A “Smell the Roses” Moment

Mist was founded approximately five years ago with a mission of disrupting the IT industry using Artificial Intelligence (AI) – a concept we call “AI for IT”. More specifically, we have a goal of delivering “self-driving” networks that proactively detect issues and automatically adapt to them in real-time, saving companies time and money and delivering new and amazing IT experiences to end users.

In Juniper Networks, we have found a partner with a similar shared vision – to bring automation and insight across the IT stack, creating a “Software-Defined Enterprise” that is simple and cost effective to operate. As CTO and co-founder of Mist, I am excited to join forces with Juniper Networks. Together we will continue to transform how enterprises operate IT infrastructures and enable business-critical services that leverage wireless to deliver new value to mobile employees, customers, and guests.

Those who know me, know that I am someone who likes to stop and “smell the roses” when something good happens. This is surely one of those times. So, before we look forward at all the great things that lie ahead with Juniper, I wanted to take some time and reflect on how the Mist team got to this remarkable point.

The Mist Journey

Over the past 10+ years, wireless networks have gone from a “nice-to-have” to a “must have” in the enterprise and are often the primary access network. Mobility has long been identified as a key enabler in almost every industry – from stores and schools to hospitals and hotels. And wireless technology has become so commonplace that “plugging in” to an Ethernet port is a foreign concept to our kids and the next generation of workers.

As businesses put more critical services on the wireless network, WLAN reliability and performance become mission critical. Put bluntly, Wi-Fi just has to work, a point that is underscored by the quote below from our friends at Gartner:

“The enterprise access layer is a critical component for enabling organizations to respond rapidly to the demands of digital business. Gartner clients consistently report that the wireless LAN, especially, has moved well beyond “nice to have” connectivity to become increasingly the user’s first or primary connection with the enterprise network.” – Gartner Magic Quadrant for the Wired and Wireless LAN Access Infrastructure, July 2018

However, as the number of devices, applications, and operating systems continue to grow exponentially, networks are becoming more complex, which makes it harder than ever to assure Wi-Fi performance. Given IT staffing resources and budgets are flat or decreasing, the only way companies can survive this dynamic is to make a fundamental paradigm shift – from reactive manual process to automated proactive IT management, and from managing the network and devices to managing end-to-end user experiences.

When I was a CTO at Cisco, it became apparent that cloud and AI were essential to this industry shift. But I soon realized that the only way to create a new IT service model was to literally start from scratch – i.e. take out a clean sheet of paper and design a modern wireless network using the latest in cloud, AI, and wireless technologies. I am so proud of the Mist team and the platform we created, which differentiates us from the rest of the industry in several key ways.

The New Wireless Network

For starters, the Mist Learning WLAN is built on a microservices architecture, which is an inherently better way of developing and maintaining network software than traditional monolithic software architectures (e.g. WLAN controllers). While it primarily runs in the public cloud for maximum scale, agility and resiliency, Mist’s microservices architecture also can be extended on-premises for additional flexibility in network design. With a microservices architecture, updates are provided reliably to customers weekly instead of bi-annually, which is the legacy approach. Plus, there is no network downtime. This eliminates some of the biggest operational headaches of traditional WLAN platforms.

Additionally, a microservices architecture in the cloud allows you to innovate and add new services quickly. For example, this is what allowed Mist to listen to customer demand and quickly add location-based services via our patented virtual Bluetooth LE (vBLE) technology. Similarly, this microservices architecture will allow Mist and Juniper to quickly respond to other customer requirements going forward, constantly staying ahead of the competition with new and exciting cloud-based services.

Another key differentiator for Mist is our AI engine, which we integrated into our platform from day 1. We knew that this would be the game changer in IT and wanted to put all the mechanisms in place to take advantage of AI from the very beginning. This started with device data collection and analytics. An AI-driven WLAN relies on good data, so we first innovated by collecting asynchronous data from all wireless devices in near real-time. Then we innovated further by applying various new data science algorithms to this data, enabling unique capabilities like anomaly detection, Wi-Fi service levels, and rapid root cause identification across the wireless/wired/device domains.

Mist also built the first AI-driven virtual network assistant, Marvis, to answer questions on par with a network domain expert. Marvis provides unprecedented insight into end-to-end WLAN behavior, without hunting and pecking through UI dashboards and Access Points. Plus, it is a key tool for help desk functions. Using Natural Language Processing (NLP), you can ask Marvis simple questions, it will understand the intent behind the query, and then provide robust answers as to the magnitude of the problem and how it can be fixed. As the interaction with Marvis continues to increase, so does the industry’s confidence in AI, making Marvis a key step in our ultimate goal of delivering self-driving networks.

The Perfect Union

The AI for IT movement cannot happen in a vacuum. For enterprises to reap the full benefits of automation, agility and insight, it must happen across the full IT stack. Which brings us back to Juniper…

Few companies in the industry have the products, technology, resources, and drive as Juniper. Furthermore, they share a common vision of ensuring the whole network – from WLAN, to LAN, to WAN – is ready for whatever is thrown its way, moving IT infrastructure from a necessary expense to a key enabler for strategic business functions. This makes Juniper a perfect home for Mist.

Joining forces with Juniper was the logical next step for Mist, and a key milestone in the networking industry as we transition to a new AI-driven world with self-driving networks. As you can imagine, I am very excited for what lies ahead and I look forward to providing updates as we continue on our journey!