The answer a lead engineer in Ford’s autonomous vehicle program gave when asked a question shows one of the parallels between self-driving cars and the network automation capabilities of the Uplogix out-of-band platform.

Question: “Do the cars always have to be connected to the network to drive?

Answer: “You can’t depend on it [the infrastructure] being there, so you have to have the vehicle be able to stand on its own. We are designing the vehicle to be able to do that but if there are any connections to the infrastructure, we’ll exploit them. So if traffic signals want to talk to us, we’ll listen but we can’t be reliant on them all broadcasting. Another use for the infrastructure is to send data back up to the cloud, so that if you notice any deviations to the map you are driving through you can report those and download updates and things like that.”

Network automation can’t rely on the network either

This kind of use-the-network-if-it’s-available, but be-ready-to-perform-without-it is similar to how Uplogix works with the network. When it’s up and running, we’ll take advantage of it, but if the network is down or degraded, we’re ready to function on our own. Just like you don’t want your self-driving car to screech to a halt if it loses signal with a central control, you don’t want your network to quit if you lose contact with the Internet or NOC.

For most NOC-based network management tools this is business as usual — if the network they are managing is down, they come to an abrupt and immediate stop. Even if they are in the metaphorical equivalent of the left lane of a highway, leaving users are stranded. Network engineers are left scrambling to figure out what happened with centralized tools as useless as a self-driving car that’s out of gas.

Uplogix is built to continue functioning independently of the network. Through console connections to the individual devices, detailed monitoring continues, helping triage the root cause of the issue. Plus, an out-of-band connection spins up, providing the NOC not only with access to remote gear, but also backfilling those idle NOC tools with data about what’s happening. If LTE cellular modems are installed for the out-of-band link, Uplogix WTF (WAN Traffic Failover) can handle the access and backfill functions while also routing primary traffic over the connection. IT gets the access and tools to fix the problem and users continue, well, using the network. Work keeps happening.

What’s one area that self-driving cars and Uplogix don’t have in common? Uplogix is proven, with years in the field deployed in some of the toughest and most secure networks around. And while self-driving cars are making great progress, they face serious legislative hurdles and implementation challenges beyond mere technical feasibility. But don’t ever count automation out — not too many of us are still driving a horse and buggy to work anymore, just like there is no reason not to deploy network automation from Uplogix.