Juniper announces closing of 128 Technology acquisition

What can we learn about AI and Network Automation from nature?

By Kenneth Dellovo
February 25, 2021

In 1904, the very first Japanese Chestnut trees in the United States were delivered to the Bronx Zoo’s Botanical Gardens. And sadly, as a result, by 1940, it was the American Chestnut tree that would be all but eliminated from existence.

At the turn of the century, the American Chestnut produced the most edible nut of any species in North America, sustaining millions of people across the country when times were hard. These towering giants once stood, unbelievably, as the East Coast rival to the Californian Redwood. But, within the span of 35 years, nature laid them to rest – and the culprit was chestnut blight.  

The blight (or parasite) arrived in New York along with the Japanese Chestnut and decimated its native counterpart. But, while the disease grew fast and spread rapidly, it killed off the one thing that kept it alive – the American Chestnut. In terms of being a successful lifeform, the blight failed miserably. For as quickly as it arrived, it disappeared as well.

In 2021, for businesses across the USA, the COVID-19 pandemic has had swift and discernable impact. Restaurants and classic brick and mortar retailers are certainly struggling; but grocery and liquor stores, as well as the large online retailers are thriving. For me, as someone who makes a living identifying sales opportunities in the tech industry, these past 10 months have never been better.

While the number of dials it takes to get someone on the phone has gone up since most of the country started working from home. The amount of people willing to talk has also increased. With everyone from coast to coast dealing with this horrible pandemic, it has never been easier for me to build instant rapport with someone I’ve never met, and that is worth its weight in gold.

Me: Hi Potential Customer, so sorry for the interruption. It’s Ken with 128 Technology (now Juniper Networks), how are you doing this afternoon?

Them: (Dryly) Good. How are you?

Me: (With slightly more enthusiasm) Oh you know, just the joys of WFH: screaming babies and dogs barking! But, what can you do? Am I right?

(Light laughter ensues)

And just like that – the door has been opened for a brief window to sneak in an elevator pitch.

While I feel a smidge guilty using the pandemic to my own benefit, it is currently the common thread that binds us all together. And after a few minutes of chatting and qualifying, you know what challenge I hear customers having the most?

“I don’t have the bandwidth or the people to take that project on right now.”

It is not budget constraints, or that they are not interested in the technology. It is simply that they do not have the women or manpower to evaluate and take on a new project.

Talent shortage is a very real problem in corporate America. This is not a new thing. And luckily for us, it lines up very neatly with the problems that Session Smart™ networking can solve — making the network easier to manage than ever before.

But that is all beside the point. Let me tell you another quick story.

The Bullhorn Acacia tree in Costa Rica is a skinny tree with giant thorns. These “bullhorn” shaped thorns shoot out from every angle imaginable and they are successful deterrents against predators who would otherwise chew on the leaves exposing it to disease. The defense mechanism worked quite successfully against herbivores and other insects. Then one day a tiny intruder moved into the tree, by the thousands, and some feared this would lead to the ultimate loss of this useful tree. The new house guests — venomous ants.

The ants moved in and nested inside the thorns. Accidentally bump into an Acacia tree and within seconds the ants will swarm the branches ready to attack. But, what many feared, never occurred. The tree did not die, it thrived.

What often beautifully and miraculously happens in nature is the development of a mutualistic relationship. While the tree provided food and shelter for the ants, the ants protected the tree.

And thus, leads me to my question.

Automation and self-healing networks, I think we would all agree, are a necessary and unstoppable force moving forward. As the struggle to hire good talent continues to grow, companies should have no problem continuing to position their products with success whether that product is SD-WAN, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, etc. But, at what point are we automating ourselves out of a job? Or out of a business? Are we chestnut blight? Or the story of the Acacia tree and the ant.

I for one believe we are destined to be like the story of the Acacia tree and the ant. But, regardless, examples in nature are worth understanding in order to more gently guide us into the future.

Would you like to know more about how AI is playing a role in the network? Check out this white paper.