AI and automation seem to be entering a new era, generating headlines the world over as 2023 began, writes Contributing Editor Annie Turner
OpenAI’s ChatGPT (short for Generative Pre-trained Transformer) automation tool has taken the world by storm since its launch in November. Microsoft has invested an undisclosed sum in the firm which is widely rumoured to be $10 billion. The AI-powered chatbot is able to hold human-like conversations with actual humans about, it seems, almost anything.
The investment extends the relationship between the two companies. Microsoft Azure will continue as OpenAI’s exclusive cloud provider for ChatGPT as OpenAI uses Azure to train all its models. Further, Microsoft will deploy OpenAI’s models across all its consumer and enterprise products and introduce “new categories of digital experience” built on the tech.
They will include Azure OpenAI Services for developers to build applications through direct access to those models, “backed by Azure’s trusted, enterprise-grade capabilities and AI-optimized infrastructure and tools”.
ChatGPT is not alone
ChatGPT being used for search has allegedly so concerned Google, for so long the trailblazer in AI, that it has reportedly has issued a “code red” button which includes recalling founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page to help it steer through these dangerous waters. This is a little surprising given it has its own ChatGPT-like system – LaMDA (language model for dialogue applications). One engineer was fired for publicly saying it was so compelling he thought it might be sentient. Apparently Google’s not quite ready yet, maybe because it has regulators breathing down its neck on several fronts.
Meanwhile speculation mounts that there is a new AI chatbot in town, from Baidu, the Chinese search giant.
What does it mean for telecoms?
The rise of a new generation of AI-chatbots will generate a lot more messaging traffic that will be carried on telcos’ networks, as text messages are made audible and the communication becomes conversational. There are also big implications for customer service if finally chatbots can take automated customer service to a whole different level, including personalisation.
This has rather suddenly become a possibility just as telcos are starting to roll out 5G Standalone in earnest which will eventually allow customers to set up their own slices to match granular parameters. Avoiding a clunky user interface would be a massive win.
Then of course what’s good for external use with customers could be applied internally too, as the democratisation of integration progresses.
DT’s rise helped by cloud
Deutsche Telekom group started 2023 with a bang, announcing its market capitalisation had exceeded €100 billion on 11 January – in line with CEO Timotheus Höttges expectations. The share price passed the €20 threshold for the first time since 2001, making DT the sixth largest telecom company in the world based on equity value.
While there is no denying that DT’s fortunes have improved dramatically in the wake of its US’ subsidiary’s merger with rival Sprint in 2020, the operator was keen to stress this was not the only reason for its success. On the same day its German opco Telekom Deutschland announced it had completed the migration of 10 million voice subscribers to its cloud platform, which handles billions of minutes and interoperates with about 100 interconnect partners.
This is a major milestone in its Next-generation IP Multimedia Subsystem (NIMS) strategy. Caroline Chappell, Research Director, Cloud & Platform Services at Analysys Mason was quoted saying, “The level of automation in the NIMS architecture is exceptionally high and forward-looking. Deutsche Telekom has set a new standard for the industry with its bold, vendor-agnostic approach.”
Its partners for NIMS include Juniper Networks for cloud infrastructure and as the prime integrator, plus Mavenir, Metaswitch (part of Microsoft), Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Lenovo and Red Hat. Telekom Deutschland added, “Due to the high level of disaggregation and the horizontal cloud approach, more technology partners can easily be added as the demand for services grows”.
Killer combo: SD-WAN, analytics and automation
Organisations need to augment SD-WAN with analytics and automation to derive maximum benefits according to Brandon Butler, Research Manager at IDC’s Enterprise Networks practice. He was speaking at a webinar sponsored by Cisco. Butler is a proponent of melding security and networking control, noting that all the core SD-WAN vendors support some analytics and automation components that assist with this, including Cisco, Juniper Networks, Extreme Networks and Palo Alto Networks.
As SD-WAN relies on interoperability with cloud, “It is necessary for network analytics solutions to heighten visibility into and control over cloud services, resources, connections, and application performance,” IDC wrote in a recent report Analytics and Automation: Driving SD-WAN Success at the Network Edge.
IDC found that enterprises link observability with automation from its 2022 worldwide survey: more than 75% of respondents said they use or plan to use observability intelligence and insights to support automation efforts.
Predicting and preventing failures
The UK’s National Grid chose EXFO’s Intellisense Systems weather tracking and remote fibre testing, monitoring and AI analytics for a pilot to predict and prevent operational failures. The Grid carries a telecoms network across its electricity transmission infrastructure that is essential to provide secure, critical, operational information. EXFO’s tech will help assess the condition of the fibre infrastructure, and predict its lifespan and potential vulnerabilites that could cause outages.
EXFO will measure, analyse, and report results from an 80 km span of the National Grid network, in an area that routinely has challenging weather, over a 12-month period. Deployment of test equipment and Intellisense devices started in October 2022.
Separately, EXFO’s diagnostic capabilities have been added to Telescent’s Gen 4 Network Topology Manager (G4 NTM). Telescent’s robotic patch panel system helps to automate fibre management, while EXFO’s remote fibre testing system provides visibility of reconfigured optical circuits, thereby closing the automation loop and making diagnostics and proactive management easier.
In Sophia Antipolis, an area in the south of France known for considerably better weather, ETSI group on Experiential Networked Intelligence (ISG ENI) published a White Paper describing the design of a novel cognitive network. It explains how the novel system architecture (based on ETSI GS ENI-005) intelligently manages, predicts, adjusts and optimises network behaviour using cognition management to improve the operators’ experience.
Ray Forbes, Chair of the ETSI ISG ENI, noted, “The ETSI ENI system is a set of hierarchical closed control loops based on extensions to the Observe-Orient-Decide-Act model. These extensions enable the ENI Cognitive Architecture to adapt its behaviour according to changes in user needs, business goals, and environmental conditions. As an example, the ENI system could reconfigure a set of 5G slices to meet changing service needs.”