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SASE can provide secure and efficient access to cloud-based services and resources for users, regardless of their location. Follow this checklist to attain this goal.

Secure access service edge (SASE) provides companies a centralized means to manage, monitor, and optimize their wide-area networks, SASE solutions provide the flexibility to protect corporate assets, remote offices, and home-based and mobile employees, as security threats continue to evolve and rapidly increase.

Introduction to SASE Architecture

SASE is an architecture that provides converged network and security as a service with an array of cloud-based capabilities that can be located where and used when they are needed.

As such, SASE expands the perimeter to include all resources, regardless of their location or device. It provides a single and consistent security policy spanning all network and application assets.

Read more: SASE Architecture: A Checklist for SASE-savvy Businesses

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With partner Neural Magic's software, potential user benefits may include lower latency, higher service levels, and faster response times.

Cloud and content delivery network Akamai Technologies last week teamed with Neural Magic to deploy advanced artificial intelligence (AI) software across its global edge server network.

The duo's efforts could provide businesses with lower latency, higher service levels, and faster response times. Adding the software could enable use cases such as AI inference, immersive retail, and spatial computing.

Long ago, Akamai built a distributed global network comprised of edge servers containing cached content located close to users to cut the time and boost the performance of delivering rich media such as streaming video. Now, the provider is using the same network to provide Neural Magic's AI much closer to the sources of user data.

The company said it intends to “supercharge” its deep learning capabilities by leveraging Neural Magic’s software, which enables AI workloads to be run more efficiently on traditional central processing unit-based servers, as opposed to more advanced hardware powered by graphics processing units (GPUs).

Potential Business Benefits of AI at the Edge

One expert sees several potential benefits to using Akamai’s content delivery network (CDN) business customers with Neural Magic’s AI acceleration software.

“This could potentially lower the cost of service and still meet the requirements for the AI workloads,” said Baron Fung, Senior Research Director at Dell’Oro Group, a global telecom market research and consulting firm. “Lower cost can be achieved because the service provider (Akamai) can use general-purpose servers that uses traditional infrastructure, rather than expensive dedicated AI/GPU servers and infrastructure.”

Potential applications benefits are possible "because these nodes are situated at the network edge, close to where the user or machines are located, faster response time of applications for customers could be realized, especially for workloads that are AI related."

Higher service levels could be attained. “Because of the scalable nature of the solution, new CDN nodes suitable for AI workloads could be scaled quickly in high-demand regions.”

Running AI Workloads Close to Data Sources

In February, Akamai launched its Generalized Edge Compute (GECKO) initiative which focused on embedding cloud computing capabilities in the provider’s massive edge network. The initiative will efficiently support modern applications and workloads, wrote Zacks Investment Research. “These workloads will span a wide range of next generation use cases such as AI inference, immersive retail, and spatial computing.”

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Avoid Buyer's Regret: Top Tips for Assessing Infrastructure Provider Health Before Purchases and Contract Extensions

With large enterprise infrastructure purchases for services, including SASE, SD-WAN, wireless, and more, on the line, the tech behind the services may be proven, but can the provider deliver? Is the provider having business problems? What can buyers do to avoid regret or devastating mistakes?

“Enterprises are going to have to prepare for a lot of vendor consolidation over the course of the next two years and then service provider consolidation through the end of the decade,” explained Jeff Heynen, VP of Broadband Access and Home Networking at Dell’Oro Group, a global market research and analysis firm. “Right now, because operators are cutting back on their spending, vendors are retrenching and looking to cut costs. Some are looking to shed parts of their business to focus on their core operations.”

A Provider Health Checklist

Here is a list of items to check to help determine how a potential tech partner is faring business-wise.

Strategic reviews: Rarely announced publicly, in favor of behind-the-scenes activity, these crucial undertakings often result in substantial changes in the way a service provider or vendor determines its product and staffing priorities. The results can lead to phasing out products and business units and result in several of the actions listed below.

Project cutbacks and selloffs: One major infrastructure player confirmed late last year that it was cutting back its fiber service deployment markedly and sold parts of its tech assets, including CDN customers, to a major player in the sector. It is best to know of these actions as soon as possible before they are announced publicly.

Layoffs: Staff reductions can also signal problems as these cost-cutting efforts are often justified as rightsizing. The goal here is to determine why they are needed. Is your provider outsourcing a potentially crucial function, such as service and support, to a third party or preparing to drop a product line? Layoffs are expected after a merger or acquisition to eliminate duplication of efforts. But how will they affect your business?

Push past the stated percentage of total staff being cut to other vital details, such as what areas will be drawn down. Do they include sales, service, support, marketing, product development, engineering, or management?

Finances: Try to keep pace with your vendor/provider’s financial health. This is also essential before greenlighting a big ticket and/or big project with a new partner. Check out the provider’s annual and quarterly numbers – with help from your internal financial experts. Total revenue is often the most touted number discussed, but CapEx and profit growth are more important. Wall Street financial analyst reports can help.

Inactivity: No news is not always good news. Look for news of new customer wins, product enhancements, and partnerships to explore new areas. Filling gaps in products/technologies is also good news. Contacts developed inside your providers can be a priceless resource, more so if they depart the company.<?

Ownership: Are any of the vendors or operators you are considering for a major tech advancement project owned/run by private equity (PE) firms? Many regional fiber operators saw large PE investments or purchases in 2023. Green is good, but be aware that these firms typically acquire firms, boost the high performing assets, and shed much or all of underperforming or struggling assets before a sale. A transition can be rocky and usually includes a change of senior management.

Timing: Do any of the providers you are considering have incidences or a history of delivering products and services late/missing deadlines or TBD? The tech trade press tries to keep track of promised delivery and actual shipment. One Massachusetts business was excited to receive the newest networking gear from a prominent vendor until the boxes arrived empty.

Market research and analysis: These firms track industry sectors, subsectors, and vendors from startups to near duopolies on an ongoing, quarterly, or annual basis. Some rank players by leaders using business performance and often know vendors better than businesses looking for a solution provider. These firms also identify buying and tech trends (in the U.S. and internationally) that can be invaluable for your pre-purchase.

Vertical industry groups and associations: These organizations and their associated events provide an opportunity to meet with other companies that face business and tech challenges similar to your company's. Attendees often discuss the experiences of vendors and operators they have done business with or plan to. The takes of other users and this environment can be more useful than vendor-held annual gatherings as they are more focused, covering the IT and business needs - and more independent.

A Final Word on Picking an Infrastructure Provider

Learn which signs of provider health to be concerned about before making a commitment to a potential long-term partner to help your enterprise change the way it does business for years to come. Missing signals could result in a decision you may later regret.

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