A new survey of 500 IT professionals revealed that 64% of companies are using AIOps, but ZK Research's Zeus Kerravala says that number might be a little misleading.Zeus Kerravala, founder and principal analyst of ZK Research, says he's a skeptical that such a high percentage of enterprise and SMB IT professionals are using a true AIOps service. Kerravala says it's important that IT pros don't just default to working with their incumbent service provider, but ensure that real AI is baked in to the AIOps service. This sounds similar to buying wheat bread, only to look at the ingredients and find out that enriched flour is masquerading as its healthier counterpart. "There are a lot of AIOps platforms out there that I don't think are AIOps … AIOps aren't rules-based systems, they're systems that get better with time, that need to be trained and retrained, and use artificial intelligence to improve," says Kerravala. "It's like the automobile industry – autopilot isn't self-driving. There's a big difference but a lot of people look at those two as the same thing."While the actual number of organizations utilizing AIOps may be lower than 64%, Kerravala remains optimistic that so many IT teams are both aware of and interested in AIOps, which can assist in automating network operations, improving cloud application performance and supporting faster security threat detection and response. Kerravala defines AIOps as the "application of machine learning or autonomation topologies into IT operations."The top three AIOps use cases for network operations that organizations are interested in include cloud application usage analytics (35%), monitoring and managing QoS queues (33%) and recommending improvements for application performance (31%).In the State of AIOps Study, which ZK Research conducted with managed service provider Masergy, 55% of respondents said they're using AIOps in both their network and security operations, and 94% said AIOps is very important in managing network and cloud application performance. In the study, 500 IT professionals from US headquartered businesses from seven industries were surveyed."Historically, network operations and security operations didn't overlap," says Kerravala. "With this hybrid work environment, and even without the pandemic, we were trending toward hybrid anyway … it's made security even more difficult."Instead of using APIs to have networking and security operations communicate, Ajay Pandya, director of product management for Masergy, says AI automates the process of "marrying networking and security together.""Under the hood, networking and security should work in a way that [customers] don't have to think about it," says Pandya. "It's important that your applications … are constantly monitored by a virtual assistant, 24/7 so no matter what happens, your applications will be fully optimized and anything that happens – something breaks, you have packet loss or a performance issue – will be automatically solved."Respondents also noted that virtualization and SDN are foundational to a successful AIOps strategy – 73% said software-defined networking and virtualization are the top IT investments required to prepare for AIOps. In addition, 84% believe AIOps is the path to a fully automated network and 86% expect to achieve full network automation within five years."You couldn't really do AIOps with legacy infrastructure and have it be fully automated. Older equipment isn't software-driven and it's not programmable," says Kerravala.IT teams are also keen on folding in their SASE and SD-WAN services in with AIOps – 77% said that AIOps performs better with a secure access service edge (SASE) architecture, in an environment where SD-WAN and security are combined in one platform. This result is likely good news to Masergy, which announced in April several updates to its own AIOps service to increase network visibility, troubleshooting and automation capabilities."Our first generally available [AIOps] service was around performance of applications, application behavior and optimization," says Pandya.Masergy's AIOps also integrates with its SD-WAN and SASE platforms; "You're leveraging the scalability of the cloud when you use SD-WAN and SASE" in combination with AIOps, says Kerravala.