Over the last several months, Intent-Based Networking (IBN) has gained momentum as a viable technology that aims to further automate traditional network management. Although IBN is not a new idea as such, it has garnered significant attention off late as technology catches up with the concept.
Many network equipment providers have created software to support this approach – for instance, Cisco and Juniper have started incorporating Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technologies into network automation.
What is intent-based networking?
IBN is all about simplifying the process of implementing new upgrades and changes in any networking environment to ensure the results match the original intent. This change will improve agility, reliability, and protection of the network reducing technological debt, without increasing workloads or adding complexity.
Using Gartner’s definition as a reliable reference point, IBNS (intent-based networking)) consists of the
1. Translation and Validation: The idea is that network managers define a high-level business
policy they want enforced in the network. The IBNS verifies that the policies translate
commands from network administrators into executable actions.
2. Automated Implementation: After a network manager defines the desired state of the network,
the IBNS software manipulates network resources to create the desired state and enforce
3. Awareness of state: IBNS gathers data to constantly monitor the state of the network.
4. Assurance and dynamic optimization or remediation: IBNS constantly ensures that the desired state of the network is maintained. It uses ML to choose the best way to implement the desired state and takes automated corrective action to maintain this state.
The above four aspects allow IBN to obtain requirements from end users, configure a design for the network based upon this intent, validate the design, implement the required network configurations and then continuously ensure that the intent of the system is being met, and changes are made as needed.
Deeper insight into Intent Based Networking
IBNS platform provides the ability to see in real-time what devices are connected to the network and evaluate them for security. There are five key elements that need to come together to make it all work
1. Policy (creation, compliance, access)
2. Automation (Provisioning, Configuration, Repair)
Networks Architectures of the future would look very different
1. Intent-based networking improves speed, agility and scalability-The network responds rapidly to an organization’s needs with little manual intervention.
2.Intent-based networking is more stable and secure-IBN mitigates the chance that something will go wrong while
changing networks its inbuilt mechanisms controls the whole view of the networks.
3. Intent-based networking is vendor-agnostic & portable – IBN eliminates the need for deep vendor knowledge since intent is intent, irrespective of the vendor or the software package.
4. Intent-based networking provides for improved access control and advanced automation-IBN figures out how to provide customized access on its own while also making the appropriate updates and configurations automatically.
5. Intent-based networking- allows self-service-IBN allows self-service through its management software where
the customers can choose what they want and actualize the change instantly.
ADVANTAGES OF INTENT BASED NETWORKING
3. Assurance (Monitor, Data Dashboard, Business Insights)
4. Programmable Network Infrastructure (Enable new NetworkModelling APIs, definition like NeMo NB API, IETF-OpFlex)
5. Security (Integrated Security View)
Networks Architectures of the future would look very different With the rise in adoption of network function virtualization and deployment of software defined networking, the average network architecture will look drastically different in 5-6 years from what we use today. With local communication service providers transforming
their networks and adding new services, both IBN and software- defined networking (SDN) share enough potential to transform the way networks are designed, implemented, and managed. Rather than competing against one another, SDN and IBN technologies may well work best when implemented in combination which each other.
By 2020, it is estimated there will be around 50 billion connected devices, hence, network administrators will need to ensure their networks can handle this enormous data. Both software defined networking, alongside intent-based networking, could be the answer to handle this complex network scenario through their various methods, techniques, and technologies.
Despite the significant benefits provided by IBN, the approach doesn’t eliminate the need for a service provider altogether. Customers will always need services that can’t be fully automated, like responding to security vulnerabilities, system failures etc. However, IBN helps the service provider to deliver the greatest value at the lowest cost with high service levels and quality of experience. I believe that IBN would be a phased journey for many companies
and the specific path taken will be dependent on the organization’s priorities.
Indeed, IBN is a game changer as it will revolutionize the way Managed Services are delivered in the future with significantly lower opex and an improved issue resolution time. We are certainly taking the first big step towards self-driven networks of a futuristic world.
(He is the General Manager – Product Engineering Services, Happiest Minds Technologies)
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