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Enterprise interest in AI and LLMs shapes data networking opportunity for Doug Merritt and Aviatrix

Enterprise interest in AI and LLMs shapes data networking opportunity for Doug Merritt and Aviatrix

During Doug Merritt’s six-year tenure as the chief executive officer and president of Splunk Inc., he led significant shifts in the company’s journey to build a major platform for enterprise resilience.

Today, as the newly appointed CEO of the cloud-native networking company Aviatrix Inc., Merritt (pictured) is once again facing significant changes in the enterprise world brought on by the dramatic growth in interest around generative artificial intelligence and large language models.

“It’s the large language model lemming march,” Merritt said. “If you are a company today and you’re not claiming to do something with LLMs, you’re just in trouble because obviously everybody is. They do have a specific purpose, and we’re still wrestling through what that purpose is as a world.”

Merritt spoke with theCUBE industry analysts Dave Vellante and John Furrier at the Supercloud 3: Security, AI and the Supercloud event, during a conversation on theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio. They discussed the growing influence of LLMs and how AI can transform the data networking industry.

Understanding attack surfaces

During his appearance on theCUBE, Merritt indicated that LLMs will play an important role in the development of technologies for enterprise security. The influence of supercloud as an abstraction layer that resides above and across hyperscale infrastructure can provide the control dynamic that organizations will need to take full advantage of emerging AI tools.

“LLMs will have a play in networking when you’re trying to think about understanding attack surfaces,” Merritt said. “How do you optimize policies across these very complex networks and be more proactive and resilient? Just getting secure and resilient transport between clouds on a seamless basis is [something] that most companies really, really wrestle with. You need an effective data plane and control plane and a way to observe what’s happening and invoke policy anywhere that that traffic flows across different clouds, across different edge providers.”

This element of network observability will likely emerge as an important factor as the supercloud matures. The focus on generative AI could help organizations strengthen observability capabilities by sourcing the right data and metrics together.

“Every layer of the tech stack has got observability, there’s a whole observability framework within Aviatrix,” Merritt said. “We all have the opportunity to do a better job of parsing through mountains of data to try and find the patterns that are existing with the way that our systems are behaving. Again, LLMs I think could do a really effective job given a constrained dataset and the right training and the right guardrails around it.”

Facing the multicloud challenge

To make AI tools work effectively takes data. Merritt’s company is in the business of providing as much information as possible about network functionality, and this process becomes more complicated as enterprises increasingly adopt multicloud models.

“Trying to provide that intelligence, that resiliency, that adaptability, the high security across these clouds is a difficult challenge,” Merritt said. “When I look at tech, it’s all about layers. It’s hard for the networking vendors to jump up to be data plane providers. We’ve got a data plane to transmit networking data across the network.”

While the rise of generative AI is poised to make a significant impact on network observability and controls around data, there is also growing concern that its use in the hands of malicious actors could make the security landscape even more perilous. Generative AI could amplify the value of ethical hacking, yet there are also signs that threat actors are just as interested in leveraging new, more powerful tools. A recent report from Bugcrowd Inc. found that AI has already begun to change the ways that people hack.

“If we follow human behavior, I think attackers are going to arm themselves more aggressively first,” Merritt said. “I think it will propel defenders to really, really up their game more quickly. And then I pray that it becomes more powerful to defenders over time, but we’re in another crazy arms race.”

Merritt ended his tenure at Splunk in November 2021 with no announced plans to join another company. The opportunity to build a new venture at Aviatrix motivated him to get back into the game.

“I didn’t have any idea how exhausted I was after the eight-year run at Splunk,” Merritt said. “One of my criteria [was] it would be nice to start private and see if we can take the company public. What kind of team you are going to join becomes really important. I just really missed being on the field and being part of a team sport.”

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the Supercloud 3: Security, AI and the Supercloud event: