Intent-Based Networking has already been labeled “the holy grail in networking”, the “next big thing”, “intuitive network” and the list goes on. It does indeed have a lot of potential so for those who are still unfamiliar with this phenomenon, here are some key aspects of IBN. IBN consists of four elements:

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

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

Awareness of Network State – The system ingests real-time network status for systems under its administrative control, and is protocol- and transport-agnostic.

Assurance and Dynamic Optimization/Remediation – The system continuously validates (in real time) that the original business intent of the system is being met, and can take corrective actions (such as blocking traffic, modifying network capacity or notifying) when desired intent is not met.

Put is that way, it does sound like a silver bullet. Basically, it is a piece of networking software that helps to plan, design and implement/operate networks that can improve network availability and agility through the use of automation and analytics. Or “a very high-level, simplistic language in which you basically ask the network what service you want it to deliver” as others have put it. With implementation details being filled in as the intent is instantiated in the network, the implementation can be changed on the fly in response to changing network conditions. It will even take into account the day of the week, whether it is a holiday period or a major sporting event is on or even weather conditions.

Impact on data centers

The key in moving IBN into service provider networks lies in creating a standard language for management of networks to eventually increase the number of layers that are controlled and decrease the number of layers of management that are proprietary. If all of that means IBN allows IT to move from tedious traditional processes to automating intent, making it possible to manage millions of devices in minutes, and according to experts it does, then ‘we’re in’! The fact that data center switching, optical transport, and fixed and wireless access will all be impacted is something we gladly take for granted.

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