‘Twas the night before Christmas and I was in my house, settling in for a quiet evening shift of babysitting our network. Christmas Eve was normally uneventful. I’d wrapped up a brief office holiday party over Teams a couple of hours ago, and I was looking forward to settling down for a long winter’s nap with my third (or was it fourth?) eggnog. A quick glance at my dashboards told me that everything was working as expected, so I took a sip, leaned back and closed my eyes.
I jerked up as my home office door opened with a clatter. A tall, balding man in black jeans, a black turtleneck, sneakers and rimless glasses strode in and glared at me over my monitor.
“Steve Jobs?” I gasped. “I thought you were dead!”
“I am!” he snapped. “I’m here to warn you that for your sins you will be visited by three ghosts tonight: the spirits of the Past, Present and Future. You must pay attention to them, or your fate will be even more horrible than mine!”
Stunned, I stared back at him. “But you were filthy rich and adored by millions. Everybody knew you – what’s so horrible about that?”
His glare intensified, if that was even possible. “Exactly! I was probably the most recognizable technology personality in life, which is why they make me do this in death: go around warning network geeks of their impending hauntings! What kind of lousy afterlife is that supposed to be, I ask you!”
I blinked, dumbfounded. “Is this a dream? Did I fall asleep?”
“No, it’s probably the eggnog – too much nutmeg can cause hallucinations. You should only eat organic….” And Steve faded away on the last word, becoming completely transparent before disappearing entirely. I sat still for a second, then opened a browser and started to Google “nutmeg+hallucination”. I’d just started to read that, per Wikipedia, more than 5mg of nutmeg could cause neurological toxicity when my office door banged open again.
This time it was a rotting zombie that I immediately recognized as my CEO. He opened his mouth, and I expected a horrific moan, only to be surprised yet again.
“Drinking on the job, eh?” he growled, shambling over to me and shaking his head in the more-in-disappointment-than-in-anger way he chastised his underlings. “No wonder our network is so unreliable!”
“Didn’t you go to Maui last week?” was all I could think to say.
“Idiot! I’m not your CEO but rather the Spirit of Networks Past here to haunt you with the outages we’ve suffered through your incompetence and negligence! Why do we even pay you if the network’s always down?”
This was more familiar territory. “Look, the Internet is incredibly complex, and you can’t blame IT Ops for every single outage…” I began.
“No, but I can blame you for how long it took to fix them!” he shrieked. “How about that Rogers outage that took down all our Canadian offices? Or the Amazon search failures that took you two days to troubleshoot? The Microsoft cloud outage that impacted everyone in the company including ME?!?!” He grabbed the top of my monitor and leaned close enough for me to smell the stench of the grave and see the maggots in his hair.
I shrank back in my chair, revolted and alarmed. “Look, it takes time to become aware of the issue, then to diagnose the root cause before you can even attempt to remediate…” He cut me off again.
“REMEDIATE?!?! It took you an hour to figure out a DNS issue back in January. At $7000 per minute that outage cost me enough to have bought another Ferrari! How many more network failures are going to cost me money? How many war rooms are you going to have to convene to figure out how you screwed up? Do you have any idea how expensive those meetings are? Do you have even the slightest awareness of how much money you’re burning in salaries alone just getting those team leaders on the same call? To say nothing of the time lost that they could be spending on innovation that would benefit my bottom line! You’re USELESS!”
I was convinced that this was a nightmare. He shoved the monitor aside and began to clamber up onto my desk, his shriveled, grasping, clawed hands reaching for my throat with dirty, cracked nails while I gibbered in terror. I never even noticed the door opening again.
“Ho, ho, ho – leave the poor man alone, Past. You’ve done your worst, and now, it’s my turn.”
We both turned to look at the mall Santa that had just sauntered in. He was wearing a completely unexceptional Santa suit with a fake beard and those black plastic ankle sleeves that were supposed to make it look like he was wearing boots. They didn’t work.
The Spirit of Networks Past hissed at the newcomer, but Santa just waved a hand dismissively. “Yes, yes, that was all very nasty, but it’s all in the past. And you’re just an unpleasant memory, aren’t you?” My zombie CEO growled in response, but he was already fading away. I took a moment to catch my breath and sit up before I addressed the figure waiting patiently in the doorway.
“So, are you supposed to be...Santa Claus?” I asked in what I thought was a remarkably even tone, under the circumstances.
“Well, I AM the Spirit of Network Presents!” he laughed in a way that was almost completely unlike any depiction of Santa. “And I’m here to remind you of all the network presents you got this year that have made yours such a wonderful life.”
I was a bit confused. “Isn’t it supposed to be the Spirit of Networks Present, singular?” That earned another dismissive wave.
“Oh, don’t be such a stickler. I’m either a supernatural apparition or a hallucination brought on by nutmeg poisoning. Are you really going to be this concerned about grammatical consistency? Think of all the things you’ve been given this year that have made your job so much easier – and kept your real CEO off your neck!”
I nodded, understanding. “Catchpoint DID release some new capabilities this year that were helpful...”
“Helpful? Just ‘helpful’?” He shook his head sadly. “What about Internet Sonar? Wasn’t that a game-changer? It showed you immediately whether an outage was your fault or someone else; how much time did that save?”
I nodded. “Yes, that actually saved our bacon recently when it let us know about the global Adobe Experience Cloud outage in minutes. But…”
Stepping closer, he pressed on, his giant bag of fake wrapped boxes left lying by the door. “And how about WebPageTest Carbon Control? Didn’t that help you prove your green credentials for that European client? They wouldn’t have bought if you couldn’t quantify their energy consumption and estimated CO2 emissions.”
Yeah, that had been an unexpected requirement we had to scramble to meet. “Okay, but I still…”
“What about Catchpoint’s upgraded BGP Smartboard that incorporated new, patented BGP capabilities? Or the new SLO tracking that lets you track user experience? Or Catchpoint Tracing that gives you end-to-end management and visibility of distributed applications? You don’t seem very grateful for all the presents in your present.”
“Oh, I am grateful – honestly, I am!” I said quickly. “I’m just not sure how that helps me going forward into the new year while I’m being asked to continually innovate the IT teams. They just told me I need to find some way to work AI into our network somehow, and I don’t think anybody knows what that means – they just want to say they’re using the latest buzzword.”
Santa stepped back, no longer looking quite so disappointed. “Ah, well, that’s a problem for later that you’ll have to discuss with the Spirit of Networks Future. I’m sure he’ll be by any minute, but I should really be going. Mind if I use your chimney? I find fading away a touch rude.”
“Well, there’s the wood stove downstairs,” I said. “But isn’t that going to be a tight fit?”
“Sure, but I’m an incorporeal spirit, so it doesn’t bother me. Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!” Then he picked up his prop sack and sauntered casually out the door towards the stairs.
There was silence for a few minutes, and I sat there, somewhat stunned and wondering how much of this was real or a dream. I absently reached for my eggnog, then remembered the nutmeg and put it back down. At that moment, my monitor lit up and a new browser window opened full screen. It showed a simple chat interface and text began to appear almost immediately.
Hello, I am the FutureSpiritGPT AI and I will be happy to help you with the rest of your haunting this evening. What can I do for you?
This seemed like a nice change. I thought for a moment, then typed my response:
Can you tell me how to incorporate AI into my current Internet and network monitoring toolset?
Certainly. By implementing Catchpoint Internet Performance Monitoring you have already integrated a variety of AI capabilities. AI is already powering Internet Sonar, your Smartboards, Experience Scores, SLO Tracking and many other features.
That seems way too easy. Aren’t you supposed to magically run everything for me?
Would you trust me to configure your network, respond to alerts and automatically resolve outages without supervision?
Good answer. IT Ops will still require humans, but we AIs can do a lot of the work behind the scenes collating, analyzing and simplifying data to provide actionable information. Internet Sonar, for example, shows you outage information based on the results of millions of daily tests that are run on Catchpoint’s global observability network. That results in billions of datapoints. Did you want to sift through those yourself? I thought not.
Is there anything else I can help you with tonight?
I thought for a second.
What are the key network trends I need to know about for 2024?
You can read all about them in the upcoming 2024 SRE Report. The survey has concluded. I’m almost done crunching the data and it should be out sometime early in the new year. I hope that helps.
This concludes your scheduled haunting for this evening. Thank you for participating in this supernatural experience. Please click on the feedback button below to let us know how we did.
With that the browser window disappeared, and I was looking at my familiar dashboards and seeing all the signs of a smoothly running network. For several minutes I just sat there, thinking about what I’d just experienced. The spirits seemed to have done it all in less than an hour, which seemed quite efficient – I’d understood that usually this sort of thing took all night.
I eyed the eggnog sitting on my desk. Then, shrugged, picked it up and took a sip. I still had the rest of my shift to get through, after all.