etc. etc. That will be the work done to make Hey Netty possible. But it is an engineering exercise which would give much productivity increase especially for large networks run by large teams.
Similarly, the same is the case for Storage and Servers technology domains or even Telecom networks. The Storage engineers will have their own regular instruction sets, the servers and systems their own and telecom network their own. They could all get bot like virtual assistants trained to carry out actions.
Imagine saying this and getting the work done:
Hey Techy, could you show the details of the VM sydau78
Hey Telly, could you bring up the RF stats for the site melau86
Hey Netty, could you ping to the ip 22.214.171.124
I feel the industry leaders should step in to bring this into open standardisation efforts. So, for example Storage, Networking, Systems, Telecom industry leaders should each formulate teams to make standard Hey Netty like query-response lists. Thereafter bots could be trained for Hey Netty v1 and Hey Netty v2 as the query-response details come in from the standardisation body.
It is time for Hey Techy and Hey Netty to hit the technology space. It is time for the post-pandemic knowledge workers to also get advanced virtual assistants and digital co-workers. I feel this is a good time for standardisation efforts for these as well.
Syed Habib Kakakhel