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UC network management embraces automation, AI, SD-WAN

Organizations looking to simplify UC network management can implement automation tools and technology like SD-WAN and AI to streamline management workflows.

Managing unified communications can be tricky, especially as organizations offload UC infrastructure to the cloud. Without network provisioning, all communications traffic on the public cloud is treated equally, which can cause poor quality for high-priority traffic.

But organizations have several options available to manage their on-premises infrastructure and gain some control over cloud-based UC. For instance, software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) and AI can ease IT management burdens, streamline management workflows and support UC performance on public cloud networks.

Let's take a look at some common and emerging UC network management questions that organizations routinely encounter.

How can you simplify UC network management?

Network automation can be applied to UC infrastructure to simplify management workflows. The benefits of automating UC infrastructure include lower costs, faster implementation and fewer errors.

Automation can be applied to a UC network in many ways. Organizations can start with small projects, like call forwarding or phone customization for users. As organizations become more comfortable with automation, they can expand to larger projects, like streamlining moves, adds, changes and deletions workflows.

UC network automation supports additional UC security through standardized settings and processes. These settings reduce risk by addressing multiple attack vectors, such as spoofing, fraud and eavesdropping. Automating UC network security is beneficial for smaller organizations that are often targets for hackers because of a lack security staff or strong security policies.

Organizations must address whether they want to build or buy their automation capabilities. For most, the answer will be to buy automation software. Large organizations that have the resources can opt to develop automation capabilities in-house.

How do you manage hybrid and cloud UC infrastructure?

Managing a hybrid or cloud deployment of UC differs greatly from an on-premises deployment. For hybrid, some pieces of UC infrastructure remain on premises in the corporate office, for example, while branch offices may be entirely cloud-based and have different network management requirements.

Organizations have little managerial control over branch offices that are in the public cloud. But organizations may have some options if the branch offices have multiple links. Organizations can optimize internet bandwidth through link load balancing to monitor links in real time and manage UC service quality. Hybrid UC can also be managed locally by installing a cloud-managed hardware appliance that performs UC services locally.

Both hybrid and full-cloud UC deployments can also use SD-WAN to support UC traffic management over public internet. SD-WAN provides organizations full control and visibility across the network and enables organizations to set rules for traffic priority. SD-WAN can also secure UC traffic by recognizing certain types of traffic and diverting it through security measures, such as session border controllers.

What role does AI play in UC management?

While AI in the enterprise is still nascent, organizations can apply AI technology to the UC network. AI-driven management provides end-to-end network visibility and dynamic routing for real-time communications.

AI can use Layer 7 application inspection to intelligently identify a packet's purpose. Through this process, IT admins no longer need to manually create identification rules. Instead, they choose data flows based on what AI management tools have automatically identified.

AI also provides a centralized control plane, which enables organizations to see the entire data flow from end to end and apply a single quality of service (QoS) policy to every network device on the LAN. An AI-driven centralized control plane can reroute data traffic more efficiently than legacy QoS policies that queue or drop packets in favor of high-priority packets.

This was last published in July 2019

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