Intent Based Networking

1. Understanding Intent Based Networking Systems

1.1 What is IBNS?

‘Intent’ in networking technology implies a network’s business objectives. IT experts establish special policies to specify the network’s business intent, blueprints to satisfy that goal, and automate the operations at the given scale.

The smarter and better effective ways to operate networks for the enhancement of network availability and agility are the foundation of an organization’s transition towards digital business. Intent-Based Networking Systems are all about this, and assists the organizations with life cycle management for network infrastructure including design, implementation, operation, and assurance.

1.2 What is the importance of IBNS?

Intent-based networking systems help mathematically authenticate the harmonization of business intent and network configuration and also enable the organizations to dynamically take real-time actions in case of being out of sync. This leads to a closer alignment between networking infrastructure and business initiatives.

1.3 What capabilities IBNS offers to the organizations

A full-fledged Intent-Based Networking System offers four capabilities:

a.) Translation and Validation
IBN Systems take a high-level organizational goals and policy into consideration as the input and convert into the required network configuration. The resulting designs and configurations, required for the goal, are auto-generated and validated by the system.

b.) Automated Implementation
The subsequent competitive edge offered is the auto-configuration of the necessary network changes, across the in-effect network infrastructure.

c.) Awareness of Network State
The modern system takes real-time network status for systems under its administrative control, and is a protocol- and transport-agnostic.

d.) Assurance and Dynamic Optimization/Remediation
In real-time, the system perpetually authenticates whether the real business intent of the system are being met or not, and is also capable of implementing remedial measures in case of desire being not met. Such actions include: blocking traffic, modifying network capacity and notifying the concerns.

In short, IBNS is about providing network administrators the ability to delineate what they want the network to do, and having an automated network management platform create the desired state and eases the policy enforcement.

1.4 To be looked at:

In hypothetical sense, an IBN system, and its implementation might change with the vendors and network architecture availability. However, some vendors will implement proprietary intent-based solutions that only work with their components. A complete IBN System includes all the four aforementioned components.

But, it must also be considered that all the functions may not be enabled in the existing system at the same time. Gradually, the components may be developed as per the need with time, for full functionality. Moreover, many of the service providers implement fewer capabilities in the system but still such limited functionality systems are part on intent-based implementations.

2. Working of IBNS

2.1 How IBNS works

Monitoring the system and infrastructure, identifying the issues and reacting in real time to modify the network conditions, Intent-based system eases the network operations, effortlessly. The IBN system is delivered as a software based product that can be executed on premise via SaaS. The inputs to the system are mainly through a web portal or through a third-party system, leveraging APIs to the IBN system.

Assessing the business needs and determining the ways to make the related changes, the Intent-based Networking System generates a configuration and then algorithmically validates its correctness before deploying into the main network configuration.

How IBNS Works
Source: Gartner

2.2 The IBNS Process

The IBNS is capable of making changes to the existing network configuration; as when required, it takes all the necessary information through the related sources like the monitoring systems and others, and based on that information with the current network state, makes the desired changes. The desired state of network is always in constant comparison with the existing one, and if the alignment with original intent is missed, the corrective actions are auto-executed.

2.3 Traditional Networking vs. IBNS

Conventional networking relied on a command-line interface (CLI) to manually set up policies for all service providers networking devices individually. The service providers have a unique interface and syntax for their products, forcing the IT professionals to learn the CLI syntax for each service providers’ device.

IBNS technology’s approach is considerably different from the CLI. IBNS operate as a Network-as-a-Service (NaaS), meaning it is end-to-end networking that seamlessly manages all devices on one interface.
Intent-based networking systems are driven by sophisticated algorithms that can assess the needs and make corrective actions after establishing their corrosiveness by constantly being updated with multiple information resources. This way, the system translates business intent into network configurations on its own without needing any intervention.

Thus, IBNS also differs from traditional approaches in a way as it does not solely depend upon senior network personnel, such as architects or engineers, to translate business requirements into a high-level design and detailed-level implementation plan.

3. Frequently Asked Questions

3.1 How IBNS affect the monitoring of the network

Examining and ensuring the peak performance of the network is the task of network performance monitors, and they also let one know if the node is handling its tasks well or not. IBNS administers the tasks to network hardware, the information through performance monitors assist the IBNS to fix the issues accordingly. The concerted efforts of IBN managers and network performance monitors automate the network tasks while ensuring peak performance.

3.2 How to select the Best IBN vendor

Following points to ponder about the system will help assess the best service provider for your network

  • Behavior & Mathematical Analysis (Verification)- Capability to assess vulnerabilities and policy violations
  • Root-cause analysis and remediation capabilities
  • Compliance Checks and Audits capacity
  • Tracking the changes and documentation capabilities
  • Power to predict the potential network issues
  • Extendibility and seamless integration with other applications and platforms

4. Applications and Benefits

4.1 Applications

Changes in purchasing behaviors, higher client expectations, and technical advancements in today’s era demand organizations to bridge the gap in what their business needs and what their networking delivers. Moreover, the risk of security threats is now more than ever.

As per the ZK Research 2018 IT priorities Survey, around 78% of the IT budget is spent to maintain the current environment on manual networking operations.
The intent-based approach will meet all these challenges with its analytics, machine learning, and process automation to align the network with changing business needs.

4.2 Benefits of IBN System:

The major explicit benefits offered are the network agility and availability, supporting unified intent & policies across multiple infrastructures. Other competitive edges developed for the organizations by the IBN system are:

Less Operating Expenditure:
Expenses related to network management are reduced and the senior network resources can focus more on important strategic tasks as the operations are automated.

Simplified Operations:
Integrated IT workflows, automated management, and centralized network control, greatly simplifies the network operations.

Optimized Performance:
The advanced algorithms offer better traffic engineering that results in enhanced application performance

Reduction in dedicated tools costs:
As automation and orchestrations are embedded in the IBN system, there is no need for additional tools for network infrastructure.

Better documentation:
IBNS facilitate real-time self-documentation with the rationale behind design decisions.

Improved Compliances:
Due to algorithmic configuration correctness, direct mapping, and real-time validation, intent-based systems greatly simplifies the auditing and compliance testing.

Better security:
The network intelligence immediately alerts the security operations and contain the threat in real-time as soon as it is detected.