Today, most IT workers can be forgiven for assuming that the complexity of the tasks involved means it’s unlikely advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are likely to impact them any time soon. But as managed service providers (MSPs) continue to survey the IT landscape, it’s clear that the AI advances that will transform how IT is managed, are now coming fast and furious.

How digital assistants are evolving

Digital assistants were all the rage at the recent Consumer Electronics Show (CES). But, they are also starting to make their presence felt in the enterprise. Mist Systems, a provider of wireless networks, just added a Virtual Network Assistant (VNA) capability that enables help desk personnel to employ a natural language engine to launch queries about the state of the network services being delivered. The queries are responded to by Marvis, an artificial intelligence (AI) capability that Mist Systems has built into its wireless access points and controllers.

Jeff Aaron, vice president of marketing for Mist Systems, says that for now VNA can only process text-based queries. But it’s now only a matter of time before Mist Systems adds support for voice-based queries as well, says Aaron.

Mist Systems, says Aaron, already has over 250 customers, including PetSmart, Mercedes-Benz, Ikea, Stanford University, Delta, Major League Baseball, NYU Langone Medical Center, and Major League Baseball. Many of the company customers are already being served by over 150 channel partners, says Aaron. 

The Marvis AI platform itself is hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), which Aaron says provides the mechanism for Mist Systems to collect enough critical mass of data to proactively troubleshoot issues before most end users are even aware they exist. The best part of Marvis, is that the AI platform continuously learns about the new changes to all the Mist Systems wireless networks, and it never forgets anything it learns.

Therein lies one of the most significant attributes of AI from the perspective of MSPs. The average MSP deals with a significant amount of IT staff turnover. Historically, all the knowledge an IT administrator possess walks out the door with them. An AI platform such as Marvis allows all that knowledge to be retained by a platform that never goes on vacation or takes a sick day. Obviously, everything from the current of scarcity of IT talent to how much it costs to hire and retain that IT talent is about to be impacted in a major way.

The impact for MSPs

Marvis is not the only example of AI finding its way into mainstream IT environments. Just about every provider of an IT product or service is rushing to infuse bots and other types of AI capabilities to both reduce support costs and provide a better customer experience. MSPs that fail to take note of this transition will soon be left behind. End customers are only going to want to engage with a human to address complex problems. The expectation is that all simple requests should be automated in way that effectively addresses them in real time. The days when job tickets get generated by help desks and then closed hours, or more commonly days later, are coming to an end. That shift will impact everything from how MSPs implement remote monitoring and management (RMM) to the way they manage their business using professional service automation (PSA) platforms.

Naturally, AI-infused IT services may take some time for MSPs to incorporate into their practices. But at this point, it’s not really a question of when or if MSPs will need to embrace these advances as much as it is how soon.

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Photo:  Luciano Meirelles / Shutterstock.

Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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