If anything is true in IT, it’s constant change. Every few years—a new evolution happens. While there are always incremental improvements in technologies such as chip designs, network speeds, and storage technologies, sometimes these small changes synergistically align on multiple fronts into something that’s new and exciting.
Intent-based networking is such a combination. It’s a new way to conceptualize and interact with the network that may fundamentally alter the foundation of networking in your organization. But what is “intent-based networking”? And how does it differ from the day-in, day-out networking that’s been running your enterprise for years?
According to the analyst firm ESG, “The concept of intent-based networking is that the network team could simply describe, in plain language, what they wanted to accomplish (the intent) and the network would be able to translate the intent into the numerous policies that would establish the appropriate configuration and settings changes across a complex and heterogeneous environment leveraging automation.”¹
If we quickly look at the underlying meaning—there’s a whole lot of intelligence and automation behind the scenes to describing something in plain language and having the network automatically build policies. Normally this activity would require a significant manual effort by highly skilled network engineers to modify each device impacted by the desired change.
That’s just the “hands on” of the network too—the manual work done by network engineers to modify or configure the devices involved. The benefit of increasing the amount of automation is the reduction of manual processes involved in any network change or implementation process. However, there’s also software-derived “intelligence” driving all those changes. Read into that “machine learning” or “artificial intelligence” operating under the covers. The idea is that when performance or any other criteria is not met, the intent-based network system can either notify operations and suggest corrective action. And perhaps even automatically reconfigure the network to ensure compliance with performance goals.
While this may all sound like science-fiction build for a networking future decades away, many of the building blocks for intent-based networking are being deployed today. Organizations leveraging software-defined networking, virtualization technologies, and network analytics platforms should already be able to see how an intent-based architecture could orchestrate an information-rich and highly flexible network environment for them today.
The key to that network intelligence promised in intent-based networking is two-fold: the marriage of advanced hardware and software. Let’s concentrate on the software part of the equation since software-defined is one of the most promising trends in IT today. Software is being used to define just about everything in IT today—and networks are no exception. Software can be used to help your wide area networks to network access. Using a software-defined approach, you can provide access to any application--without compromising on security--while gaining awareness of what is hitting your network. In fact, Cisco’s Software-Defined Access (SD-Access) can offer you network insights, easier management, and a highly secure network—all delivered through software. SD-Access is part of building Cisco’s Digital Network Architecture (DNA) to deliver that much anticipated intent-based networking.
Just like your network, Cisco’s Software-Defined Access (SD-Access) is a collection of many different parts spanning identity, network management, and network security. All are critical to true software-defined access, but much of IT’s time is spent on network management tasks such as configuring and provisioning and troubleshooting—and Cisco’s DNA Center™ can definitely help out your IT staff.
Cisco DNA Center is the foundational controller and analytics platform at the heart of Cisco’s intent-based network. It supports the expression of intent for multiple use cases, including base automation capabilities, fabric provisioning, and policy-based segmentation in the enterprise network. However, the latest version adds further context to this journey through the introduction of Analytics and Assurance. You get end-to-end visibility into the network with full context through data and insights.
Why not explore the possibilities that intent-based networking could bring to your business or organization? Our trusted advisors can help you design and implement a software-defined network access (SD-Access) solution that will allow you to configure and provision thousands of network devices across your enterprise in minutes, as well as use advanced assurance and analytics to proactively monitor, troubleshoot, and optimize your network.
The future of intelligent, intent-based networking is fast approaching. Will you be ready for it? Clearpath can help your organization come up with a networking strategy and plan so you’ll be ready for a fully intelligent, intent-based network in no time!
1 Enterprise Strategy Group, “The Journey to Intent-based NetworkIng” January 2018