Intent-Based Networking and Why You Should Care

There is always a “next big thing” in networking … Five years ago it was Ethernet Fabrics in the data center, then came SDN, and currently it’s SD-WAN. As SD-WAN adoption grows and shifts from bleeding to cutting edge, the next big thing on the network horizon promises to be Intent-based networking. Whether you have heard about the concept of “intention-based networking” or not, the approach is one that we will undoubtedly hear much more about in the coming months and years. More than just a certain technology, it is the holy grail of networking. A drastic new approach that allows the network to continuously adapt to the nonsense requirements of the organization. It brings together all the latest network innovations, including SDN, virtualization, machine learning, model-based APIs, and many securities-related innovations in a closed loop system capable of identifying, predicting and meeting business needs. Intent-based networking system incorporates these four important things:

Translation and Validation – The system takes a higher level (what) business policy as input from end users and converts it into the necessary network configuration (how). The system then generates and validates the resulting design and configuration for correct.

Automated Deployment – The system can configure the relevant network changes (how) across existing network infrastructure. This is typically done via network automation and / or network orchestration.

Network State Awareness – The system assumes real-time network status for systems under its administrative control and is protocol and transport-diagnostic.

Assurance and dynamic optimization / remediation – The system continuously validates (in real time) that the system’s original business intention is met, and can perform corrective actions (such as blocking traffic, changing network capacity or notification) when the desired intent is not meth.

What are the benefits?

Intent-based network promises to provide many benefits for organizations of all sizes. All IT administrators want better access control, massive scalability, security and multi-vendor device management, and the most compelling ability to manage hundreds to thousands of heterogeneous devices on a network as a whole, and do so with speed, automation and simplicity.

Is intention-based networking a rewrite of software-defined networks?

Software-defined networks or SDNs are a series of network objects (switches, routers, firewalls), all installed in a highly automated way. Intent-based network exploits SDN’s capabilities, but marries it with intelligence.

What are the risks involved?

Intent-based networking requires a certain amount of re-skilling and process change that is not without their own risks. As with any major technology transition, there are also technology and process risks associated with implementation. You need to plan your migration carefully so you can reap the benefits quickly without affecting existing service levels.

Intent-based networking begins, but may be the next big thing in networking as it promises to improve network accessibility and agility, which is key when organizations transition to digital business. Networking I&O managers need to decide if and when to pilot this technology.