Introduction to Intent Based Networking : Gartner & Cisco Approach

 Today I am going to talk about the intent based Networking which is very much in hype and people are asking question to understand the same. Intent-driven systems are becoming increasingly important to enabling autonomous networks. Tell the network what you want to accomplish, not exactly what to do and how to do it. Networks continue to become more and more complex as they get bigger and bigger in response to traffic demands. 

Intent-driven approaches are an important element of simplifying network operations and even democratizing access to running networks. No longer need specific, esoteric knowledge of the CLI in near future.

Question now is intent-based networking really a new concept?
In networking, a technology is really never entirely new and based on something else already existing.  For the sake of  the intent based networking where engineers need not to focus on VLANs, Subnets and Access-lists and more care about user identity, policy, and providing a good user experience. 

As per the Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, the Intent-based networking allows network managers to translate their business intent by automating policy, as opposed to manually translating intent into a lot of lines of code. This is increasingly necessary as IT departments are tasked with managing millions of connected devices in near-real time.

So in simple word if i would like to explain the intent based networking is to leverage the various functions to existing network which makes the network engineers life easy. 

Fig 1.1- Intent Based Networking 

Do we have any Intent based networking solution as of now ?
Well Cisco is more focused on SDN strategy and with that strategy they pushed SDA ( Software Defined Access) in the campus which is purely a intent based networking. So with the help of Cisco SD-Access you can leverage the various functions on top of the fabric. Customers want a network that is programmable and can take the necessary actions to deliver on that intent. With the help of the SD-Access customer will get the programmable network which can be amended as per the customer's need. 

Intent based networking is actually moving toward a software layer that is helping you move more quickly, get a better experience and get better security.

What Gartner says about Intent Based Networking ?
Intent-based networking is not a product, or a market. Instead, it is a piece of networking software that helps to plan, design and implement/operate networks that can improve network availability and agility.  Another way to describe it would be lifecycle management software for networking infrastructure.

The four Factors which Gartner says about Intent based networking are :

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Awareness of Network State – The system ingests real-time network status for systems under its administrative control, and is protocol- and transport-agnostic.
  4. 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.

What Cisco offer as Intent based networking in the Campus environment ?
Cisco says, SD-Access is a intent based technology for the campus where they will push the various pillars. These pillars are Cisco DNA, Cisco Fabric( SD-Access) , Cisco NDP and Encrypted Traffic Analytics within the hardware for which they launch Cisco catalyst 9000 series products.

Fig 1.2- Cisco Intent Based Networking

  • Cisco DNA : Cisco DNA is a controller and is centralized managed dashboard to define the network as per the policy they want to configure. Cisco put the design, provisioning, policy, and assurance through the single controller and managed them all.
  • Cisco SD-Access : Cisco SD-Access is a fabric solution within a campus which is driven by Cisco DNA. You can push the policy and segmentation with in the fabric. Various templates can be configured and with that templates you can configure 1000's of devices remotely with the fraction of time. 
  • Cisco NDP/Stealth-watch : What matters now a days, the visibility in the network, So NDP is a assurance piece with in the Cisco DNA which will give you the analytics, telemetry and business intelligence with the help of machine learning. 
  • Cisco ETA : ETA stands for Encrypted traffic analytics and New Cisco catalyst 9k switches has enabled feature with ETA. The security software uses Cisco’s Talos cyber intelligence and machine learning to analyze metadata traffic patterns. Cisco says it can enable IT departments to detect threats in encrypted traffic with up to 99 percent accuracy.
Most of the vendors are working to make their solution around the intent based networking which includes Cisco, Arista Networks, Juniper, Dell, HP, Mellanox Technology and so on.

Intent based networking is the future of the networking and will make ease for the enterprises according to their needs and requirements.