Machine Learning in Networking Products
AI is the new SDN, and we’re constantly bombarded with networking vendor announcements promising AI-induced nirvana, from reinventing Clippy to automatic anomaly- and threat identifications.
If you still think these claims are realistic, it’s time you start reading what people involved in AI/ML have to say about hype in their field. I posted a few links in the past, and the Packet Pushers Human Infrastructure magazine delivered another goodie into my Inbox.
You REALLY SHOULD read the original article, here’s the TL&DR summary for differently-attentive:
- Training AI models is hard and expensive;
- Deep learning model complexities are growing faster than Moore’s law;
- Many AI applications rely on “humans in the loop” to deliver high level of accuracy;
- Every new customer deployment is likely to deliver data that has never been seen before, requiring model retraining and even more human involvement.
If that sounds like a never-ending SAP deployment, you’re about right.
Now to networking. It seems to me we have two types of networking-related challenges that the AI/ML solutions are trying to address:
- Global challenges - things that affect everyone like identifying malware;
- Network-specific challenges like anomaly detections. What is anomalous for your network might be perfectly reasonable for mine. Also, keep in mind that we tend to build snowflake networks, so anything a ML model might have learned from data gathered in one network might not be applicable to another one (would love to see pointers to non-marketing material proving me wrong).
Assuming we might be interested in deploying AI/ML in our network, how realistic is it to expect to get it from an existing networking vendor? Greg Ferro wrote a wonderful article in the same issue of Human Infrastructure magazine explaining why networking vendors deliver unreliable and insecure products (TL&DR version: because they can).
Now match the two observations, and draw your own conclusions…
Finally, remember the SAP deployment analogy I made? Companies making money off SAP deployments are services companies, and networking vendors (apart from traditional telco vendors who always understood the value of selling never-ending services) are still mostly focused on selling boxes.