No, I’m not advocating that we jump into a new society where there are no rules; that would be catastrophic.
We know what “rules” are in the network and IT operations. They are all those things we need to program to define the operational boundaries of our infrastructure. We use rules to set acceptable or non-acceptable thresholds on metrics, parse log messages, extract information from them, and do proper classification. In addition, we use rules to determine if configurations are right or wrong and define correlation conditions. Rules are everywhere. Ultimately, rules have been our only means, so far, to capture operational knowledge and put such ability to work.
There is nothing inherently wrong with rules, but they come with extra baggage that makes them very difficult to maintain over time:
Sometimes rules are created based on a particular assumption that we know what a good or bad state is. Frequently, what is good or bad may be so dynamic and contextual that what the rule is capturing is inadequate, leading to many false positives and alert fatigue.
Very frequently, we waste a lot of time reverse-engineering the goal of a particular rule because no one has adequately documented these rules, and it is unclear what that rule is doing and what the impact would be if it is changed or removed. Snowflakes start to increase, and none wants to touch them.
How often does a regex rule to process a particular type of log get outdated because the log format changed slightly without prior notice from the vendor? We are wasting a lot of time statically setting operational boundaries that we can set dynamically using a different approach. There is a lot of operational knowledge embedded in our infrastructure telemetry. We need to activate techniques that allow us to extract and put it to work.
What I’m describing here is not only possible; it is real, enabled by AI/ML techniques. It is time for a new “rule-free” era for network and IT operations. Do not waste your time defining rules or reverse-engineering someone else’s rules. The future is about you investing your time in how to optimize, evolve and scale your infrastructure to deliver better services, not defining rules to set operational boundaries.