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Intent Based Networking

Intent Based Networking

In June 2017, the networking giant company CISCO announced its plan to deliver an intent-based networking to optimize network-based operations of businesses. This caught an attention among business peoples and investors across the globe. As intent-based networking is relatively a new concept there is no Wikipedia page to gather much information on intent-based networking, we decided to introduce this new technology to our readers.

Introduction to Intent-based Networking

In a traditional networking environment, a number of professionals such as network administrators, network technicians, and security analysts continuously work to ensure the smooth running of the and security of resources and the network. In the modern world where billions of devices connect over the network, a big round of applauds to the growth of the Internet of things and cloud computing.

The requirements of the businesses are changing at a very fast pace, to overcome these challenges ahead networking professionals looking forward to revise their policies and procedures that related to networks. By doing so, networking specialists can ensure fast and efficient implementation of these policies.

However, several factors making such changes in the security policy without any proper testing and coordination, wrong configuration of devices could cause errors in the network or suboptimal the performance of the network. Intent-based Networking is a modern concept used in much IT industries to integrate infrastructure management to business needs. An intent-based network uses the power of automation, artificial intelligence, and machine learning to create an agile, scalable, and responsive network to meet business requirements in more secure, reliable, and efficient way.

According to CISCO networking academy, an intent-based networking model consists of three key elements:

  • Translation – The first element of intent-based networking is translation, it captures the high-level business intent- what is intended to accomplish and usually expressed in simple language and creates policy and network configuration on the basis of intent.

For example, an organization may wish to segregate its users from the internal users, or to allow its users to access the network only from a specific zone. The translation element will capture this intent and add them into the created policy.

  • Activation - The activation element occurs after the intent has been specified after the policies are created. Activation can be implemented in network elements such as switches, routers, and software-based elements in automated or semi-automated manner.
  • Assurance - The last element, assurance, is an end-to-end verification of network-wide behavior. It predicts the results of any changes, tracks compliance with the original intent, and makes certain recommendations when there is a misalignment between the intent and the outcome. This element uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to monitor performance and security of the network and reconfigures the network to ensure compliances.

Advantages of Intent-based Networking

The intent-based networking offers the following advantages over traditional networking:

  • Agility: As intent based networks heavily use artificial intelligence and machine learning; they can easily learn from the events that occurs in the network and alter the network parameters as per the business need.
  • Scalability: Unlike the traditional networks, which heavily rely on the human intervention, the intent-based networks would rely on automation. This allows networks to cover a larger area and accommodate large number of devices.
  • Improved performance: In traditional networks, a considerable percentage of time of IT infrastructure team is taken for troubleshooting process. As intent-based networking is based on automation and AI, it can automate the troubleshooting process.
  • Vendor-neutral:  A typical enterprise network consists of devices from different vendors. This makes managing the networks difficult in terms of know-how and interoperability of the components. Intent-based network caters solutions to deploy multi-vendor software development kits.
  • Reduced errors:  Intent-based networking automates deployment of policy and monitoring of network behavior. This reduces the human-caused errors which is a major contributor of downtimes in networks and cyber security threats.

Challenges of Intent-based Networking

Being relatively a new form of technology, there are certain challenges of intent-based networks.

  • Visibility:  In order to facilitate scalability, intent-based networking is usually implemented in a distributed manner. In that case, tracking the failures caused by the software is not easy to track as the implementation was done by the software itself.
  • Security: As an application is in charge of implementation of policies and requesting services, there is always some concern of security.

Example of Intent-based Networking

The Cisco Digital Network Architecture (Cisco DNA) is an example of an intent-based network. It is an open, extensible, software-driven architecture that accelerates and simplifies enterprise network operations, while lowering costs and reducing risk. It is built on a Software-Defined Networking (SDN) controller, rich contextual analytics, network visualization, and the limitless scalability of the cloud. Cisco DNA is being used by many enterprises such as Indoor Maps Technology Co. Ltd.

About the Author

Dr. Santosh Ray has 19 years of teaching experience in India, Oman and UAE. He is Head of IT Department & Research at Khawarizmi International College, Abu Dhabi, UAE. His research interest includes information retrieval, natural language processing, sentiment analysis, and educational data mining.